Friday, January 25, 2019

Snow Changes a Person

Insane Icicle Display, Glenshane Pass - Jan 22nd 2013

“Where’s your shoes?”
“South Dakota does strange things to a person T.”

Well I guess it does.  I came into The Mercantile dining room the other day where a bridge lesson was taking place, and one of my friends was sitting at the table without any shoes.  I think it was about 17 degrees outside that day.  Folks around here are accustomed to some quirky individualism, but I had concerns, and I spoke them.  I got an answer.  I can live with it.

Just a couple weeks ago I was waxing poetic about the joys of First False Spring on a day I sat outside at the picnic table in January eating a salad.  What a day that was.  Was it really only three weeks ago?  I got up in the middle of the night last night and put on a long sleeve shirt over my short sleeve shirt, because my sheet, quilt, fleece hat, longjohns, wool socks and sleeping bag were not keeping me warm enough.

The cold does things to a person.

Every morning over coffee a couple of us seem to read over the same script with slight variations;  it’s like we’re reading a MadLib filling in only weather related terms.

Mornin’ ____.  How’d you sleep?  ____.  Last night it got down to ____.  Yup.  Felt like it was only ____.  Did you have any ____ on your windows?  Nope, but my ____ was frozen.  Dang.  It’s only supposed to get up to ____ today.  Yup.  The roads are going to be ____.  How about tonight?  Tonight, it’s supposed to be ____ with a chance of ____.  I haven’t seen weather like this in ____ years.  Yup.  I remember back in ____ we had ____ inches of ____ in January.  Yup.


There is a sense of comfort for me in summarizing the weather in this way.  Maybe it serves as an incantation against any harm coming to us from weather as if only unforeseen, unmentioned, or surprise jumping-out-of-a-cake weather can do us any harm.  As long as there have been firesides, and tables, and coffee, I am positive there have been conversations about weather.

The snow, especially the amount we have gotten which is about 14 inches in the last week according to me and my eyeballs, is doing some fascinating things that I’m not used to seeing with those measly 2 or 3 inch snows of recent years.  A 14 inch snow has some tricks up it’s sleeve.  Big, deep drifts are one such trick.  Find a spot where wind has scoured the snow down to the the grass and somewhere nearby you’ll find a spot that is 4 feet deep - physics and aerodynamics and such don’t you know.  And the sluffing off of snowbergs from the roof!  They moved like a retractable dome glacier on many roof edges here in the village and then spawned long icicles making the building look something akin to The Abominable Snowhouse getting ready to have me for lunch on my way to lunch.

It’s snow quiet after a snow.  Sorry.  It’s so quiet after a snow.  Taking a walk in the fluffy stuff before it turns into the crunchy stuff is ethereal.  Take that walk in the woods.  Ummm.

The wind yowls like snowcats fighting.  My hand went numb walking 50 feet across the courtyard from my place to Skyhouse.  It was getting scary cold.  Compared to that, a 30 degree day is warm, and I wonder if I really need this long sleeve shirt or not.

Never mind South Dakota.  Winter in Missouri does strange things to a person.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Of Guerrillas, Monks and Comparing

Spinning the Web of Life in Sacred Circles Called Mandalas ...

Ever caught yourself thinking you know something for sure then finding out you’re entirely wrong about that thing?  A perfect example of this was when I was a kid and heard on the evening news that “Guerrilla Attacks Leave 7 Dead in Western Overthereia.”  I'm totally not kidding you when I tell you I imagined a Planet of the Apes-style attack on humans in some far off and very dangerous country.  I’m not sure why I imagined Planet of Apes instead of King Kong.  Maybe because the King Kong scenario just didn’t make sense.  Like the Planet of the Apes scenario did?  Anyway, it was a while before I realized “guerrillas” were not “gorillas” and I had to rethink everything I thought I knew about Overthereia.  Shit just keeps happening to me.

I thought buddhist monks did those sand mandalas freehand.  I’m not sure why I thought this, I just did.  Monks are very spiritual, I suppose, and it would be very spiritual if the monks made the mandalas freehand.  That would be almost magical surpassing spiritual when I really think about it.  It would be totally magical if they took two handfuls of multi-colored sand and gave it a little toss into the air over a light colored marble floor and all the sand falls into place forming an intricate mandala - magic.  In my mind, it is (was) a sign of advanced spirituality that the monks make these elaborate, detailed, multi-colored mandalas grain by grain from colored sand freehand.  That takes some deep spirituality just one step shy of magic.  (If you don’t know what a mandala is,  go rewatch Episode 7, Season 3 of House of Cards.  If you haven’t watched House of Cards,  I’m not really sure I even want you reading my blog to be perfectly honest.)

A truly enlightened monk could make a mandala from memory with lines straight as the dharma and right angles as true as truth itself - freehand.

Imagine my surprise as I  watched a video recently of monks making a mandala, and they were using rulers and tape to mark out the design.  Whaw, whaw, whawww.  Total disappointment.  Okay, it’s still spiritual, but I really thought they just sat down and made the mandalas without any mechanical aids.  I admit I’m sloppy sometimes when it comes to thinking things all the way thru.

Buddhist monks share 'real gift' in sand painting meant to ...

I also thought the metal pen-type instruments the monks work with were some kind of file that wore the sand off a block grain by grain and it fell perfectly into their freehand mandalas.  Sloppy thinking on my part again.  The pen-type things are pre-filled with grains of colored sand and the rubbing of the ridge does not create the sand particles but just shakes them enough so they slide down the pen to fill in the place they are supposed to be.  It’s really just paint-by-numbers.  Still spiritual I suppose but not as spiritual as rubbing a colored rock over a blank surface and ending up with a mandala.  Half gallon tubs of colored sand occupied the outside ring of the workspace in the video.

Some of the monks in the video wore surgical masks I guessed to keep them from breathing on the sand and blowing it all over the place.  They did not all have them.  The heavier mouth breathers are probably much less spiritual than the monks that don’t need a mask.  Some of the monks are probably so spiritual they simply absorb the life force thru their skin without breathing at all.  Or maybe, they have such control over their bodily systems that they down regulate to 2 breaths a minute or something nearly as magical.  I wonder which kind I would be?  Would I need a mask as a heavy mouth breather or not?  What’s with the comparing?  Would I need a mask?  Would I not need a mask?  I bet I could do only 1 respiration per minute!  Would I be a better than monk than Billy?  Or Tracy?  It probably depends on the day.  (I will ignore the comment of my friend who suggested at coffee this morning that the dyes that make the sand a certain color are probably toxic so the monks are just trying to protect themselves from toxic chemicals by wearing the masks.  This could be true I suppose if one ignores that fact that monks have super spiritual immune systems that defy the laws of chemistry and biology allowing them not to get sick from breathing in toxic chemicals.  I swear, I don’t know where some people get their information about monks to remain perfectly honest with you.)

Some days I am much more spiritual than others.  Some days I could use my own eyelash to paint a watercolor whooping crane with my rainbow tinted tears.  Other days, I couldn’t even make a mess by slinging my own poo against the bathroom mirror.  I’m inconsistent you see.  Are you inconsistent?  Please tell me you are inconsistent.

I compare.  Just as I assume the monks draw mandalas freehand with freshly ground sand without blowing it away due to their perfectly controlled breath, I assume you are always in a much better state of mental fitness than I am.  I assume I have fallen behind or I will never catch up or I got a bad hard drive at the factory or I had a dizzy spell last night.  I stubbornly believe these comparisons to my detriment.

When I compare my insides to your outsides, your outsides usually win even if you have dirty toenails.  Why is that?  I don’t know.  Do you do that to yourself?  If you do, please stop.  You’re insides are fine I’m sure.  Especially if you’re vegan.  The insides of vegans are certainly better than my insides.  Full disclosure - I ate some hamburger last week.  Please don’t judge.  I’m hard enough on myself without you piling on.

Why all this comparing?  Oh, I don’t know, maybe because it’s what I’ve seen done and have done to myself since birth.  I weighed 27 pounds at birth putting me in the 99.9th percentile.  I was special from the start.  I walked at 5 weeks, again by comparison against less mobile cohorts, placing me very high on the mobility scale.  Always worrying about my place on the scale.  How about a scale that just says one thing.  How about a scale that always reads “just right.”

“How are you today?”
“I’m just right.”
“How tall are you?  How smart are you?  How do you feel?  How’s your cold?  How’s school?  How’s work?  How’s that thing?  How’s you’re wife/husband/partner/SO/boyfriend/girlfriend/special friend/friend with benefits?  How’s the weather?”
“Just right.”

Will this disallow some relief from what I’ve been told is the lowest form of gratitude but still gratitude nonetheless?  I’m speaking of the gratitude that comes in meeting or hearing about someone who’s worse off than you.  You stubbed your toe?  Get over it !  I know a guy with only 9 toes because he cut one off with a lawnmower.  You should be glad you’re not that guy.  I guess I’m glad I’m not that guy but do I really need that comparison to feel okay with my current state of being.  Is the 9 toed guy more or less spiritual than me?  More or less spiritual than the mouth-breathing monks?  It is a race right?  There are winners and losers right?  The winners get warm fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and the losers get raisins.  (I do now consider raisins a viable snack option but c’mon they are not even in the same galaxy as chocolate chip cookies.)

BraveTart: Best Case Scenario

I’m also in the 99.9 th percentile when it comes to overthinking and possibly oversharing, but there you go.  It’s okay to go to the zoo, because guerrillas are not killing people there. The monks disappointed me, but I guess they are still just right.  Don’t let my outsides fool you, and please, let’s stop comparing.  Let’s all just be just right.  I’ll bet I’ll be one of the best at not comparing.  Probably in the 99.9 percentile of non-comparers.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

First False Spring

Rabbit Ramblings: Cartoon - A Bunny Classic

January 7th and I’m sitting at Happy Hour in the Milkweed Mercantile nursing a root beer and making shadow puppets over the fireplace.  Which little detail is most remarkable to you?  To me, the most remarkable detail is that I’m making shadow puppets, because it is so sunny outside.  I would love to learn how to make a shadow rabbit and think I got close a couple times but just not quite there. I have a profound respect for all you accomplished shadow puppeteers out there.  As a group, I don’t think you here that enough, so, good job.  I say, “Good job,” shadow puppeteers.

The thermometer is showing 57 degrees at 4pm so I’m going to say, rounding up maybe, it was 60 degrees here in garden zone 5 of North America today.  I realize this is not unprecedented, but it sure feels good!  In years past, I’d take my motorcycle out on days like today if I thought the salt and sand didn’t make things too risky.  Instead of a motorcycle ride, my new little food coop ate our lunch outside at the picnic table.

We still don’t have a name for our food coop, but we had lunch outside today.  Did I mention it was 60 degrees and we had lunch outside today?  I’m giddy.  I might have a touch of sunburn or heat rash or some such a thing.  It was 60 degrees outside today.  During our outside lunch, one friend  was hula hooping and blowing milkweed seeds around.  Another visitor from next door was sporting sunglasses and went for swim in their pond this morning without hacking thru the ice.  There was no ice, because it was 60 degrees today.

Why does anyone hack thru ice to swim?  I’m terrified I’m going to feel some kind of journalistic responsibility to go take a polar plunge and write about it for you dear reader.  Please talk me out of it.  Please.  Now.

While sitting on the porch swing sunning myself in the 60 degree sunshine after lunch, I was invited to rendezvous at the trampoline to watch some trampolining.  I am not a partaker in trampolining no matter what the temperature, but I was keen to watch.  Alas, I missed it but I made my way down to our pond to see how a 60 degree January day looked down there.  It looked good.  It was warm.  I moved a lawn chair out on the dock and just sat in the sun.  It felt like 61 degrees in the direct sun on the dock.  It was so bright I had to squint.  Through the squinting I saw those floating amoebas moving about in my eyeballs no doubt invigorated by the 60 degree day.  Rainbows adorned the squint as well.  Rainbow amoebas on a 60 degree January day.

I didn’t even keep the fireplace going today at The Mercantile.  Why?


We had a snow back in early November which seems like a year ago.

I left the pond and strolled over to check on all the little lettuces in the greenhouse.  They were loving life today!  It was about 80 degrees in the greenhouse.  My head started sweating almost immediately after going in.  Nothing like a good January greenhouse sweat.  Some of the little lettuces got a tad freezer burned awhile back but they are still tasty.  And abundant.  There are a couple 3 foot wide rows about 30 feet long with a lettuce carpet growing.  The soil was double drenched as the seeds were planted back in October and that moisture will be expected to keep things growing all winter.  There is a mix of red, green, oak, and arugula lettuces.  I’ve cut a couple pounds worth so far that my food coop has enjoyed.

I did get out into the garden and cut down another 30 red mulberry saplings.  This was in addition to the the 50 I had already cut.  Red mulberry is an ambitious little tree.  I checked out the fence around our garden.  It needs some work.  By “our garden” I mean our new food coop.  Our unofficial working name has been “Podatoh” and then “Sweet Podatoh” and then since we are in SkyHouse we have referred to ourselves as SkyKitchen or SkyPeople.  Put it all together we’re currently the Beloved Sky Kitchen Sweet Podatoh Kitchen Coop.

Almost forgot, we ordered some seeds after lunch today.  Seed catalogs started showing up here at Dancing Rabbit about a week ago.  Someone commented “the plant porn” is here.  How indelicate.  Indelicate or not, a few more catalogs showed up in quick succession and I’ve flipped through the pages dreaming of bumper crops of tomato, basil, kale, and the list goes on.

If it seems to you I’m a bit manic, I am.  Nothing like the first false spring of January to get me all worked up.  I know it won’t last.  6 inches of snow is forecast this weekend, but as I put my longjohns back on and wear my Elmer Fudd hat outside to feed the fire, I will have the seed of hope in my soul’s warm center promising that it will get warm again.  Seeds will sprout, I’ll jump in the pond, and I’ll be proud of having a farmer’s tan again.

(And just so you know, it snowed a foot in the last 24 hours and I've totally forgotten about how awesome and warm it was just a few days ago)

Sunday, January 6, 2019


I went to visit Grandma Matthews last week.  She did not come over to my parents’ place for a belated Christmas celebration because she was sick.  She gets sick every year about this time.  We agreed it was due to holiday stress and lots of germs in the air.

I wanted to make time to go see Grandma while I was in the area.  Melissa, my sister, and her sons Cole and Clayton stopped by Grandma’s the day before I did.  Grandma had snacks for them I’m sure.  When my parents go visit Grandma they always try and talk Grandma out of cooking anything.  Grandma is always serving up food when we visit.

 I don’t even try and stop her anymore.  Grandma is 91 years old and has earned the right to do whatever the hell she wants.  Why fight it?  Even when I try and limit her efforts to feed me, it is futile.  Grandma will make food.  Grandma will be in the kitchen after her own funeral making sandwiches.  I’m sure of this.

Here’s how it all went down last week -

Me:  Hi Grandma, how are you?  You sound sick.
Grandma:  Oh I’m okay.  I’m a little hoarse.
Me:  I’ve been sick too.  Day 10 for me, but I’m not too bad.  Can I come over and visit?
Grandma:  Sure!  What do you want to eat?
Me:  I just ate so I don’t need anything thanks.
Grandma:  How about a ham sandwich?
Me:  Okay.  A ham sandwich would be great.
Grandma:  Is that all you want?
Me:  Yup.  A ham sandwich will be great.  Can I bring you anything?
Grandma:  No, I’m fine.

I drive into town to visit Grandma bringing a bottle of wine from Dancing Rabbit, a coffee cake left over from all the stuff Mom had for my visit which we never ate and a container of leftover chicken fettuccine.

I arrive at Grandma’s in town-

Me:  Hi Grandma!
Grandma:  Hi Troy.  It’s so good to see you.
Me:  Good to see you too.  Sorry you’re sick.
Grandma:  Oh well.  You know.  Seems like I get this every year.  I’ll make you a sandwich.  And there are some peaches if you like.  And some chips.  Do you like chips?  How about some chicken noodle soup?  What’s this you brought?  Would you like some of that?  Let me heat that up.  I love this coffee cake.  You want some coffee cake, don’t you?

I surrendered.

Over the next hour, on an already full stomach, I ate 2 ham sandwiches with Miracle Whip and mustard on white bread, a bowl of chicken noodle soup, a big glass of milk, a slab of coffee cake, a bowl of peaches, some peanut butter filled pretzels, and half a bag of potato chips.  To my credit, I fended off another sandwich and bowl of soup, chicken alfredo, a milk refill, a slice of cheese, coffee, pork and beans, and a gift box filled with coffee, a mug, and cookies.

To my chagrin, I did leave with a candy cane, an individually wrapped piece of dark chocolate, and a partially eaten chocolate covered pretzel stick.  These items collect in a tin on Grandma’s kitchen table.

I put up a good fight, but Grandma always wins.

We had a nice visit and covered the usual topics; card parties, eating out, football, doctors, her friend David, and things she doesn’t really care for and has told people about.

Grandma plays cards with a group of friends a couple times a week.  She has cut down on her driving so only plays every other week in Concordia about 6 miles away from her house.  She enjoys the 7 Days a Week Diner especially when she gets offered a discount by the owner at the register.  Unfortunately the owner has not been there lately and his daughter does not offer the discount.  The Kansas City Chiefs football team has been good this season but lost the last two games.  We agree they will win their next game.  Her doctor talked her out of taking an antibiotic right away after Grandma got sick on Christmas but prescribed one just in case Grandma did not start feeling better.  Well, she hadn’t started feeling better and wishes she had taken the pills right away.  Grandma’s friend David will turn 90 in April and Grandma has noticed, “He’s slipping a little bit.”  Grandma will be 92 this year.

After collecting cats for several decades, live and manufactured, she has turned her attention to elephants; elephants of only the manufactured variety.  She offered me “the whole lot,” but I explained I’m paring down my collectibles.  I was relieved to hear that she is saving a scarf I gave her many years ago and has never worn it but knows “it will mean a lot to you someday so I’m holding onto it so you can have it.”  Phew.  I can imagine Grandma wrapping a sandwich in the scarf in case I “need a little snack.”

Thanks Grandma.  Love you.  As always, thanks for the sandwich.