Thursday, May 20, 2010
Saturday, May 1, 2010
“Ya know, I've been working out here a long time,” Uncle Alan began, “and the more I think about it, the more I've come to understand that people are just like trees.” Making his way over to the old wood splitter he used for firewood, he was silent. As we approached, he slowed and came to a stop scratching his beard and turning to me said, “every type of tree is made up of certain character traits, just like any human being, and I suppose I judge people as I would judge any tree.”
I looked down at the ground as he paused for a moment before going on. “Ash is a white wood. It grows pretty darn straight, with few limbs, usually a brown heart, and splits and burns nice for firewood with no seasoning needed. That right there is your straight and narrow type of person. There's no mystery there. They follow the rules and do what they're supposed to and never wonder any different. They're the type that are perfectly planted and harvested by societies ideal standards.”
“A white pine is a useful wood for building barns and such. It grows fast, and is soft and easy to work with. For an evergreen, its needles are soft and generally unoffensive to the touch. White pine people are soft, good natured sorts who are useful and kind. They aren't the type to hide anything and are pretty straight and friendly.”
He went on while I dug my toe into the ground unsure how long he would talk before setting me to work. “You've got hickory too. Now, them there are some good burning sticks. A stove full of hickory will crank out some high BTUs, and keep a place nice and hot... it grows with a white wood and a brown heart, and is a real pain to split. I figure, hickory people are the type who work hard, and only care about things as much as they need to to get through life. They don't let people get to close, but they're useful in making the world run.”
Thinking that this was maybe a little interesting I nodded to Uncle Alan before he continued. “Now, Maple, that's an interesting one,” he said. “There's your soft, fast growing maple, and then there's your hard slow growing type, but overall there are many species. Maple's got mostly no heart, but the hard maple is the one you can get syrup from, so it has good use. I think a maple is a government sort of tree. Looks all showy when its got its shiny leaves on, but is really heartless underneath, and once in awhile you might get something good out of it, but for the most part its a real pain in the pants.”
Finally genuinely amused, I let my eyes light up a little to encourage more, and though he didn't seem to notice, he kept right on talking. “The birch tree... now that one there grows fast and straight most of the time, has a nice red heart, white wood, and it smells real good inside... almost sweet,” he said. “That kind of person is okay, good at heart, and real nice to be around. Most of the time, they're straight forward, but every now and then you get one that's all twisted up and crooked inside. When you split twisted birch for firewood, it can be a real hassle, just like getting involved with a person who's all sweet smelling but twisted up ugly inside.”
“Oak comes in three colors. There's red... it grows straighter than others with a nice salmon color that shows through its rough bark. It's used for hardwood floors because of its straightness and color, and a red oak type of person is real nice on the inside, a good soul, but they tend to get walked on a lot. Black oak is a lot like red but its got darker grains and isn't nearly as pretty. It tends to get used for railroad ties and telephone poles. Another walk all over me type of person is a black oak, and they don't even get the benefit of looking good on the inside.” Going on with oak, he said, “white oak is heavy and dense, and rot resistant. Of course, that type of person is impenetrable. They are thick-headed and there's no getting through to them.”
Uncle Alan stopped talking, turned, and started up the wood splitter. He began demonstrating how to use it, though we didn't speak over the sound of it. Suddenly he idled it down and turned to me, “you know what kind kind of wood I am?” I didn't, so I shook my head, and he said, “I'm termite infested.” Thinking that was odd, I said nothing as he idled the machine back up and we got to work.
Two months later, Uncle Alan passed away, and I found out that he had cancer. It took me two days to recall his story of the trees and the people, and when I did I understood.
by pages full of carefully chosen words
in black on white with size twelve font.
Writing is the medium and letters
get placed on a paper canvas
just as precisely as pigment was once
massaged into place on masonite slabs.
An artist with an ability to arrange anything they will
into a masterpiece
has not relinquished the craft of creativity
by putting aside a brush, but instead
has conquered having quit
by picking up a pen.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
but I will sit quietly,
pen charged with intent
and paper awaiting a word.
I will not attempt to be a poet
but I will feign prodigy,
choosing illustrious words
and later impersonating writers.
I will not commit to being a poet
but I will drink heavily,
hoping for inspiration
and never writing a word.
I am not a poet
but I will exploit words,
arranging them with care
and forever feeling an impostor.
The pen made a mess of mistakes.
A pencil permits change,
it begs for perfection
with its eraser top
ready to remedy
the ruins of my writing.
If it dulls,
I can pause to sharpen
the tip and pretend
to sharpen my mind
before beginning again
while my pencil shrinks
and my page fills with lead.
* Just a Poem about the benefits of writing in pencil.
Setting: Dave and Lucy have just ridden their mountain bikes up to the start of a trail to ride off-road (Stage Left) They are prepared and ready to roll. There are a couple of large rocks or logs on stage that Dave and Lucy practice riding over in the midst of their conversation.
Characters: Dave, Lucy, Chester
Dave: This should be a great ride as long as we keep moving. It's got to be under 30 degrees right now for sure.
Lucy: I just wish it would get warm enough for all of this snow to melt so we can ride without worrying about wiping out every 5 feet. I get more tired from trying to stay on two wheels than from pedaling my ass up hills and over rocks.
Dave: That's true, but it could always be worse.
So who all is coming besides us?
Lucy: Well, you-know-who said he'd be here, and I specifically told him to be on time.
Dave: Ughhhh...what? why'd you do that?
Lucy: I know!
Dave: You know he's just gonna be even more late now.
Lucy: I know! I just hoped I'd persuade him otherwise. I'll call and see if he's coming.
(Digs in pocket for cell phone and dials... then waits impatiently for connection)
Hey Chester, are you coming?
Well, where are you then?
Ok, we'll wait.
(hanging up phone)
He's just getting off the highway.
Dave: So we've got another ten minutes standing here in the cold... great.
Lucy: I can't believe he's late... well, no, I can believe it... I shouldn't have told him to be on time...
Dave: I don't know about that guy.
Lucy: I'm not inviting him anymore, this is ridiculous.
Dave: (Looking at watch) We are already 10 minutes late for ride time.
Lucy: Yup, I bet he still has to change his clothes and fix some shit on his bike before we can actually ride too....
Dave: True Dat
(pause while Dave makes some adjustments on his front suspension)
Lucy: So, I've been thinking, we really need to get back on that mountain biker zombie movie idea. I mean, we had some good ideas... what the hell happened to that?
Dave: Yeah, I guess I kinda forgot about that, I've been so busy with work, and side jobs, and kids... it's tough to add more junk to the schedule.
Lucy: I know what you're saying, I've been swamped with school. It was a good idea though... I mean, we know enough crazy people to really make something bad-ass... and it'd be fun to put on some stupid costumes and film ourselves riding.
Dave: Yeah, I guess... we should borrow a video camera from someone and just get 'er done... maybe post it up on youtube.
Lucy: I think we should do it this summer... and we should put a character in it named Chester and make him the first one to have his head gnawed off.
Dave: Yeah, have him show up late for a ride and everyone leaves without him and the zombies get him first!
Lucy: We should just leave without him... I wish I didn't say we'd wait for him.
Dave: We should wait until he pulls into the parking lot and sees us... then take off.
Lucy: Oh my God, that would be so funny... I'd love to see the look on his face...
We really do need to do something about him... I'm so sick of his crap.
(leans bike against tree and huddles to stay warm)
So, what else is up? You still selling cell phone games?... Ever make that zombie smash game?
Dave: No, but I've got some other ideas I'm working on right now... You remember those old RPG games that were entirely text based?
Lucy: Oh yeah! Those were great! Is that what you're working on?
Dave: Yes... well, not yet, but I will be. I have some ideas, but I'm going to need lots more because there have to be lots of alternatives... like go left, meet man with a mullet who smells like eggs, or go right, meet a drag queen in a ball gown with a prosthetic arm...
Lucy: Nice! Nothing is ever complete without a mullet, a drag queen, or a prosthetic arm. You should do your brain storming on mountain bike rides... there is always some sort of strange conversation happening somewhere in our group and you should be able to get some bad ass ideas.
(Dave and Lucy look up. A car has pulled in to a place off stage.)
Here he is, and it doesn't look like he's even close to being ready. Go figure.
Dave: Dude, I can't think of one single ride where that guy was ready to go... his junk is always busted up and needing to be fixed at the last minute.
Lucy: Seriously, I'm not telling him about any more rides... he was late last week too, and it was just as cold out... maybe that was okay back in California, but it's not okay here.
Dave: Maybe Cali was too easy going for him. He lives to piss people off... those California people were just too damn chill for him.
Lucy: Oh man, look at this shit... he's not even ready yet!
(Chester appears on the side of the stage. He has a bag of gear and a bike in pieces and goes about assembling his bike and getting dressed at stage right. He is oblivious to what Dave and Lucy are talking about and can't hear them.)
Dave: (Looks at watch again) We are 20 minutes late. By the time we actually ride, it's gonna be 9:30! This is crazy, I can't believe we are waiting for him again.
Lucy: I think he tries so hard to be different that he has to do the exact opposite of everything that normal society does. He can't ever do what he's told, and then he thinks that everything he does is the right way. He's psychotic.
Dave: There is definitely something not quite right up there.
Lucy: Get this... he asked me what it'll take for me to set him up with some of my friends... I told him he needs to stop being such a fucking know-it-all. Nobody wants to be told that everything they do is wrong... can you imagine him trying to get it on with a chick? (mocking)...oh, wait, don't touch me like that, you're doing it wrong... He's probably never even gotten a hand-job from a girl.
Dave: Probably right, but I think he likes guys anyway.
Lucy: I wouldn't be surprised. He's probably just acting like he likes girls because he wants to prove everyone wrong... he's probably like, they all think I like guys, so I'll like girls to spite them.
Dave: (Looking at watch) I'm freezing. This is nuts.
(yelling) Hey Chester, the ride started over 20 minutes ago, lets go!
Lucy: Geez Dave, now he's gonna move even slower, knock it off!
Dave: We should just go... he can try to catch up... he deserves some sort of punishment for being so late.
Lucy: Sounds like a plan... let's get the fuck out of here.
Dave: (Yelling) Hey Chester, ready or not, the ride is starting, be here on time, or don't ride dude!
Lucy: For real?
Dave: Yes, lets go.... enough is enough...
Lucy: (Yelling) See ya around Chester!
(Dave and Lucy ride away leaving Chester still tinkering with his bike. Meanwhile, a rustling and moaning comes from stage right. A zombie comes out of the woods and heads towards Chester. The curtains close on this.)
For some women, being a mother is the most natural thing in the world. They say they loved being pregnant, and that they fell in love with their children the very moment they found out they had conceived. Maternity leave wasn't long enough, and they postponed going back to work so that they could be home with their children as long as possible. I even know one who decided to home school because she couldn't bear to be away from her kids for any length of time. In fact, I don't know that her kids have been out of her sight, ever. I am not one of those women.
Being pregnant was awful. While I never had any “morning sickness,” I was exhausted and uncomfortable the entire nine months. When I hear a woman say that she “never felt better than when she was pregnant,” or that she “loved being with child,” I find myself secretly wanting give her a polygraph exam. I imagine fitting wires to her head and pulse points and asking her to tell me the truth so I can see that she really is either a big liar, or maybe just deranged. I can't imagine enjoying the feel of an enormous creature inside of your womb ever feeling pleasant. The first feelings of movement, I admit, were pretty amazing, but they were only a precursor to nearly endless discomfort. My daughter seemed to be a budding yogi, and thought that stretching herself up into my rib cage was a proper thing to do at all hours of the day and night. I am pretty sure that her enormous head was the source of my inability to inhale a decent amount of air in the last few months. The sight of an entire foot jutting out from my spherical stomach was just plain creepy, and every now and then, what I assume was a very pointy elbow, would move from one point to another just under the surface of my skin as though it was searching for a way out, ready to poke a hole through as soon as it found a place of weakness in the thin lining of my uterus. And some women say they like this.
They always say there is no pain like child birth, so I guess that's something to agree about. I equate a contraction to what it must have been like to be Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit when he was flattened by the steam roller. It was a slow heavy rolling of pain from one end of my body to the other, and it the steam roller I felt seemed to get heavier and heavier with each contraction.
So yes, there is no pain like childbirth. However, I didn't actually do the birthing part. I tried and tried, but that enormous rib crushing head seemed to be a pelvis crusher as well, and it just wouldn't come out, so on I went to surgery for a c-section. When they started cutting, I felt it. According to what I remember the doctors saying, sometimes the anesthesia doesn't work when you try to restart it; I had an epideral the night before in the hopes that I would sleep until morning, and they'd stopped it a while before I started pushing. Needless to say, the feel of tiny metal blades slicing through my skin didn't hurt, but I could feel every layer of skin opening under the pressure of the scalpel. So, I got knocked out and didn't witness the birth of my daughter. That probably wouldn't have been so bad, had I been the first person to hold her when I woke up, but it seems that every grandmother and great-grandmother in the family was there with open arms before I had the chance to open my eyes.
They say the bond between a baby and its mother happens within the first moments of birth when the child is passed from womb directly to the arms of the waiting mother. Instead, my baby was passed from arm to arm in the nursery while I had my stomach massaged in order to get my uterus to contract. The first word I said when I came out of anesthesia was “stop.” I had thought the pain was supposed to subside when the baby came out, and here I had two nurses who were physically torturing me as I lay in a drug induced stupor in a hospital bed. I finally saw my daughter, but the endless stream of visitors and nurses checking my vital signs left me extremely exhausted, and by the time I left the hospital, I was ready to sleep. Oh yeah, wait a minute, that was supposed to be funny. There's no such thing as sleep when you have a baby at home. So I went home tired, and stayed tired for the last seven years. But everyone knows that sleep is overrated anyhow.
Somehow, that bond that a mother is supposed to have with their newborn was even more retarded by the fact that I couldn't breast feed. This is a skill that some women seem to be born with. They can pop out a boob and have their kid fed and content before someone like me can even think where they last left the container of formula. It took me a few days to figure it out, but the word formula meant a concoction formulated to ease hunger and induce sleep in babies. In mathematics, a formula is something you use to solve a problem. Well, I'll be darned, it's the same thing in motherhood, and I am grateful for it, despite the fact that it simultaneously made me feel like a failure as a woman.
Knowing that the bills wouldn't pay themselves, I was back at work after just four weeks, and my daughter was with either a grandmother or great-grandmother all day. I suppose that didn't help with the bond forming either, and by the time I picked her up at the end of the day, I was already exhausted. I know I loved her, and I would never wish I hadn't had her, but I don't recall enjoying motherhood until somewhere around age four. That is when I realized that this little person, who was actually a part of me, was pretty likable. I sometimes wonder if maybe I just don't like babies, but that would be strange; everyone likes babies. I like babies too, I just really like age four better... and five, and six, and seven.
I suppose some women are just cut out for the duty of motherhood, and they are born with amazing abilities to carry and care for their little ones, without the foreboding shadow of doubt to interfere with their ability to form impenetrable bonds with their babies. Either they are great liars, or they are super heroes who truly do love being pregnant and breastfeeding. It has taken me a long time to love being a mom, but I know I don't need a polygraph to find out if I'm being truthful now.