Archive for July, 2010

Today is July 31. You would have been seventy years old today. Time stopped for you in 2002, your face, your smile, caring and mischievous at the same time, they are fixed in my memory never getting older. I still see you as I did at that last family reunion, happy, with a house full of children and grandchildren, in the kitchen putting together your famous potato salad, using a bit too much salt and way too much mayonnaise. Creating dishes that would seduce the palate and assault the arteries at the same time. Dad taking on the role of back yard chef, smoke and flames billowing upward from the Weber 5 burner grill, his patented spray bottle at the ready. Eight years have past and as I see Dad getting older, calling out to his grandchildren occasionally using the wrong name, deep in my heart I’m kind of glad that I will never have to see you go through that, it may seem selfish, but that’s the truth.

I recall visiting your mother with my first born son. She was in a nursing home by then; confined to a bed most of the time, reaching out to hold my hand, she called me ‘Kennith’, her son’s given name,  you looked to me apologetic hoping I would understand and play along, I did. I know that had to be hard. Old age is a double edged sword, we go through life collecting knowledge and gaining wisdom, but at some point we find ourselves racing against the clock in an effort to share it with the ones we love; before losing it to confusion and our final demise.

Thinking of you.

Today I recall some of our times together. Driving in a blizzard near Davenport Iowa, determined to make it to Gary Indiana so we could be with Dad for Christmas. With my window rolled down I scanned the thick blanket of snow for some tiny bit of evidence identifying the shoulder of the road, yelling out, “a little to the left” or “a bit to the right”, as you gazed into the white curtain in front of you, your hands tightly gripping the steering wheel. The radio disc jockey cutting in at the perfect moment declaring that; “only an idiot would be out on a night like tonight”. You were laughing so damn hard, it masked how scared you really were, and it made me feel a whole lot better.

We were close, sharing a temperament that often had us apologizing for things that we had said. You also gave me the ability to look at myself and laugh at my mistakes, only after glancing over my shoulder to see if anyone had witnessed the incident. Shrugging it off, even if someone had.

In Judaism we remember a person at their Yahrtziet, the anniversary of their death, in Christianity often it is their birth they recall, today, I’m thinking of you because I miss you.

Talk to you later.


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Today twenty people including myself, had gathered together to take part in some one on one honey bee husbandry, with Marty the bee guy. Speaking softly and moving methodically, Marty has a quality about him that calms the nerves. Wearing a white plastic bee keepers hat, stained with yellow smudges of pollen, propolis and the remains of a dead bee or two; around his neck like an ascot made from mosquito netting and elastic, his beekeepers veil was in the ready. He raised the roof to the active bee hive as calmly as someone considering which one of the eight pairs of socks nestled in their underwear drawer they were going to wear to work that morning. Marty made it look easy. I wouldn’t call it fearless or recklessness, or foolish bravado, it was confidence, and a love of what he was doing, qualities that make mentors of little guys in bee suits. Have you ever been around someone like that? You find them in every walk of life, men and women with simple names like Dick, and Mike, Lori, and Louise, people who go about their lives as if no one is watching; unceremoniously establishing principles and guidelines to follow, for those astute enough to recognize the value of what they are doing.

With a gentle calm, he worked the first top bar loose from the hive. From deep inside the sound of the hive drifted out to the open field. Thousands of bees moving about inside calmly going about  their business, as if they were unaware of our intrusion. Today, one of the activities was to remove a young queen from a smaller hive allowing that colony to join the larger one that was stationed next to it. After pulling several bars loaded with honeycomb he was able to find the young queen, and safely placed her in a small box called a queen cage. With a quick shake of the temporary hive, Marty emptied the small group of bees on to the ground directly in front of the established hive.

A magical moment.

It was surreal, as thousands of bees flew around the heads of these twenty or so apprentice beekeepers, some wearing veils and bee suits, others in shorts and flip flops. It was a magical moment with every one gazing into the dark chambers of the hive, as Marty cut and removed some honey laden comb from one of the top bars he had pulled from the hive. Marty’s calming presence was infectious, like a magician casting a spell on the bees and his students, his veil still wrapped around his neck in a cowl like fashion, the lesson was over with out a single sting.

Thanks for letting me share.

Talk to you later.

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I’m not sure if it was my exposed right foot chilled by the cool morning air in the bedroom, or the now unfamiliar sound of my wife snoring next to me on her pillow, that roused me from my slumber. The sound, rhythmic, predictable, unlike the past when her respirations were shallow and halting. The breath in, was restricted, choked off by the soft tissues in her airway. Listening to her exhale, it sounded forced, as if it was an effort to get the spent gas out of her lungs. Then there was always that unpredictable  pause, a break in the rhythmic timing of her breathing. I could feel her struggle next to me as her body worked to refill her lungs with a fresh supply of oxygen. I would wait, but at some point a gentle nudge from my hip, or shoulder, would kick start the process and it would start all over again.

This morning it was steady, no nudging necessary. I open my eyes to glimpse at the clock, my left eye responds, my right… is buried in my pillow and would rather not. It’s 7:15 am on a Saturday, the dogs are still asleep, their morning schedule put on hold, while I enjoy an extra hour or so of sleep. My plans to go to a bee class and to do some writing seem at odds with one another, I find my self striking a compromise, as I rationalize to myself that; if I do the bee thing I might have something more interesting to share than the sounds of sleep apnea and looking at a digital clock. I’m not entirely sure that Hemingway could have made that seem interesting.

Talk to you later, today.

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It’s been nearly two weeks since my last post. It seems that my life got in the way of my passion. A nineteen hour work day here, a family get together there, and before you know it thirteen days have slipped by.

Returning home after a fortnight; dirty dishes left in the sink, encrusted with egg and melted cheese, waiting to be cleaned, dried, and stacked in the cupboard. Returning to my blog feels the same way. I need material to write about, a bit of fodder for my brain, something to trigger a memory, or a conundrum to unravel, a desperate attempt to produce seven hundred words of memorable prose. The lack of anonymity, or a shameless confession, has made that all the more challenging.

Pass me a turkey leg please.

It’s mid July; Renaissance Festivals, and turkey drum sticks, roasted ears of corn, and 100 degree days, in Colorado we always finish that last descriptor with, but at least it’s a dry heat, as if somehow that makes it less oppressive. If it rains for a week straight we complain, followed by, but we needed the moisture. Mother Nature is never cursed in Colorado, there is a general  understanding that you take what you get, there’s an upside to everything. In July, life becomes compressed, we feel the full brunt of summer, as people try to pack a years worth of planning and expectations into a two week whirl wind of things to see and do. Yosemite, London, Yellowstone, as I hear and read about the travel plans of friends, family, and people I know, it’s amazing how much energy and money is put into going somewhere ‘else’ for the summer.

We moved to Colorado in 1969, leaving a small town in Wisconsin; the land of cheese, and dairy cows, a region where phraseology like “Don’t cha know”, and “Uff da”, say it all. Mom and Dad never seemed to have much money, six kids in eight years on a bricklayers income, go figure. So that might explain my impression of family vacations as something other people did. It took a year or two to settle in but once we did, we went on our first family vacation. The logic of it escapes me, traveling back to Wisconsin during the most humid time of the year made little sense.

It was a time before seat belt laws, or any concerns about highway safety, six kids and a panting beagle scattered in the back of a 1969 Ford F-150 pick-up, covered by a topper constructed of plywood and fiberglass, built by my father. The trip across Kansas seemed to last forever, hot and sticky the air was heavy. The trip took two days, 1200 miles, never stopping for the night; Mom and Dad would spell each other, it was their version of The Madison Gran Prix, 21 hours of non-stop driving. They would stop at a Stuckey’s for fuel and a bathroom break, get a Pecan Log to keep our mind off the heat, and head down the road.

We had this Styrofoam cooler that squeaked and chattered as we bounced down the road, the expansion joints in the highway thumping away at 70 miles per hour; inside the cooler, white bread, luncheon meat, and mayonnaise, with slices of Kraft American Cheese, we made sandwiches on the road. When we arrived at our cousins the silence was eerie, the sound of the concrete highway still humming in my ears, as I laid down to sleep. In seven days we would pack up and do it all over again, to return home. We made the annual trip about four years in a row before somebody cried enough is enough. The trail had been blazed and eventually we became the favorite destination of Aunts and Uncles, a cranky Grandma, and cousins looking to see the West.

The Murals of Delta Colorado.

After I got married and my wife and I started our own family, I never dared to take time off for a vacation. The lament of the tradesmen, make hay while the sunshines, and when your not working, button down the hatches. There were the three day camping trips that left you worn out and exhausted, with a spirit refreshed. A trip to an alligator farm in Hopper Colorado, an overnight stay at the Best Western Drive Inn Motel; complete with remote speakers next to the bed that was positioned so you could watch the drive in movie through the window, unfortunately we were there in the off season, I’m not exactly a world class vacationer.

I like the simpler things, the places that most of us overlook; colorful murals painted on red brick canvases in Delta, the gleaming white mountains at the edge of Lake Marie, that little  alligator farm in Hooper, close to home but far enough away to call it somewhere else.

Talk to you later.

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I was just sitting on the patio out back; the dog and I enjoying a moment in the sun after finishing some lunch. The concrete slab reflects back with blinding white intensity,  forcing my eyes shut. The negative image of the white stoneware dinner plate sitting on the edge of our black fire pit remains, until it dissolves into nothing. With my eyes closed, the sounds around me seem amplified. I ponder if this is what it’s like to be sightless.

Images appearing behind closed eyes.

Several houses down a neighbor is busy constructing something from wood. The skill saw sounds  amateurish in his hands. The blade ringing out as it strikes the wood with hesitation, looking for it’s mark. The blade binds as he attempts to push it through the material to quickly, adding  credence to earlier suspicions; breathing in deeply I try to pick out the smell of burnt wood and sawdust from the air, but he’s too far away. The sound of the power tool stops abruptly, and I hear the wooden ‘cah-clop’ as the remnant end falls on to a hard surface. A few taps against a wooden block, and the process repeats itself. I wonder what he’s building?

The familiar sound of a Red Shafted Flicker from a nearby tree pierces the silence brought on by a momentary lull in the backyard construction project. “Cheerka, Cheerka, Cheerka.” Transposing bird calls into the English transliteration has always been a challenge for me. It’s even more difficult going from English back to Red Shafted Flicker. Holiday travelers aboard a flight departing D.I.A. pass overhead, looking down they would see a stark white patio, a tawny brown dog, being stroked by it’s owner. Like the bullet you never hear, I didn’t pick up the sound of the aircraft until it seemed directly overhead, some kind of aeronautical Doppler effect taking place I suppose. I track the jet as it leaves my patio airspace, heading to parts unknown. The Red Shafted Flicker repeats his call, as the sound of the jet fades out of range.

The sounds of the approaching Holiday event are erupting in greater frequency, reminiscent of small arms fire, they burst and crackle from the front of the house and the next street over. I hear the heavy buzz of a bumblebee as it works on one of the many Larkspur blooming in our yard. I sneak a peek to confirm my identification, and locate the black and yellow insect perched on the delicate blue flower, it bows under the weight of it’s relentless pollinator. I glimpse the metallic green flash of a blow fly as it sits on the concrete, it seems to be enjoying the warmth of the sun with the dog and me. The three of us sitting here taking in the silence while it lasts, soon it will be over run with, three energetic dogs trampling through wild flowers, people laughing, and as the evening progresses, bombs bursting in air.

Happy Fourth of July

Remember, it is the Declaration of our Independence from an Empire that we are celebrating today;  lets respect that freedom by honoring those who stand to protect it, and recall those who have fallen defending it.

Here’s my wish to everyone, for a safe Fourth of July

Talk to you later.

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The house is a lot quieter these days, with my wife, the two kibble munchers that were left behind when the last of the kids moved out, and me. We’ve turned to backyard BBQ’s, and Friday Night dinners in an attempt to recreate the familiar sounds of  a full house. Usually with the invite comes one additional spouse with a personal list of dietary restrictions, a fiancé with a Doberman suffering from A.D.D., an on again, off again boy friend with a mild case of OCD, and Alice, Remember Alice? and Lenny my in-laws. The circus comes to town this 4th of July weekend, complete with a clown car, big floppy shoes, and spinning bow ties.

Another family get together.

But I didn’t really want to talk about family BBQ’s, the occasional Friday night soirée, or family get together. I wanted to talk about green drinks. They seem to have arrived in our home over the last three months. It was subtle at first, a purple smoothie loaded with blueberries,  bananas, and walnuts. I felt deceived as I enjoyed the ice cold fruity froth, when my wife revealed, or confessed, that she had put wheatgerm, flax seed, and a little kale in it too. Wheatgerm? Flax seed? Okay, but kale? Kale is that green leafy crap that the Village Inn lays on your plate as a garnish, if you ever turned the leaf over and looked closely you would find in micro letters running up the hard fibrous spine; “Not intended for human consumption.” Kale is the original rabbit food. How it found its way into my blueberry smoothie had me concerned, but not enough to put down the purple cocktail.

Walking through the produce section in my backyard.

Lately she has gone from camouflaging the greens in a purple haze; to an all out frontal assault, and it’s not just kale, her latest concoctions include lambsquarter, and purslane; Google> gardens> weeds> and select images; for an idea what they look like. Patches of the stuff can be found growing wild along any roadside ditch, it has also been found in our backyard, and now in the blender, in our kitchen. Gone are the blueberries, strawberries, and banana’s with their palatable purple and pinks, enter the Green Smoothie. Looking like a bright green asparagus shake, and tasting like  Kentucky Blue Grass with a hint of Fescue; it carries with it an earthy loam after taste, bringing back memories of hot summer days, fresh cut lawns, and Scott’s Turf Builder Plus.

Aaahh… to go back twenty years, when Dairy Queen Blizzards, with their unlikely combinations of Heath Bars and Oreo Cookies were swirled together to produce; brain freezing pain, with a sugar induced euforia of spoon bending delight. No yogurt, or soy ice-cream, no wheatgerm, or flax seed, certainly nothing green. It was beige pain, in a 16 ounce waxed paper cup.

With this months ‘Lawn and Garden’ sitting on the kitchen counter, I hasten to wonder what’s on the menu for dinner tonight.

Talk to you later.

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