I was looking for posts about snow, given the 6 or 8 inches we got overnight here. This one popped up from 2016. I barely even remember writing this, but the picture jogged my memory. I know that view well, from Colorado. I got married in 2007 with that backdrop. Anyway, it’s a fun little story. Enjoy.
This morning I watched while a coyote asked some innocent questions of four recalcitrant deer. The coyote was alone, and one of the young ladies was kind enough to step closer, probably to be sure she would be heard over the sound of melting snow and exhaling sage.
“Excuse me,” the little dog began.
The group of deer looked plainly put out already, so they gathered and drew mental straws to appoint a spokesdoe. She turned half to him – a lesser show of respect could hardly have been arranged – and said “indeed.”
Coy-dog lifted a paw and twitched a tall ear. His mien was all apprehension. “No, I just, I don’t know… Why did you say ‘indeed?'”
The deer turned back, half-lidded eyes under the shade of the foothills. She nibbled a columbine flower and said “why wouldn’t I?”
“Right. That’s fair.”
Little happened for a moment or two, save the scratching of a squirrel at the cold bark of a pine. An aspen branch jumped up, relieved of its heavy load of wet Spring snow. The plump little rabbit under the creosote bush did as next to nothing as possible. The coyote put his paw down, twitched his other ear in a way that looked like he didn’t mean to, and started:
“I was just -” the deer turned in no hurry and stepped twice towards the coyote. He loaded his haunches and glanced behind him, then back at the deer, and continued “-just wanting to wish you a good morning.”
The coyote turned back and carried his heavy tail down through the buffalo grass, away from the cresting sun. The deer, for some reason, waited a few minutes and then followed.
I dreamed of mudslides shrinking Lincoln Park.
A crumbled cottage made of stones.
Two eagles — too proud to scavenge
spawned-out salmon choking in the foam.
Dogs tore meat from a beachbound seal.
A Jamestown Chief spit on a car –
The next best thing
he squeezed through sour teeth
to wishing on a star.
What’s history to the mud, anyway?
What’s tradition to the sea?
An upturned trash can on the beach –
another homeless camp along the street.
The Cascades turned their back on me
and hid thunder from the skies.
just like that
choked to runnels.
Tribal rage gone saturnine.
The Boy wasn’t yet a year old, The Girl just shy of four. Whistler, British Columbia. Christmas, 2011.
“He looks out the window a lot, Papa.”
“He sure does.”
“Why do you think he does it?”
“Well, do you remember when I told you that his spirit was a miracle?”
“I think so. I think you said it was a miracle because it hasn’t done anything twice.”
“That’s right. Because for a tiny moment, it was the only thing in the world that had not done anything twice. And now there’s a world full of things that he hasn’t seen even once. Turns the world into a kind of miracle for him.”
“That’s why he laughs at it?”
“No, he’s laughing when he looks out at it because he wants to do everything he can with it to make it laugh like he is. He doesn’t know where it comes from or how it starts or anything about it except that he wants it to keep going. That’s how you feel when you are tiny, and new, and haven’t done things twice or seen things once, and it’s the part of it that’s the same for him as it is for us.”
“If it’s the same, Papa, then how come you don’t laugh so much?”
“Jeez, how old are you again?”
“Three and a half.”
“Hm. Well, I guess I don’t laugh so much because after a while you find out that some things don’t laugh back. And after a longer while, after too many things don’t laugh back, you just get tired.”
“Too tired to laugh?”
“Too tired to laugh, baby. But we remember that the world was a miracle for all of us, once. We remember that we saw new things everywhere we looked, and we expected everything to be laughing just because we already were, even though it has been too long, sometimes, since anything up and laughed with us. That’s what Christmas is, sweetie: Being old and tired and still laughing, for a day, like we did when we were still playing with miracles.”
“But I’m not old.”
“No, you’re not. And you never have to be, because to your brother you are everything he sees when he looks out the window. And laughs.”
It’s called mass timber, and there are some gorgeous examples:
It would be a nice contrast/offset to the concrete and cranes of the port. Visually speaking, this section of downtown is drab, frantic, ugly, and uninviting, and that’s putting it mildly:
That’s the bridge as it currently stands. The camera is pointed generally southwest, with the bridge heading into West Seattle. SoDo in the foreground. SoDo is one of those decaying industrial areas that has a few clubs, craft cider breweries, and artisanal, small-batch, hand made trucker hat and candle companies trying to survive even in the best of times, and is therefore considered “good” by people savvy and perceptive enough to have eschewed the strictures of mass commercialism and the creep of the suburban mindset. Me? I’ve lived in the suburbs. It’s very nice there, if occasionally stale. But stale in the way that is more of a sustained, unbroken, and therefore rather unexciting, comfort and warmth. So of the suburban mindset, I say creep on.
I have taken the internet browsers off of my phone. A one point there were three of them. Sometimes you open a site and things are wonky, so you try it in a different browser. Redundant systems, etc. I had Safari, Edge, and Firefox. I was tired of going to my phone all the time, so I deleted them. It’s been 3, maybe 4 days, and it’s amazing how much less time I spend looking at my phone, reaching for my phone, stopping by the phone when I walk past it in the kitchen, etc. It’s a nice piece of freedom. There is still email on there, and a host of other apps, of course, but I’ve turned off notifications for almost all of them. My connection to the phone has decreased far more than I expected, just with that little change. I was actually thinking about getting a basic flip phone next time around, but there’s an awful lot of texting going on for actual, necessary communications, and I remember what it was like to do that on the alphanumeric keyboard. No thank you. Plus, pictures. I have a real camera, but by God it’s as big as a, well, a real camera. It’s not for all occasions. There are those who will say that we need to enjoy moments without introducing our technology to them. Without pulling our phones from our pockets, snapping a picture, adding a filter and a clever comment on instagram, and then moving on. I agree, and that’s why I don’t have social media (except this). I don’t have a Facebook account, so I don’t have a cognitive link between a sunset and a Facebook account*, such that I cannot look at the former without thinking of the latter. I just have the sunset. Also, when those moments are real enough, big enough, you don’t tend to think of your phone when you’re inside of them. It helps, also to not be living forever on the cusp of your next tweet.
*OMG that’s right, I do have a FB account, but it’s only there for messenger – still my best way to stay in contact with Coronafornia.
Speaking of Coronafornia, what’s the virus doing, you ask?
Same. Lots of positives, no deaths, negative correction to hospitalizations. If we reacted this way to every mostly harmless inconvenience, the government wouldn’t allow us to schedule our own oil changes anymore, much less do them ourselves in the driveway. We’d get a text from the state notification system the moment the oil light came on in our cars, and a window of time within which we must check in at the nearest DOT staffed service station in order to have our engines replaced by windmills and a one-month unlimited light rail pass.
-Is mass timber a church for trees, Comrade Citizen?-
Here’s what I’m learning on piano right now. I’ll give it to you in Spanish, because it’s French:
La Candeur translates to frankness, candor, sincerity. So I will be frank with you: I have not found my inner virtuoso. I do like it though, practicing and playing the piano. The repetition doesn’t bother me, and playing even a simple thing well is very gratifying, satisfying. The combination of the sound with your own fluid movement is, well, beautiful.
Yesterday, Gerard had a video up that spoke about beauty, specifically in architecture:
The same has been my position on our West Seattle Bridge situation from the beginning. On October 14th I wrote:
I think it’s high time – and an absolutely perfect opportunity – to be ambitious. This thing’s gonna cost a fortune no matter what, so let’s be bold and creative and build something beautiful.
It won’t happen. The Mayor is announcing the decision today on whether to repair (so much faster! Mildly positive groans of approval rise from the zombies) or replace (muh take too long say large-browed, cave dwelling, non binary life form with no defined gender roles). We’ll wind up getting most of the original bridge still standing, but painted with rainbow flags and BLM slogans, because those are the glue that holds societies together (just ask the rioters):
People say repair now, because speed is of the essence – COVID won’t last forever, and the commute will become untenable (I’m joking, they don’t know that word. They say “shitty”). But let’s face it, there will be no sudden throwing of the switch. There will be no COVID Friday where the Governor or the President says “every restriction ends midnight Eastern on Sunday,” and the roads flood with commuters at the same levels as last January. Thousands of people (Tens? Hundreds of thousands?) will never go back to the office again, certainly not with the same regularity. And most of them are the ones who are already doing it. And I’ve been a part of this new West Seattle to downtown commute. It’s bad at times, yes. Awful. But it was awful before, too. Now it’s just awful with a different view and more present disdain for the Mayor.
Ok, ok. Off to get groceries. Trader Joe’s is the cheapest place in town to get them, and by noon it’ll be picked over. Plus, getting there early is the only way to avoid having to wait in line to enter. I’m so sick of this.
“But I was not a domesticated animal. The dirt and grit of a city, the unending wakefulness of it, the crowdedness, the constant light obscuring the stars, the omnipresent gasoline fumes, the thousand ways it presaged our destruction … none of these things appealed to me.”
– Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation
Confession: Sometimes I don’t wash the coffee pot between uses. I just give it a good rinse and get on with it.
The Italian decided to start getting the Sunday Seattle Times. She said that it has better international news than what she gets from CNN. Of course I’ve suggested that she could get better news than CNN by studying the dregs of her tea, but the blackest habits are hardest to break. Last Sunday I came downstairs to see The Boy laid out in front of the fire, propped up on his elbows and reading the Sunday funnies. It was a sort of grand and old fashioned sight, almost Rockwellian, full of the sense of nostalgia, but also a little decay. But what is nostalgia if not a willful, wistful forgiveness of rot? It gave me memories, yes, because I read the Sunday funnies as a boy as well. I looked forward to them. I’d sit at the table, hunched behind the box and over a bowl of Cheerios (with a few spoonfuls of sugar added) or Honeycomb cereal or Raisin Bran (two scoops!) and I’d read them all. I used to take special care – and satisfaction – from deftly folding the sections cleanly back against their creases in order to keep the sprawl of newsprint manageable. I felt grown up giving the paper that adroit two-handed snap in order to pop out a little inversion.
My favorite was always Garfield. Something about his casual sarcasm always worked for me. And I had a predictable soft spot for Odie. For some reason Andy Capp stands out in my memory as well, though I doubt very much that I had any real idea what was going on with him and his ruddy nose that always preceded him back into the house, where an angry wife awaited. Wiki’s got him summed up:
“Andy is a working-class figure who never actually works, living in Hartlepool, a harbour town in County Durham, in northeast England. The title of the strip is a pun on the local pronunciation of “handicap”; and the surname “Capp” signifies how Andy’s cap always covered his eyes along with, metaphorically, his vision in life.”
I also remember The Family Circus – classic single panel comic. There was Cathy, but I think my status as not an angsty, self-obsessed girl kept me from enjoying it too much. And for some reason Fox Trot, though I remember little of it. I get the sense that it was a new comic when I was a kid. Lemme check…yep, April 1988. I don’t remember anything about it, I just remember it.
Anyway, the other part of the funnies was the word scramble, and I loved it. I was always good at that. I think the crossword was kept somewhere around there also, and I always did as much of that as I could. It was how I managed to feel kinda smart before going back for a second laugh at Garfield falling asleep in a plate of lasagna.
The first comment even references Garfield. It’s like the internet woke up and brought me the paper today.
The Italian said that she always called them “the comics,” and her parents told her they used to call them “the funny papers.” That’s what it was in my house, I think, though usually just “the funnies.” The Sunday Funnies. I never had a paper route, but I often was sent out to the driveway to bring ours in. I remember the perfect little button-drops of rain on the orange plastic baggie it was wrapped in, the dusty smell of newsprint, of insubstantial lightness, that sighed out as the paper was removed. I don’t know if I pawed through it and grabbed the comics myself, or if I waited for them to be handed to me, but that hardly matters. And I’m sure I did what The Boy does now – read my favorite parts out loud to a bunch of people who I was sure thought it was all as funny as I did. And, just like now, from my siblings I probably got a “nobody cares, shut up,” and from my parents a charitable chuckle. But what do I really know? Memory’s not much different than nostalgia – just a theatrically generous reading of expiration dates. That same charitable chuckle at a joke that’s only really funny somewhere else.
As far as coronavirus goes, in order for this post to earn its title, I’ll just say this: at some point my attitude is going to make the full shift to “screw it, let’s all get sick and get this over with.”
-The newspaper’s been nothing but comics for decades, Comrade Citizen.-
Freakin’ cat’s been meowing like crazy today. Just looking for attention. I think it was Lileks who defined (or at least tipped me off to to it) a dog as an animal that always believes itself to be on the wrong side of a closed door. Today it is one of the cats. Rae. She’s upstairs where two rooms are occupied with people who have their doors open specifically to admit cats, and one room, also occupied, but with its door closed specifically to deny cats. That, of course, is the door outside of which Rae is sitting and mewling, insisting on admittance. I have no doubt that once The Boy finally lets her in (though he knows he should not, because the cat is a notorious and unwelcome Zoom distraction), she will walk into the room, sit somewhere almost close enough for him to reach her for a chin-scratch, then when he finally gets up to give her some attention, she will shrug and walk out of the room.
That’s how you know there’s nothing wrong.
I watched the saddest movie in recent memory a couple of nights ago. A Monster Calls. It’s aimed for younger people, somewhat, though it’s heavy enough that I would not foist it on either of my kids just yet. It’s from a book that has illustrations and all the markings of a children’s story. It is no chintzy modern manipulation packed with twists and surprise endings. Everything happens exactly the way you expect it to, and perfectly so, and I think that’s why it hit me so bloody hard in the end. I had spent the whole movie more and more worked up about what I knew was inevitably coming, trying like hell to not look towards the ending – trying to pretend you know, that everything was ok – and instead of being rescued by too-clever story-writing that re-jiggers the emotions to something more superficial before they get a chance to fully develop, it simply delivers on its promise. And crushes you with it. And the plain, obvious simplicity of what the monster is trying to drag out of the boy throughout the movie is exactly what’s so powerful about it. It’s profound like reading the lyrics to a song and realizing you’ve been singing one word of a line wrong for 15 years. And it makes the song a thousand times better.
And who knows, maybe I was just there that night, in a place where that kind of story was going to work so well. Could be that if I watched it a day earlier or later, it wouldn’t have had that effect. Good thing I got to it when I did.
We’re back to hanging on Governor Inslee press conferences. They’re coming in fast and furious these days. Last night he appeared with his wife, presumably because the focus of his remarks was family holiday plans. They stressed the importance of staying away from family this year, for Thanksgiving at least. I would imagine there are plenty of people relieved to have that excuse ready at hand this year. “Sorry, mom. I know we only live 20 miles apart, but the Governor said no.”
They keep pumping out charts and graphs, of course:
Well that’s alarming. If you’re into being alarmed. It’s not really my thing. The data is a mess, though, and you can look at a table and a graph on the same page and find different numbers for the same category. New positive test results, for instance, are either 622 or 462, depending on what you look at (and again, on the same page). Hospitalizations are either 19 or 2. I could probably look harder and find the reason – maybe a day’s lag between the two charts, who knows. Not that it matters. Having an explanation for the discrepancy doesn’t excuse it from existing. Inconsistency breeds doubt and mistrust. But hey, if everyone trusts you, who will you mock?
No matter what numbers you find, we’re still way below anything alarming. The red line is the target, set at 10% of all King County hospital beds. According to this, we’re at 2%. A different page says 2.5%, but we’ve been over this.
Also, in his address last night, the Guv forebodingly mentioned “further measures” to be announced in the coming days. I can’t wait. Nothing scares me like the confluence of earnest mediocrity and low-grade tyranny. Legacy chasing is always a solo act, except for the casualties.
It’s been that part of the movie, where we’re all in the operating room, staring at the screen on the EKG while the tone flatlines and the doctor says “clear” one last time. Five, ten seconds pass, there seems to be no hope, and then there’s a blip:
The house has the heartbeat that it’s been missing. The last piece went in yesterday – I let The Boy nail it down. Obviously the baseboards still need to go back up, but the big chore is complete. And after I cleaned up and put the tools away, I had the Spring Break feeling of freedom, of vast expanses of unclaimed time laid out ahead of me. I immediately folded laundry. But nobody told me how to fold these two garments:
They have a knack for teleportation.
I release this one annually, a small revision or two each time. It’s the sort of poem that “real poets” would not “take seriously.” But serious poets are generally a sad lot, and afraid. Maybe one day I’ll stop messing with it, I don’t know. It’s a little late coming this year, but reading the “lawless as snowflakes” line from Leaves of Grass made me realize that it was time for theft:
Autumn starts for me like this:
an evening's cold, capricious kiss,
chiding me to stay alert
that I don't miss my turn to flirt.
Leaves come down like lawless clocks
along no route that rules can watch.
They’re shouldered first, then tickle sleeves -
those brittle-falling Summerthieves.
Ah! Here the hub of town comes near,
with its public houses pouring beer
colder even than the air.
But it's so close and warm in there
That I go inside against the cold,
where I like to think we're men of old,
and on every wooden bench and stool
sits a girl - an honored golden rule.
The Boys can leave their coats on hooks -
The Girls will keep them warm with looks.
Suggestive stitches, hopeful hems.
October stalkings, autumn gems.
In here we work with noble tones
toward a sense of coming home.
Because man is tempted to his best
when woman is so smartly dressed.
When everything to do's been done,
we wrap the prizes we have won
as close to us as we are able,
and leave the rest upon the table.
Warm within and cold without,
It’s easy to forget about
The weathers we're supposed to know,
And on our brazen way we go.
“Hurrying with the modern crowd, as eager and fickle as any…”
Whitman, Song of Myself
I looked at the pile yesterday and thought “I don’t know if that’ll be enough to finish.” But I pretty quickly recognized the thought as vanity. As me wanting to believe in myself as clever and discerning. But there’s one very important thing to consider, to remember, and to take very seriously, which is that I don’t know. I have only done this once before, and that was a long time ago, and the circumstances were different. And anyway, even so, twice in 20 years is not enough experience to stand before the remaining wood, hands on hips, orange foam earplugs sitting askew in the canals, and declare, “no sir, I don’t think that’s gonna cover it.”
But we like to do that, don’t we? Near the end of a large jigsaw puzzle, when we’ve scanned and hunted a dozen times for a piece that we really want to find, but can’t seem to locate, we say, “I think there’s a piece missing.” It’s almost never true. The flight’s delayed and we say “It’s probably gonna be canceled.” It rarely is.
We like to predict failure. So we come to expect failure. It’s probably a defense mechanism. A desire to not be caught off guard when the world comes up short or our preparations prove insufficient. Nobody wants to look the fool. Except that it’s foolish to forget reality. It’s foolish to forget the limits of what you do and can know. It’s something that I’ve started to take very seriously as I’ve gotten older, something that I’ve embraced rather than resisted. The fact that, as my Dad is fond of saying “I don’t know what I don’t know.” Or something very similar. I don’t mean that in a layered ignorance kind of way. I am aware of the things – I know full well that I don’t know calculus or which gauge of nail to use for framing a wall. I can learn, but at the moment I have no idea. And it’s the moment that matters. I’m not going to waste any of it by looking at a differential equation and pretending I can solve it without first learning the steps, and then carrying them out.
In this moment I have no idea whether there’s enough wood stacked in the dining room to finish this flooring job. There’s no point guessing – that’s just a pantomime of discernment, and meanwhile the floor isn’t getting any more finished.
Be content to start looking for another piece, to work the puzzle until the end and find out then if you’re missing anything. You can always crawl around under the table or look for it in the vacuum bag at that point. But don’t bother until you know. Be content to keep laying the planks, pulling piece after piece from the dwindling pile, without guessing at square footages and pretending that you can out-think the ignorance. You can’t. You can only out-learn it.
“The report, the third in a series by IDM, affirms that while there are still risks associated with returning to full in-person instruction, the risks could be significantly reduced through school-based countermeasures, hybrid scheduling, and a phased-in approach that brings back K-5 grades first.“
The report has quite a bit more to say. I’m always a careful reader of tone – I usually measure the things I say to my kids based not on what I mean, but how I expect they’ll receive it. There’s always a difference. I tend to read intentionally in the mode of how my kids listen subconsciously: picking up cues from the language, scanning for subtext. This report is all very cautious and non-committal up front, but it marks a shift from the message that “the risks are far too great,” to the message that “the risks are there, but we may be able to work with them anyway.”
Here in King County the positive cases continue to climb, and I think we hit some kind of a state-wide record in one of the last couple of days. But the election’s over – at least the part where leverage matters – so the doomsday attitude is probably going to abate to some extent. Especially if Biden wins. But even if Trump winds up winning somehow, his hardest detractors aren’t going to hold their constituents hostage for another four years – or I suppose two, in order to reach the midterms – over this ersatz plague. I think (says the guy who railed about guessing at things he doesn’t know) that the coronavirus gestalt is going to undergo a significant change here in the coming months. maybe even weeks, as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach.
But maybe that’s just me being unrealistically hopeful. What do I know?
– For the love of God, learn to lose gracefully, Comrade Citizen –