Category Archives: Family
So today (Wednesday the 3rd of this brave new world of 2018) I had a mental healthcare appointment to keep (no emergencies — in fact, I’ve been feeling better than I have for the past 3 or 4 years). I first set up these appointments when the family car was working, but because I am a prescient prophet capable of seeing that driving 20 year old cheap beater cars means we’ll be carless from time to time when one dies, I chose a practice in walking distance.
And of course it’s winter when the car chooses to die, the jerky little bastard. And of course the Earth’s hat of cold air has lately slipped rakishly to the side and we’re under all that fine polar air right now while the precious icecap continues melting in frickin January.
But the walk isn’t so bad because it’s over freezing unlike the walk I had to take for yesterday’s appointment, and the legacy of a Wisconsin childhood is knowing how to dress for cold. Only my cane hand gets truly cold, and maybe my nose.
My appointment was on one side of a rectangular route with one of the two grocery stores in walking distance on the other side of it on the way home, so instead of taking the shorter route back home I figured I’d stop by the store as long as I was already walking and pick up a few odds and ends like some apples and pears for the children who, I am very happy to report, can chow fresh fruit like champions and do at every opportunity. Yay, nutrition!
I wasn’t planning on picking up enough things to justify taking along the collapsible cart I recently bought thanks to my Patreon patrons, so I brought an empty backpack. All good. Planning ahead.
But what I did not plan on — and I should have known better given my past experience as a manager in the grocery biz — was the forecast of 8-12 inches of snow in the forecast for tonight (there’s a bit less than an inch on the ground as I type this, and the snow is beginning to come down again after taking a break for nightfall) and what it would mean for my mission.
In Norfolk, Virginia where close proximity to the ocean gentles the temperatures, this is a MASSIVE BLIZZARD WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE OH GOD.
The grocery store was clotted with swarms of half-crazed customers. Like, a no shopping carts available, I got one of the last 6 or 7 handbaskets swarm of shoppers — and at that point, not a single snowflake had fallen yet.
Ew, a handbasket. I don’t like using them anymore, because they unbalance me due to my limp and bone-on-bone hip, and I already limp heavily enough even with the cane thankyouverymuch.
I almost decided to say screw it and head home. But, the kids want apples. And the wife’s upset tummy craves full-sugar Coca Cola (which horrifies me; as my grandma’s good little boy I cleave to her teaching that 7-Up is the magic tonic that soothes all ills).
So I shop.
Weather panics are weird.
Some of it is predictable. Half the bread aisle is blown out, as it always is when bad weather threatens. Apparently there’s something about blizzards and hurricanes and nor’easters that makes people crave sandwiches and toast.
The bottled water is also half blown out. Because if anything is scarce during a blizzard, it’s water which is LAYING ALL OVER THE GROUND A FOOT THICK JUST SHOVEL A FEW DRINKS INTO A BUCKET AND BRING IT IN TO THAW FER CRISSAKE. Also, since when does a blizzard knock out the water supply? Your pipes shouldn’t be freezing, because you should be running your water if it’s that damn cold. And the snow will insulate the crawlspace under your home. It’ll actually be warmer under there than it has the last 3 or 4 nights with the cold snap.
And, this is the one that really gets me, and I’ve seen it before (and it’s weirder than anything else I’ve seen in a storm except the guy who bought a whole cart full of frozen dinners because he was afraid the hurricane would knock out his electricity, or the woman who bought two dozen (!!) gallons of milk, also in the teeth of an approaching hurricane. WTF!) — the meat case is also half blown out. The hamburger is GONE. And three customers are standing next to the empty hamburger shelf asking each other if there’s any more hamburger anywhere else and when will the butcher bring out more hamburger?
People, if the blizzard comes and knocks out your power, I assume some of you have gas stoves. But not all of you! Are you planning on crouching in your dark living room gnawing a pack of raw hamburger like Gollum gnawing a fish? Do you figure hamburger will cook itself up if you toss it into one of the snowdrifts in your front yard?
Is there something about a snowstorm that demands you start a cookout?
Is there some theory I’ve never heard of that says you can save yourself from freezing to death if your home is heatless by covering yourself with ground beef?
People are weird.
We live in the middle of either a medium-large metro of close to two million people or seven mid-sized cities jammed shoulder to shoulder around the area where the James River empties into the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. It depends who you ask.
We’ve long been a family to enjoy a walk. Being temporarily carless at the moment, we’re walking more.
And walking, you’re more likely to find little oases of refreshing nature like those above.
They remind me of my childhood in rural Wisconsin, and reminiscence is good for writers. Right now I’m working on a novella, Carrying Salt To Heaven, and the current extended scene I’m working on involves a character from a bleak land being introduced to a huge, lush nature preserve.
Some of the sensory impressions of this little oasis, and my childrens’ reactions to them, and the childhood memories they awaken, are finding their way into the novella.
Get out and find stuff, however that works for you. Your art and life will be enriched for it.
[This post appeared a week before it posted here, on my Patreon page. Come say hello and see some public posts that haven’t appeared here!]
So, there’s today’s peek into my psyche. Maybe there are some clues there into why I often write about alienation and deprivation and internal turmoil. I don’t know, it’s so subtle… O.O
You can shop any day. Deals aren’t worth suffering for.
Whether you’re fishing or reading a book or hugging your loved ones, an extra-cheap television or whatever isn’t better. It’s not even equal. It’s a distant, distant 47th place behind all the other things that actually make you happy and make your life a genuinely better place to inhabit.
I’ve heard the “treehugger” sneer often enough in my life, and it makes no sense to me.
As if valuing the resources and beauty in nature is bad. As if having some housepride in our common home, Earth, and keeping it looking and functioning well is foolish.
As if simply not metaphorically pooping where we all live and eat is a terrible idea.
As if trashing things is a higher good and leaving a useless garbage pit to our grandchildrens’ grandchildren is wise.
Stop and think, sneerers. And then maybe go out and hug a tree. It feels good.
You never know, for example, when you’ll find cool superhero costumes with foam muscles for 3 bucks apiece 😁
This little trip down memory lane was brought on by me responding to a tweet…
…which led to an invitation…
…and an explanation.
There’s a little more to the story. My mother ruefully remembers the first time she helped me hunt nightcrawlers, indeed in the dark, on hands and knees, on a freshly watered lawn, resulting in fatal stains to a pair of white jeans worn in a moment of wardrobe insanity. I remember she often helped, holding the container I dropped the nightcrawlers into or holding the light, or getting down and capturing them with her own hands to pitch in on occasion. Oh, the ridiculous things moms and dads do for kids, huh?
I still remember the technique. A quick grab when the red light dimly shows the glistening body of a worm protruding from the soil. A gentle tug to stretch it out, but not too hard because nightcrawlers have little bristles on some segments to grip the soil. If you pull too hard, they’ll break in half. But if you hold them stretched out for a moment, patiently, with a little tension, you can feel them relax their little worm muscles for a split second in an attempt to get a better grip and you can slide them right out whole and plop them into a bucket to serve fish-hungry anglers. Or, if you like, you can drop them in your potted plants to aerate the soil and break down the little organic bits they eat and poop out, making the plants healthier.
You could eat them if you want, too. Worms are virtually pure protein. Might be the meat of the future, who knows? But that’s a subject for another post.
Oh, why didn’t I run a lemonade stand like a normal kid? I lived in rural Wisconsin, along a two-lane country road with a 55 mph speed limit. Getting someone to pull over at a trailer park for lemonade was WAY more of a longshot than getting someone on the way to one of the many lakes and streams in the area to pull over before getting to their fishing hole.
The direct pictures are the product of me putting my cellphone camera in manual settings mode & fiddling around until something weird happened. Not sure why the secondary crescent sun image appeared, but I’m super happy it did.
We’re in Norfolk, VA so we didn’t see totality. But the sun got down to a skinny crescent and the kids got their minds blown by science and nature. And so did I!
Just for the heck of it, here are some pics from my favorite fishing hole. Fishing is relaxing and meditative for me, so I do quite a bit of it because STRESS BILLS WORRY CAR REPAIRS LIFE STUFF WHEN WILL I SELL MORE BOOKS AM I WRITING ENOUGH DOES THE STORY I’M WORKING ON NOW SUCK EEEEEK after writing that I want to go fishing right now.
But seriously, it’s a beautiful little spot. I get lots of little fishing companions even when I don’t bring along my 6 year old son (I’ve told the 4 year old that he may come along when he’s 5 because he’s a tad wild and unfocused still and I don’t want him flailing around with a hook).
Not pictured: there are always dragonflies in warm weather. And mosquitoes, but I bring repellent for them. Usually herons and egrets, sometimes a hawk or a duck or a water snake of mystery variety because I give them plenty of space.
Above, mantises and lizard. And lots of duckweed this year, unlike last year. I suspect the mild winter and very hot summer have something to do with it, and maybe a lot of watering and lawn fertilizing going on at the posh homes on one side of the lake.
This, by the way, is the location and activity that inspired the story Basshole, which appears in my Maladapt mini-collection. In that one, a transhuman living in a robotic body does a lot of fishing for 200 years because he’s all messed up about his ex-wife, leaving his fleshly body behind, and just what it is you do with a life anyway. There’s a lot of inner turmoil for him to sort through, but wouldn’t you be thrown off by your 200-years-ago wife showing up in her old human body, out of the blue? I think I would.
In any event, hope you enjoyed the view. I do.