Tuesday, May 31, 2022



Five movies, each a few seconds long. You probably have to hit play twice.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Chapter 32: Trees and Rocks and What Holds them Together


Chapter 32:

Trees and Rocks and What Holds them Together

If the Agua Fria Trail wanted to head directly into the Snowdrop Peak Mountain Range, it could have done it in 20 steep miles, but it had it's heart set on its singular, overall direction and so chose to angle slowly out of the deep woods in a slow merge with the formidable mountains. This set me on a weeklong gradual climb through a changing landscape. As the trees thinned and found breathing room, the Goldenflower Tree giants became even bigger, a quality accentuated from them rising to the very feet of clouds from an elevated position upslope of me. I was often looking up to where the trees even began, and from there it was many hundreds of feet perfectly straight up before they were finished.

At first it seemed as if I was running into Charlotte almost by accident at opportune moments along the side of the trail, but as I acclimated to her it became clear that we were indeed traveling together. I almost never saw her hiking the trail, but around lunch time, or at an important juncture, she was always set up, knitting or cooking, or simply waiting. We camped together every night, she keeping to her hammock and I to my tent. We slowly even shared meals though I did not like to watch her eat. She would sometimes provide fresh fish that I had no idea how she got. I often roasted them on sticks over the fire, a skill she taught me and that I slowly improved at. I provided her with salami. In contrast to Oliver she hadn't the slightest interest in Gorp, but took to my quantities of salami with a disturbing relish. I was glad to provide this meat from my collection as my long and close association with it was straining my relationship to it.

She never stopped being discomfiting, but she did gradually seem less alien to me. She was just so steady and thoughtful. She was far more forthcoming than Oliver, though even still if there was something she couldn't, wouldn't discuss she would simply fall silent for a bit and then say "Hmmm?" or "What was that dear?"

"What is it like being a god?" I asked her once while she was knitting and very slowly snacking on a chunk of salami (somehow at once?).

"Ah." She smiled. "What is it like being you?"

I thought for a bit. "Inevitable?" I said. "Nerve-wracking? Seemingly full of nearly implacable laws?"

She peered at me with her eyes. "There are just two" I insisted to myself.

"You see how hard it is to say." She said. "I am all the spiders within a hundred miles, maybe a thousand. The closer they are the more I am them. And I am you. Both you, and who you imagine me to be. I am something older. And I am myself, just like you."

"Do you have special powers though, like magic?"

"I can see the truth. It is a power you have too, when you dare."

"But can you travel in time, or see the future? Can you disappear."

There is a long, long pause. I think she has decided not to answer and is lost in her knitting.

And then she says "Yes."

With Oliver I had so many questions and he wouldn't answer them.

With Charlotte she would answer my questions, but I didn't know what they were.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

In which we discuss a joke and ruin whatever comedy it held


A co-worker of mine from Poland was unloading some donated books. She was excited to see a book in Russian. "I can read this!" She exclaimed. "This is just like the books we had as kids. We were supposed to learn the language of our friends."

Knowing some tiny smattering of geopolitics and slightly more of history I commented "With friends like that..."

My colleague understood, having no shortage of bizarre beliefs, but nevertheless maintaining a justified and age old enmity for Russia. So she commented wisely "It is even more important to know the language of your enemies."

"Yes." I replied. "That is why I know English."

Which brings us to the question: What did I mean by this?

It also suggests the question: Is this funny?

For the first the best answer is: People have their problems, that's for sure!

For the answer to the second question we have: If it was, it isn't anymore.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Two doves, that's all


Days ahead


I might be running some short posts unevenly for a little while. Because they're short, or sometimes simply pictures, they may come slightly more often than once a day. I'm not sure if it's because I'm trying things out, or looking for a different rhythm, or trying to get organized, but I thought I'd prepare you, and me, even if I'm not sure what I'm preparing us for.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

You're right?

Two more mildly enigmatic Peanuts homages:


Monday, May 23, 2022

Best day of the year


At the risk of being mushy (and why not?), this is the best day of the year. 

It's the best because any other one where I get to be with her is nearly as good.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Photo album of the flood


So much of the Saint Minneapolis wilderness paths I like to walk on are under water. The Mississippi isn't really the sort of river that spills into our high and dry city, but its flood basin is a National Park wonderland strewn from one end of the city to the other. And it's interwoven with a fantastic maze of paths. And all of them are under water. Which, to be fair, is probably why those places were never developed in the first place.

My pictures today are the usual enigmatic close ups, and some aren't strictly flood pictures, but I hope they give the idea regardless.

At the very least they should manage to say:

"Lots of water", which is really the point.

Saturday, May 21, 2022



I remember the time when my friend Matthew became deeply interested in Suiseki. That was when I learned about them.

Suiseki is the Japanese art of stone appreciation, although it originated in China and was introduced to Japan about 1,500 years ago. I went looking for a good explanation of it, especially as my knowledge of the art of Suiseki is a bit thin and mostly comes from Matthew, who was no authority on it, just a person with preternatural aesthetic gifts who could understand such a thing with absolute alacrity.

Basically Suiseki is about finding natural stones that look like other things- sometimes landscapes, like mountains or islands or canyons, and sometimes objects, like animals, or houses, or people, or bridges. Then it's about taking these stones and presenting them, usually by fitting the stones perfectly into an elegant and perfectly fit base. Most of these bases that I've seen are wood, like wood stands.

Suiseki are also known as scholar stones. I think that appellation is from the Chinese branch, although either way my impression is that it suggests the contemplative nature of these stones. Apparently in Japan some of the most prized Suiseki can be incredibly valuable.

Once when I was canoeing down the Current River with Matthew I remember combing the rocky river valley with him searching for Suiseki. I don't recall ever finding a good one.

Curiously though, in my own local Shadow Creek, which is not very rocky, there is a perfectly brilliant Suiseki sitting in the middle of the creek. It looks like a mountain.

I call it:

"The Matthew Suiseke" in honor of my friend.

Here is a picture of it. Traditionally it is not permitted to alter the stone, and in my picture I have kept to that, although I have blacked out the background as I found it distracted from the beauty and scale of the Suiseki stone:

Thursday, May 19, 2022

The changing political spectrum


There are an unholy number of diagrams on the Internet these days attempting to illustrate the shift in American Politics. These are usually represented by a left-right continuum with little figures standing on that line and showing how radically a person keeping the same political orientation will have shifted in relation to other positions on that line because those other people have changed so dramatically.

I'm finding this complicated to explain, so I'll try drawing a very rough example:


I made it too complicated and messed it up. 

But maybe you get the idea? A liberal, moving not at all in their political beliefs for ten years, is now miles from a standard Republican, and much farther from a "moderate" Republican as well. A progressive, who has moved a bit left in a decade, is now miles from a mainstream Republican who has moved vastly and terrifyingly right.

And it's this last issue I wanted illustrate through a longtime library patron I will call "Ottmar".

Many libraries, for a hundred years, have had a patron like Ottmar. Our Ottmar has been around for about 15 years now. I'm pretty sure his tenure has been interrupted a couple times for institutionalization and pandemics. But as a whole he is generally here, on our computers, printing copiously and attempting to share his work with anyone he can.

And what is this work?

Aye, there's the rub.

It is a stew of anti-Semitic rambling, racism, crazed persecution complex paranoia, and "The lizard people are taking over" hysteria. Ten years ago he was the troubled, schizophrenic man that any library has to deal with. We hoped that he would find some help and maybe make his way to at least some faction of civilized society.


Instead a gigantic chunk of civilized society has made its way to him.

I don't think he feels any less lonely though.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Chinese people


There is no explanation for it, and you won't find one here. This morning my neighborhood was full of Chinese people.

It started on our morning walk, when a large group of Chinese people were gathered on the sidewalk, but I didn't think much of it. It was only later in the morning when I went out photographing along the river that it struck me as peculiar. I kept passing Chinese people in my neighborhood as I walked along to a field of dandelions. I cut through to the river, passing one Chinese man, and slipped down one of the secret paths that plunged through the brush to the river path.

The river path is usually quiet, but where it turns away from the river two Chinese people had strung up a hammock among the trees and were lying in it together. I could barely see them, but I could easily hear them talking loudly in Mandarin.

From there, I made my way down to the famous Shadow Falls. I didn't used to think they were famous, but when Chinese tourists started visiting them (today) I was forced to reconsider. I was taking a dramatic picture up the falls when a Chinese woman appeared up at the top, smiling down on me.

I took more pictures of the falls as the Chinese lady and her friend made their tricky way down to the base of the falls. One of them asked me in a broken, but polite English, if I wouldn't mind steeping away from the falls so they could take a selfie there.

Sure, I was ready to move on anyway. I wanted some wider pictures of the falls.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

My favorite co-worker


I was out with my friend Jim, taking him for sushi on his birthday. Once we worked together at the same library branch, but he long ago moved on to other branches in our system. Making conversation, and being a bit cheeky, I asked him who his favorite co-worker was at his branch these days. It threw him for a loop, but then he named a couple people and countered with "Who's your favorite co-worker?"

What kind of question is that?!!!

I mean, seriously!

I gave a long speech about just how very many people I like just fine at my library and left it at that. One can never be too careful about expressing preferences.

Then the next morning I went in to work, and the first thing that met my eyes was our giant, 27 bin automated materials check in machine, dutifully processing library materials. Standing there, gazing lovingly at it, the thought suddenly surged through my head with an alarming clarity 

"This, This is my favorite co-worker!"

I mean, right after any co-worker who is reading this now.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Light on the surface of the water


Just a lazy Sunday afternoon. Or so I would like it to be, but with just this one day off this weekend I have a great deal to take care of. 

Toilets don't clean themselves!

So with a busy day off (and a magnificently beautiful one at that- Spring has been forced by the greed of Winter and Summer to pack it all in at once, and so it is very condensed right now), I thought today would be a good time to show you some of my stream pictures work from the past week or two- these specializing in the refraction on the surface of the water.

You might find these pictures to look heavily photo edited, but really I haven't done that much. It's mostly in the color that I've occasionally messed around with, and that only to accentuate the definition, but the patterns and the strange lights and darks aren't so far off from how the good gods made them, all aswirl with gesture and complicated mathematics.

Shall we then...

Sunday, May 15, 2022

New library promotional item


This morning while I was doing a reorganization/restocking of the front desk battalion of office supplies, I came across this curious and amusing library promotional item:

It was a lot of fun showing this pencil around to my co-workers. The pencil posed for several photographs and I got to try out a few mediocre jokes to accompany my presentation, like:

"I got this promotional item in from Alabama."


"If only they would!"

After all the revelry died down I found myself oddly taken with the idea of a sort of reverse psychology library campaign. We could start, of course, with "Stop the Library!" pencils. But from there I see us progressing to a nice, canvas "Ban Books" book bag. We like to put quotes on the bookbags we sell to the public here, so maybe this bookbag can read like:

Ban Books!

"The paradox of education is precisely this- that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated."

-James Baldwin

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Report from library


I got a covid booster yesterday, number four. My arm is tired. I'm tired. I'm soooo tired! But I came to work anyway. I was too tired to call in.

The automated check in machine was down, broken, when I got here to the library. I was way too tired for that. But I was also too tired to go home. I figured I'd wait it out and see what happened. Eventually the machine people fixed the machine and now everything is back to normal here. There is a loud squeak from the ceiling belts on the machine. One of my co-workers asked me: "So they didn't fix the squeak?"

"No." I replied. "They have a special squeak crew for that."

I don't know. Maybe they do. Specialization is an invention either to develop mastery among people or, more likely, to allow people not to do anything. For instance, I am currently on the specialty assignment of processing requests. There are a hundred things to do here, but there are no requests. I even have a partner to not work on the requests that aren't here. She's looking at her phone.

But we're ready for the requests if they come!

Well, my partner is.

I'm very tired. Too tired.

So far today everything looks bad, but it's all sort of taking care of itself. I'm just trying to not get in the way.

I might even be developing a specialty.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Fashion at the mall

I do not, as a rule, have the commitment, discipline, persistence, and bankroll to dress with the panache I might ideally like. Nevertheless I do keep a lookout for items of attire that would suit my ultimate sensibilities in the sartorial sense. And though items I love come far and few between, I do, every few years, find a coat (usually) or an ensemble that captivates me. I have bought silk smoking jackets, Italian scarves, Japanese baseball jerseys, velvet coats, vividly vertically striped shirts, and long yellow raincoats that have been entirely worth it to me. And many of these items I yet retain. And when I am out at a mall I am ever keeping an eye out for another of these pleasures.

I almost never find them.

What I do sometimes find though, are older men, sitting around while their wives and daughters shop, who are dressed exactly as I would like to dress. I look around the mall for their clothes, but absolutely do not find them. I think they are dressed in clothes acquired in another country, or possibly from another time period. Perhaps they make them themselves?

I will never know. I am too shy to ask.