Friday, November 27, 2009

Contemplating the Dark and Light

I set the cruise control to 70 in a 65 zone. Surrounded by darkness, I see the pack of cars far ahead and the one behind, but I’m alone in my stretch of highway. Slowly but steadily, the ones behind gain on me. They zip past, one or several at a time. A momentary patch of light in my left mirror, a quick burst of life as they zoom along.

I let them drive past. Then I’m left to solitude and contemplating the dark road ahead.

High above, a steady distance separates a line of planes. They head west as I travel east. Their forward lights provide a trail of starry, shiny crumbs guiding me home.

But I should keep my eyes on the road, where the stripes and markers glow in my headlights, ensuring I don’t stray from the path. Barely beyond headlight reach, the grass and brush come and go in my peripheral vision. Their constancy broken only by the occasional side road down which I occasionally peer. But no lights wink back at me.

Like Frost in his woods, I’m alone on the road – even though other cars come up from behind and then pass around. Some stay behind me for a few miles, as if unaware they’ve slowed to my speed. What’s going through their minds at that point? Are they busy talking – being lucky in having companions to enliven the trip?

I have nobody in the passenger seat. But I don’t need a companion. I have my thoughts and tunes. My pen and paper. To think, consider, observe, and comment. Just me, the steering wheel, the road illuminated immediately ahead, and the dark surround.

Destination home but no deadline for arrival.

I have all night and half the following day to get there. What paths could I take that would so delay my return? Would anyone notice if I didn’t arrive until noon? What tale could I relate to the cats to explain my late arrival? The kitten would be impatient. Angel would be forebearing.

I’ve taken this route so many times – in all weather, days and times of the year. It’s too familiar. Nothing new to see.

And the dark hides all anyway. Clouds obsure the stars and moon. But to the west, they reflect the glow of lights toward Weimar/Schulenburg. And much further west, brighter sky marks the end of the cloudline where the sun set. But the view east is dark, pockmarked by the lights of small communities along I-10.

As I merge with the interstate traffic, the hustle breaches my solitude, interrupts my contemplation. Too much light. Too many cars. I can’t smoothly flow with the stripes and markers. I must concentrate. Navigate. Negotiate. Acccelerate.

I want to go back to allowing others to push past me. I can’t get caught by the gang of cars behind. It was okay when just a few cars passed me on the other highway. I stayed in my little pocket of solitude, inured to their speed. But this interstate and these larger packs of cars will catch me if I don’t push forward. I’ll be stifled, captured, trapped by the traffic. I’ll become lost in the group. So I accelerate. But then I get too close to the cars ahead. I continue to adjust my speed in the hope of not being caught by too many from behind while not catching those ahead.

If I could just find that one small gap between packs.

I don’t want to be at the back of the group in front where I’m at the mercy of the pack’s ever-changing speeds. Nor do I want to lead the pack behind. Rather, I want to enjoy my solitary place between – neither leading nor following. Neither caught in the group and forced to constantly adjust to their unpredictable behavior nor always keeping a step ahead of those behind so they don’t swallow me whole.

I want my quiet space.

I want to savor the rare moment when I’m not impatient to be somewhere or to be ahead of everyone else. To enjoy not being stuck amidst mediocrity or conforming to the pack’s choices.

Is this why there always seem to be one, two, a few cars not going with the flow – those cars that always jam everyone else as the pack struggles to pass their slower pace? Are those drivers also contemplating the road? Are they thinking about their headlights and the dark beyond?

Or are they just crazy?

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Thursday, June 04, 2009


The Very Interesting Life of Willie Winchester

Scholars and historians speak of Sir William Winchester with awed voices. They tell of his purchase of a small Latin schoolbook in which was inscribed the formula for a popular soft drink. Sir William, they say, made a lot of money from that $3.32 book purchase. Soft drink companies, as everyone knows, do not want to share their secret formulas! But Sir William already had made a success of himself when he vowed to keep that secret.

Historians recount Sir William’s trek around the globe. He stepped out his front door with nothing but a few pence in his pocket and an extra pair of boxers stuffed into a pair of socks he had fashioned into a carrying bag. He returned 40 months later, with more pence in the bank than one man can spend and a bevy of tuxedos in his matching, 20-piece monogrammed crocodile luggage.

In short, historians say that Sir William Winchester lived a very interesting life. They talk of his adventures at age 24 in Africa, his marriage to the fascinatingly brilliant and highly sought-after Wilma Willington at the age of 31, his receipt of knighthood at 42. And many more exciting and very interesting adventures.

But those historians never write about the first time William became interesting. None tell the tale of the moment that occurred four days after Sir William Winchester turned ten. Because no historian ever heard of this event.

Until now.

You may, of course, enlighten them as you see fit.

to be continued...

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Autumn - Looking Back

In anticipation of a true New England Autumn, I wanted to start with a look back at what I've documented about Houston's ever-changing weather...


October 17
Each year I’m stunned by the passion of Winter,
by Summer’s annual defiance
He sends scouts south, coming abrupt and chill
to test Summer’s courage
Does she fight strongly
or will she retreat for a better time?

Two fronts — warm versus cold
clash over The Woodlands.
Downtown stands shrouded in a grey mist
as I drive home this evening
The grey gauze muffles the traffic’s bustle
providing quick glimpses of the buildings’ upper portions
playing hide and seek with the motorists crawling home.

And the air clings to my hair, my clothes
beads of moisture appearing on my skin.
Summer is slipping away
leaving me to shrouded buildings, greyed heavens
and weeping air
as Downtown mourns the season’s passage.

October 31
Because here we have no Fall
no Autumn to mark Summer’s passage
No gradual phase
to frozen nights from steamy evenings

A golden, harvest moon illuminates the warm Halloween night.
Jack’s candle gutters in the moist air
goblins and princes frolick in
lightweight cotton.

Yet a clammy breeze ruffles a young witch’s gown
and fog gathers at dawn
Unseen above, ducks call to one another
An unwelcome herald of the Cold to follow.

November 26
But Summer can’t be gone already.
I want to attend one more baseball game
I want one last walk through the surf
I would like one more hot day to
soak in the sun’s rays
before the chill of the plains settles in.

Yet always I miss my chance.

So give thanks tonight for the nippy tang in the air,
it will last no longer than the sunrise.
The first frost comes tomorrow:

December 1
As September melted into November this year
We put a new message on the machine
With Don Henley mourning summer’s passage in the background.
Already I’ve moved my lightweight clothing to the back of my closet
To make room for plaids in flannel and wool
Boots step up while sandals slide back

Yes, the Cold has come.
And, caught unaware, I wonder yet again
How I missed the Fall.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Mathushek could smell the sea again. For most of the cold season, he hasn’t been sure of that fact, having been wrapped in a chilled numbness. But now, with warmer drafts permeating the house, he knew that he was closer to the sea than he had been in a very long while.

The cold season had caught him by surprise. Even though it should not have after that long journey in the dark with boxes jammed around. Now that had been unexpected. But then, the last few years had shown so many changes—first, she had removed him from the home where he had comfortably sat through long years of solitude and occasional attention.

While he knew that that he wasn’t the handsome beauty he once had been, he hadn’t wanted to be taken taken apart, and left to sit in the hot, humid room with only dust and her frowning visits to look forward to. Then she brought others to see him in that state. Mathushek wasn’t sure what to expect. But finally brightness and caressing hands and scraping and painting left him feeling young again—or, rather, renewed.

Mathushek would never be young again.

After years of solitude, he suddenly felt alive. Living in her sunny room while being admired and enjoyed frequently. Oh, the joy and the glory of her touch—inexpert and somewhat simple as it was. Surely this would be his permanent home. He had suffered the dark humid room, survived the dust and the loneliness: This would be his reward.

But Mathushek had been wrong.

Instead, he had to suffer though the long journey. The weather had been warm when he left home, uncomfortably hot even. But as the days progressed, the jarring and bouncing in the truck were nothing compared to the increasing chill. By the time Mathushek reached his new quarters, he felt frozen solid. A numbness so complete had taken over his very fibers that it hurt to be touched. He just wanted her to leave him alone in this icy pain. Somehow, breathing and expanding were new activities—he had forgotten how very much colder a room could be.

And he simply endured her touch instead of enjoying it as he once had.

Finally, the cold numbness waned. He became more aware of his surroundings. This room wasn’t as large or sunny as his previous quarters. But the furnishings were the same, if somewhat fewer than before. He actually could see through the window now, and passed his time watching birds, people, cars. On occasion he observed an odd furry creature, smaller than her cat, that neither walked nor crawled. Mostly, the animal passed by in the dim hours, when all was silent inside and out. He often wished he could ask her what it was.

Except that, as his awareness returned, her visits became more infrequent. She frowned more often, even though her touch no longer pained him. At first, he wasn’t sure why. But as the scent of sea and a blessed warmth permeated his fibers, he began to share her concern. Those very fibers felt strangely wrong. As if, in thawing out, he hadn’t returned to his prior glory.

She pried and frowned and made irritated noises, though he tried and tried to respond the way she expected. The way he expected. Yet nothing worked right.

The long cold days had damaged him.

Flowers bloomed beyond the window, then were smashed flat as rain washed the windows clean day after day. And still she didn’t return to Mathushek’s room. He could hear her above, sometimes playing loud music, sometimes just talking to her cat. In this new place, not even the cat visited him.

To ward off impending loneliness, he tried to remember when last he had smelled the sea. He had sat in that old sunny room for so many years, with only a faint tang of sea air to remind him of once was. He could recall earlier days when she was young. Had the sea scent been in his fibers then? Yes, he thought, it had. Except that it hadn’t smelled quite like this sea. Back then, he had been warm all the time, and swollen with humidity.

This place, with the long cold spell, clearly wasn’t the same. Besides the journey to her new home had awoken a similar memory. In his youth, so very long ago, Mathushek had traveled a long distance. He had left a place where cold had been constant, but accompanied by a whiff of salt air and bird’s cries. He had arrived at a place where the birds sounded the same, but the sea smelled different. He had grown used to that different scent.

While trying to work through such very old and long memories, Mathushek realized that she had returned. And with a man who poked and prodded but didn’t make the same irritated noises she had made. He removed some parts, then replaced them but with additions in between. Mathushek wished he could squirm, but he wasn’t sure it would be with pleasure or discomfort. These added parts created new angles to his front. Then, the newcomer began to make adjustments.

And oh, the sweet glory of his touch. Oh, to once again feel right.

She stood by while the newcomer tweaked and played. They talked, then the man left. She returned with sheet music and a new bench. Settling in, she began the first hesitant chords of a song he had never heard before. Mathushek would have cried if he could. She had not abandoned him. As her touch firmed into confidence once more, he gave her all that he could. And she smiled.

Mathushek would have smiled too if he could give her that as well, with her chords ringing through him, and the scent of sea in his fibers. He remembered this from his youth: Long cold days, then blessed warmth, salty air—and the joy of being touched and adored. He was whole again.

And he was home.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Starter Post

I had to put something in here, and since I'm at work and unable to write a short story or something more applicable to this blog...well, this is what I'm gonna say: