Thursday, January 14, 2021

Swedish Death Cleanse

I’ve been doing a death cleanse. This is how it works: I start with one closet or a shelf and begin to pick over the stuff to determine what I’m donating, throwing out, or giving away to friends. Following the unofficial rules of Döstädning, I’m deciding now while alive what I want others to have and enjoy as I’ve already had time with them and obviously I cannot take it with me.

Literally and figuratively.

As I might be moving. For now I’m calling it a sojourn. Or at least until there is a vaccine. I’ll be traveling out to Eugene, OR to be by my daughter who is having a baby in late Dec/early Jan. We are all very happy and excited—but going along with that is a tandem feeling of nostalgia, forlornness to possibly saying goodbye.

The logistics are overwhelming as I’ve lived in Chicago, in particular with one group of people, for close to forty years, since graduating from college. That’s a lot of history and relationships. There are questions of what to take, what to leave behind, what do I, if the time comes to that, come back for. All this while trying to navigate the emotions.

I’m looking forward to the next step, then the next one, and the one after that. My sojourn will involve 1) family, 2) writing, 3) riding my bike (of course), and so much more that I can’t even count.

Until then I’m cleansing and purging, making piles and hoping my heart can hold everything that is needed in order to do this.

I wish

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Honey Festival--1976

 While 4,000 cyclists participated in Bikecentennial, about 2,000 finishing the entire 4,200 mile route from Yorktown, Virginia, to Astoria, Oregon (or the other way around).

I was riding the backroads of Ohio. 

Scout was the name of my bike. More than a bike, Scout was my friend. 

I remember hopping on Scout on a Sunday afternoon, bored from nothing to do or cooped up and feeling antsy. I’d take Route 48 to Clyo Road to Lytle past Social Row Road to Township Line Road, and follow that to Lebanon, Ohio.

Where I discovered the Lebanon Honey Festival and all things honey. I never knew there were so many different kinds. There was a sampling station. Some varieties had a smoky taste, some were sweeter than others. Some you couldn’t quite detect what exactly made it stand out. I talked to a few of the beekeepers and they explained to me that the honey differed according to what the bees ate. If they were feeding off wild flowers then they produced wild flower honey. I bought a jar of buckwheat honey with a hearty wheat berry flavor.

I can still recall the jars lined up on a display—colors ranging from golden amber to dark brown—almost a molasses shade. A wealth of honey. After tasting them all I felt rich, full.

It is serendipitous moments like these that I know will not return again. Not only because time doesn’t stand still, but because Centerville has turned into one big shopping center, a giant paved parking lot, and Lebanon no longer hosts a honey festival. The honey bees are dying out. Lazy days where children can just jump on their bikes, ride and ride, is unlikely. Unsupervised unscheduled time.

The Lebanon Honey Festival looks like a tiny pin prick of light at the end of a dark tunnel of memory, disappearing like sugar in water.


Thursday, December 31, 2020

"Empathy and New Year" by James Schuyler


James Schuyler

A notion like that of empathy inspires
great distrust in us, because it connotes 

a further dose of irrationalism and 

Whitman took the cars
all the way from Camden
and when he got here
or rather there, said,
“Quit quoting,” and took the next
back, through the Jersey meadows
which were that then. But
what if it is all, “Maya,
illusion?” I
doubt it, though. Men are not
so inventive. Or
few are. Not knowing
a name for something proves nothing. Right
now it isn’t raining, snowing, sleeting, slushing,
yet it is
doing something. As a matter of fact
it is raining snow. Snow
from cold clouds
that melts as it strikes.
To look out a window is to sense
wet feet. Now to infuse
the garage with a subjective state
and can’t make it seem to
even if it is a little like
What the Dentist Saw
a dark gullet with gleams and red.
“You come to me at midnight”
and say, “I can smell that after
Christmas letdown coming like a hound.”
And clarify, “I can smell it
just like a hound does.”
So it came. It’s a shame
expectations are
so often to be counted on.

New Year is nearly here
and who, knowing himself, would
endanger his desires
resolving them
in a formula? After a while
even a wish flashing by
as a thought provokes a
knock on wood so often
a little dish-like place
worn in this desk just holds
a lucky stone inherited
from an unlucky man. Nineteen-sixty-
eight: what a lovely name
to give a year. Even better
than the dogs’: Wert
(“…bird thou never…”)
and Woofy. Personally
I am going to call
the New Year, Mutt.
Flattering it
will get you nowhere.


Awake at four and heard
a snowplow not rumble—
a huge beast
at its chow and wondered
is it 1968 or 1969?
for a bit. 1968 had
such a familiar sound.
Got coffee and started
reading Darwin: so modest,
so innocent, so pleased at
the surprise that he
should grow up to be him. How
grand to begin a new
year with a new writer
you really love. A snow
shovel scrapes: it’s
twelve hours later
and the sun that came
so late is almost gone:
a few pink minutes and
yet the days get
longer. Coming from the
movies last night snow
had fallen in almost
still air and lay
on all, so all twigs
were emboldened to
make big disclosures.
It felt warm, warm
that is for cold
the way it does
when snow falls without
wind. “A snow picture,” you
said, under the clung-to
elms, “worth painting.” I
said, “The weather operator
said, `Turning tomorrow
to bitter cold.’ ” “Then
the wind will veer round
to the north and blow
all of it down.” Maybe I
thought it will get cold
some other way. You
as usual were right.
It did and has. Night
and snow and the threads of life
for once seen as they are,
in ropes like roots.

for those suffering a post-Christmas let down


Recently an American Masters about Laura Ingalls Wilder aired on PBS. Her life spanned Conestoga wagons to the nuclear age. Maybe not apples to oranges but my life has gone from television to streaming.

Anyway, it sparked a memory of the time I was first introduced to the LIW books. My big brother Steve had taken me to the library. Of any in my family, Steve shared my affinity for reading. He said, Let me show you a book you might like. I can still envision the corner, the row, its location on the shelf because I returned to it again and again, first one book, then the next, the whole series, then rereading it. I was quick to buy a biography of LIW by William Anderson. There was the controversy over Rose Wilder Lane and the mother/daughter collaboration. There was Rose’s Libertarian politics and odd decisions over the Wilder literary estate. I could have told PBS the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

She was no angel, as is the story with every writer. Yet she told her story and that story has influenced countless readers. If anything the controversies and criticism has sparked discussion of revisionist history and how it fits into the American narrative.

I also at the time read books by Carol Ryrie Brink and Helen Fuller Orton. There must have been something about women with three names. Mary Mapes Dodge.

As a teenager I wrote to National Geographic to pitch an article of revisiting all the LIW sites and writing about the pioneer journey. I might have suggested I would use a bicycle to reach these destinations. I remember going into great detail about my vision for the piece—comparing what the site might have looked like then to now, reckoning that a Walmart Superstore really impacts the landscape, erasing all signs of wagon tracks.

Now there is another thing that links me to the writer Laura Ingalls Wilder, On Dec. 28, 2020 my daughter had a baby. I begged her not to tell me the gender, but that soon got to be impossible. Finally we agreed that the name would be the big reveal. My daughter is also a big reader. It hopefully runs in the family. My grandson’s name is Jack Wilder Garvey.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

World Building, a resolution for 2021

 My daughter used to spend hours playing with her Fisher-Price peoples, the one’s with the wooden head, lining them up and world building. In fact by dinner time and she was asked to pick up and get ready to eat and then bath and bed, she’d cry—“But I was just getting started!”

I knew exactly what she meant. I’d do the same thing with my Barbies. I’d go over to a friend’s house with several carrying cases and we’d sit on the floor and dress them and decide who was who and what was what and then my mother would call and say she was on the way to pick me up. I’d wail—“But we haven’t had a chance to play!”

I didn’t know that world building was play. That the actual narrative was subordinate to the setting up. All the time invested in dressing and characters, stage setting WAS the play.

Sometimes we lose the forest through the trees. We forget that it is all part of the fun, the eventual outcome=all those fuzzy details.

I think 2021 is going to be about mindfulness to the process, even the dull stuff that precedes what I think is the main event. It’s all good,

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

There She Goes


                                                                          Jane riding away

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Joy in the Journey

 I remember as a little kid waiting in line for Santa. This is one of my earliest memories so I was very young. I must have been told who Santa was and that he was responsible for bringing my presents. I understood I had a duty to tell him what I wanted. So we showed up at the department store and rode the elevator up. We got off into a cottony world of sparkly snowflakes. We wandered through colored lights and fabricated gumdrops. We winded through what looked like a workshop manned by elves with jingle hats and bells on their toes. It seemed to take forever. Finally we made it to a studio where there was a camera and helpers, and sitting on a throne was a fat man in a red suit with a fake beard. The Big Kahuna. The main event. Santa. 

I climbed aboard his lap and whispered what I wanted for Christmas and then it was over.

Leaving, I realized that all those places we walked through, Winter Wonderland, Elf Workshop, Santa World was all part of the experience and I had missed it by only focusing on the one minute I got with Santa.

I’m trying in this time of transition to not miss the lesson, to not lose track of the bigger picture. To have joy in the journey.