Saturday, August 30, 2008


He said: "So, now that McCain has selected that woman from Alaska as his vice-presidential running mate, are you going to vote for him?"

She said: "Of course not. I'm a thinking woman."

Friday, August 29, 2008


Now that that's over, can we get on with the business of re-building out of the mess W. has left?

It is as if the Bush administration was Hurricane Katrina, and we are New Orleans. The storm is almost over, but still it's a long way home.

O merciful Lord, help us find our way....

Is there

but words
and more


AUGUST 30, 2002

Blue sky. Some leaves have fallen, small, brown, like discarded candy wrappers.

Everything you want, you've got on a morning like this - a cool loveliness and light. As if all prayers have been answered. As if you can give everything away and become a monk. As if holiness will save you.

Heavy dew is honey-bright in the sunlight. I enjoy the morning.

In the field where sea gulls had been sitting ealier this week, the ground has been worked up, bare dirt now, black like the tail of night, like a crow's sadness.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


The road won't
take you.

You must
take yourself.

AUGUST 29, 2002

The sun is a dim bulb this morning. Haze and greyness thick enough to flow, almost. Perhaps I exaggerate. There is a greyness; the sun will win its battle, but not immediately.

How much can you notice? Can you observe the same piece of ground for several years and still find something new to say? I would offer this challenge to everyone who wishes to write carefully.

An explosion of birds off the driveway as I walk to the car. Heavy dew. Sunlight breaks through. Moisture restores everything.

Fog in the country again, a quarter mile visibility in some places - heavier in this trees, less at ground level. Patchy, dense fog, they say on the radio. Patches, patches, patches, that's how life is stitched.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Of light,
skin of sky,




AUGUST 28, 2002

The sun is trying to burn through a fog that's been laid on us. It has been a foggy morning all along, right down into every dip and hollow. It's a September morning. It's a Canadian fishing camp morning.

People keep asking me, so perhaps I should figure it out - how many days til retirement. It's 25 working days, as if it matters; it's 36 days altogether.

Ah, morning dove, the sound of wings at the end of the driveway. Ah, love lifted in the heavy morning.

There's dew on everything. It could not be otherwise on such a morning.

Visibility in the country is not half a mile, not even a quarter mile in some places. If I could see anything, perhaps I'd report it - a smudge of one hundred swallows sitting on a power line, for instance. In fog like this, a fellow ought to watch his business instead of the side show. And so I do, so I shall.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Green gauze
and moisture

this morning.

AUGUST 27, 2002

I want this morning to observe the sun on the leaves of the black walnuts, how the light makes the green of the leaves so dark. I have no time to watch that, no time to make notes of it. Here I sit scribbling quickly, overworked, underpaid, but loved. What can I say. Some days you run on fumes.

As I head east on Washington Street the sun is a soreness in my eyes. There is a lazy wind from the east. The canning company sprays its waste water on the field to the east side of Highway E north of Fairwater. There is no stink to the spray, no stink to the day.

The famous woman on the radio says "I am a poet and an artist, it is my duty to speak of the wonderful and not so wonderful."

I am a poet. My duty is to sing the wonder of each morning, each day, each life. This is morning praise, lauds. "Oh, praise the day," I must sing. It's that kind of world. It's that kind of responsibility I've been given.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Pump of blood.
Love, or

day breaking.

AUGUST 26, 2002

Why does the month run away? Where do the years go? On August 31, I will turn 55 years old. I still don't quite understand how that is possible. Criminy.

We had a decent weekend. There is some haze above this morning, the way it looks, but it won't last long. The world keeps turning to loveliness. It is a cool morning, still feeling more like autumn than August. Autumn is a lovely time too, so I shall enjoy this weather we've been having.

Oh, my, I step outside and find the clouds hanging down into the tree tops. It is a thickness of sky pressing upon us. Wisps drop lower, like smoke cooling on a very cold day.

Along the river and in downtown Fairwater the fog is all the way to the ground. There's no wind to blow it away, so in the country visibility is only a quarter of a mile in some places. Sea gulls circle in the fog, turning their brightness on and off as if signalling at sea.

Just south of Five Corners, a red-tail hawk sits atop a power pole, facing west this morning, not east. As I pass, he cocks a wary eye at me. Then a quarter mile north of Five Corners, another power pole, another red-tail hawk, this one facing west too, awaiting breakfast. It's a lovely symmetry of hawks on a misty mystery morning. "Say yes," I say, "say yes again."

Friday, August 22, 2008



who go to
the desert
to pray

may not
save us,
yet don't they

give us hope.

AUGUST 23, 2002

Every day is the same. The sun rises, the sun sets. Either it's grey or sunny, warm or cold. Either the leaves are green or they're not. The fields full of growing things, or not. Every day is the same. The only thing that changes is our response to it. Do we embrace it or push it away? Is this home, or is it unhappiness? We ourselves make the only difference that matters.

A grey morning, dark later than it should be - it feels like fall; the sky looks like a fall sky. It's August, yet we fall towards autumn.

We have got a hangdown sky. Everything is wet but there's not even a tenth of an inch in the rain gauge. My breathing is heavy, noisy with moisture, as I sit in the car making these notes. Beads of water drip down the side window. Everything stops in this moment to acknowledge the ultimate darkness - the great void, the infinite silence of our goneness when we're gone. There is no sadness in death: sadness is a living emotion felt by those left behind as they stare into the emptiness.

The more you want, the less you will truly have.

Visibility in the country is not much more than half a mile. The sea gulls keep their distance from each other; they are not a white ten acres, but a mottled forty acres of empty field.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


The other
does not

or answers,

and I
must learn

the meaning
of silence.

AUGUST 22, 2002

We had storms roll through last evening - rain, thunder, lightning. It was less severe here than to the north or south of us, I think. The day has dawned grey and a little damp again.

It must be less than 30 work days I have left before my "retirement" from printing. I am stepping into my life as a writer. I'm stepping there again, having failed at it financially in the 1970s. This time, money is not the thing; rather, I want to do what I need to do.

It'll mean we will have to live poor. We have lived poor before. Or, as Mary says, "we'll have to live poorer."

I step out to the car. There's a thick greyness overhead.

Nothing disturbs the flag at the cemetery this morning. It hangs wet and flat.

I drive through my emptiness towards another day of work.

The donkeys at Five Corners are darker than the day's greyness, wet as the sky. They graze in tall grass, heads down, observing nothing but the essentials of their lives.

Isn't that what I try to do - observe the essentials of this life? That's what I want to continue doing even into retirement.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Like the seed
which must split.

AUGUST 21, 2002

Cool and damp this morning. A haziness above, but it's not - I think - permanent. Everything will let go when it has to. I am up and moving. Myself, letting go when I have to. I say that, and sneeze.

A dampness on Washington Street, not enough to suggest it has rained, only that the sky dragged her wet dress along the pavement.

A flupp to the flag at the cemetery. Waste water from the canning factory is being sprayed on the field to the east of Highway E just north out of town. There are still ten acres of sea gulls in the field that last year was alfalfa. The field of corn where the hawk tree stood - that field is entirely harvested now, only rubble and stubble and lines left to the imagination. Nothing stands there.

A crow flies towards the morning greyness, towards its old age, into the beginning of the end.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Not this,

and not
me – some-


AUGUST 20, 2002

Another lovely day, the kind of beauty we take for granted. In the rage of winter we'd pay big bucks this kind of blueness, the sun, the breath of loveliness. As it is, we say "Oh, another day," and shrug it off. The noise of the birds alone would melt a winter's icy morning, if we could release the sounds in January. The green attack continues - we've had just enough rain that only a few lawns are brown and hard. All the deep trees thrive; the world lies in bounty.

The least bit of wind in the flag at the cemetery, enough to move the stripes slightly.

Ten acres of sea gulls in the field that last year was alfalfa. They are a white blanket on empty soil. The field of corn where the hawk tree stood is being taken - perhaps twelve rows along the ouside edoge are gone, and I can see the top of a picker across the field.

The man on the radio gives the short forecast; he says "it's a pretty day." A pretty day like a pretty girl - what shall you talk her into?

Monday, August 18, 2008


How far
the stretch

it snaps?

AUGUST 19, 2002

We flew back from Hampton, Iowa, yesterday in a small plane at 5500 feet. The world looks like a puzzle from that perspective, a green and blue puzzle. Visibility was 40 miles. I helped navigate by matching the map to the fields and trees and roads and rivers there on the ground. What is so clear on the map has to be studied on the ground. The river, the road, the curve to the trees along the water.

It has rained during the night, and day dawned with haze overhead. That's disappearing: we've got blue skies now, some sunshine. Nothing you can complain about unless you're a whiner. Whiners don't live as long as those who embrace the world, however.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Understand this
as you would

one side of
the conversation.

AUGUST 16, 2002

Blue sky again, night broken by the new day's bright fierceness. Yellow sun on a yellow garage door across the street, blue breeze on the blue water of the pond. Everything wishes to be what it is. If I were to run away, I'd run to where I am.

Heavy dew on the windshield of the car. There may have been some smattering of rain during the night. Earlier, the street was damp. You cannot watch the world all the time - you always know only part of the story.

South of where the hawk tree used to be, a big pot-bellied red-tail atop a power pole, its face to the sun. The sun soaks the hawk, soaks everything. I can't let go of the image.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


as if

it is
all here.

AUGUST 15, 2002

Bright blue. Some breeze. It is the midway point between summer solstice and the autumnal equinox. Forty five years ago perhaps I'd have been on the dock of a cottage along Lake Okaboji in Iowa, trying to catch a sunfish or two, experimenting perhaps with the feel of water up my nose.

On the radio a fellow says we are enslaved by machines. I say we are enslaved by life - the sun, the turn of the planet, the course of stars through the night, the wind through and across our days.

We can accept our enslavement or resist. Resistance is futile.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Without this,

and nothing to say.

AUGUST 14, 2002

A Canadian greyness led our way home from Northern Light Lake where we canoed for several days and spent the loveliest of Sunday afternoons. It was as close to heaven as likely I'll ever get. The world couldn't be more different than the difference between Fairwater and the Boundary Waters. There, water is the element; here, despite the name, water is not the essence of our existence. There, we had to rely on each other; we had to carry everything; we had to watch every turn. Here, we can ignore our neighbors; we can go to grocery whenever we wish; we often proceed blindly on auto-pilot. There, one small action has large and continuing ramifications; here, what we do gets lost in the daily stew of living.

Coming home from the Boundary Waters was not an ending but a beginning. M. and I shall return to the adventure again and again, I think. The door to still another world has opened. We are blessed, then we are blessed again.

It's a grey morning here, familiar birds, familiar green world, a truck on the highway in the distance, a shifting of gears.

Life will always be what you want it to be, or never. We are happy with what we are happy with, or we are never happy. You go away but you're never gone if your unhappiness remains.

I'm north of Fairwater now. It's a grey, hand-down day, mist or haze in all directions.

At Five Corners, a grey goose in the farmyard struts its stuff, flaps its wings with some importance, its neck extended. It is only a farmyard goose; it is everything.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It all
starts here

with this.


"Not that I'm critical," Ivan said, "but I am confused. Kendall Nichols has both a gas and a diesel pick-up. Last Monday morning he made the statement, 'I haven't driven my diesel pick-up since harvest.' Did he mean he hadn't driven it since harvest started or since harvest was over? I'd ask him, but he gets all testy when he has to explain some of his statements."

"I found out what that bird I have is," Ivan reported. "Jack Benn described it perfectly. He said it was about a third bigger than a mourning dove. Is lighter-colored and has a ring around its neck. That's it. Jack said that is a turtle dove. It rarely shows up this far north. He said what most of us call a turtle dove is actually a mourning dove. So if you see a lighter-colored bird about a third again bigger than a mourning dove, that is the real McCoy when you are talking turtle doves."

"Judy Hall is driving her son's car this week," Ivan said. "His car wasn't running right when he was here. So he left it. Needed new plugs, one new plug wire, and of course the gas tank was nearly empty. But that's what kids are for. That's why we have em and love em. Judy called him Monday evening. He lives in Omaha. She asked him what the weather was like. He said it looks like it could rain and maybe hail. She told him to get her car under cover in a car wash or somewhere. He said, 'Driving your car carries a lot of responsibility, doesn't it?' She said, 'You're darned right it does.'"

"Once upon a time," Ivan said, or "just recently, Stan Smith baled his alfalfa. He pulled the baler with his IHC 'H' tractor. The tractor starter was in the tractor hospital getting operated on, so Stan used the crank. When he got all through baling - he was making big round bales – he discovered his crank was missing. Stan had visions of it being in one of the big round bales. When someone tried to console him by saying cattle wouldn't eat a tractor crank, he replied, 'No, but the tub grinder might try to.' So the ever resourceful Smith got his lawn mower with the five-foot cutter and started back and forth, back and forth, back and forth through his alfalfa patch. Eventually he found the crank, not in a bale but nestle in some alfalfa lying on the ground. Smith picked it up and everyone lived happily ever after. Well, maybe not ever after, but at least for a short while."

"Here is a story that, I think, started in the Garden of Eden, and is carried on still today," Ivan said. "Jack and Arlene Benn needed new outdoor furniture. Theirs was seventeen years old and was showing some signs of wear and tear. So they drove to Hastings. Stopped at Menard's. Walked in. Jack saw just what he wanted. Sat in it and it was plumb comfortable. Said, 'Let's take it.' Arlene had other plans. Women type plans. So they went to Home Depot, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and some other marts. Then they jumped in the pick-up and drove to Grand Island. Repeated the process – Home Depot, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and some other marts. Jumped into the pick-up – by this time Jack was getting tired of jumping – and drove back to Hastings. Went into Menard's and bought the very first, I mean the very first chair Jack had sat in."

Monday, August 11, 2008


It is


to see.

Friday, August 08, 2008


Why not
the stones?

You cannot
own them.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


A sorry sky.
A wet day.

I am in no
great hurry.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Minnechaduza Creek –
way too big a

for such a trickle.

AUGUST 7, 2002

Not much to say this last day before we leave for the Boundary Waters. Blue sky, sun, a cool enough morning, dew heavy on the windshield of my new car. A little movement in the trees. Loveliness at its luscious best.

As I leave the north edge of Fairwater, I wonder: "What more can I want?" Really, there is nothing more one needs than what I have. But I'm given this, I see: a red-tail hawk at the bare top of a half dead pine tree in the yard at the Sina pig farm. Its breast is turned to the sun; from its high perch it can see everything: what it cannot see does not exist.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


West River,
South Dakota.

The roll of
landscape like

Ruben's nudes.
Now I lie me

down to sleep.


"Loren Zabel ran over a woodchuck," Ivan said, "or a ground hog, or a possum, or a prairie dog, or a tom cat. Or none of the above. But he ran over a varmit."

"Former resident Lucille Post was here last weekend. Lucille looked great. She and her late husband Bill probably attended more square dances than anybody in Smith Center. Lucille is 90 years old and she done something that very few 90 year olds have ever done. Lucille bought herself a new car."

"Donna Martin was modeling some summer outfit at the Second Cup one morning last week," Ivan reported. "She stood up and showed the girls how it fit, or how it hung, or how it draped. She hasn't done any modeling since. I wish shed would, because the guys who were drinking coffee and faced the north didn't get to see it. They had their backs to it."

"Some things remind you that you are getting old. Some remind you quietly, without physical abuse, and some things hit you right in the solar plexus. My granddaughter Emily is being promoted to Sergeant on Tuesday. The last time I saw her she was a cute little girl and now here she is a sergeant in the Big Red 1 division."

"At Paul's Cafe one day last week," Ivan said, "one of the guys who knows how to handle money said, 'There ain't no such thing as zero interest.' One of the other guys whose ability to handle money is legendary in local circles said, 'That's right, there ain't no such thing as zero interest.' A third guy who has investments in everything that makes money nodded his head and affirmed, 'There ain't no such thing as zero interest.' They just shattered one of my dreams. I was going to buy something with no money down and zero interest. I suppose I'll just have to do without. It ain't for me so much as it is for momma and the cat."

"If you want to sit in at the As the Bladder Fills Club, you are welcome," Ivan said, "but let me warn you don't show up if you are thin-skinned. If you make some dumb remark, they are quick to tell you that you are a dummy. They don't mince words. Fortunately for me I tell them things that happened back in the '30s and they ain't old enough to know if I'm right or not. But I can tell you right now that I'm right."

"In 1936," Ivan said, "Alf Landon, the governor of Kansas, ran for president against Franklin D. Roosevelt. Landon carried Maine, Vermont, and Smith County. The members of the As the Bladder Fills Club are the progeny of Landon's ultra-conservative political thinking. There are only two Democrats in Smith Center. I'm married to one and my wife is married to the other."

"Mike Hughes was a-tellin' me that the local 18-and-under girls softball team had a great night at Osborne last Tuesday," Ivan said. "He said Aliee Rice pitched a one-hitter. She hit a batter, walked a batter, and a runner got on bass by an error. He said the catcher, Ashley Berthoff, picked off two of those runners."

"We have reached that time of year," Ivan warned, "when we are going to have to start locking our cars. Zukeenies are getting ripe. If you leave your car unlocked, the Zukeenie Phantom is liable to leave some of his excess zukeenie in your front seat."

"Dr. Bill Grimes entire okra crop has been wiped out," Ivan said. "How can he be so lucky."

"Casey Edell bought the coffee on Friday," Ivan reported. "He was trying to stimulate with his stimulus check."
AUGUST 6, 2002

We've got blue sky. A paint of sun. Green grass, brown grass. The world rolls away in all its loveliness.

On Thursday early we'll leave for several days of canoeing in the Boundary Waters. We'll spend Thursday night in Thunder Bay, then enter from the Canadian side. I've not done a canoe trip before. It will be rough camping. We'll eat the fish we catch. It should be quite an enjoyable expedition. I'll be a little disappointed if we aren't "tested" to some degree. It will be an entirely different place from any place I've been.

There are clouds off to the east, over Lake Michigan. We shall find other geographic factors affecting the weather as we go into the Boundary Waters - different than what I'm used to here, something new to me.

I take joy in this single moment of morning - parking lot at work, two months more coming here and then everything changes forever to something else - not better, ultimately; not worse. Just different. Of a type that will, I hope, let me do what I'm put here to do. I'm trusting that what I'm put here to do will reveal itself.

Monday, August 04, 2008


The great
distance here,

a long way
to go

to die.

AUGUST 5, 2002

Looks like the humidity is thick enough it has become fog overnight. The air is very thick, and while it's now a cool breezing being pulled into the house, it won't be cool for long, I suspect. More heat and choking humidity, I'm guessing.

Tried to help an old friend come to terms with leaving her house behind, accepting "assisted living" as the best option for her. She wanted to hear none of it, her "place" is her house, that's where she wants to be. Unfortunately that's not on the list of options. She is going through the anger phase; she's at the edge of sadness, melancholy. I'm sad for her, but wouldn't recommend that she continue to live in her home as that would be unsafe.

So the weatherman says it won't be getting over 80 degrees today. We'll see. I'm sweating already.
North of the village, a red-tailed hawk rises out of the ditch just before me, sets itself on the crossbeam of a power pole.

The fog cuts off the view within a mile or so. Dark and grey, the day is already heavy with the weight of the future.

Friday, August 01, 2008


Hawk-like flap
of cloth caught
in fence-line.

AUGUST 2, 2002

The storms did not blow through yesterday as forecast. We kept hot weather through the afternoon and evening. The air in darkness cooled considerably. It's a pleasant morning. Blue sky, and perhaps another steamer coming. I'd hate to think that August will let us down.

I think of the heat, no breeze, standing in a field of tall grass as a child, grass almost taller than I was. The smell on the air. The smell of the green juice being pulled out of everything, a baked greenness. The buzz of flies. The sense that if the wind doesn't move the grass soon, nothing will ever move again, that everything will be caught in this instant forever. Perhaps that's what hell is - that hot moment of an August afternoon caught forever, no escape, no breath of freshness, nothing moving, ever.

News from Nebraska - there will be losses totalling a billion and a half dollars this summer, due to the drought. The newspaper from Smith Center, Kansas, has reported that elevators have far less grain coming in than during the normal harvest.

I really do have to discuss with myself my notion of ghosts on the landscape - ghosts of people, of buildings, of lodges and teepees. Everything that was still is, faintly, faintly. Sometimes I see a build that still stands and the building speaks to me. How do I record what it says?

The radio says we'll have a mild day compared to those we have had recently.

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