Followed by a Moon Shadow

Moonshadow by Cat Stevens

I first heard this song as a freshman in coll20160424_181349ege.  It struck me that it was hauntingly beautiful… but maybe I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant.

The song is about losing body parts and being okay with that.

That can actually be kinda creepy, right?

It is probably a song about gradually dying.

But that’s not really what it’s about.

I am there now.  Peeling, cracking, drying out… my life has reached the downhill run toward the finish line.  But I am not worried and not afraid.  Life is so much more than hands and eyes and legs and feet.  I can lose those things and have no regrets.  I am so much more than merely the sum of those physical things.

My spirit soars.  And my life is bound up in words and meanings that are now written down, and are at least as imperishable as paper.  And may, in fact, be written on a few human hearts here and there.

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, healing, health, humor, illness, insight, inspiration, music, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Wizards on Ice

I need a quick and cold post for today, so I will turn to the ice wizards of Talislanta.

Ice Alchemist

Viktor, the ice-alchemist, and his son Zoran-viktor are Mirin, a sort of ice-elves who live in the frozen ice-world of the far north.  Viktor’s people are cold-resistant enough to wear bikinis in freezing weather (but smart enough not to).   So Viktor managed to become the Mirins’ most powerful user of the magic of chemistry by developing hot stuff. In the picture he is brewing a bit of the really, really hot explodie stuff that melts a Mirin bad guy.

Juan Ruy

Juan Ruy, the Mirin prince,  built many ice castles out of his magical substance known as iron-ice.  It was far harder to pierce than steel and impossible to melt with fires less hot than dragon’s breath.  With it he built frozen castles vertically to the highest heights.  And they still stand, primarily because I haven’t played that particular D & D game for more than two decades.

But this is what I love most about the Dungeons and Dragons game.  It is a never-ending game played in worlds of shared imagination where every person at the table adds something to the story.  It is interactive, and it retains the unique twists and turns created by the players.  I created the scenario.  The player behind the character Juan Ruy created the idea of iron-ice that completely changed the story.

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The Secret Gallery in Grandma’s Closet

After years of being stored away, I discovered that my mother had hidden a hoard of my old artworks in the upstairs closet in Grandma Aldrich’s house (now my parents’ house).

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This oil painting was done on an old saw blade at the request of my Grandpa Aldrich.  He wanted a farm painting on it, like the one he’d seen in a restaurant during a fishing trip in Minnesota.  I chose as the subject Sally the pig.  Sally was a hairlip piglet that had to be bottle fed and raised in a box by the stove until later in life she became a favorite pet.  Believe it or not, pigs are smarter than the family dog.  She became a pig you could ride.  And Grandma had taken a precious old photo of my mother and Uncle Larry riding the pig.  I used that photo to make this painting.  It was also the painting I wanted to find on this trip to Iowa.  Searching for it led to finding all the others.

These two are among the earliest paintings I did.  They were both done on canvases that I stretched over the frame myself in high school art class.  The purple one is a scene from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The blue one doesn’t have a title, but you can see what it is.  It is an ancient shibboleth water monster lurking under a dock, fishing for young boys to eat.

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This drawing was done on the front porch in the house in Rowan.  It would be years before mom framed it.  It is another example of what I could do as a high school kid.  In fact, I composed it from art-class sketches I did my senior year in school.

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The Boy in the Barn was painted on the remains of an old chalkboard that my sisters, brother, and I had used in grade school.

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Grandma Aldrich asked for this picture to hang over the sofa in the farmhouse living room.  It stayed there for many years.

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Great Grandma Hinckley passed away in 1980.  I created this portrait from a combination of photos and memory.  It was too good.  It was never hung anywhere because it always made her daughter, my Grandma Aldrich, tear up.

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This pencil drawing won a blue ribbon at the Wright County Fair in the late 70’s.

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This picture is called First Years are Hard Years.  It was painted in 1982 after my first year of teaching at the junior high school in Cotulla, Texas.   I painted mostly the good kids.  The girl on the lower right would later go on to become a teacher for our school district.  I can’t claim to be the one who inspired her, but she did make straight A’s in my class.

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This is called Beauty.  It is done in oil crayon on canvas.  I did it for my mother to hang in the hallway in the house in Taylor, Texas.

So, it turns out, I unearthed art treasures by searching for the one painting.

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Filed under artwork, colored pencil, homely art, humor, oil painting, old art, Paffooney

The Care and Feeding of a REALLY BIG DOG

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My neighbor, Wendy Wackyname, is the owner of a really big dog.  I asked her how she managed a dog that was bigger than a moose and weighed more than an elephant.

“You have to be able to solve problems you never thought you could have,” she said.

“Problems like what?” I stupidly asked.

“Well, a dog that big not only chases cars, he often catches the littler ones like yours.  It became a real problem when he finished chewing on them and wanted to bury them in the back yard.  When we lived in Oklahoma, our back yard just wasn’t big enough, and the local police kept wondering about what might be buried there.  I guess they had a lot of missing persons cases.”

“Oh, that does sound bad.”

“Yeah, but moving here solved that problem.  We now live next to this nice big park with lots of room for a dog to bury stuff.”

“So he isn’t cured of chasing cars?” I asked nervously.

“No.  But that isn’t the worst problem.  Feeding him is really expensive.  We have to buy a truckload of dog food every week.  That problem has gotten worse since we left Oklahoma.  There used to be a cattle ranch nearby.  At least until the last of their stock mysteriously disappeared.”

I decided I should probably change the subject a bit.

“How do you walk a dog that big?”  I asked.

“Oh, I don’t.  I climb up on his neck and hang on to the collar as hard as I can, and we go for a run.  We ended up in Waxahachie, Texas last week.”

“Does your mother ever let the dog in the house?”

“Oh, no.  Foozy is an outside dog.  If he wags his tail indoors, he breaks all the furniture in the room.  Besides, the doors in this new house aren’t big enough for him to fit through.”

“Wendy, did you ever read those kids’ books about Clifford the Big Red Dog?”

“Oh, sure.  But life with Foozy is nothing like that.  Giant dogs are a much harder pet to take care of than people think.”

I remembered then how my little dog somehow managed to make five poops a day.  Did Foozy do that too?  And how did poor little Wendy go about bagging it and depositing it in the trash?  I finally decided I didn’t want to know.

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Filed under goofy thoughts, humor, Paffooney, pen and ink, pen and ink paffoonies, satire

Why Farmers Ain’t Millionaires

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A professional baseball player goes up to the plate.  A hulking six foot man goes up on a little mound and hurls a stitched horsehide sphere at him, ideally around ninety miles an hour, hoping to throw it past him three times, or, failing that, coming close enough to his head that he forfeits the next two.  If the baseball guy swings his hitty-stick at the ball and smacks it into the field in a place where nobody can catch it three out of every ten times, that man will soon be a millionaire if he isn’t one before swinging the hitty stick for the first time.

As a public school teacher it was my job to teach kids how to read and write.  It is a lot harder thing to do when you consider how teachers are expected to do that job.  You are in a classroom of up to thirty kids, no more than ten per cent of whom are self-starting and self-maintaining.  The rest are problem-filled haters of reading and wordless when it comes to writing.  You have to lead them into the land of joyous literacy.  And when you step up to that plate, if you are getting a hit only three times in every ten at-bats (as measured by beloved state tests that are inherently biased in a multitude of ways) you will lose that lovely teaching job.  You are expected to hit 8 out of 10 or higher.  And that is just to keep your job year to year even though you make less money per year than a city garbage man.  No chance you will ever be a millionaire.  And they don’t even let you use a hitty stick to do your job.

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But I promised you this rant was about farming and farmers.

My roots are in the farmlands of Iowa.  I am the result of the union of the Beyer family farm and the Aldrich family farm.  I know what farming is all about.  And we do the job of feeding the nation, and possibly the world.  But it is not an easy job.  You gamble each year that you will be able to produce corn and soybeans and possibly beef or pork, and when the harvest comes, you have to hope you can sell it for more than it cost to produce it.  Tornadoes, hail, floods, and droughts get more than their fair say in the outcome.

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So, why isn’t what the farmer does worth more?

The answer is simple.  People with money and power are the ones who control who makes money and who doesn’t.  Through speculation and commodity trading they control the price of corn and beans, and they control who makes the profit.

We do the majority of the work and take the majority of the risk.  We don’t get the majority of the rewards.  Other people than farmers decide who does, and only rarely do they decide those matters fairly.  But thus the world is.  Or rather, thus we have let it become.

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Filed under angry rant, humor, Liberal ideas, politics

Stardusters… Canto 52

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Canto Fifty-Two – In the Flower Garden

Shalar was amazed at the tadpoles’ reactions to Harmony Castille when they saw she had come to rescue them.  First Davalon and Tanith had hugged her and kissed her and then obediently put on clothing as Harmony directed, so that they might cover their sinful and shameful nakedness in the sight of God and everybody.  Then Menolly and George Jetson had done exactly the same when Harmony and Shalar wandered into the Arboretum to find them.  Only Brekka whined.

“I like being naked with my friends and family,” Brekka complained.  “You haven’t made Sizzahl get dressed!”  Brekka was lounging on a large leaf of a plant that seemed almost animated, and seemed to be cradling her like a loved one.

“I can’t get dressed,” said Sizzahl.  “I no longer have any clothing in the whole complex that fits me.  My clothing was destroyed by scabbies and the soldiers Gohmurt brought with him when he slew my father.”

The Galtorrian Makkhain was looking rather perturbed when Sizzahl mentioned her father’s death again.  At least, that was what Shalar thought as she looked at his inscrutable lizard-face.

“I will use my sewing skills to make you some, child,” Harmony said.  “We don’t want to have your soul lost to Christ either.”

Sizzahl frowned.  “I feel a lot the way Brekka does, human.  I have gone without clothing long enough that it doesn’t feel natural anymore.”

“How it feels is not the point,” seethed Harmony.  “Christian souls can’t be saved if they are still in a state of unforgiven sin just as naked Adam and naked Eve were.”

“I don’t see how your silly Earther superstitions apply to me,” Sizzahl replied heatedly.

“They apply to anyone whose soul I can save through Christian love and concern.  That is how you recognize a Christian… by their love.  Race, sex, creed… or species… makes no difference.  I love everyone and want everyone to be saved in Christ.  I can beat that notion into stubborn heads if necessary.”

“I think I see now what makes a church lady such a formidable warrior on your world,” interjected Makkhain.  “You have a single-mindedness of purpose that brooks no argument.  All great leaders can bend the masses to a single, over-riding purpose.”

Harmony looked at him with doubting eyes.  Shalar knew the old church lady, turned beautiful young woman, had no idea what the Galtorrian was talking about.  Harmony didn’t realize he was, in his own lizardy way, complimenting her.

Alden and Gracie Morrell had finished dressing themselves, and Gracie offered, “I can help you with the sewing, Harmony.”

“It isn’t really necessary,” Shalar pointed out.  “Studpopper is carrying a portable material synthesizer.  We can make clothing with any fibrous material you can gather.  There are lot of things in the rubble around here that will transform into cloth.”

“You can make clothing out of rubble?” Makkhain asked, surprised.

“Of course,” said Studpopper, putting the small portable synthesizer down on the potting bench where numerous withered flowers in flower pots were arranged.

“Two bad you can’t make food.  You could save a lot of Galtorrians.”

“Oh, we can make food.  If we round up all those dead scabbies, bones and all, and the dead plants, that will give us enough organic molecules to make good food for years.”

“Lester has volunteered to make plant shoots and runners for food too,” offered Brekka.  “George and Menolly were supposed to tell you all of that.”

“Who is Lester?” asked Shalar.

“My friend the man-eating plant,” said Brekka with a huge grin.

“We will definitely be making a lot of food, Makkhain,” said Shalar.  “And we will freely share it with your people if it will help your planet.”

“It really won’t make a difference,” said Makkhain.  “The atmosphere of Galtorr Prime is degrading at an alarming rate.  Soon we won’t have any air to breathe.”

“This Bio-Dome and the five thousand other sites that my father helped set up have working air-scrubbers that will convert the carbon dioxide and poisons into carbon blocks and trees,” said Sizzahl.  “My instruments have been showing that they are winning the air war since you war-guys destroyed all the factories and energy-making facilities.  We will have a fully restored atmosphere in five years.”

“Okay,” said Makkhain, “but we can’t solve the disease problem that turns us into scabbies.”

“That one is no problem,” said Sizzahl with a shrug.  “Any Galtorrian who is still alive is immune.  All the people susceptible to the virus have already succumbed to it.  I saw that in the genes we used to make the Human/Galtorrian fusions.  We have the same gene to battle the disease that the Tellerons and Humans have, otherwise we would be scabbies already.”

The old warrior seemed somehow deeply shaken by what he had just learned, which didn’t really make sense to Shalar.  It sounded to her like the evidence proved that Galtorr Prime and its people would survive after all.

“We… we can still save the planet!” gasped the old warrior.  “I… I have made a very grave mistake!”

All the others looked at Makkhain in wonder.  All but Brekka.  Shalar noticed the little naked tadpole had cuddled up against the plant-thing called Lester and fallen asleep.

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Filed under aliens, humor, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, science fiction

Opening Windows on the Past

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This particular Iowa trip has me thinking hard about mortality and the cold harsh wind that blows toward us from the future.  My cousin’s only son lost his battle with depression, and his family finally came to terms with the loss.  But the sadness is past.   The responsibilities of the living is what remains.

I was born while Eisenhower was President.  I was alive and aware when Kennedy was assassinated and when men first walked on the moon.  I was teaching in a classroom when the first teacher in space was killed on the exploding space shuttle.  And I was also in the classroom when the twin towers fell on 9-11.  It is an important part of the responsibilities I have for being alive to keep that past alive too.

 

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My mother’s knickknack shelf.

The reason we collect and care about little extraneous things like porcelain eggs, angels, fine blue china plates, and the California Raisins singing I Heard It Through the Grapevine is because those little, otherwise unimportant things connect us to memories of important times and places and people.   We keep old photographs around, many of them black and white, for the same reasons.

 

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The fiction I write is not contemporary.  It is mostly historical fiction.  It is set in a recent past where the Beatles and the Eagles provided the sound track to our lives.  It does not cross the border into the 21st Century.  The part of my writing that is not about the past is science fiction set in the far future, entirely in the universe of my imagination.  It is my duty to connect the past to the future.

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And I share that duty with everyone who is alive.  My great grandparents and grandparents are now gone from this world.  But their horse-and-buggy memories about life on the farm before electric lights and cars… with humorous outhouse stories thrown in for comic relief… are in me too.  I am steeped in the past in so many ways…  And I must not fail to pass that finely brewed essence on to my children and anyone young who will listen.  It is a grave responsibility.  And it is possible to reach the grave without having fulfilled that important purpose.

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In times of great sadness and loss we must think about how life goes on.  There has to be a will to carry on and deliver the past to the future.  Every story-teller carries that burden, whether in large or small packages.  And there is no guarantee that tomorrow will even arrive.  So here is my duty for the day.  One more window has been opened.

 

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, blog posting, family, healing, humor, insight, inspiration