Category Archives: metaphor

Examining the Wood Grain

When I was a child I often had to fight on school nights to shut down my brain and get to sleep so that getting up the next morning wouldn’t be torture. The bedroom door was always left open and the single light in the upstairs hallway made it possible to get to the bathroom safely in the middle of the night. I would often find myself staring at the wood grain of the door with all its knots and spots and flowing wiggles. That low-light and wood-grain combination was enthralling.

And as I stared, my over-active imagination would find pictures there. There was a werewolf looking out of the wood grain at me with knotty eyes and wiggly fangs. Boy, that really helped me get to sleep.

But I could conjure other things too. I always longed to see Annette Funicello naked. I worked long and hard to make the naked lady in the corner of the door’s wood grained panel into Annette. It never truly worked. The naked lady had two grossly misshapen boobs that formed the central feature of her character, and that was nothing like perfect and sweet Annette from the Mickey Mouse Club.

But the point in all this is, a boy has to examine the wood grain of his life if he is going to develop into the kind of person he wants to be in the future. The things you see when you look into the knots and spots and flowing wiggles of a nearly infinite set of possibilities is limited only by your powers of imagination. There is truth to find there. There is often also deception. Sometimes the truth and the deception are the very same thing. But you have to follow the lines and make sense of the patterns.

Now, as I am old and have less to look forward to than I have to look back on, I am still looking at the wood grain. I am still looking at the patterns of my life and love and laughter. I try to trace the lines into fiction stories based on all things I have experienced in a life of humble service to the gods of education. And I have to look carefully. Is that a demon face on the left? Grinning at me with a crooked smile? Or is it a fox looking at me through a hole in the door. And on the right… Is that a hooded man standing next to a barber pole? Or is it a meadow lark reaching his stretched neck up to the top of the panel so that his bill is out of the picture at the apex of his reach?

You don’t see what I see? I fully understand. The wood grain of each person’s life is different. And not even his or her own interpretation can be called either “right” or “wrong”.

But the wood grains straight ahead are the pictures of the end of me. So, I must study the wood grains of the past to be sure of all the good that I have had, and I attempt to get it all down to hand onward to my children and the world to come. What else can I do? I see the patterns. Some are terrible… The werewolf of my bedroom door. Some are beautiful… Annette Funicello naked. And I get choose what they mean.

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Filed under battling depression, commentary, dreaming, goofy thoughts, humor, metaphor, Paffooney, philosophy, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Writing with Fire

The old saying goes, “If you play with fire, sooner or later you will get burned.”

But I am not playing. I am writing. With fire.

The criminal we elected president knows what I am talking about. He speaks at rallies with fire. Currently he is trying to demonize Representative Ilhan Omar and the Squad, the four freshman Congresswomen of color whom he said were unpatriotic, enemies of our democracy, and should go home to their countries filled with crime, poverty, and communism. Of course, the Congresswomen are all American Citizens. Three of them were born here. This is actually the country they are from. So, this is an example of the kind of verbal fire that needs to be put out with cold water. Preferably before some enraged Trumpist actually assassinates a member of the Squad. The fire he spews is destructive and evil.

But, truly, the way to fight fire is with fire. Firemen use a fire-break to interrupt the path of the fire. You can bulldoze or chop the wood in the way of the fire. Or you can burn it in the opposite direction. Many forest fires are ended in this way.

And I have been writing my fiction with fire. Controversial issues taken head on and given a clarity that burns brightly enough to leave burn marks on the psyche and write messages in ash on the heart of the reader. This is why beloved characters die in fictional stories and bad things happen to good people… to make a lasting scar or burn on the idea-collections in the readers’ brains.

I have in the past few novels written about sexual assault, attempted rape, murder, greed, brutality, excessive anger, and the current work-in-progress tackles suicide. And I battle these raging fires with positive fires set from empathy, community and familial love, preserverance, determination, and simple faith. I am trying to fight fire with a better fire, destructive fire replaced by zeal.

Okay. So, I’m an idiot, expressing foolish ideas with loopy metaphors. But I can make you think. And thinking is electrical fire in the brain. And I have been steadily pouring gas on that word-fire.

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Filed under commentary, insight, metaphor, Paffooney, politics, strange and wonderful ideas about life

The Tree of Life

When you get to your sixties, but are in poor health, you can’t help but obsess about your own mortality. No man lives forever.

That point was driven home yesterday. My aunt, whom I have known for my entire lifetime, had her 80th birthday on Monday. Yesterday she had a heart attack and died. It was sudden. It was shocking. It occurred five days before a planned family reunion of Great Grandma Hinckley’s extensive family of descendants. My aunt, of course, was related to all of us, so there is no way the reunion occurrs without a dark cloud over it.

Of course, there are many dark clouds hovering over us in these times, The threat of nuclear war has returned to terrorize us again in the way it did in the 50’s and 60’s.

The climate crisis threatens to make life on Earth extinct. That could all begin this year with crop failures due to excessive rain and flooding during planting season.

But the corn this year, which world-wide food supplies depend upon because of the versatility of corn oil in foods of all kinds, is taller than I am in July and beginning to sprout tassels. So there is reason to hope.

And our moron criminal president seems to be self-destructing instead of fulfilling the promises of Dr. Strangelove.

And I am reaching the final home stretch on my novel, When the Captain Came Calling. Soon this twenty-year story-telling quest to tell a tale of family struggle and fathers versus daughters will be at an end. I have successfully negotiated the suicide scene. I have also achieved the character balance and plot completion that had eluded me for a handful of years. The story is basically about family resilience in the face of adversity. It is ironically consistent with the adversity my family faces this week.

And this is the week I chose to promote my book Recipes for Gingerbread Children. I had some success giving away copies of Snow Babies four months ago. And I had hoped to do the same for Recipes. It is also a book about resilience in the face of tragedy and adversity.

So, as far as I am concerned, the tree of life is a family tree. We are its branches, it’s knots and warped bark, its parasites and possibilities. And in its final analysis, many leaves are still soaking up the sunshine and nourishing every branch, even the dead ones soon to fall off. And I am not a dead branch yet.

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Filed under autobiography, metaphor, novel plans, Paffooney, philosophy, strange and wonderful ideas about life, the road ahead

Crab Apple Pie

image from https://noshingwiththenolands.com/crabapple-strawberry-tart/

I was spending time with a certain cynical youth who likes to insult me and argue about every one of my faults as a human being, telling me that such treatment is meant to improve me to meet a standard that only he thinks I need to live up to when it occurred to me; Crab Apple has two meanings.

Image borrowed from; http://ediblecapitaldistrict.ediblecommunities.com/recipes/crab-apple-syrup

Crab apples (which ominously come up on Wikipedia as genus Malus) are generally mistrusted as eating apples. Alternatively known as “wild apples”, they are often bitter to the taste. Hence, the association with the chronic complainer, the dyspeptic dude, and the hen-pecky female. Crab apples are the fruits of unpleasant people-trees.

So, how does one deal with crab apples? I always tend to fall back on the homily, “When you are given any kind of fruit, make it into pie.” And yes, the links under the pictures will actually yield recipes. I know it is a metaphorical over-simplification. But, if I do not enjoy being critiqued for the hair in my ears and the werewolf hair sprouting under my eyes, or the way I say, “I’m sorry!” too much, I am going to use those fruits to make a pie of surreal comedy in a WordPress post.

I saw a guy on the highway speeding around me at well-over the speed limit, turning around to give me a look at his middle finger, probably trying to predict how many IQ points he will have left when he crashes into whatever is ahead of him that he can’t see because he’s grinning and glaring at me behind him. There’s an apple for this pie.

The impatient clerk in the tax office gives me the “Are you really that stupid” glare and attendant sigh as she suggests that I step to the side and correct the mistakes in my paperwork so she can mistreat the next person in the incredibly long line that she wants me to return to the back of. There’s another apple.

Image borrowed from this website; https://www.abelandcole.co.uk/recipes/rosy-crab-apple-pie


In today’s world, it really doesn’t take long to have enough apples for your pie. In fact, I am looking at a huge pie now with loads and loads of crab apples in it.

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Filed under commentary, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, humor, metaphor

Human Beans

People are not really vegetables… even though I have seen IQ scores as a teacher that might say otherwise. But I often use the pun of calling them Human Beans.

Your basic human bean.

Western style beans

Of course, being a Texan means having a healthy appreciation for beans as a staple food. Cowboys used to live off of beans and beef jerky, and if Louis L’Amour is to be believed, they even made tea from mesquite beans. That makes your average cowboy made up of over 50 per cent beans. Of course the rest of him is mostly gas caused by the beans in his diet, whether it comes out as a fart or as a Texas tall tale… And yes, I admit it, I get a lot of my writing ideas from eating beans.

A Boston baked bean

We must also be aware that Texas has no corner on the beans market. We all know Boston baked beans by reputation. They, like the ever-hapless Cubs, had a habit of never winning the World Series. And now, in the last two decades, it has actually been difficult for the other teams to keep them from winning it all. But we shouldn’t mix up beans with baseball metaphors. Baseball is like life. Full of long and boring parts punctuated by intense moments of hitting, scoring, committing errors, and player versus player individual drama. And concession stand food! Beans, however, can taste good in chili draped over the ballpark hot dogs which cost more than a restaurant meal at most reasonable restaurants. And I promise you, you will never hit a home run over the fence by hitting it with a bean.

A Mexican style re-fried bean

And I wish to point out that this last human bean is not a racist cartoon. Beans are not part of the human race. They only have legs in cartoons and would come in last even when racing a snail. And all beans are created equal in the sight of God. Kidney beans, butter beans, navy beans, string beans… all beans are just beans, no matter what the color of their skin is, and no matter how they add flavor to a casserole. All beans are just in it to live life the best they can, and if that’s not enough… they can be planted as seeds to raise the next generation of human beans.

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Filed under cartoons, foolishness, humor, metaphor, Paffooney

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

It is, of course, one of the most powerful, masterful, and best-known pieces of music ever written.

Mozart completed the “little serenade” in Vienna in 1787, but it wasn’t published until 1827, long after Mozart’s untimely death.

The Serenade is incorrectly translated into English as “A Little Night Music”. But this is and always has been the way I prefer to think of it. A creation of Mozart written shortly before he hopped aboard the ferryman’s boat and rode off into the eternal night. It is the artifact that proves the art of the master who even has the word “art” as a part of his name. A little music to play on after the master is gone to prove his universal connection to the great silent symphony that is everything in the universe singing silently together.

It is basically what I myself am laboring now to do. I have been dancing along the edge of the abyss of poverty, suffering, and death since I left my teaching job in 2014. I will soon be taking my own trip into night aboard the ferryman’s dreaded boat. And I feel the need to put my own art out there in novel and cartoon form before that happens.

I am not saying that I am a master on the level of a Mozart. My name is not Mickart. But I do have a “key’ in the name Mickey. And it will hopefully unlock something worthwhile for my family and all those I loved and leave behind me. And hopefully, it will provide a little night music to help soothe the next in line behind me at the ferryman’s dock.

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Filed under artwork, cartoons, classical music, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, Hidden Kingdom, magic, metaphor, music, Paffooney

Rebuilding

The retaining wall that keeps the yard from flowing downhill into the park and down to the creek, is now growing back upwards, visibly straighter and better grounded than it was before.

In his poem “Mending Wall”, Robert Frost suggested that the wall dividing his property and the neighbor’s property is constantly falling down and requiring mending. He gets together with his neighbor and they replace the fallen stones, mending the wall between them. And then the neighbor says the oft-quoted line, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Ironically, the neighbor is not saying that having a wall between them makes them better neighbors. He is saying that their friendship is built on mending the wall together.

And so it is with me and number two son as we labor together to straighten the foundation stones and replace all the heavy stone bricks that we had to remove to get to them. It is hard work, slowed by heavy bricks, one arthritic back, multiple rainy days, cold weather, and fatigue. But slowly we have problem-solved together, discussed the state of the world, and mended the wall. We have also mended our working relationship as father and son. A good wall makes a stronger family in the Frostian sense.

And so, I have come to see how life imitates art, and work begets poetry. A little sunshine creeps back into the picture when you engage in a little rebuilding.

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Filed under commentary, family, irony, metaphor, philosophy, poetry