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Christmas seems reflective,
a bright and shiny sphere
within which we seek to see our world
in a parabolic mirror.
The tip of the nose expands in size,
shrinking toward the ears,
and we universally call the nastiest weather
The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.

The rear view comes into focus
while the future fades away,
we sing the songs that have driven us crazy
since nineteen fifty eight. Slip over here for more ...


Snow Angels

What could prove more uplifting,
on a fading, snowy day,
than some half-frozen youth
still innocent of truth
leaving angels along her way?

The snow might seem indifferent,
the weather threatening more,
the sun making sounds
like he’s ‘bout to go down,
still she tends to her chore. Slip over here for more ...



I am rarely impatient,
only intermittently rushed,
which renders me a throwback;
an alien on this bus.
I stalk the slowly-roasted,
I savor the leisurely-aged,
and I restrict my microwaving
to cell phoning, not my plates.

We live in The Age of Instancy,
with little time to spare,
just as hungry as we ever were,
and the holidays ’re drawing near.
We can order McTurkey for supper,
squirt whipped creme from a can,
and buy a brand new baby Jesus
on The Handy® payment plan.

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Christmas seems illusional, almost sleight of hand; a magic trick we pretend to get, hoping it won’t get out of hand. It gets out of hand, anyway, whatever we try to do.

Much relies upon firm belief, no reindeer could fly on its own. Though few believe in Santa and such, still we decorate our homes. We share the stories and swap the yarns without really wondering much, and often some magic seems to appear, leaving a remarkable touch. Slip over here for more ...


I Know Why The Snow Bird Sings

I know why the snow bird sings with such unerring charm,
not because she’s particularly happy waiting out the spring.
And not merely because she knows the music, having inherited the score,
and not because she’s stiffening her courage to face some unwanted chore.
And not because she’s so devout she just can’t help but comply
with some chirpy-beaked, avian conductor waving a winged baton,
and not because she’s trying to please some showy, plumed mate,
and not at all because she’s certain of her or anyone’s fate.
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Black and White

4 thevintagevillage - Copy
The past was black and white back then,
the future, silvery bold.
The present, translucent and slightly hazy,
though memories shimmered gold.

Each year snuggled into eternity,
next week was a foreign land.
Some say this world was simpler then,
though I doubted that out of hand.
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Doesn’t holly seem unlikely stuff to celebrate anything with?
The waxy leaves, infernally sharp,
the berries, a poisonous pith.
The plant, itself, invasive,
its habit unrefined,
try to remove its tap root
to lose your mind.

Yet we bundle it into festive wreaths,
cursing all the way,
we staple it to our doortops
and wire it onto sleighs,
we send long-suffering spouses out
to snip a few more fronds,
administering mercurochrome
after they respond. Slip over here for more ...


Homefull 2.7: Beginnings

After the latest apocalypse—wasn’t this the umpteenth end of the world we’ve somehow survived?—the winter sun returned. Scudding clouds swept over trees swept naked in the overnight gale. Overnight, the cats had experienced a small end of their world, managing to pull one of the poinsettias off a side table. They slinked guiltily as I swept up the spill, but no less guiltily than I was slinkling.

All profound experiences appear trivial. Just another in a long stream of mornings, punctuated only by my slight surprise. We play peek-a-boo with the universe, sometimes almost scaring ourselves. Slip over here for more ...


Homefull 2.6: Endings

I feel grateful for the Mayans or their mis-interpreters for predicting the end of the world. As predictions go, this one qualifies as perfect. Perfect because there’s no freaking way to objectively determine if it succeeds; nobody will be around to assess. No big deal if it fails. Same-old, same-old.

I’m not living like I’m dying. I don’t have a ‘bucket list,’ and I try not to carry baggage over-filled with regrets. If I knew the world would definitely end tomorrow, I wouldn’t go trying to satisfy long-denied urges or overwhelm my senses. I’d do exactly what I’m doing this morning, I’d live like I was living. Slip over here for more ...


Homefull 2.5: Winter Stock

The Muse does most of the holiday cooking. She roasts the goose, bakes the pies, concocts the stuffings, and slaves over the stollen, but I’m responsible for delivering the winter stock that will anchor the formal dinner. I started that work yesterday.

This last week of Autumn provides plenty of ugly veg: odd outside cabbage leaves, parsnip peelings, rabe stalk butts, leek tops, and onions on the edge. Stock thrives on ugly veg. Four pounds of fine veal bones, roasted in a hot-hot oven for an hour before adding the rough-chopped veg, then roasted for another hot-hot hour before immersion into the stock pot. There, in the largest pot in the place, the whole mess simmers until long after the windows steam over.

The place seems wrapped in that kind of warmth only Winter brings, Slip over here for more ...


Homefull 2.4: Lectricity

I have a tenuous relationship with electricity. Just a couple of years ago, I finally conceded that it exists. Before then, I considered it a form of mass hypnosis. Sure, I’d wired in new fixtures, but I’d relied upon the circuit breakers to confirm if I’d connected them correctly. Even then, I once installed an outlet that delivered barely enough ‘juice’ to turn the fan in a hair drier, but not nearly enough to heat its element. Ohm problem or something, I guess. I resolved that difficulty by reinstalling the old light switch instead of the switch/plug combo that I thought should have worked.

The new place has florescent fixtures in the basement. The one over the laundry area works fine after I whap it on one end a couple of times. One over the workbench looks unused new, but was missing the tubes, so I headed back to the hardware store. I’m there two or three times every day since we moved in here. I’m getting to where I don’t get lost in there nearly as much. Slip over here for more ...


Homefull 2.3: Smells Like Christmas

At first, this new place smelled like a vacation rental, exuding a dusty, slight mustiness common to any uninhabited space. Later, I burned some pinõn incense, and the main floor smelled like Sante Fe for a while. Yesterday, The Muse baked fruit cakes. Now, the place smells an awfully lot like Christmas.

My sense of smell usually seems irrelevant when compared with my aural and visual presence. I tend to prefer to take information in through my ears and eyes, like I suppose most of us do, but my nose knows a lot more than I usually give it credit for. Slip over here for more ...


Homefull 2.2: Found

When The Grand Otter was a few years younger, we hosted an Easter egg hunt. I, not dressed up for the Easter Bunny role, hid the eggs. The Muse and The Otter had colored them the night before. Sara was out early, racing around the yard, yelling “FOUND ONE!,” whenever she found one. ‘Found One!’ has since become a utility-in-good-standing phrase in our family language. I’ve been channeling the eight year old Grand Otter this week, discovering long lost treasures.

I’d forgotten what I’d lost in the great dislocation. I’d packed up the old place with what passed for great care, but some precious possessions seemed to have simply evaporated. I missed them at first, spending idle hours searching through unlikely boxes hoping to find. I even found a few. But through recent years, several items were left aching to be found. Slip over here for more ...


Homefull 2.1: The Tricks

How many Davids did it take to change the headlamp in The Muse’s car? Trick question! David couldn’t change the headlamp in The Muse’s car. He had to take it to the mechanic after spending a good part of one Saturday failing to figure out how to change that headlamp. The owner’s manual tried, but failed to describe the procedure. One download from the internet breezily explained how removing the front bumper proved the simplest method for headlamp replacement. Humiliated, I finally surrendered. Tony the Mechanic switched it out one-handed, without looking, and charged me less than I would have paid for just a headlamp, and even replaced for nothing three subsequent ones when they failed because, in his judgement, they hadn’t lasted long enough. Didn’t even scrape his knuckles.

”There’s a trick to it,” Tony explained, without describing the trick. Why, I wonder, does every mechanical device come with some unexplainable trick attached? Slip over here for more ...


Homefull 2.0: Contained

I finished emptying the storage space yesterday, a four by ten foot treasure trove of irregularities. I disassembled those three shelving units and stacked the pieces in the car. Today, I get to reassemble, place, and populate them so they’ll serve several orthogonal purposes. Oh, the place I’ll reassemble them into currently contains piles of the stuff they’ll contain; a tile puzzle with no missing piece.

Moving amounts to switching containers. If the contents of a life would pour from one space into another, the shift would barely rate as trivial. But life comes in an alarming variety of shapes, sizes, and fragilities, with heavy emphasis on irregular, odd, and brittle. We expect rectangles to hold ovoids. Every single thing initially seems poorly suited to its new space, so moving seems a multi-dimensional mediation. Slip over here for more ...


Homefull 1.9: Guilty

Big Jim the Plumber returned yesterday to finish the work he started Saturday, to fix the drippy kitchen faucet and replace the handleless outside faucet. He arrived right on time, 9:30, exactly an hour and a half later than promised, but I didn’t care. Saturday, I was foggy-headed from moving and annoyed at his tardiness. Yesterday, I’d reset my expectations. He arrived ninety minutes late, exactly on time.

I caught myself having been a bit less than my ideal self as I ushered in this giant. We exchanged what felt like embarrassed pleasantries, as if we both realized that we’d met under less than ideal conditions and preferred to just move on. I went to the basement to shut off the water and left him to his kitchen work, only catching up when he headed to the basement to survey the work there. Slip over here for more ...


Homefull 1.8: Integrating

Beyond the schlepping, moving involves much integration. Fitting, tastefully, the same stuff into space about a third smaller, twice as big, or just differently-shaped. We completed integration in our last move by renting storage space for all the stuff we could not fit into the place. Yesterday, under the possibly misguided notion that we wouldn’t need any overflow now, I moved most of that stuff into the formerly vast basement. Now it’s hardly half vast.

Renting the storage space never really qualified as integration. It represented a compromise, a somewhat shameful admission that we had accumulated more than we could hold. I’ve visited that space infrequently and always felt like a sneak thief there, as if engaged in illicit trade: Hoarding my past. Slip over here for more ...


Homefull 1.7: Plumbing

The Muse never has to wait very long after we move in before I tangle with the plumbing. A few months after we moved into The Villa Vatta Schmaltz West, I made it rain in the basement when the house was full of weekend guests celebrating my birthday. That encounter included a backhoe digging a trench through the front yard, knocking down an ancient Hawthorne tree and half of a retaining wall, and ended with us rebuilding that retaining wall and sawing up about a year’s supply of fire wood. Plumbing can be like that.

So, when the second night in this new place, the kitchen disposal choked on a cabbage core and defied my vigorous plunging, I emailed the landlord’s property agent. That message failed, rejected by the agent’s server, so I called the next morning, connecting with the agent’s repair agent, who explained that it wasn’t his fault my message failed. Great, I thought, he’s a blame fixer. Slip over here for more ...


Homefull 1.6: Leveling

Like any ninety year old, nothing’s level in this place. Some floors seem to defy gravity, others long ago surrendered to it. Our mostly hand-me-down furniture hasn’t passed for square in at least a generation, so we’re becoming expert melders. Intricacies define this game. The goal: fool the eye.

Yesterday, we moved the hutch into its better position. Little lifting required. I nudged the monster up enough for The Muse to slip cardboard under each end, then it slid easily across the floor. Two more nudges and the cardboard slipped back out to reveal that highboy leaning a fair bit front-ways. This morning, a few minutes with a prybar and shims, and it looks dead level both ways. I’m hoping it won’t seem too square for its surroundings. Slip over here for more ...


Homefull 1.5: Moving Inward

I say we’re moving in when we’re really moving inward. The movers left everything where we thought we’d want it. That was moving in, but we pretty quickly changed our minds. The kitchen, for instance, ended up impassable, so I schlepped all the kitchen stuff over to the dining room, which has been serving as the staging area while we scrubbed down the remarkably greasy kitchen. Likewise the master bedroom, unsleepable until I shifted everything over to Amy’s sewing room to create a temporary master bedroom staging area. Slip over here for more ...

Homefull 1.4: Weak-Hand Mindfulness

I visited our recently ex-landlord last night, returning his short ladder the movers accidentally brought along. My muscle memory guided me up the dark, uneven front walk, and I caught myself suddenly transported back into the me that moved out of there nearly a month ago. That me could move around that space without once needing to consider what I was doing. I could perfectly anticipate every move, my daily life ready-to-hand.

The difference felt stark because in the weeks since we moved, even the smallest acts have demanded my presence. No muscle memory could guide me through those transition times. I’ve lived the last month as an extended improvisation, one-time performances never intended for repetition. I’ve been feeling quite the clumsy performer, though I know I’m only experiencing mindfulness. Slip over here for more ...


Homefull 1.3: Transplanting

My life might be reasonably traced through the variety of soils it’s been transplanted into: from loess to hardpan, arid sand then soggy loam, cherty infill to perlite-improved clay. The process inevitably involves violent dislocation because roots set down without expecting to ever let go. The finer tendrils get disregarded, simply snipped off and left to decompose. We also have to prune some of the central tap root, which has usually foraged half way to China. The root ball, ever increasing in size and cumbersomeness, can survive out of soil indefinitely, but it needs special attention to keep from drying out during the transition.

This transition has lasted over-long, this separation particularly difficult. We’ll know tomorrow if the new hole we’ve dug proves adequate to hold the life we’ve accumulated, but we won’t know until the end of the dormant winter period if new tendrils find this latest new soil hospitable. Slip over here for more ...


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