Rendered Fat Content


Jozef Israëls: Homewards (not dated)

"I am the product of apparently inexorable attraction, destinies manifest."

After 1800, the Swift family's arc shifted westerly. Its second century in the Americas would watch it move into, then through the so-called heartland. If family history was a race, the Swift progeny were to win it, for they would be among the first to see The Eden At The End Of The Oregon Trail. They would have to leave the Eden at the other end of that trail, though, and Grayson County, Virginia, clearly also qualifies as an Eden. Even the area of North Carolina where the Thomas Swift family first settled after traveling down The Great Highway from Maryland still seems Eden-like, it having been the setting of the old Andy Griffith Show's Mayberry, a museum in Andy's honor is located near the old Alamance Battlefield. The forces driving western migration were growing, though. Of course, my interest focused on those who left rather than those who stayed. Those who left became my forebears, while those who stayed behind will forever remain ever more distant aunts and uncles, cousins and hangers-on.

The records turn fuzzier after Flower Swift left Grayson County with his discredited son Thomas, probably first for Kentucky.

Slip over here for more ...


George W. Boynton, Engraver
T. G. Bradford, Publisher: Maryland (1838)

"The story could have been irretrievably lost in any generation."

Over half of the people coming to the British North American Colonies before the Revolution came as indentures. In 1674, one of my ninth great-grandfathers appeared in court in Maryland. A ship's captain, Thomas Jones, brought my forebear, his servant Edward "Teage," before the court, asking the judge to assess his age. The judge decided he was fourteen. The following year, Jones returned to court to claim a "headright" of land granted to him for transporting Edward Teage and three others to Maryland. A headright claim could grant land to anyone transporting people to the Maryland colony. Typically, those transported then worked as servants to the transporter for some period of years; after, if they survived, they would be free to do whatever they pleased. Fewer than half survived their indenture. Teage survived.

In 1695, Teague was back in court, claiming the right to 300 acres of land.

Slip over here for more ...


Unknown Artist:
Lee's cavalry skirmishing at the Battle of Guilford.
(Print Issued 1789 - 1880)

"He left his Prominence behind."

Perhaps due to his Militia service in the Revolutionary War, my fifth great-grandfather, Flower Swift, rose to Prominence. With this came close brushes with several famous personalities. He served with distinction, though few details have been passed down. Those that survived show him to have been plucky, taking full advantage of his good fortunes. After Charleston's fall but before Camden, he was captured by a Tory patrol. As was the custom, he was disarmed and immediately paroled. Still, before he was dismissed, he overheard two British officers speaking of a planned assault on a crucial Rebel lead mine in his district. He reported this information to his officers, who passed it up the chain, clear to the offices of Virginia's Governor, Thomas Jefferson, who mustered additional militia units, appointing William Campbell, Patrick Henry's brother-in-law, to lead the expedition, and Walter Crockett, Davy's great uncle, as second in command. Swift's company most certainly fought under these in the following Battle of Guilford Courthouse, a pyrrhic victory for British forces that helped weaken the British before Yorktown. He certainly also fought at King's Mountain and in some expeditions against the Cherokee in Tennessee.

Swift served as a quartermaster when not riding or fighting.

Slip over here for more ...

Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 3/28/2024

Robert William Vonnoh: Spring in France (1890)

Stories That Might Never Manage To Be Completely Told
Writing history seems very similar to writing fantasy. The writer must focus on coherence and continuity in both genres, for every story demands these. Nobody ever foresees what any story will demand of them. Research always proves wanting. I've been pouring through papers I have been collecting for decades, stumbling upon fresh details, and choosing which might fit into these stories, for no history scales to one inch equals one-inch granularity, and their continuity ultimately relies upon omissions. Complete histories must prove to be utter confusion; ditto with complete fantasies. Infinite effort might eventually prove the most satisfying. John Cage insisted that silence serves as the soul of all music. Mattisse allocated white spaces on his later canvasses. My progeny might easily use my history as a departure point to create some related, perhaps even more pleasing installments, for history seems alive and ever-growing. The actors eventually depart, but they leave behind their more resilient parts, stories that might never manage to be completely told.

Slip over here for more ...


Stefano Della Bella: Virginia (17th century)

"Eye for an eye justice ruled the rough Western edge of our emerging nation."

Some accounts describe Flower Swift as a Quaker, while others report he was likely Baptist. Such distinctions made little difference along Virginia's Western Frontier in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Swift's wife, Mary Bedsaul, was most certainly a Quaker, having come from an acknowledged Quaker family, and it's recognized that the militia company Swift led, first as a Captain and then later as a Colonel, was labeled a "Quaker" company. He might have been deemed qualified to serve to lead Quakers because he had Quakers in his extended family. Quakers might seem unlikely members of any military force, for even in colonial times, they refused to take the otherwise required oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth:

"We whose names are hereunder subscribed do swear that we renounce all allegiance to George Third, King of Great Britain, his heirs’ successors,

Slip over here for more ...


Flower Swift, a fifth Great-grandfather
(artist unknown) circa 1810

"The Revolutionary War was brewing … "

In the decades following the Lewis and Clark expedition, geographers and surveyors scoured the inner-mountain West, attempting to create accurate maps of the newly discovered territory. They were able to produce credible maps, too, which were certainly helpful enough to guide the upcoming pilgrims who would soon be flooding the Plains. Genealogy seems a similar occupation, for I'm scouring unfamiliar territory, seeking the source of incoming flows. If I find evidence of an ancestor, I wonder where they originated. I spot the higher peaks, knowing that more water will likely come off them. The high peaks in genealogical research tend to be the more famous people, for their notoriety encourages more researchers to focus and, therefore, discover more incoming flows.

The highest mountain in my family's history contains the unlikely name of Flower.

Slip over here for more ...


Sidney E. Morse: Iowa (1842 - 1845)
Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division
New York Public Library

" … only a little more than one-sixty-fourth of my DNA."

When she died in 1826, my fourth great-grandmother, Rachel Parker Jackson, left behind a four-year-old son with a high falutin' name, Nathaniel Parker Jackson. His paternal grandparents would raise him and his two surviving siblings to maturity near the Ohio River in Miller Township, Indiana. Shortly after his twenty-first birthday in 1843, he would head West toward Iowa territory in an oxcart with his new bride, Elizabeth Jane Teas. There were rumors that his grandparents had been stern replacements for his deceased parents and that he was anxious to get out on his own. I've always wondered why he set out so late in the year, for starting a westward journey in the Spring was more common. They left late in the year and made it only as far as the Burlington, Iowa, Mississippi River ferry crossing before disaster struck. Elizabeth slipped on the ferry and fell into the freezing river. She contracted pneumonia and died on her honeymoon, buried in Burlington, Iowa.

Ferries then were not yet steam-powered.

Slip over here for more ...


Postcard: Landing of the Pilgrims, Plymouth, Mass. (1898 - 1931)

"Their future insisted upon first routing them through their distant past."

Today, our Pilgrim ancestors are most often characterized as religious people who fled Old World oppression to found a new world rooted in religious liberty. Most pilgrims didn't believe in religious freedom. Besides Roger Williams, who founded a break-away colony in Rhode Island, Pilgrims were the soul of intolerance. Their intolerance was not solely rooted in spiritual conviction but perhaps primarily in economics. They'd mortgaged themselves as well as their ideals to fund their colonies. Not even in the early seventeenth century did money grow on trees. A wealthy congregation member didn't fund their expedition; stock investors did. They fronted our ancestors with the explicit expectation that they would be repaid and expected to be repaid handsomely and quickly, for they imagined they'd outsmarted the market to get in on the bottom floor of unlimited profits. Wasn't that New World brimming with resources ripe for plundering?

As always, the wild-eyed investors wildly underestimated the challenge, as did their Pilgrim debtors.

Slip over here for more ...


Hermann Vogel: Alexander in peril of his life 1885

" … what it must have meant … "

Writing history seems much more risky than writing my usual Philosophical, Autobiographical, Historical Fiction in the same way fantasy seems less exacting than fact. In fantasy, space wars rely upon thrusters and explosions spouting blossoms of flame that, in reality, simply could never happen. Real space battles would seem dull in comparison. Lest history seem tedious, the seduction to embellish hovers nearby. Who wouldn't want to characterize their forebears as noble? The inherent ambiguity present in any history leaves plenty of room for interpretation. Should I explain that the displaced local natives referred to my great great great grand pops as "a good white man," or am I indulging myself in whitewashing if I mention this, however much truth it might hold? I find myself surrounded by such judgment calls, each a dilemma with no entirely defensible resolution.

I choose. I feel forced to choose blindly.

Slip over here for more ...


Cynthia Ann Parker, or Narua (Was Found),
and daughter, Topsannah (Prairie Flower), in 1861

" … I carry some of their life lessons within me …"

Cynthia Ann Parker, the niece of my fourth great-grandmother, Rachel Parker, might have been the most famous person in the history of our Fambly. She was the granddaughter of famed frontiersman and Revolutionary War soldier John Parker, Rachel's father, who was also a Predestination preacher of a Calvinist sect so conservative that it would have probably refused to grant Calvin admission into their congregation. Parker's vitae reads like a library full of dime-store frontier novels. He helped clear the frontier with Daniel Boone (stay tuned; there's a direct relationship with one of Boone's children in a later chapter), subdued the Cherokee, and generally made life miserable for natives and, later, Mexicans. Steven Austin invited him to migrate into Texas territory in the immediate aftermath of the Alamo debacle, where he founded a fort named after him, which is now Fork Parker State Park near the Texas town of Groesbeck. He was my fifth great-grandfather.

Shortly after he arrived in Texas, his rough blockhouse fort was overrun by Comanche, who killed him and four of his sons, along with other settlers.

Slip over here for more ...

Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 3/21/2024

Robert John Gibbings: Thanks for Wine (20th century)

The Freedom To Not Quite Notice
I write without an outline, reorienting myself each morning depending on what I created the day before and how I feel in that moment. My intention involves letting the plot-line emerge rather than concocting it beforehand, though this practice guarantees a few inconsistencies. I cannot return to make up a missed day, for my practice depends upon accepting whatever happens. If my laptop crashes and refuses to produce, I have no net to catch me. My iAlogue Series weighed in at only eighty-five stories rather than the usual ninety due to technology failures and some winter ennui, perfectly normal disruptions. My writing practice depends upon an uncertain amount of innocence on my part, a dedicated absence of artifice. I sometimes embarrass myself, but fortunately for me, I rarely notice. One of the joys of naive practice must be the freedom to not quite notice or care when I crash.

Slip over here for more ...


Robert John Gibbings: Ancient History (20th century)

"I understand who's driving."

Asking where a family comes from presupposes that a family might have originated in some specific place. Mine didn't. Yours probably didn't either. While I sport an apparently German surname, even its origin proves more complicated than any one location might explain, for the part of Germany that part of my family left had been contested territory, sometimes France and other times Germany, for generations and even before that contention, complications existed between ethnicities and religions. I might claim to 'be' German, but my family could just as easily declare a hot half dozen other origins. We've been on the front lines of most of modern history, and who knows how far back we go; other than that, we know for sure that our family, like yours, didn't originally spontaneously appear out of nowhere. I might claim to have had a noteworthy ancestor alive in 500 AD, but anybody can make the same claim even without anybody noteworthy on their tree. Our origins disappear into antiquity, DeepBackGround.

Following my family's progression across just this continent proves equally frustrating, for we have at one time or another claimed to inhabit perhaps a third or more of the present states in this union.

Slip over here for more ...


Edgar Degas:
Henri Degas and His Niece Lucie Degas
(The Artist’s Uncle and Cousin)

“ … Their marriage was long and contentious …”

Family's different. Whatever the usual rules entail, notable exceptions exist for family members. Greater patience might seem necessary, and such patience gets granted without making too much of a spectacle. Family served as the primary medium for your orientation in this world, much more than school, church, or other affiliations. It served as the teacher when nobody noticed anybody teaching anything and the student when nobody noticed anybody learning anything. Its lessons were subtle and sometimes profound. They helped set up patterns that would resonate in your behavior for generations. You probably passed some of them on to your children. You might notice a few appearing in your grandchildren, too. They represent the way your family works.

Families create their own language, which is slightly different from every other family's.

Slip over here for more ...


Peter Sheaf Hersey Newell: Old Father William Balancing an Eel,
from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"
(c. 1901)
" … still in the flower of my youth …"

The Muse remains Under Surveillance after her tussle with throat cancer the year before last. The doctors say it will take five years before they can confidently claim to have conquered it. Until then, she visits The Cancer Center every few months for what has become another perfunctory examination. No evidence so far of any need for continuing concern.

Once an anonymous corner, The Cancer Center now holds memories and familiarities that seem inevitable if one is fortunate enough to live to become old.

Slip over here for more ...


Paul Cezanne:
Standing Bather, Seen from the Back (1879-82)

"Nothing better captures both the peril and reward …"

Contrary to popular notions, we humans perhaps most often BackInto our futures. I know, the mythology insists that we're upstanding and forward marching, but we're more often cowering and feeling overwhelmed by our next challenge. We can't quite face what's coming, so we quite naturally BackInto the face of it. This tendency need not be embarrassing. Once admitted, it might become a point of considerable pride in the same way that any natural human tendency sheds shame once acknowledged as such. As a species, we've always wrestled with the differences between what we believe we should be and what we actually turn out to be, for we were led to believe that we were special, perhaps even sacred, but continually discover that we're "just" flesh and bone. Of course, we're more than merely flesh and bone; we are never transcendently more, only slightly and never overwhelmingly better.

I imagine myself to be many magnificent things.
I imagine myself both rough and ready, able to initiate whatever needs doing when, in actuality, I'm often hesitant to engage. Spring surprises me however quickly or slowly it arrives, and one day, I hope to be better able to accept that it comes in its own time. I'd intended to prune the Sacred Apricot tree a month ago, on President's Day, but I came down with a cold and begged off my responsibility, a definite sin. One cannot go begging off on a responsibility and hope to maintain self-esteem. And then it came to pass that The Muse and I left that weekend for what would become a two-week absence. Three weeks past my original obligation when I returned, I didn't just jump in to fulfill what I'd clearly shirked. I had other work pressing and so continued messing with my fate as well as my reputation. Another week slinked by.

This week, though, now an entire month past my original President's Day target, I have been blessed with a tardy Spring. The Sacred Apricot has not yet started budding, let alone blooming, so I have not yet managed to completely screw up this sacred obligation. I might still squeak by with few the wiser if I can finish my hesitant BackingInto procedure over the next few days. I expect fresh along with the usual distractions to tempt me, but I might this year manage to redeem myself just before I become eternally damned.

I am just a man, I explain to myself, trying to not be all that whiney about it, for whineyness hardly becomes a manly presence. A man is different from how he's been described. He's likely to disappoint expectations. He is a mythical creature who comes to believe his own myths, one whose self-esteem depends upon him believing he's something he never was. After some fashion, he manages to navigate his way around the world, but never in the way he was ever supposed to navigate his way around the world. Do not envy him either his possessions or habits for a second, for they're all illusions. He possesses nothing but occasional bouts of gumption, which visit him more than he deploys, and certain untrue notions about himself and his innate capabilities. A man isn't ever as he believes himself to be but something different.

I will stand beneath that Sacred Apricot, carefully pruning limbs that, if left, will produce fruit I will not be able to reach. I will bring down the canopy so I will be able to reach, and this act should prolong my favorite tree's life. It might well also lengthen mine, for a man lives by what he prunes. The myths insist that he thrives by what he grows, but what do myths know? They refuse to acknowledge that our future lies behind us because we can only face the past. We might try to peek over our shoulders but just catch glimpses of futures distorted from lack of perspective. I am BackingInto and secretly proud of this fact. Nothing better captures the peril and reward of trying to accomplish something than the simple acknowledgment that the accomplishment was not made face-on but by BackingInto it with luck, grit, and a fair measure of embarrassment.

©2024 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved



Lucian and Mary Brown:
Untitled [close-up of wrecked car after crash] (c. 1950)

"It could well have been worse."

Aging amounts to remorse wrestling with inevitable loss, for none of us get to choose our demise and nobody warmly welcomes theirs. It does not help that we crash and burn at our own hands. We gain weight one mouthful at a time. Even when we limit our intake, our nibbles eventually do us in. Not even the lifestyles of the rich and famous amount to any real insurance against these crashes. We lease our youths. Not one of us ever owned theirs outright.

I overwhelmed my hard drive with the same process, one innocuous keystroke at a time.

Slip over here for more ...

Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 3/14/2024

Oliver Herford: The Goat, for "The Crocodile," by Oliver Herford (1891)

Usual Long Morning’s Nap
A definite rhythm resumes as the vernal equinox and the end of this series nears. The sun, which could not even remotely be characterized as troublesome through the long winter months, turns pesky again, blinding me at my breakfast table and finally casting genuine shadows. Pruning season comes to find me unprepared, for I am the sole of the one thing not allowed in pruners: empathic. Pruning demands a loving heartlessness, a ruthless insistence upon reducing now for the purpose of enhancing later, but the timelines involved make the effort seem cruel. Our long Toodle from which we rightfully never returned, recedes into mildly unbelievable legend as the rightful rhythm returns. Max, our boy cat, melts into my lap when I sit in our enormous wing-backed chair to survey the world each morning. There, he holds on for dear life and purrs ecstatically while his sister Molly stands in the foreground window and surveys the budding morning outside. They’ll be out on their rounds within the hour before returning to the second-floor window, where they’ll cry for somebody to open the cat flap they’ll never figure out how to pass through unaided. I interrupt my writing to get up, let them in, and then cheer them on, for they are resetting my clock for this season that hasn’t quite arrived yet. They insist that hibernation’s already over before settling down for their usual long morning’s nap.

Slip over here for more ...


Oliver Herford:
The Crash, for "The Bashful Earthquake" (1898)

"It's a wonder any story ever results."

The most challenging part of writing comes from the technology intended to make it easier. We're centuries removed from the quill pen, but the modern equivalent demands skills every bit as arcane as whittling goose feathers. My MacBook Air usually requires me to do little more than find the unmarked 'on' key, but it demands an array of skills for which I haven't even the tiniest aptitude. File management remains beyond me. I only recently learned how to save image files so they don't take up more than a hundred 'k,' whatever 'k' means. I have developed schemes after decades of practice that may or may not satisfy at least the spirit of the formal rules of use, though I suspect they're just rituals based upon mistaken impressions.

I, for instance, need to keep several apps open to accomplish any morning's writing.

Slip over here for more ...


Aubrey Vincent Beardsley: The Birth of Fancy (1892)

" … the betrayals chance delivers …"

Almost everything significant in substance I've accomplished started with some presupposition. I assumed some skill, ability, or knowledge not previously in evidence, then somehow leveraged that presumed ability into actual accomplishment. I had never been evidently a best-selling writer until well after I presumed to write. I had never cooked that first supper until I somehow managed to cook that supper, after which I could reasonably presume myself to be a cook. Or, maybe I no longer had to presume I was a cook because I had cooked something. My earlier presupposition became reasonable only after my accomplishment. Before then, it might just as well have been delusional and probably was.

When does a presupposition qualify as delusional, then?

Slip over here for more ...


Hi Red Center, Designed by George Maciunas:
Bundle of Events (1965)

"Ask more, and I quickly become a bore."

I despise questionnaires, so it seems ironic or perhaps somehow justified that I find myself designing … a questionnaire. I swear this universe works precisely like this: whatever I despise, I eventually find myself involved with. I would be wise to be more careful with my despising, but my initial reactions seem less choices than visceral responses, not terribly volitional. However this happens, it happens. I prefer to think that my underlying dislike of questionnaires will enable me to produce a superior one, for I will probably avoid most questionnaires’ more annoying aspects. I will not, for instance, insist that any of my questions be answered, for if 'no response' isn't valid, neither could any other be. Forced choices aren't choices but forces. I'll also keep mine simple. The worst questionnaires ask many questions. The best ask few.

I intend to ask only ThreeQuestions.

Slip over here for more ...


Hi Red Center: Canned Mystery (c. 1964)

"Once I've adequately flattened my forehead …"

I accepted the assignment about a month ago without understanding how I might fulfill it. The person requesting my help asked for something I couldn't deliver and, frankly, didn't believe was needed. This, of course, is the typical and perfectly normal role for any effort's sponsor to fulfill: The Clueless Leader. For the subsequent month, I've been the clueless responder, so this Mystery has been perfectly cast with cluelessness all the way down. Mysteries must be like this at first. They're only made more profound by immediately presuming solutions upon them. Some process seems necessary to resolve such Mysteries, which might resolve the differences between what the sponsor certainly doesn't know and what the inevitably lame responder doesn't know yet.

I fret.

Slip over here for more ...


Jean Veber: Goya’s Return to his Homeland (1899)

" … remnants of ever more distant pasts …"

The first few days after a Toodle ends prove challenging. There's the relief of surviving another excursion combined with the convincing illusion that I've returned. Neither notion will prove true over the ensuing days. Little differences will combine to produce larger disconnections. The confusion will eventually fade into background noise, and my life will continue, though never quite as convincingly as before leaving. I begrudgingly suggest that this might be due to a small yet significant fact: that none of us ever return from these excursions. How could we? Were we not changed by the experience? Was our home held in isolated suspension during our absence? Neither could be true, so why, I finally wonder, did I ever imagine that I might reasonably return from an excursion away? It might be—and it seems much more plausible—that I NeverReturn.

The challenge comes from my conviction that I might somehow reasonably return.

Slip over here for more ...


Edward Calvert: The Return Home (1830)

" … just as if anybody's future could ever be foreseeable."

The return comes as almost a surprise. We had grown so accustomed to being on the move that the prospect of staying still made no immediate sense. We had adapted as if moving had become the natural state and stasis the foreign one. I didn't even try to imagine myself back home, for only momentum made sense. I had become perfectly in tune with the rhythms of the road, the leisurely pace, comfortably passing slower-moving vehicles, being passed myself. The few deranged drivers, inevitably those exceeding the speed limit, continued to drive me crazy but only in the usual ways, none seeming all that creative. The habit the speeders have of blocking the smooth passing of those obeying the speed limit seems the most telling. Scientists insist that those who exceed the speed limit inhibit the flow of the whole road, thereby slowing it. Seen in this way, the speeders rob everyone of some of their potential, a supremely self-centered act. Perhaps they need to set themselves above their fellows in their minds. That trick may even work if one possesses a tiny one.

The final leg of our Toodle covers such familiar territory that few sights seem noteworthy along the way.

Slip over here for more ...

Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 3/07/2024

Archibald McLees, Engraver:
New Spencerian compendium of penmanship, Part 2 (1879)

No Wonder Why
How curious that I seem to become most like the self I know when I'm away from home. It's almost as if when home, I need to keep up appearances, and when out and anonymous in the world, I can feel free to be whomever I feel moved to be. It might be that I feel more moved when traveling; the whole point of that activity being to move me. I see whatever I've seen before with fresh, if familiar, eyes and feel moved all over again by the flood of memories. The recounting of experiences on long-ago family vacations where we collected credibility measured in bumper stickers from Trees of Mystery and Sea Lion Caves, Marine World and Disneyland. The families with the greatest number of bumper stickers seemed the luckiest, though even my eight-year-old self wondered how those families managed to make any headway. Over the years, we collected our share and managed to experience almost every tourist trap between home and Los Angeles. Those were fine old days, a long time passing now, but I can remember myself as I was when traveling then and seem to come closer to him when traveling today. The Muse insists she travels with an eight-year-old driving, and I'm in no position to disagree, given that I hold so much responsibility to keep us both entertained. We agree that I become a dip, a dork, and a dweeb on the road. It's really no wonder why I cannot maintain those personna when home.

Slip over here for more ...


Pietro della Vecchia: Experiment of the Bowl (c. 1640)

"Everybody trying to win the race creates so damned many losers."

Our host suggested a route along which we might make the best time on our return trip. The Muse explained that we were not trying to make the best time. Momentarily taken aback, our host replied, "Oh, you're focusing on process, then." Upon some reflection, as we wended our way up a particularly satisfying long way around, The Muse reported that, no, we were not focusing on process, but something else. The Muse was once considered a process expert, a process analyst capable of minutely decomposing actions to make them more efficient. She now considers process derivative of experience, as if one could distill and abstract expertise into a single best way. The notion of single best ways has enjoyed a spotty reputation. It seems to encourage chasing phantoms and all manner of inhuman expectations for the purpose, of course, of improvement. One should properly wonder, "Improvement for whom?"

The history of process focus and improvement could fill a small library without necessarily creating compelling reading.

Slip over here for more ...


Donald J. Handel:
Behold the World and realize that nothing is so constant and inconsistency. (20th century)

"We weren't really heading anywhere but home again, anyway."

The modern American road system was expressly designed for freight trucks, not passenger cars. We see the resulting confusions, as cars struggle to wend their way around trucks, resulting in great frustration for all parties. The government ceded the highway system to trucks when it became obvious that it lacked the power to reign in the railroads' malign monopoly over their segment of society, forcing businesses to rely upon trucks to transport goods. Under the old highway system, trucks could not efficiently transport anything, so the government created the interstate highway system. The railroads were, therefore, able to cherry-pick what they would transport, prioritizing bulk items over passengers, and the American society began its slow descent into its current self-inflicted purgatory.

Toodling attempts to reintroduce sanity into the human portion of our thoroughly compromised transportation system by judicious injection of Inconsistencies.

Slip over here for more ...


William Turner: Study of a Tree in Bloom (c. 1835)

"It seems like entering the goddamned Garden of Eden …"

The barrenness of The Colorado Plateau wears on me, its stubbornly arid presentation, its stoic hard rock face, indifferent to season. It first seemed a vacation from the coast's riotous greens but soon degraded into oppression. I ached to escape. The distances didn't ease our exit. The Great American Desert is not meaningfully measured in miles. It might be gauged in numbnesses. My senses cannot assimilate so many layers. The windshield turns into a Viewmaster® screen, and the horizons shimmer as my brain fails to properly resolve depths and heights. I remain tightly focused on whatever shenanigans the freight truckers might get up to so I can avoid what sometimes seems inevitable collisions. Our exit seemed perilous between the truckers, the dedicated speeders, and the wind.

We arrived across the Tehachapi and down into the Central Valley just as Springtime came.

Slip over here for more ...


Hakuin Ekaku 白隠慧鶴: Poem (Mid 18th century)

" … to take a DayOff from our vacation."

How often have The Muse and I stayed in historic hotels only to find ourselves too busy to experience the places? They each presented themselves as space to escape, but they more often seemed to become places we'd get even more involved. We'd have a workshop to lead or a conference to attend, so we'd forego the amenities in favor of more urgent necessities. They considered themselves somehow literary and usually included extensive libraries of which guests were encouraged to take full advantage. A few fancied themselves writer destinations, typically places where someone famous had penned part of a popular novel. The rooms in one were named after famous literary figures, which many guests had probably never read. We primarily associate from some distance, as if mere presence could compensate for the effort literacy requires.

We declared a vacation from our vacation, a day off from our continual Toodling.

Slip over here for more ...


Johann Georg Wille: Gale (1777)

" … hardly a memory by then."

Like every other human activity, Toodling depends upon a certain amount of good fortune. One can plan until their head nearly falls off, but weather will always trump planning. Routing along the least-taken roads does not guarantee that they will not be overflowing with traffic. Days where everything goes as planned might not be worth counting. Fortunately, most unplanned events turn out to be better than expected or, perhaps, better for not having been expected. Many happy accidents go into making any Toodle memorable. One sad one might render it the most memorable of all.

So we take to the road knowing we cannot know, reveling in the knowledge we're on vacation from knowing for sure.

Slip over here for more ...


William Henry Fox Talbot: [Calotype negative]
Portrait of Talbot’s Wife (Constance)
or Half-Sister (Caroline or Horatia)
(c. 1842)

"It's a one-way road."

The Muse and I toodled to Tucson for the expressed purpose of seeing Elizabeth, who'd lost her husband, Rich, last October. Rich and Elizabeth had been present at our wedding and had been good if distant friends and helpers for three decades, even before The Muse and I had discovered each other. They'd sheltered me when I visited their Menlo Park neighborhood and extended every courtesy and support over many adventures. Rich and Elizabeth (never Elizabeth and Rich) were like a single entity to me, as couples become after long proximity. They became indistinguishable from each other, parts of a distinct whole, each fulfilling their functions to create their unique presence. I held considerable angst about visiting with Rich absent. I didn't know what to expect.

The house seemed welcoming, though I immediately noticed the prominent absence—the same dog, the same decor, but absent some once-prominent markers.

Slip over here for more ...

Made in RapidWeaver