The wasps and spiders have begun gathering on my porch, a sure sign that winter is well and truly over.
The numbers this year are somewhat unimpressive: last spring there were hundreds of wasps from three different species gathering under the eaves, while this year I’ve seen only a few, all of them Red Paper Wasps.
I do a lot of photography, but like many people with artistic pretensions I also enjoy working with other media from time to time.
I suppose my favorite plastic medium is assemblage, pulling together odds and ends to make a whole that is (hopefully) greater than the sum of its parts — a useful way, incidentally, to use up the bits of rusty metal and torn cardboard and odd pieces of broken glass that accumulate in my “stuff I might need someday” box out on the porch. I enjoy the purely mechanical aspect of attaching one thing to another, in ways that were never intended by the original manufacturer, to achieve an effect, or make a statement.
These creatures are a familiar sight everywhere during their brief mating season each year — flimsy tangles of thready legs and cellophane wings smacking into window screens and lampshades, dangling from spider webs, drowning in teacups, the survivors finally disintegrating after a few days into a litter of disorganized limbs under the porch light.
One hundred fifteen years ago today, in what is now the Ukraine, Dr Wilhelm Reich was born.
Dr Reich has interested me for many years, and I’ve considered him before as a topic for this blog, but I’ve always felt that he was just too large and complex a subject to squeeze into a few hundred words. You who are reading this, be aware that I’m barely scratching the surface of a vast and difficult story: Dr Reich may or may not have been a bit of a loon, but if he was crazy, it was a great and wonderful craziness.
I suppose anyone who has ever spent part of his or her childhood anywhere in rural America has heard the story of Cry Baby Hollow.
I’ve heard the story several times, in several different places. Although in one case, the teller was from Mississippi and placed the tale in a bayou instead of a wooded ravine, the fundamentals are otherwise almost always the same: at some point in the indeterminate past, a young couple sets up housekeeping in a remote forest glade (or swamp hammock), and in the fullness of time the young woman has a child. The household basks for a while in the glow of pioneer Americana, brave, hard-working and happy. All too soon, however, usually within three or four years, some sort of disaster strikes and the parents are killed; in most versions I believe the mother is stricken ill and the father rushes off into the night for help, only to be killed in an accident en route, leaving the mother to die with no one by her side but the toddler. The child remains there, living off whatever he or she can find to eat in the cabin, until finally starving to death.
A blog, at least a blog like this one, is a series of essays, on different subjects. I can vary the style, the tone, the narrative voice, however I like, whenever I like, without risking the fragmentation of some larger narrative. In theory, there is no larger narrative.
But of course, in the end, that’s nonsense. We all have a larger narrative. Everything we do, everything we fail to do, or choose not to do, is all part of a story that we are telling. We may or may not have any control over the direction the plot is taking, and we may not even be aware of the plot as it has unfolded so far, but it is there. Plot, and character development, and conflict. Even events of which we are completely unaware can have a major impact on our own personal story.
It’s been raining cats and dogs here for the past two days.
“Raining cats and dogs”: Everybody has said that at one time or another. It’s a distinctive expression, and is pretty much universal in the places where English is spoken. Oddly enough, however, nobody seems to know where or how it originated.The first use of the phrase is in print is in A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation by Jonathan Swift, published in 1738; presumably the expression was common enough by that time that he felt comfortable using it without providing an explanation. A number of possible origin myths have been put forward in the centuries since, but they are all little more than speculation, long after the fact, with nothing much to recommend one over another.
Last weekend a friend of mine referred to Rick Santorum in conversation as a Philistine , meaning someone — well, someone like Rick Santorum. I didn’t say anything at the time, (which is unusual for me, I know) but I feel that it’s important to set the record straight: Rick Santorum is nothing like a Philistine.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced this month1 that the Eastern Cougar, also known as the Ghost Cat, is officially extinct.
The animal has probably been extinct for at least 70 years, but there have been a scattering of alleged sightings for decades that kept alive the idea that there might be a few of the big cats still surviving in wilderness areas of Pennsylvania and New York. After investigating many claims and reviewing the available data on others, the feds have finally decided that the Ghost Cat is now just that, one more of nature’s ghosts.
There have been geese flying over my cabin late at night for about a week; headed back to Canada, I suppose.
For most people who live in areas frequented by flocks of geese, the birds are about as exciting as chickens; in many cities they may even be viewed as serious pests, especially around airfields and parks, where they can be aggressive and very, very messy. For me, the romance hasn’t quite worn off yet. In the places I’ve spent most of my life — northern Alabama, South Florida, Dallas — geese are pretty rare, and here in northwest Arkansas I still slow down to gawk when I see a flock of them nibbling their way across a field, like strange, alien cattle.