16
Jan 17

Oh the things I could tell you

I could tell you about the shuttle drivers we had this weekend. (They were each great in their own ways. The first because she was enthusiastic and opinionated and talkative and honey this and darlin’ that. And the second because he was waiting just for us and took us directly to the car and then told us which way to go to avoid the new toll on the bridge.) I could tell you about the six-and-a-half miles I ran today in the fog. (It was slow and I’m still not a very good runner.) I could tell you about one book I just finished and another I started. (One was fiction, the rare piece of the genre I read and, thus, a real guilty pleasure. The other is a historical collection, and we’ll get into it at a later date.) I could talk about a lot of things, I suppose.

But I have a picture of The Yankee with a horse:

And we also met a donkey this weekend:

That was at the ranch, which I’ll tell you a bit about tomorrow. But, first, there is a video of the sky:

And, tomorrow, we’ll talk about a historic farm.


13
Jan 17

We come to sing true praises

We buried my step-grandmother today. This is my step-father’s mom and she was just a gem of a human being. A lovely Southern lady, through and through. She lived a full life and was independent, and fiercely so, right up to the end. She still traveled, alone, at 92. And to know her was to be charmed by her and to be charmed by her was to be a person who said something like “I hope I’m like her at that age.”

The pastor gave a nice little service and then Rick, my step-father, stood up and talked about his mother. And in front of a room full of people that had known him his whole life and her their whole lives, he really painted the picture well. Her niece talked and then a nephew. A former college professor colleague of hers (she taught English and reading) and a friend of hers spoke about her as well. It was a celebration, which is what they had wanted. There was a reception afterward. And then we all took a long drive so that she could return to the place from where she came, surrounded by her family again. And in that there was a little history lesson for the family, too.

Another preacher offered a graveside service and it was lovely and somewhere in all of this someone had this great notion that essentially said our elders give us love and we repay them with joy and happiness. And that seems like something you really would hope is true.

It was cold, but the rain had stopped. We placed our pall bearer flowers on the coffin. Right after the service concluded this large flock of birds that had been just a bit away in the cemetery, the size of which you don’t often see anymore, decided to start singing and flew off to the west. We heard them all, and I managed to catch the last few on my phone.

I saw this on her porch yesterday, and if there’s ever been a more apt thing said about a person or her philosophy on garden decor, I don’t know what it would be.

“O, Tiger-Lily, I wish you could talk!” says Alice in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass.”

“We can talk,” the flower says, “when there’s anybody worth talking to.”

And she was one of those, because she wanted to listen to everything, because she was interested in everything. The thing about people that invite you into their circles — and I’ve had some experience with this — is that when they welcome you in you don’t often want to leave. And she was good about that, bringing you in, making you feel welcomed and the center of things. So it is with the rest of her clan. Near the cemetery is a family ranch, and we went there for a visit. It was more of the family, and more neat history that we got to learn about. I’ll write a few things about that next week.


12
Jan 17

To fine Southern ladies

We were standing in a viewing room in this fancy Texas funeral home. Fanciest one you’ve ever been to, probably. My mother and stepfather had let the grandchildren in. There are four of us. I was the step-grandchild and the oldest and whatever else I was and I was standing back there behind the grandkids as they looked at their grandmother. I watched them thinking whatever they thought as our folks left the room and after a while I finally said this thing that I’d been thinking about all day.

The thing I’ve learned in the last few years is that the thing about grandmothers, or any person that has that much importance in your life, is that no matter what has happened or what will happen or what you might imagine for yourself later, they are still there. She’s still around you and with you. The things she tried to teach you and the good times she showed you and the lessons she really hoped you’d learn, they’re all still there. She’s always still going to be with you as an influence and a guide. That’s the great thing about the people that are important to you. They always stay with you. There comes a time, in your own time, when that occurs to you. And that is a really, really, really comforting thought.

It had come to me just today. It had taken me almost four-and-a-half years to figure that out and I think I needed to hear it as much as I wanted to say it.

grandmothers

Two of my grandmothers. (The way my family tree works I’ve had a handful of amazing grandmothers and great-grandmothers.) Dortha, my step-grandmother, is on the left. Bonnie, my mother’s mother who remains one of the most important people in my life almost four-and-a-half years later, is on the right. This was taken on a trip they made with my folks to the Butchart Gardens in Canada in 2012.

I wonder what flowers they might discuss now.


11
Jan 17

Notions of time

I was going to write more, but the day got away from me. The days all get away from us from time to time, even as we know the days are always going some way or another. That’s the thing about us, we can seize the day, occasionally, if we are so inclined. But we can never grab the day and hold onto it. Not for very long anyway. I assume this has something to do with how our brains perceive time. We’re flowing through it, or it is flowing around us or some thing or another and the net you are holding isn’t woven with small enough mesh. Or some such.

But, hey! I did entirely rework a page on the site you’ll never see! And I found two or three things there that I need to fix. It is an administrative thing and you don’t care at all. I might not, either, but I started it long ago for reasons that probably didn’t make much sense then and probably mean less now. But I have it under control. For a time.

Also, I have added new images to the top and bottoms of the blog, here. As you might have noticed those are rotating images, built with a bit of code that offers the viewer a random image based on numerical sequence. Presently there are 81 headers and 81 footers. They all have varying heights and they are all 900 pixels wide. So I’m staying with this format for a long time, I suppose. I’ve been with this format for a good long while, as well.

I’ve been watching HBO-produced biopics. There was an Lyndon Johnson movie based on a play and then a two-parter on Winston Churchill that I’ve started. They are both interesting and probably have some accurate anecdotes, and they compress years of civics lessons into two-hour capsules. But try as I might, I see Anthony Mackie and Frank Langella rather than Rev. Martin Luther King and Sen. Richard Russell. Bryan Cranston fills out LBJ pretty well.

But I don’t know that you can really portray LBJ’s in a PG environment. The trailer was really good, I felt, so I watched it. The movie was worth seeing if you like political pieces or period pieces. There were a few really quite powerful moments. I think it captured the best parts of the worst parts of a hard, challenging time.

Stephen Root was J. Edgar Hoover. He is great in everything and there’s one little moment he has that nods at all of the things the cinematic audience we’ve learned about Hoover in recent years. Which makes me think of this in much the same way as we do comic book universes. Except, of course, this was real life. The most fake thing was the makeup they put on poor Josh Lyman to try to turn him into Hubert Humphrey. Should have spent more time on that.

I was half-listening to the Churchill story (turns out this is a BBC-HBO co-produced project) when I heard Lena Headey. Nothing takes you out of the 1940s like an accidental Game of Thrones reference. The problem is that these sorts of films always come off as cartoonish, either in a harsh way or in a soft focus, after school special sort of way:

I’ve been running indoors. Someone left the door open and Canada is cooling all of outdoors so we’ve been at the track. The track is a fine three-lane affair. Eight laps to a mile, only slightly better paces. It is made from special grade painful cement designed to hurt old joints, I think. But it looks like this outside:

outdoors

So it is a trade off. Eighteen miles in the last couple of days. And now it’ll be a few more days before I set off again. Hopefully outside, where my stride is sometimes better.

The nicest part about being inside, after avoiding hypothermia, I mean, is that my running app can’t cope. For the first three miles or so it things I’m running at a world class pace. I am not running at a world class pace. Also, it thinks this is my course:

map

That is not my course. My app is just going through a modern art phase. It takes no time at all to imagine that is an aggressive effort.


10
Jan 17

“We, the People, give it power.”

I was in a newsroom the night President Obama was elected. It was my first fall working with students. I had to gently suggest a way they could cover, and perhaps localize, such an historic moment as a presidential election. Journalism is an art and a craft and, sometimes, a learned thing. And, looking back, there was a lesson in that for me, too.

I was on our sofa when the president delivered his formal farewell. It was long, which is usual for him, longer than it had to be. But it was the president doing what he has become known for. It’ll be judged against others tonight and tomorrow and over time, and like all things presidential, that will tell the tale. But, tonight, it was an event, which is what they were after.