Back Roads, Back Home

Sunday was one of those days that just primed me for a night full of odd dreams. I saw it coming. I transported two puppies from a drop off at someone’s house to the next leg of the ride, which began in Ohio and ended in Florida. It went so smoothly I couldn’t believe it.

On the way back, I took the long way home, off the Interstate, side roads, and side roads of side roads. I listened to Natalie Goldberg narrating “Writing to the Bones” on Audible.

An officer in the military once told me if the Cubans and the Russians ever invaded from Florida, they would advance north, until they would run into the “I-10 Line” which is where Florida broadens out, and it would be there the southern part of the United States truly begins. A few million heavily armed, and pissed off, rednecks would pour into the area, making it impossible for the military to get in or out, but hey, they are heavily armed, and they are pissed off.

As a military commander, you haven’t lived until one of your senior officers is killed by a sniper, who turned out to be a fourteen year old girl, using her grandaddy’s 30.06 from a hidden tree stand, and on her you find ammo, food, water, and a Barbie Doll, who is also dressed in camo. There’s nothing but death north of I-10 because north of I-10 is South.

It’s pretty country out here, north Florida, that’s part of the south. Giant Live Oaks, lots of water, more history than the locals know what to do with, and it’s just about the part of the country where freezing weather doesn’t happen often enough to scare farmers. Close enough to the Gulf of Mexico to catch a sea breeze, and knock off some of the heat in summer, but that means close enough for hurricanes, too.

 There’s Blue Springs in this area, a place once known as a hang out for the party crowd, but they’ve clean it up nice and respectable, and now it’s more a family place to go. The cut short from Valdosta to the springs wound in and out of fields and down nearly forgotten lanes, but all of that is fenced in now, and GPS will get you there quicker, much quicker, but the journey is more than half the fun.

But now I am in Greenville, where, I am told, is the hometown of Ray Charles, who was born in Albany Georgia, according to the people there. I pull over to check on the puppies, and they are on another leg of their adventure, their last one before they arrive home. I too, take a right turn, and I’m heading back to the house. The ride has been good to me, and idea float around in my mind like so many flashes of lightning, or gnats, depending on how hard I work on them.

Take Care,

Mike

The Good Dirt

It feels good to work with dirt, with soil, and to see material that might have gone to the landfill now returning to the Earth as all things should. Sweat is my salary now, sore muscles my vacation from sloth, and sitting too much to write. My arms ache with the heat of work, hard work, physical exertion that will provide the garden with its food, so it might provide me with mine, and enough to share, I hope. Years ago, I discover there is very little that will cause as much joy as giving away produce that is home grown.

Rain is supposed to come in later in the day, but clouds scud and drift, blocking the sun, providing shade, and I looked up. The photo up top is what I saw, and the picture was taken, stored in my cell phone camera, and I sat down, looking at the photos taken this very day, of fog, dogs, spider webs, of the sun, and clouds. How many generations of humans had no cameras, no way of sharing the wonders they saw except with joyous outbursts of words and facial expressions, and how many people have listened to these descriptions of wonder, and knew they would never see it, but it was enough that the sight made someone else so happy?

Sixty-one years and a few months slow me down now, and I hesitate before returning to my toil. The earth around this area of the world has been tilled before. This was part of the nation where slavery thrived, and enslaved people were worked for generations, doing very much what I am doing now. I wonder, my mind goes back to the days men and women night have, on the very spot I sit, been forced to work long hours, longer years, with no hope of knowing any other life but hard labor. Were there those among these poor people who would look up at the sky, see some marvelous cloud, and were told to get back to their task? Would an enslaved person hope for such a sight, for some rare treat in the day that might offer some beauty in a world devoid of anything resembling anything but misery?

Look back at the last 400 years, at the music composed, the inventions, the works of art, the poem, the books, the wonders humankind have created, and then see the shadow the light of that creation has cast. Those who were enslaved, and those who were descended from slaves, have lived in this shadow. First as kidnapped workers, and then as second-class citizens; Jim Crow and Red Lines, Peonage and Lynching, the light still withheld, the freedom and justice still denied, and it still goes on this very moment.

Yet given rain, and not too much, given warm weather without scorching heat, given luck and some skill with plants, the earth will provide those who farm a bounty, regardless of the color of their skin. Mother Earth will receive a body, if it is allowed to rest in a natural state in the dirt, and from this life will begin anew, such as it always had, and such as it ought to be. Kings and dogs, slaves and statesmen will all turn into soil, accept seeds, and grow whatever is tended, or not.

The wind blows now, the sky grows dark, and I am inside, clean from a hot shower, and writing the words you see before you. I hope you liked my photograph of a branches and sun, and clouds. I hope the photo stirs in you some sense of wonder and beauty. I wish for you to remember not everyone has ever had this, some were denied it, and some still do not have it. It is luck, chance only, that you and I do.

Take Care,

Mike

Why the Russians Have Already Lost.

One of the more costly battles that occurred during the Viet Nam War was not fought in the dense jungles, but one in the ancient city of Hue, 1968. The pitched battles killed over two hundred members of the Marine Corps, and hundreds of native soldiers on both sides. It was, and it still is, a lesson to be learned about fighting in an urban environment.

Putin had to win this fight in less than a month, and now it’s clear that no matter what he does, or how he does it, the Ukraine will not be subdued, and it will not be productive in the sense he likely planned. Barring this, Putin may try to do as much damage as possible, but even that will backfire in the end.

Right now, Putin is losing the war. He likely thought NATO would either sit it out entirely, or start a broader conflict, and either would have served him. If NATO sat it out, Putin would have an easier time fighting the war. If NATO got involved, Putin could have sold the war to the Russian people as a defensive measure to protect the Motherland.

As it turned out, NATO, and America, have been giving the Ukrainians anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, and even at this late date, Russia cannot seem to maintain air superiority. Tanks are exploding on video clips, and back home, Putin is arresting five thousand protestors a day. If Putin leaves, he will be humiliated in front of the whole world. If he stays, he runs the risk of his own personal Viet Nam war, with no end in sight, and partisan attacks on Russian military personnel.

But it is even worse than it appears.

If Putin does manage to maul the Ukraine, and then leaves, NATO will most certainly help Ukraine rebuild, and everyone in the country will hate the Russians. Putin will have managed to give NATO an excuse to become closer to the Ukrainians, and the Ukrainian people will devote themselves to anyone who is an enemy of their enemy.

Putin has managed to create a food shortage in Europe, and it is planting time. With Ukraine out of business for a long time to come, food prices in Russia will rise, people will be hungry, and Putin will be blamed. The best source of food would have been the United States, but that country is having their own supply chain issues, and not inclined to help Putin.

In the end, Putin’s dream of a Greater Russia has died in the side streets and air in the Ukraine. Mauled politically by this, those who seek power, his power, Putin’s ability to raise the will of those around him to do expensive projects will be well diminished. We may well see the fall of Vladimir Putin, perhaps the last Russian dictator.

Take Care,

Mike

Rain

The rain began a couple of hours before noon, a slow descent of drops, which seemed to be the vanguard of many more. By lunch rain was coming down hard, and considering it’s been weeks since the trees or the pond or the plants and animals have seen any rain at all, it was a benison for the Earth. Like putting your ear to a seashell, a roar of water could be heard, rain falling through the leaves of the trees, rushing down to the dry earth, and replenishing what was desperately needed.

My work here is done. There will be no gardening, no composting, no preparation of the ground or building raised beds. This will be my Sabbath, my day of rest, with dogs near and books open. Even music will halt, no classical for background, no instrumentals for breaks in thought, no. This is a day of water, of the drenching of the roof and windows, and the sound of this action is all that is needed, conducive as anything created by any composer with two legs, for the human mind to be at ease in focus.

My compost pile is getting a natural dousing, which is very good, and it will be easier to fill the new garden bed. The pond needs water, but it always has and always will, and the pollen ought to find itself somewhere other than my truck. Yet the rain must also show up in print, being read or being written, and I wonder how other writers have decided when to add the rain.

A story about a group of survivors, trying to figure out if they can grow enough crops in a post-apocalyptic world, find themselves waking up to their first good rain, and they realize work is impossible for the day. Some sleep, some gather in small groups and talk, to plan, like farmers always have and always will in down time. Men seek out women, women seek out men, lovers find places to forget about the horrors of life, solace sought inside the bodies of another, and the rain comes down hard. The narrator stares out into the storm, watching in the dim light of the day, as much needed rain falls, and subconsciously he knows there’s a point of too much, but there’s nothing to be done if this happens. One bad harvest and they all will die, he knows they have to expand, and send others out to farm the land away from this place. Everything but the rain, and right now, seems impossibly far away, to this man.

I have a scene in mind, for what story I do not know yet, of a woman who is seeing a man, and their level of intimacy is getting warmer each time they are in the same room alone together. She left a bad relationship, still feels the pain of it, it still haunts her thoughts, and heart, but this man. The night before he left early, she asked him to, for her body’s desire was overriding her ability to sort it out, and after all, they were going canoeing with another couple, but now the rain.

They cancelled the plans on the phone, and without thinking about it, she went to his house, without calling, and now she’s sitting on his bed, and he’s in the shower, the bathroom door open, the rain pounding the roof, and so many thoughts are running through her mind. Join him, take her clothes off and wait, just ease back on the bed, and let him come to her, is she being too forward after last night, it’s like a swarm of cupids, all of them shooting arrows in different directions, and she doesn’t know what to do next, only she has to, now is the time.

To her horror and dismay, he goes downstairs, after all that’s where he left her. She starts to follow, then decides to wait. He calls for her, she tells him she’s upstairs, and now he’s going to find her on the bed. She can hear his steps on the wooden stairs, and she positions herself on the pillow, and hears the first roll of thunder in the distance.

Sex and storms have a long term affair going, they always have, always will, both involve so much motion, so much combining of certain elements for the conditions to be just right. Lightning, thunder, orgasms, cries of pleasure torn out of a lover’s throat like the wind suddenly blowing a shutter open hard. She’s waiting for him.

Take Care,

Mike