Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Love Remnants

It had been a very long week that May of 1988. Nancy and I had left Wisconsin in the early morning hours with my sister in her motor home headed for Arizona. The trip was unplanned but not really unexpected. Our dad had been sick—now he was sicker, and we made the decision to go get him and Mom.

We did not make it. When we stopped for fuel just across the state line in Missouri, Nancy called Mom only to find our Dad had died half an hour earlier. We continued to Yuma.

Much of that week is a blur of memory. A brother and other sisters showed up, a nephew, and my brother-in-law. We cried, laughed, and attended services for Dad at the little church in the foothills, but we did not lay him to rest. He would go home to Wisconsin.

When the arrangements had been made to send the body, we all prepared to make our ways back home. Nancy and I would ride with Mom and my sister and brother in-law in their motor home.

That was a good thing. Nancy is a natural care giver, an RN especially interested in families of the dying and deceased. She took charge.

Mom was, naturally, having trouble sleeping. Nancy suggested she wear one of Dad’s shirts to bed. We could see Mom’s face brighten. She picked out a rather plain western dress shirt Dad used to wear to church. It became Mom’s nightshirt. She slept well.

It is a simple thing, a shirt, and it does not really matter how such a thing works. Is it a trick of the mind? Is it a spiritual phenomenon? Or, both or neither? I don’t care. It works.

There is a feeling, a very real sense of closeness, which comes from wearing a loved one’s shirt. Dogs know this. They often grab a piece of clothing to hold close during a lonesome day. It is comfort.

I like to believe that love leaves tracks in things, that things people hold close and/or dear somehow hold remnants of their love as essence of their souls. I find comfort in the belief as people find comfort in the things like Dad’s shirt.

Dad did not have a lot of things. And what he had was divided among six children and many grandchildren. I have a few.

I own a two colored wildflower prints from an old book he cherished. They hang on our bathroom wall where I see them every day.

I inherited his first gun, a 16 gauge single shot he bought used. They ate rabbits and squirrels for survival during those hard times before WWII. It hangs on my brother’s wall where I put it when Nancy and I moved into our RV.
And I have his ring. Not a wedding ring, just a simple Native American silver ring with turquoise chips in an interesting design. I wear it most of the time when I am not home or doing physical labor.

It is not big, bold, or valuable. There is nothing special about it, although I do get compliments. I believe some people can see beauty beyond the visual aesthetic.

Dad loved that ring and wore it faithfully. Twenty five years later, it still keeps my father close to me. I hope I leave such love tracks in a few things to comfort those I leave behind. I hope you do, too.

Natural Love

“A brother is a friend given by Nature.” (Jean Baptiste Legouve)

There once lived three brothers working on a farm, aged 5, 10, and 15. That was long, long, ago.

The eldest left the farm to drive truck and the others stayed.

When the middle son had a medical condition briefly preventing him from working on the farm, he drove truck with his older brother, but he stayed on the farm.

When the youngest brother graduated from high school, he drove truck with his oldest brother for a summer before he left the farm for college, and the middle brother stayed.

When one brother needed help, the others showed up. It’s what they knew, lessons from their parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Money changed hands, time was shared in passing, deer were hunted together, parents and other family members buried, joys and sadness lived.

Years turned to decades and the middle brother went to trucking, but he stayed on the farm. The eldest continued trucking through his heart attack, through two open heart surgeries, and well past an age of retirement.

The youngest son retired from teaching, once, and went back for more. The oldest brother finally gave up trucking of medical necessity but returned to the farm to summer in an RV, work the garden, and help with farm chores. The middle brother lived in the same farmhouse he entered at age 4, continued trucking, and worked the farm in between. The youngest brother returned in summer to occasionally dabble in farm work.

Summers became a time of reunion as the eldest brother returned to the Wisconsin farm from Florida and the youngest visited from Arizona. The brothers laughed, played Sheepshead, and sweated together, again—home…home on the farm.

Always, the farm remained open to family. And, so, another summer brought the eldest home. Eighteen years past his second open heart surgery and thirty three past the heart attack that brought the first one—and the arrest on the table—find him rototilling the garden, mowing lawn, feeding and watering horses, pulling wagon loads of hay, and generally contributing what he can.

The youngest comes to visit for a week, invited into the house with his sick and dying dog, sleeping on a screen porch much like he did as a teenager, throwing a few bales of hay just to say thank you, or, mostly to feel the joy of honest work on the old farm.

After a hot day of hard work, the eldest reflected on the condition, the contribution to the farm, the opportunity to return: “I just love this…for the end of my life, really.”

The end of life may be sad, but it need not be tragic. I have seen too much of the tragic, people withering away far from home, if they ever had a real home. Not all families share this kind of brotherly love, this simple contribution of time and talent with each other.

Maybe that’s the point…of life, I mean, to have a home to enjoy at the end of life. What do you think?

Undying Love

She was in her ninety-seventh year and fading like her eyesight and her insight, but she still recognized me, my brothers and sisters, and many of her grandchildren, although she got some names confused. She mixed up faces, calling a great granddaughter by her mother’s name. Only some of that was age.

Sixty years ago, I sometimes thought my name was Rodney Butch Erv. It is a product of large family size.

Her family was huge, and she could still report on the pride and problems of many of them, keeping track of about a hundred of us. But this year, that faded, too.

She still remembered my wife, Nancy, but not always her name. She would ask if she were with me.

“No, Mom, she’s in Arizona, working.”

“That’s far away.”

And she would look far away, out the big window of her assisted living facility, and watch. She would describe what she saw, and I would think it was real—at least in her mind. But, sometimes it was only an artifact of an aging brain.

She lifted her hands and studied them in something like mild horror.

“Something is wrong,” she told me. “They don’t work right, anymore. I’m falling apart.”

“I know, Mom.”

She held my hand. Arizona is so far from Wisconsin, and I said goodbye every time I left, for about four years I think. Then, one day, I would drop in and she would recognize me, ask about her (Nancy), and report on the family.

Sometimes she held my hand. One day she studied me, tearing up a bit.

“I just love you so much,” she told me.

“I love you, too, Mom”

Quiet Love

There was a thing I loved with no name and another love I knew with no words.

The writer’s task is to use words to express what could never be expressed with words. So I describe the things I lived so that you may feel what I felt.

An electrophile is a substance that seeks electrons. We say such stuff has an affinity (or love) for electrons. Nonmetallic elements are electrophilic, elements such as Chlorine and Oxygen. Fortunately, the universe consists also of metallic substances eager to part with their electrons and compounds are born. Fortunately, also, many electrophiles are willing to share electrons—else there would be no carbon based life.

Similarly, hydrophilic substances have affinity for water, attracting and holding it.

I have an affinity for dirt. I love soil, water, and rocks—and the things that grow in and upon them.

There was a little farm in Dane County, Wisconsin, that called me and I answered. For a few years we got acquainted and fell in love. I used to watch the boats go by on Saturday morning on their way to Lake Koshkonong while I had dirt sticking to the sweat of my body, farming for a hobby.

It was a tired little farm with a ramshackle house but a tidy little barn. And I loved it. But, I never named it.

The day came way, way too soon that I had to let it go. I clung to it as though it was some security, some friend, something special that I could not explain.

Because of divorce, I had to let it go. And, so the day came for the closing.

My dad came and helped me close the holes for the perk test—because the new owner wanted a place for a new house. We stood in the kitchen of the soon-to-be destroyed little house and signed the papers.

My dad watched. He didn’t say anything. He was just there.

I learned something important about love that day—from my father, and from my little farm.

Dad is gone, now, and that little farm looks very different thirty-five years later. Far to the north, though, is another piece of rock, soil, water, and life that has adopted me. This time I had the good sense to name it. When I found a few charred remnants of the old growth trees cut for lumber and stained by fire, I thought of calling in Pine Bones.

The land had a better idea. We call it Lonesome Pines, in honor of the few red and white pines remaining (although more are growing) and the memories of the grandfather trees that once stood there. I love that land, and it loves me. I hope that makes sense to you because I hope you have felt that kind of unconditional love, that acceptance, which Nature provides.

And I hope you have felt or will feel the kind of love my father shared. When my daughters need me, I don’t often have much to say, but I show up. I am there. Thanks, Dad. You always were my greatest teacher, and you did it without me even knowing.

How Shall I Start My Story?

Your story must begin with a hook and a promise, but we’ll get to that later. In fact, I advise you to get to the beginning of your story after it has been written. Seriously.

Recently, a friend told me he was having trouble with the beginning of a chapter in his nonfiction work. I told him to start somewhere else. It sounds too simple, doesn’t it? There is no such thing as too simple. That’s like a woman too pretty, a motorcycle too fast, or a vacation too much fun. What does that even mean?

My first lesson in beginnings came my freshman year at UW-Madison. I would watch my roommate sit for what seemed like hours moving everything except his writing hand. He could not begin his English 101 assignment for the week. The paper remained blank. I became rather famous in that little dorm because my mandatory English class was going well while everybody else seemed to struggle (Thank you, Ms. Marshall, my high school senior English teacher).

The beginning is the toughest part. Many years later, while I was teaching Science to high school freshmen, I required them to write. I taught them what Ms. Marshall had taught me: Say what you are going to say, say it, and say what you said. How can you begin telling me what you are going to say if you don’t know? I told them to write the introduction last.

Here’s how I did that. Suppose my daughter came to the classroom door. (I look at one student, then another.) Would you please introduce her to the class? Inevitably, I would get the answer, “I don’t know her.” Good. Now, how are you going to introduce your essay if you don’t know it, yet?

True, for expository writing I always emphasized outlining. If you have a detailed outline with a thesis and conclusion, you might be able to write the introduction—because you already know what you are going to say. Well, if that is how you want to write fiction (a plot-driven story) then work the outline first. Still, I don’t understand how I can know the characters well enough to introduce them in the beginning of the story.

The answer is, write some of the exciting stuff, first. Write the scenes that come to mind, the ones that stoke the fire in your imagination. Get to know your characters at their best and worst. Allow yourself to wonder how they got here or there—and where they might go from here. At this point, I can make a decision about writing a character-driven or plot-driven (or, milieu-based) story. If it is character driven, I need some detailed biographies. If it is plot driven, I must write a detailed plot outline. If it is milieu based, I must flesh out the rules and other details of the context and setting.

Then, I write the story. I finish it. The end is the second most difficult thing to write (unless you are writing something with bedroom scenes of your parents, as historical fiction or creative nonfiction). Now, when I know how the story goes all the way to climax and resolution, I can write the beginning. I can make a promise that I know I will keep because I already have.

The beginning, hopefully the first page if not the first line, includes a hook. Maybe it is a baited hook, something that entices the reader to go on to the next line, paragraph, page, and chapter. I don’t know how to explain this (another blog?). The bait depends upon your audience (and genre). I know enough about fishing to respect the dual importance of presenting the bait and setting the hook.

Here comes the promise. The beginning of your story must be an honest offer of the kind of story you are going to deliver. Language, style, tone, setting, and characters all matter, but the reader must know before the end of the first chapter, and maybe by page three, just what kind of story is offered.

One little confession, here: I don’t look at the beginning first when I evaluate any piece of writing. For a novel, I open a random page to get a feel for the language, characterization, and movement. If I accept these, then I go to page one. I know, I’m eccentric, but it is a habit developed by reading a ton of research papers, professional and amateur. If it is slutty, I put it down. If it is trite or cliché, I put it down. If it is beyond belief, I put it down.

So, write your beginning only when you are proud of your completed story and you will be better equipped to write an honest promise that hooks the reader. If you do that, you just might hook an agent and an editor.

Keep writing, and enjoy the journey.

God’s Art: Heroes in Nature

Willie Nelson sang, “My heroes have always been cowboys.” It makes a nice Country Western song, and it may be a common sentiment, but it is not a philosophy for life. It does not really illuminate the elements of character that guide us through the maze of human experience. Who are our role models?

We faithful at the University of Wisconsin sporting events sing, “If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me.” Now, there is a role model. Pound for pound, a badger is as tough as any creature in Nature, just about as tough as our neighbors’ Wolverines, and certainly tougher than Gophers. Never mind that the badger became a mascot of Wisconsin because of the Cornish miners living in caves like badgers in holes. On second thought, the badger was a role model for these industrious diggers of the Earth.

We have totems. One of my former students is still called Bear. He sports pictures of many different kinds of bears on his Facebook page. I don’t recall how the name came about, but he is identifying himself with this powerful and attractive creature. Another Bear in my life was a spiritual teacher given a four-part name that included Bear Medicine. His logo was the track print of a bear’s forepaw. The black bear is one of my totem animals.

Animals, plants, streams, rocks, and even air can be role models. We can learn quiet power from wind, relentless pursuit from water, patient resolution from rocks, adaptive flexibility from willows, stoic acceptance from oaks, and duty from all sorts of animals. Yes, duty. Each animal species has a role within the community of its ecosystem and biome, and every individual has a role within the family of a tribe, pride, herd, or colony. They do it. Animals live their duty.

We can spend a lot of time and energy debating whether an animal’s response to duty is learned or inherited. We know it is both. Learning is predominantly through a form of inheritance called culture. Through hunting experiences, I know much behavior is inherited. I know where to find deer and ducks because I know their behaviors. Never in my wildest dreams would I use a cat to hunt ducks. Some dogs like water and love to retrieve. It’s genetic. You know what my Yellow Lab did when she saw the stream in the picture, below.

I am a hunter. I don’t even like killing and I hate handling bloody meat. I like eating game, but I love hunting. I can’t help it. When I don’t hunt, something is missing from my soul. It’s genetic—or, at least inherited. My role model is the cougar. I camouflage myself like the cat whose name means “false deer” so that I might get close. I watch trails and areas where deer are likely to appear. I prefer a quick, clean kill. Cougars are my hunting heroes.

Most of my heroes are animals, but I do try to model my social behavior after some people. My father is one of my heroes, and I regret never telling him that. A younger me tended to focus on what I saw as shortcomings rather than strengths. That tendency was unlike my father, patient and tolerant most every day. It pleases me to be growing more like him in my senior years. I hope I live long because I have a ways to go.

My heroes do their duty. Labrador Retrievers are especially good at that, particularly because they are willing to choose when their duty is other than the most recent command. They will disobey to follow a superior duty somehow remembered and reasoned. It makes them especially useful as helper dogs. That is precisely the behavior I look for in human heroes. It’s hard to find—no, it’s hard to see right under our noses.

My daughters are my heroes because of the ways they care for my grandchildren. Likewise, both my sons-in-law are my heroes for the ways they care not only for my grandchildren, but for my daughters. Like a lot of parents, they make their personal sacrifices for the welfare of their families. People do that—a lot of people—and we seem to overlook it. I guess it is my duty today to point out these everyday heroes as the role models they should be.

My life is blessed because I am surrounded by heroes after whom I can model my behavior. It is probably a major reason I have found health and happiness that can be called success. Now, it’s time to go kiss the hero in our kitchen.

Black Hills Stream

Mind Wind: My Stuff

Because of this blog, I’ve been doing a little inventory of my stuff. Yes, I have both kinds of stuff, matter and energy. Granted, energy may be a little harder to hold onto, but I work at it—pun intended.

Here in my beautiful North Woods, I have literally tons of stuff. I have sand and soil, including rocks of various types. Some rocks are high in quartz and suitable for knapping, making them into sharp tools such as knives, spear points, and arrowheads. Others are coarse and useful for sharpening wood and bone into tools. Many would make excellent construction material. Some are simply lovely, and a few have found there way into Nancy’s little rock garden. One is chocking my trailer tire right now.

I have what seems like a million trees. Aspen, of course, are good for making paper. Balsam firs provide color and aroma. Basswood is an excellent carving medium and the inner bark produces very strong string/rope cordage. Pine and spruce make excellent lumber. The black ash is particularly tough for poles, spears, and clubs. I expect it would be very strong for primitive shelters. The birches offer bark for shingling shelters or making baskets and other forms of functional art. They are also high in combustible oil that helps to start fires in wet conditions even when rotten (a fungus grows upon it and stores the oils). The wood makes fine, quick fires—speaking of which, the cedars are awesome for this. Not only is their wood full of heat, but it does not absorb a lot of moisture, and dry twigs are abundant under spreading branches of live trees.

There are many other plants useful for tools, construction, medicine, and food—even clothing. No, I don’t have any figs, but cedar’s inner bark, grasses, and other plants can be braided and woven into garments. Berrybushes provide berries and their leaves are wonderful green or dried for nutritious teas. Speaking of food, I have many growing sugar maple trees, which also make fine, hot coals for cooking when a limb falls. I don’t cut live maples (or, many other trees if I can avoid it). The point is that I do have a lot of wonderful stuff here provided by Nature. One would think I spent most of my time shopping my free forest for good stuff and making it into better stuff. Nope.

I spend way too much of my time, especially in the fall—it is fall here—as I prepare to move back to AZ, getting rid of other stuff that once seemed really important but, now, not so much. I bought some more important stuff, yesterday, a shed to keep my good stuff—or my other stuff I can’t seem to let go just yet. I blame it on growing up poor. I just never know when I might need another box, a worn out mower and chain saw, a wild game cart, old tackle boxes….

So, this morning I woke up early and went out to start my little generator, the true sine wave Honda that safely powers my computer. It burns gasoline, a kind of matter that stores a lot of energy. That energy made my coffee, stored in a plastic container sent to me from some faraway place using some more gasoline and probably a lot of Diesel fuel. I could have made a fire to brew some pine needle tea, but I have become accustomed to coffee. Note to self: roasted dandelion and chicory roots make an excellent coffee alternative. Okay, duly noted.

But, I NEED my computer, so the generator runs. If I had thought ahead (and spent the big bucks), I could be using a true sine wave inverter and my energy stored in my batteries from the sun. But, alas, my inverter will not safely run my computer, so I burn gasoline. Of course, I have limited storage in those batteries and the days are getting shorter. It’s almost 8 a.m. and I am generating only 0.5 amps with two large panels. It’s one of the drawbacks of having so many tall trees.

Soon, I will take my shower with water pumped from my well by the same generator and heated by LP gas, more stuff full of energy. Then I will get in my little SUV and drive 20 miles (about 1 gallon of gasoline) toMichigan to buy some more stuff I think I need. Of course, it will be another gallon of gas to get back home. I wonder, “How much matter and energy was required to mine the coal and iron to make my car?”

How did this happen? How did I become so dependent upon material things, matter and energy? I wasn’t born with it, and I don’t need to die with it. Why do I think I need so much of it to live? I know I didn’t have a binky, but I wonder if I ever had a blankie. Somehow, I came to believe that I needed a whole lot of stuff to stay alive.

I know I don’t. Maybe there can be a blessing to poverty. I hope so, because it is approaching, but that is a subject for a future blog.

Re Quest: Space Entitlement

Toward the end of my teaching tenure, I proclaimed to students in our environmental problems class, Solar Starship, that land use would be the issue of our lifetime. Actually, that was not prophecy so much as observation: Land use has been and may always be a primary issue in human relationships. Yet, I was wrong, and my lesson came, as it often did, from a student. But, first, a brief view of land use as space entitlement.

I “own” Lonesome Pines, our 27 acres in the North Woods of Wisconsing where I write today. I am entitled to call this space mine because Nancy and I exchanged thousands of dollars with the people who then held title, and that entitlement can be traced back some years to the mining company that owned the county. Before that, it was presumed owned by some Native Americans and “ceded” to our government in exchange for certain perpetual rights including spearing walleyes in the lake I fished yesterday.

My point here is that we claim entitlement to land space because of some business deals and treaty agreements. We also claim some special entitlement as superior human beings–Manifest Destiny being one example. I believe the people who lived and died on this land still hold some claim because of the bones and spirits that remain. The question looms as to who they might be.

They might be Sioux people who seemed to have been pushed out as Anishinaabe people arrived from the east, fleeing a prophecy. Perhaps title belongs to people here long before any Sioux. Land Entitlement is often murky. My sense is Pottawatomi history lives here along with Ojibwe, but that is just a feeling.

Actually, my legal entitlement does not include mineral rights, and, morally, I do not claim artifacts that might be found. Ojibwe, Pottawatomi, and others may have anything I uncover.

The questions for your consideration are these: What space are you entitled to own? By what right do you claim entitlement? How is this entitlement affected by your choice of land use?

Aldo Leopold, founder of UW Wildlife Ecology in Madison, wrote on the concept of Land Ethic. He hoped our human evolution would arrive at an application of ethics to land use including the space and everything within it, living and nonliving. This was published after his death in a collection called A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC. He was an optimist. Still, land use is one of the most important issues and ethical concerns. What could be more important?

I’ll tell you. On what I believe was my last field trip as a teacher, I asked the students, high school Juniors and Seniors, to view Devil’s Lake with a concern for land use. While one class went with a former student, I asked the second class to ponder the land use question while sitting quietly near the effigy mounds on the north shore.

Nancy and I watched as I called them back and asked what they had learned. The answer I got caused us to just look at each other. I said, “Well, I guess we can go home, now,” because the answer felt like the very reason those mounds had been built.

One student said that she didn’t know if she had learned anything, but she had decided something. “I decided land appreciation is more important than land use.”

Public Rug: Sacred Space

Do you have a special and personal space? Do your children?

One thousand eight hundred and ninety miles of space traveled and another two hundred and fifty to go before I will be at my special space in the North Woods, the one I call Lonesome Pines. Apparently, and according t0 neighbors, at least one black bear also thinks it is special. Lesson One of Special Space etiquette starts tomorrow. Where did you learn your space etiquette?

What are we teaching children about personal and community space and place ownership? Is school a place?

I was actually taught to manage uncooperative students by invading their personal space. I didn’t like doing that because, well, is nothing really personal?

What space in a school belongs to an individual student? A peg on a wall? A desk? A locker? Hmmm.

How much space is one person entitled to claim as personal? I have 27 acres in the woods. If I had had more money, I wouldn’t have it anymore because I would have more land, at least another 40 acres on which I had an option. Touchy subject, though, owning space. There are rules.

I cannot grow certain crops on my land. If I do, I could be confined to a very small space with no personal entitlement. I cannot dump hazardous waste–not that I would. The point I’m making is that no space is really personal because what is done there can affect other people even in their own personal space.

It is all about the relationships. Again.

Yes, we teach our children that space is limited and scarce, that they don’t really have personal space to do anything they want, and that the community interest affects their personal space. But, my title is Sacred Space.

Is it appropriate for a teacher to touch a student? Is a pat on the back appropriate? Does a person have a right to declare any space so personal that touching of any kind is inappropriate? Yes, it depends upon the nature of the relationship. In particular, it depends on the mutual nature of the relationship and, if not mutual, upon the responsibility of the dominant person to maintain the personal space of the other.

Do not walk on my land without permission. My neighbors have permission–except during hunting. Then they have permission to follow a wounded animal if, and only if, they try to make contact with anyone hunting on my land.

Do not cut a tree on my land, do not put your hand on me without my permission, and stay out of my face. Do we grant such space to our children, students, friends, or strangers?

There is a smaller area in my woods, right along the logging road and overlooking my driveway, that is sacred to me. And that had better make it sacred to you if you want to be invited to sit there. What makes space sacred? That is your business, or in this case, mine. It is sacred because it feels sacred to me. Nancy calls it Healing Rock and, yes, there is a story there, but it is personal. With her permission, I may share it later.

Different opinions on what space is personal and what is community is the root of wars–many wars. I’m thinking we should teach our children, especially by our example, the importance of rules of relationship regarding sacred space. Why?

Because an animal without personal space, especially sacred space, is a dangerous animal, and that is true for lions, tigers, and bears, oh, my, and people, too. I need wild space to commune. Without it, I get dangerous. That’s why my wife keeps sending me back to Lonesome Pines.

The bear needs it, too, but I draw the line where I mow the grass. Stay our of my camp or it will get personal.

Mind Wind: Beating Time

Mind Wind: Beating Time

(Note: This was written a few weeks ago, while in the north woods. I wasn’t sure I would have time after I got back to Arizona.)

I always wonder what people do with all that time they (we) save by speeding, changing lanes, and passing in traffic. Do they save a few moments to cherish later?

Individual views of time are personal but grounded in culture and heritage. We learn both consciously and subconsciously, and we develop habits without even noticing.

When did you get out of bed today?

My morning was blessed with sunshine on tall trees in a deep blue sky. Time feels different in the north woods, even as I look out the bedroom window of our RV. Then, I hear the factory whistle and know it is 7:00 a.m. and I am still in bed. That’s late for me. I feel lazy. Oh, well. It’s only 5:00 at home in Arizona.

Sometimes it can be difficult to perceive our true attitudes and beliefs because they have become habituated. It takes conscious intention to observe the day. Am I feeling a sense of urgency? Why? What’s the rush?

The world is our mirror. A sentient look around our social environment reflects our own attitudes and beliefs about time. Walk with intention of observing and see yourself. Become a stranger in your neighborhood.

The garbage truck comes between 6:00 and 7:00. Mail, not until afternoon this time of year. Irrigation at 5:00, but that’s all in Arizona. In the north woods, loons go to work early in the morning and whippoorwills call before full dark. Owls are a little later. I am not familiar with the other rhythms. See? That tells me I am still not settled into north woods time. It can take awhile.

I’ll drive into town today, first the little unincorporated county seat in WI, then the VAH in the bigger “city” in MI. I want to be there for a meeting precisely at 7:00 p.m. I hate to be late. It draws so much attention to me, and I might not get a chair facing the doors. I’ll be there by 6:45.

Our neighbor in the woods said Nancy and I are the two most punctual people she knows. I wasn’t always that way. I don’t know about Nancy. I used to be late for most things until, well, I guess until the Army. It wasn’t that I had ever wanted to be late—I hadn’t—I just planned poorly.

Tardiness and punctuality can both be egocentric. Yes, tardiness is obvious because it seems to place more value on my time than others’, but punctuality can be a personal fear of being noticed or embarrassed. Anyway, I now have a fear of embarrassment at being late.

I used to blame my mother for my being late. I said I had been a ten month baby and was still trying to catch up. Actually, I was a surprise five and a half years after my siblings. My parents had recently purchased a farm on a special low down payment WWII plan when my mother found out she was pregnant. The other five children were ages 5 to 12 years. Yeah, I would say I was born late.

There is a speed limit of 15 mph on our shared private road. A stop sign welcomes me to the civilization of a state highway. The U.S. highway through town allows 30 mph with no stop. Speed is measured in time.

Distance is measured in time, too. How far is Yuma from San Diego? Less than 3 hours. It’s 36 hours from my Arizona home to the north woods and 5 hours from here downstate to my brother’s farm where we grew up.

The bank sign here gives us time and temperature. I was across and up the street at the hardware store when I heard the radio news on 9/11. Time stopped that day. I had heard on my car radio that a plane hit the World Trade Center, but I had visualized a small private model. The owner at the hardware store briefed me on the second plane and we listened together. She said she couldn’t stop listening. I went home and told my wife we were at war, but we just didn’t know with whom. We watched TV. That is the only time in memory that my wife chose to not go out to eat on her birthday. That family owned hardware store closed just before Memorial Day, 2011.

The smoke from the collapse of those twin towers hung above America for almost 10 years. Finally, it seems like only a shadow in our collective memory. America likes short wars.

I have 27 years and a few months to pay off my mortgage. Already on Medicare, it sometimes feels like a race. Hope it’s not a dead heat. Actually, I don’t much care.

Buying on time is a way of life for many of us—including the nation, itself. If we pay off the debt, who wins? If we don’t, who loses? Time will tell.

Wisconsin and Michigan clocks agree in my neck of the woods. East or north of here, it is one hour later on the clock. It’s two hours earlier in Arizona and California, but that all changes when Daylight Saving Time ends. Arizona stays on Standard time year round. I guess there is no reason to save sunshine there.

How does one save time? Does it earn interest? Can we borrow time? I perceive some strange social views on this subject. Oh, that’s right. Time = $. No, I don’t believe that. Money is a human invention. Time exists in nature.

High winds yesterday took down many of my trees. I heard and watched two of them crash. You were not here, but I can tell you they did make sound in your absence. My conclusion is that others this spring made sounds even though I was not here at the time.

I have to go clean up a fallen tree. At least one of us has run out of time.

P.S. The moon picture was taken with my new camera at our place in Northern Wisconsin. Now, can you determine approximate date and time?

P.P.S. The blog header photo was also taken with my new camera just south of Quartzite, AZ as I approached home after ~70 hours on the road.