Getting Around the Web: Take the Cab

Originally Crystal Atari Browser, this is an oldie to be sure, but hanging tough.

And for the iPad Pro, iCab Mobile wins over Safari (for most sites but not all) and has many well-conceived bells and whistles that are so customizable that this detail might put off casual-sometimes users of the iPad who do not expect to do any serious web work on the smaller device in the first place.

iCab mobile browser (Pro version is two bucks I think) plus Index App are a very useful combo for me (iPad more than iPhone.) Your mileage may vary.

I will leave it to these websites to highlight the pros and cons.

A New Pest. And an Old One

Spotted Lantern Fly now in Virginia.

“A potentially very serious pest of grapes, peaches, hops, and a variety of other crops, the spotted lanternfly (SLF), Lycorma delicatula, was detected in Frederick County, Virginia, on Jan. 10, 2018.”

It’s host plant for hatching its eggs and hosting its young: Ailanthus–Tree of Heaven. A match made in, well…

In Pennsylvania…

“The red and black spotted lanternflies are native to China and feed on sap, essentially sucking plants dry. They go after grapes, but researchers have seen them invading apple trees as well. In December, Pennsylvania state officials quarantined Christmas tree growers in 13 counties to prevent the insect eggs from traveling to other states.”

We are likely to hear more–a lot more–about insect issues as winters get milder and natural cycles become disrupted by unpredictable patterns of temperature and rainfall: climate chaos.

Keepers: The Missing Intro

A few years back, I was asked to write the introduction as the final work came together for the author and artist who crafted “Keepers of the Tradition.”

The intro was granted 1400 words initially, and lives below; the final printing space allowed only 800 at a very late date, so what you read in the beautiful coffee-table hardcopy leaves out much of this. I just happened upon it in the dusty archives of digital keystrokes, and thought I’d share, or at least have it saved here for my own revisiting.

_______________________________

“Call me Granny. Everybody does” she said. And I learned about her growing up, her wide travels as far as Lynchburg once upon a time. She told me about her family and it turned out, not surprisingly in the small pond world of Floyd that I knew a couple of them.

As a physical therapist visiting this patient in her own home, I was able to learn who Granny was beyond her diagnosis and symptoms—to know what made her a unique person unlike any other I had ever treated. I learned about her love for quilting, for making apple butter, for caring for the sick elderly among her close neighbors in a way long abandoned in larger, faster-moving urban places. In time I’d come to understand her role as matriarch of a Floyd County community of kin that for a century or more had called this place home—this place I had only discovered in 1997, and would never leave.

“Here. Take you home some apples I canned to your wife. And God bless you, I’ll see you when you come next week. I’ll do what you told me to do. I got to get back with it.”

I remember suggesting that it would be helpful, next visit, if she would be wearing a pair of slacks for the sake of modesty, to make the hip exercises more convenient as we worked on the bed, or more often on the ancient sofa a few feet from a over-toasty wood stove. “Why honey, I never owned a pair of pants in my life” I heard more than once from the many “grannies” I visited over the years. And I would leave that settled place the beneficiary of the care of patient for therapist, and not just the mason jar of apples.

I learned over the years that, when you settle at ease in the unique personal habitat of even the most unlovely and unlikely individual, their “who-ness” emerges in ways not possible in a conversation with a patient at hospital bedside, or while chatting with a new acquiantance over lunch at Applebees.

Michael and Leslie, the principals of this work, have done just that—sat at table, walked in pastures, tarried in the workshops in unhurried conversation with each of their twelve “subjects” in just such a way—listening and observing, taking in more than giving out. The inner person of each portrait emerges. I’ll warn you, however, that you’ll learn just enough to want to know more of the story, because each account is just the tiniest part of a much richer whole. Scratch the surface and each of us bleeds a story if there are ears to listen. In this case, there was also an artist to paint that story for us.

Perhaps this authentic at-home expression of the person within goes deepest when they are encouraged, as these twelve were, to share their genuine motives, hopes and passions for their calling, a life purpose so much more and far beyond a mere job. Not many of these “keepers” are for-profit. More often than not, they give away more than they sell, ambassadors and not merchants.

In fact, you’ll find something of a pattern here from which the wandering among you might take encouragement. Several of these folks you’ll meet in this book have only come to embrace their true passion later in life after their “working life” had come to a natural end. Late-won freedom from vocation, they will tell you, allowed them to indulge in a true avocation–that thing they’ve always or suddenly out-of-the-blue become called to do when the space opened up to it. It was a call they could not hear when the regular paycheck insisted so loudly.

Still others of these dozen were diverted in mid-career from what they thought they’d do forever, pulled by something new and unexpected—a whiskey distillery or a remade non-traditional country church or the making of hand-crafted musical instruments. Those lives took a surprising turn to follow a fully-novel path on fresh terrain on their life map. Make note of this fact, those of you who feel certain you are destined for other not-yet-visible ports than the one your ship seems to sail towards just now. It can most certainly happen! I know a thing or two about this myself!

With regards to your expectations as you turn to the opening pages of this lovely book: the language of these interviews is not heavily “Photoshopped” or reworked to make them less than authentic. The final edits are not the product of a strong guiding hand in the shaping of their ultimate last-draft form. There is a real-ness—more like an overhead conversation with a good friend and not that of a sudden snapshot followed by structured conversation with a stranger with a microphone in his or her face.

Somehow Michael and Leslie have managed to capture what is real from these genuine characters, in words and in pigment. And you even get to hear a dozen voices. I highly recommend you do listen to the provided clips of voices, which like the eyes, give you a deeper connection to the soul inside.

The unifying theme herein is of passionate relationships—to tools, to folkways, to places, to skills and crafts—a compilation of connections to objects that are not mere things: an old leather harness, a slightly out-of-tune piano, a shelf of dried medicinal herbs, a millstone maker’s chisel. It is a gathered tale of people using their hands and hearts in unique ways in the present to embed the ways of the past in the WHERE of their lives. Underneath it all, this is a book that paints a picture of deep roots in place.

Wallace Stegner once said that “Space is not place until it has found its poet.” And to that, I would add “its farmer and gospel singer, herbalist and horse logger, its miner and music-maker, wood-worker, quilter, its moonshiner and its preacher. These people, as each of them will tell you, grow deeply planted in the ground they inhabit by choice. While they sustain and are sustained by their varied traditions, they are also valued place-makers—from Rugby and McCoy, Copper Hill and Meadows of Dan, Prices Fork, Pilot and Floyd. Wendell Berry would suggest that these people know WHO they are because they have a strong sense of WHERE they are. Now their stories are the stories of these hills and hollers forever.

Tradition is the thread of story, know-how, wisdom, skill or creative genius that binds the future to the past, for the good. Appalachian traditions say “this is who we were because of where we are; this is how we lived our lives, how we created a place worth living from whatever we had at hand—a block of buhrstone and a falling creek, patches of old blankets, a stand of ginseng, block of maple or oak planks from our own woods. This is how we made our way in this world and got along.” Tradition is legacy of riches that cannot be written into the language of a will.

I know that we may think of them as quaint and anachronistic, but I wonder: Will traditions (especially the trades and skills of the old ways) come back into the lights of center stage as communities of the chaotic future retool and relocalize? Will they then be able to get up and do what needs to be done with resources at hand and in the caring and skilled hands of neighbors who have kept the traditions alive? Time will tell. It just might be that in this telling of tradition keepers present, we seed the future.

Voices, language, faces, personalities and passions: it is the richness of character and story that keeps us turning the pages of any book we come to admire and read more than once. And this attraction draws us in all the more so when those faces and voices belong to our neighbors. You just may come face to face in the grocery store with one or more of these twelve folks now that you know them. They will not be vague strangers but friends. And it just might be that you will see the unexplored potential in those eyes of true strangers you meet by chance, to know for certain that there is a story behind the eyes of that unmet little old lady. You can call her Granny.

Toxic Economic Assumptions Drive Climate Chaos

You and I can replace our light bulbs and shop local and recycle and reuse and even conserve energy and natural resources like a champ.

But if we don’t change the drivers that churn Earth matter into profit as fast as possible (the Growth Economy/Consumption Machine model) — and in so doing,  consider corporate shareholders’ well-being ahead of ecosystems and forests and coral reefs and human communities like yours and mine…

Then it’s game over. We have almost used up all the time we have, and have not laid the axe to the root of the tree.

Do good. Recycle. Conserve. Shop local.

But unless we revolt against the Consumption Machine in much less than a generation, it will consume the consumers. What a perverse end to the story, don’t you think?

 

A Season To Be Mired in Quicksand

To everything there is a season, we are told:

A time for effective and meaningful engagement in  a full life; and a time to be mired up to your acetabulum in an unending, onerous, complex, emotionally draining and impossible slog through quicksand.

There is a time for effortless, natural progression from passion to passion; and a time for soul-sucking, bizarre and out of control obligation to duty.

I, as you might have guessed, I find myself in the second of these seasonal possibilities.

Way busy; stressed; uncertain; sad; exhausted; and not all that agreeable to be around.

So when the going gets tough, the tough (or even wimps like me) get doodling.

Yep, I have recently spent a bit of our children’s inheritance and purchased an iPad Pro with Apple Pencil. And when I should be creating agendas, sending out Doodle polls, writing complex position statements toward conflict resolution or otherwise moving forward toward one mission statement or another, I pull out the pad and pen and do the visual version of nothing at all.

A better person would feel regret and shame at such a retreat from responsibility. Me, I lean into purposelessness–with some flare and success, I add in all modesty.

So fire me.

 

Now Who Gets My Last Corn Flake?

There goes the daily squirrel, passing under the window beyond my desk. He was always at such risk, and knew it: tentative, uncertain, hesitant. Gandy was always watching.

But this morning, as if he knew he no longer had to fear the eyes tracking him from the house, he is casual. He stops on the walkway below the bell post to preen; twitches his tail defiantly; and without fear, covers the distance to the walnut tree for another meal. He will grow older and fatter, after all.

And I have to wonder if the word has spread among the moles—at even greatest risk of discovery that the squirrels–in that uncanny way G-dog always employed to determine where and when to dig.

It had something to do with the ears, but not entirely. A cock of the head, the weight shift onto the trembling hind quarters, and then the pounce. How did she know, running at full clip; sudden change of direction, then another thirty yards, and prepare to pounce and spike the landing on front paws alone.

I will miss that. The moles will not. I will miss—am missing so many very small details of interaction now missing. Ann and I have both remarked the countless subtle ways we accommodated the dog’s movements, her needs, her noises, her habits. Her be-ing not different from our be-ing.

And so, as with other just-past pawed friends, I will discipline myself to remember before I forget all those subtleties. I have a list of prompts, with others surely to come, that I can flesh out—sometimes in paragraphs, other times in single words or phrases that only Ann and I would understand.

Time heals all wounds. And I don’t know quite how I feel about the balm of forgetting. I want to forget the loss but remember the lost.

*****
Memories of Gandy
• On the loveseat
• In the woods
• With food and treats
• With other dogs
• With other people
• Through the years
• With other creatures
• Through the seasons
• Her intelligence
• Her appearance
• Her personality
• Her places
• Our names for her
• The things she knew

Gandy, Going, Gone

Gandy is gone as of an hour ago, after seven years and four months. That’s a lot of dog years, and they were good ones. She had an enchanted life on Goose Creek after being a rescue puppy that could have ended up anywhere, and in not such expansive wilderness with two creeks! Think trailer park tied to a tree.

Three days ago she was chasing squirrels on the ridge. Then she went into a rapid decline, and was having difficulty standing, breathing, moving. The end was near. We found a vet from FloydCo who makes house calls. She came right away. Gandy did not suffer.

She is buried out the kitchen window where we could never get a pear tree to grow. And that was one of the most difficult things we have done together in 47 years of marriage—in sickness and in health. We never buried a dog together before.

It will take some while before we stop expecting her to greet us in the morning and run ahead of us on the pasture loop. I just glanced up to see a copper colored flash go past the window and thought “there she is” but it was one of the red chickens.

It is a good exercise just now to think of our friends and family and those that knew us, and knew us with Gandy, through all the ups and downs; through the Feather years. Feather left the story a year ago January 23rd and Gandy never stopped missing her, I feel sure. Maybe there are dogs in heaven after all.

We never had a smarter companion, or more faithful or more helpful–bringing in wood, doing anything in the truck, she was involved in all family activities. And so her absence, all the more the loss.

And life goes on.

There are a lot of reasons why Gandy should be our LAST dog. But the “heart has reasons that reason does not know” Pascal said. And I expect he is on to something.