Sunday, April 29, 2007

sunday surprise

if this were a survival situation, i'd be in deep trouble. because things are happening around me that i'm not entirely aware of.

for example, i was sitting here this morning, tapping at the computer, and i glanced out the window. there it was. the big, old japanese maple in front of our house was totally leafed out.

when did this happen? and what else happened while i was sitting here?

thankfully this is not a survival situation, it's an arboreal situation. a surreal arboreal situation, if you will. but still. when the foliage status of large, nearby trees escape notice, it's time for concern.

in his book stumbling on happiness, daniel gilbert describes the difference between experiencing an event and being aware of it. his example is of distractedly reading and rereading the same paragraph without consciously assimilating the words.

in his book stumbling on happiness, daniel gilbert describes the difference between experiencing an event and being aware of it. his example is of distractedly reading and rereading the same paragraph without consciously assimilating the words.

yes, like that. but when refocused on the paragraph, we become aware that we have, indeed, already experienced it. maybe several times.

me, i drive to and from work 10 times a week, in a soporific stupor. this is, in fact, a survival situation, yet the experience rarely rises to the level of awareness. similarly, it's fortunate the japanese maple in our front yard is not, say, a mountain lion, else i'd be experiencing death. or a maiming i wouldn't soon forget.

the takeaway here seems to be that there's a lot going on, all the time, and even the most innocuous confluence of events might be a threat to our wellbeing. it's the butterfly effect gone wild, for example, when the invention of the wheel and the invention of the shoe can lead to the invention of heelys, wheeled shoes that currently threaten the wellbeing of my children.

our only consolation is that the reverse may also be true. that even the most obnoxious confluence of events (say, the ill-starred coupling of george h.w. and barbara bush), may lead to a better world. eventually. a long time from now.

we can only hope we're here to see these eventualities as they unfurl, and that we do more than just experience them. because once in a while survival demands we rise above blissful unawareness and notice there's a mountain lion, wearing heelys, in our favorite tree.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

saturday soap opera

decked out in her purple uniform, our daughter looks like a real little leaguer. and when she gets hit by consecutive line drives at shortstop, she reacts like a little leaguer.

she cries.

"why do they have to hit it to me every time?"

in little league, "the ready position" doesn't really mean anyone is ready. hands on knees, eyes toward home plate, and the hit! whack! oooh, that's gotta hurt.

mind you, our daughter is a tough chick. she's not given to tears over scrapes and bumps. we taught her long ago to pop up and keep going. and she does. most of the time.

but back-to-back line drives are more than anyone should have to absorb. even so, after half an inning she had recovered sufficiently to go out and get a couple base hits.

that was last saturday.

today she's ready to go again, looking cute as she wants to be in her color-coded jersey, socks and hat. the hat's got a big M on it, for magnolia. just like all the other hats.

"a.g., do you know what to do if the ball is hit to you today?"

"try to catch it, i guess."

my girl.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

the cascadia aesthetic

the waters of the pacific northwest are cold. even in the heat of the summer, such as it is, puget sound and the waters to the north, past the queen charlotte islands, stay bone-chilling cold.

the occasional fantasy of 85-degree water is moderated by the reality that our corner of paradise would be overrun by folks who know and care little about quiet, solitude and a few square miles free of fast-food opportunities.

no, better to sit and be still, looking out over the clear, cold surface, or walk along its edge, picking your way between tidal pools and driftwood, up onto rocks where the tide presses inland. carrying some strong, steamy coffee, perhaps, on a misty morning.

within 7 minutes of our house is a rocky beach where it's possible to walk, completely alone, within sight of downtown seattle. harbor seals sometimes swim just offshore, popping up their heads to take a look around, then diving under again. closer to home, a nesting pair of bald eagles occasionally perch in the trees above our house. they're a marvel of survivability; an anachronistic, metaphoric, hopeful phoenix.

the san juan islands lie not too far to the north. pitch a tent in san juan county park, and you can paddle your kayak to the next sandy beach, encountering an extravagance of animal and plant life along the way. wild turkeys, bald eagles, ferrets. giant pacific octopii, clouds of migrating salmon, harbor seals, dahl’s porpoises and the resident pods of killer whales. occasionally, migrating humpback and gray whales will venture through.

the san juans are remnants of an ancient continental terrane known as wrangellia. tens of millions of years ago wrangellia was a continent in search of a home. it wandered the pacific basin, like a drunk bouncing around an unfamiliar pub, before careening into the north american pacific coast. the collision was not widely noted at the time, but it did form a mountain range of some note, approximately where alaska, vancouver island, and the san juans are today.

geologic evidence of those mountains suggests they were quite spectacular. towering over today’s rockies, putting the alps to shame. and yet somehow, despite their magnificence, they still fell victim to time and gravity. the wrangellia range withered and shrank, until the highest peaks barely showed their noses above the glacial waters that rose to subsume them.

millions of years later those waters are clear, cold and deep. and inviting, just the same.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

the outlaw tree

"This here's Miss Bonnie Parker. I'm Clyde Barrow. We rob banks."

when you flout the law the way my wife and i do, it's just a matter of time before the cops show up.

mind you, i didn't want to flout the law. my wife made me do it. i protested, vociferously. but in the end her will was done. we became scofflaws.

the jackhammer we brandished in the commission of our crime will not help our case. it was a bosch brute, and it busted up the concrete in front of our house like butter going through a knife. there may have been some operator error involved.

but at the end of the day -- a very long day -- the deed was done. we vandalized the hell out of that concrete, moved it out of the way, dug into the dirt below...and planted a tree.

at one point our gladys kravitz neighbor sent her husband over to see just what we thought we were doing. we're making some room in front of this telephone pole to plant a tree, my wife said.

that's when the inquisition-by-proxy began. did we have permission? did the city say this was allowable? won't the tree get up into the lines? isn't the concrete holding up the pole?

my wife lied like a hardened criminal. oh, yeah, we called the city and they were fine with our little plan. they even gave us a list of trees to consider. cornelian cherry trees are particularly good in locations like ours. it's all good, and don't worry about it one bit, mr. kravitz. run along now, so we can finish before the storm rolls in.

my wife is an accomplished liar. i believed her, and i knew she was lying. the cops, however, may not be convinced so easily.

i fully expect them to roll up one of these days. they'll be cool at first, because we live in a nice neighborood and seem like nice people. on the surface.

but it won't take long for them to figure out that we flouted the law. we broke up 4 square feet of city concrete, planted a tree, and put down some shredded hardwood mulch. these are the facts, and they are not in dispute.
Bonnie Parker: What would you do if some miracle happened and we could walk out of here tomorrow morning and start all over again clean? No record and nobody after us, huh?

Clyde Barrow: Well, uh, I guess I'd do it all different. First off, I wouldn't live in the same state where we pull our jobs.
me? i intend to plead insanity. i was driven to dig by my scofflaw wife.

will it work? only a fool would hope.

i fully expect that one day we'll both hang from our outlaw tree.