Thursday, December 31, 2015

Books read in 2015.

Lensworks No. 121 Nov-Dec 2015. Brooks Jensen and Maureen Gallagher, editors. Ancotes, WA.
Nolan, William, F. "Small World" Kindle digital file.
Lensworks No. 120 Sep-Oct 2015. Brooks Jensen and Maureen Gallagher, editors. Ancotes, WA.
Forester, E.M. Celestial Omnibus and other stories. Kindle digital file.
Lensworks No. 119 Jul-Aug 2015. Brooks Jensen and Maureen Gallagher, editors. Ancotes, WA.
James, Alex. All Cheese Great and Small. Fourth Estate: London, 2012.
Forester, E.M. Room with a View. Kindle digital file.
James, Alex. A Bit of a Blur. Little, Brown: Great Britain, 2007.
Grimm's Fairy Tales. Kindle digital file.
Gaglia, Lou. Poor Advice. Kindle digital file.
Cisneros, Sandra. Woman Hollering Creek. Vintage: New York, 1991.
Homes, A.M. The Safety of Objects. Vintage: New York, 1990.
From the Portable Dorothy Parker “Enough Rope,” “Death and Taxes,” “Sunset Gun,” “A Telephone Call,” “Big Blond,” “The Sexes,” “Song of the Shirt 1941,” “Glory in the Day Time” and “Lady with a Lamp”
Hegi, Ursula. Floating in My Mother's Arms. Vintage: New York, 1990.
Kingsolver, Barbara. High Tide in Tucson. Harper Perennial: New York, 1995.
Welty, Eudora. Selected Works of. Modern Library: New York, 1992.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Snows of Kilimanjaro and other stories. Scribner: New York, 1995.
Lensworks No. 116 Jan-Feb 2015. Brooks Jensen and Maureen Gallagher, editors. Ancotes, WA.
London, Jack. The Call of the Wild. Grosset and Dunlap: New York, 1963.
McEwan, Ian. Black Dogs. Anchor Books: New York, 1999.
McEwan, Ian. On Chesil Beach. Nan A. Talese: New York, 2007.
Yoshimoto, Banana. N.P. Grove: New York, 1990. Ann Sherif, Trans. 1994.
Short Shorts: An Anthology of the Shortest Fiction. Chris and Ilana Wiser Howe. Bantam: New York, 1983.
Tolkien, JRR. The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Dillard, Annie. The Writing Life. Harper Perennial: New York, 1990.
Morrison, Toni. Jazz. Plume: New York, 1992.
Lensworks No. 117 Mar-Apr 2015. Brooks Jensen and Maureen Gallagher, editors. Ancotes, WA.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. Knopf: New York, 1988.
Hoff, Benjamin. The Tao of Pooh. Penguin: New York, 1982.
Hoff, Benjamin. The Te of Piglet. Penguin: New York, 1992.
Baudeliare. The Flowers of Evil. Kindle digital file.
Lightman, Alan. Einstein's Dreams. Warner Books: New York, 1994.
Twain, Mark. “On the Decay of the Art of Lying.” Kindle digital file.
Lightman, Alan. Good Benito. Warner Books: New York, 1995.
Lensworks No. 118 May-Jun 2015. Brooks Jensen and Maureen Gallagher, editors. Ancotes, WA.
Lao Tze. Tao Teh Ching. Shambhala: Boston and London, 2003. John C.H. Wu, trans.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Last Post of 2015

It's no secret, I've really checked out of this blog and when it comes down to it, the greater part of the internet in 2015.

I'd taken a six month digital fast earlier in the year and I never fully recovered from it. Admittedly, during that 6 month digital fast, I missed Umbrella Factory Magazine. I didn't really miss Facebook or email or the flashy popup ads everywhere else.

I suppose when it comes down to it, I am just as happy, if not more, without this digital anit-world.

I've slowly crept back to my computer. I've slowly looked at email and Facebook and this blog again.

My email is as empty as it's always been. It's what I consider a work address and most of my correspondence is related to my magazine. Any of that personal, social, or frivolous communication comes to me via Facebook.

Facebook is fascinating. I'm floored by how many people see the world through the Facebook periscope. I'm also floored by the various Facebook personas people have. I'm not sure if Facebook personas have always been there or if they're more prevalent now that Janice has pointed them out to me. My Facebook persona? Writer.

When it come right down to it, I feel like there was a bit of an imbalance in my life going into 2015. I felt like too much of my time was at the computer staring into the mesmerizing screen and clicking off mentally. It goes without saying that this is not exactly true, and hyperbole is a great thing. Yet, my days are packed with family obligations and housework and then my evenings out of the house are at work. When did I really have that online time?

I feel reset.

A big part of the digital fast was to get back to my pen and notebooks, which I did. I did not write much in 2014, nor in 2013. 2015 was a much more lucrative year. And I feel like 2016 will be especially prolific.

All said, I wrote more in 2015 and I spent less time on the internet. I took two issues of UFM off. I wrote a great deal. But I missed this blog.

Even though I have a big interest in starting up my blog in 2016, I'm curious to see how difficult it's going to be. After all, I took a year break from it. For years I was fanatical about a weekly blog post and in 2015 I didn't even average a monthly post. The questions are: will a weekly frequency prove too much, or will I even have the effort to begin anew? I suppose the real question is: will the blog mean as much to me as it once did?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Fresh Paint

There was a trail of subtle perfume following her like a comet down the street.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Benefits of Fresh Paint or The Gardener's Dichotomy

If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right? Aptly enough statement, probably? And anything worth doing right will more than likely take a long time, or at the very least, several attempts. Unfortunately, if it's doing, it will probably have to be done again and again. Years ago, I had a next door neighbor who was passionate about her garden. In her front yard, she kept junipers as intricate topiary. She maintained flower beds aside the house, bordering the walkway and at random intervals mixed with her ever groomed Kentucky Bluegrass. This is to say nothing of the vegetable garden and fruit trees and shade she cultivated in the backyard of her circa 1950 brick Craftsman house.

I don't know if she hated my yard or not, she never said. In those early years when we were neighbors, my yard was a clever mixture of bindweed, poppy mallow, and stinging nettle. My dandelion patches seemed to exude some success. Botanically speaking, my yard, both front and back, was a climax civilization of drought tolerant plants. Hell, the place had some “winter appeal” too, because the place looked the same in January as it did in July. I asked my neighbor from time to time what her secrets were. I don't know exactly what I expected her to tell me. A magic bottle of garden growth or some ancient secret would have been nice. The truth was, she enjoyed gardening, she lived to spend time outside. For her, and her established garden, she'd been a practicing horticulturist in the same place for many-many years.

When it comes to years and years, it is only a matter of gentle nudges and small manipulations. This was not the case for me. Yes, the place stank of weeds and years of neglect, true enough. My house also sat on a double lot. Moreover than the double lot, I also had the first four feet of the lot on the north. That means: lots of territory, vast geography, you know? Plenty of real estate which translates to weeds. Weeds and lots of them. I began slowly.

I paved the truly ugly areas with six tons of sand and five tons of flagstone. I had drought to consider. I had maintenance to consider. Plus, flagstone is cool. The weeds? No control. I simply removed them. I discovered the rototiller. I rototilled the entire garden for an entire season. That may have been the fourth season I lived there. I put in an irrigation system one year. I forgot the drought then. One year, I planted trees. Then, I figured it was time. It was the end of August. September loomed. It was time. In a matter of a couple of days, I completely landscaped the whole place, front, sides, back. Then, I planned a party. The day I laid the sod, I adjusted the sprinklers.

And then it began to rain. And it rained and it rained. On the day of my party, everyone turned out. My neighbor came. She asked, “Anthony?” “Yes,” I said. “Are you a praying man?” “Yes,” I said. It was a bit of a fib. “Why do you ask?” “I watched you work and work and then when you finished it rained for three days and I just knew, I knew, and I said, that Anthony must be a praying man.” My party was a smash. My garden was beautiful. My neighbor's garden was beautiful too.

That was September of 2004. My neighbor did not survive to see another spring. And as for my own garden, life took me away from the old house. My eventual return for the spring of 2006 was a defeated return. And my garden was in such a deplorable state that I wondered if I would bother with it at all or simply let it return to the dandelions and poppy mallow of it's beginning. The neighbor's house, vacant now for almost two years, looked worse for the wear. Her grass was gone, the flowers were gone and the topiary became a gnarly drying and dying juniper. Her vegetable garden was a sad sight. A few compost heap volunteers tried to carry on, but otherwise it was weed city. This is not analogy. This is the state of affairs between two neighbors, neighboring houses and adjoining gardens. Her garden never recovered. Mine did, a few years later. The challenges of a backyard botanist are many here, especially after season(s) of neglect.

Suffice it to say, it takes a long time, years probably, and it takes persistence. And when we consider years and persistence, there are many of us who are not willing to do, to give, to sacrifice, or to commit. I wonder why? Is it because the notion of a garden surrounding that piece of the pie, or that slice of the American dream is not a consideration during the pursuit of life, liberty and property? Or is it that most folks work tirelessly and over many hours to afford that mortgage and who has the time for gardening? Or is it easier to hire a neighborhood kid or lawn crew to do it for us? Or perhaps in this new age of techno-gadgets, instant entertainment and constant media, the need to slowly watch something grow has become an archaic pastime reserved for old ladies and Bohemians? Who out there is willing to create a garden? Who out there lives intentionally and cultivates a friend and a community? Who is willing to slap some fresh paint on an old door to make it look new or at least make it look like someone cared enough to paint it? I know there are those people out there.

There are two ways of creating a solution to just about any project or problem. Solution one: throw money at it. You want a garden? Pay a landscape architect, hire a nurseryman, rent a crew. Now, enjoy the over-night results of the weed lot turned botanical paradise. You got an old back door? Toss it. Hang a new one. Solution two: one piece at a time. Time solves as many problems as money. Learn about landscape design. Learn about plants and how they work; grow, thrive, reproduce and die. Learn about the process. You got an old door? Clean it. Repair it. Add some fresh paint. Yes, it's probably true, anything worth doing is worth doing right. And when it comes to doing something “right” there are probably several ways to do that too. But consider this: the experience of endeavor is human. Taking a project on and seeing it through to completion is a bit like the season it takes a vegetable garden to grow from seeds to harvest. Hopefully the thoughts along the way make the experience worthwhile.