Friday, September 26, 2014

In the still of the night / on the harbor / we travel

Now at night I hear not the whisper of the river nor the plight of the coyotes but the sound of the ocean moving. It is, for now, a somewhat foreign sound, a background sloshing that comes fore in the night except when I step out on the porch and the sound of water splashing in a fountain draws my attention. I step out on the porch, listen to the fountain, watch it. It is set in a circle of grass, a cul-de-sac, lit by a ring of small spotlights.

Sometimes during the day I hear a boat as it heads out from the harbor: a long, hollow toot, like a foghorn. Or maybe it is a foghorn. Occasionally I hear a distant train whistle; soft traffic noises ebb and flow. Once in a while a passing conversation wafts in, wafts out. There may be sudden laughter, the noise of play. Some days, a leaf blower. Yesterday, a dull banging on the roof. I got up on a chair to look. A murder of crows was up to something.

Mostly, though, it is quiet, with a little birdsong.

birds on a wire
Along about sunrise.

In the morning dew drips from the roof and small pools of water sit on the porch railing and steps and there may be a fog for a while, but not the kind of fog that lays low wisping through long grass and tree branches. Rather, it is the kind of fog that sits high in the sky like a cloud, aspiring, perhaps, to make it over the mountains, to become something more than it is, something more than a fog that disappears quietly well before noon.

We traveled for five days, Josie and Elliott and I, Saturday to Wednesday a week past, listening mostly to NPR, and it became kind of a game to see how far we would have to turn the dial (so to speak) as one station’s broadcast of Morning Edition would begin breaking up and how many words would we miss until we picked another station’s broadcast? Usually not many. The radio highlight, though, was hearing Bill Monroe’s “Doghouse Blues” on an unknown station somewhere in Utah, mid-morning Tuesday.

We traveled for five days through ten states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California.

are we there yet?
Are we there yet?

It was that day, Tuesday, coming out of the west end of the Rockies, winding down into Utah with its canyons and rock and stratified cliffs, this blanket of land as if snapped hard coming to rest in crazy folds and bunches, spread out all around, so expansive as if there were all the earth and sky in the world it could just go on forever, that was, I think, the best day. We landed early in St. George, as planned, and it was as hot as 97 degrees, dry, nothing but sun. The motel room was cool. Late in the afternoon I thought to move the van into some shade, the van being, of course, laden with beeswax. About 200 pounds of raw wax and many candles. You would think I might have been worried about all that wax melting, but I wasn’t, and it didn’t. Still, it didn’t hurt to get the van out of the late afternoon sun on a near-100-degree day.

driving through utah
I kind of like this stretch of Utah.

When we left St. George the next morning, it would be the last time for several days that I would have Internet access. Like many I have an Internet habit (not to mention business!), and when it could not be satisfied in its usual manner it felt a little strange. There are places to go to tap in, of course, but not being able to tap in at home? There were times in the U.P. when I felt a little cut off from the rest of the world, just because it is the U.P., but I almost always had people or something through the Internet and my landline phone was reliable. This past week here in California there was one afternoon when my cell phone died because I was so long on it trying to set up Internet service, and when it died I felt cut off from the outside world. So I went outside. Took Josie to the beach. And I wondered, as I often do, what exactly is so great about having the world at one’s fingertips.

dog on the beach

Monday, September 15, 2014

bad poetry hits the road (with postcards from cozad)

the sun comes up in cozad, nebraska

cozad, nebraska

and so the sun comes up everywhere
and the sun comes up anywhere
wherever you are
and wherever you ain’t
it doesn’t matter
where you are
it doesn’t matter
where you ain’t
the sun comes up
and the sun comes up

we travel along
and the radio plays
and of course what comes on
is a song –
the one about paradise –
maybe we’ve waited so long
maybe it’s all disappeared
the beauty of radio
on the road
is that it disappears

as we travel along

those tickets
to paradise


before, even,
the end of the song.

the mountains rise up
and we drive along
the mountains rise up
and we sing a song
the mountains rise up
and we know we’ve been wrong
the mountains rise up
yet we go along

welcome to cozad

the sun, it rose in cozad.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

the snowshoe priest, painted ponies, a cloud

If you’ve never visited the Bishop Baraga Shrine, the next time you’re in the vicinity of L’Anse, Michigan, give it a try. It is right off U.S. Highway 41, just past Erickson’s True Value Hardware and the CertainTeed ceiling plant, if you’re traveling north. Turn left at the shrine’s funky tepee sign, cross the tracks, go up the dirt road and turn right. A bit down that road turn right again, into the shrine’s parking lot. If you’re traveling south on 41, after you’ve had your root beer float at The Drive-In and have rounded the foot of the bay and are going uphill, just look for the funky shrine sign on your right. If you somehow miss it, you can turn around at the hardware store.

Bishop Baraga Shrine
Bishop Baraga.

It’s best to go when the shrine’s gift shop is open. The nuns are very nice—they even let dogs come in, or at least they did with Josie and Finn. In the gift shop, you can explore the saints and maybe get a taste of fresh, homemade ice cream. But, even if the shop is closed, stop and see Bishop Baraga, the Snowshoe Priest, sculpted from four tons of copper standing on a cloud of stainless steel atop a bluff overlooking Keweenaw Bay. It’s a pretty nice view.

Bishop Baraga Shrine
With the view.

In a week or ten days or maybe two weeks I will be leaving the Upper Peninsula, heading to California in the van with Josie, Elliott, and a couple hundred pounds of beeswax. We’ll be there then on the west coast for a while, no doubt through the winter, and this time I mean it. I hear that near where I will be staying there is an arcade with a carousel—a merry-go-round. I am looking forward to getting on a painted pony and going ’round and ’round to the sound of some tinny, maybe calliope, music.

The other night when the sun was beyond the trees that line the river and the sky above the trees was a clear, pale blue-grey, there was above that a ripple of cloud stretched out like a gauze strip preparing to land but caught in mid-air. It was all lit up peachy orange. I might have taken a picture, but the sky and the cloud and the colors were as if already a picture, only not so flat, not so trimmed, not so stationary, and I wanted to leave it that way, exactly as it was.