Sunday, January 27, 2019

writer’s block

a work in progress

Why do I not want to read what I have written?
(in order to get back into the wax book,
in which I fear my interest has waned,
for I have not been attending to it.)

– but, also –

Why do I not want to write, period (right now)
just, rather
about writing
this writing I intend to do
while sitting in this room
and meanwhile – what color shall I paint this room?
(mind goes a’ wanderin’, down its own path) – maybe a light amber?
(a path unknown to all others) – or the color of beeswax?
(unknown to me) – here we have Liquid Honey
(finding its own way, a’ drift) – and Glaze Gold
(shall I come along?) – Roasted Chestnut, Tuscan Yellow
(to follow or walk alongside)
in step, out of step
misstep, stumble
flow, glide
catch me, twirl me
leave me
come back

Why would I rather sweep the floor? Scrape old treads from the bath tub?
Or clean caked dust from the intake vent (for the heating system)
that I discovered – the dust, not the vent –
while putting up a bamboo Roman shade
(the shade of which was “Driftwood”)
from Menards. I dropped a washer (not the screw)
and it fell through the grid
(covering the vent)
into the vent
(which is under the living room windows) –
and it occurred to me that the house my family lived in
(before I was six)
had vents in the floor
because I remember these little painted turtles
bought at the pet shop
and that’s where they went,
down into the vents,
and maybe we should keep these little turtles in their bowls
under their plastic palm trees or how about just keeping our eyes open
when they are out for a walk –
so I went after the washer
(the metal grid lifts off)
and was able to retrieve it
(we rescued turtles, too, I am sure of it)
and for some reason my hand went deeper into the vent
(which runs parallel to the floor underneath the floor
and I had cleaned it – but only the part I could see –
two months ago)
and of course back there now
my hand was encountering
a half-inch layer
(or so)
of matted dust
laced with the silver tinsel of a Christmas (past).
I hauled out this concoction
along with some marbles –
two yellow and one orange cat’s eyes.
(Two months ago I extracted
two pennies, one acorn, a dusky blue button, some plastic beads.)
With a wooden ruler I extended my reach
and with a wooden yardstick
went farther then further,
gathering more dust,
gathering more tinsel.

I did not like the Roman shade after all.

I returned it.

I went to Lowe’s and got a cordless cellular shade that:
– cost less than the bamboo Roman shade;
– was easier to install, had no washers to drop;
– came without a designated color (though I think: “Driftwood”).

And –
I liked it.

Also at Lowe’s I got some screening with which to cover the vents
(there are three)
actually making a sandwich of
the grill, the screen,
the depths of the vent.

Yes, I would rather do all this –
Anything but write

even though I think and think
about writing (or maybe I’m thinking about not writing)
even while reading about reading.
It makes me think of how I write – or not.
Because this book, Reader, Come Home,
touches on how reading
affects writing and writing
affects reading and although
writing seems a dual process
of writing & reading
reading, I muse, is singular.
Just reading. Is it not?
But of course this book explains,
cites research,
reading + thought.
Reading is not innate.
Reading is learned.
Reading is a creation of our minds.
A capability
of our brains.
It can be shallow;
it can be deep.

And then there’s the digital world of reading and writing
and tell me:
Are you reading this in,

Are you reading at all? Are you getting it? Getting what you need?
(Surely it’s no coincidence
blowing through
at this very moment
Moby Dick – !)



Anything but writing!

Instead, I sit.
I dream.
Put up blinds.
Work a jigsaw.
Sweep the floor.
Chase down dust.
Take a walk.
Concoct a blog post.
Ponder colors.
Make a list.
Scrape at treads
stuck to a bathtub.

But wait! it’s true –
As all must wax,
all must wane,
And so must all wax again.

The color turned out to be Tuscan Yellow and a new chapter begins:

Ozokerite . In which we unearth Wax of the Wild West and “Gunplay” Maxwell.

Back in the saddle,
dust trails behind me.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

5,705 pounds of beeswax

In January 2010 I saw 500 pounds of beeswax for sale on eBay. The seller was a Michigan beekeeper with a fairly large honey operation near Traverse City. I purchased the wax at $3 a pound. I avoided delivery charges by picking up the wax. It was a one-day, 600-mile round-trip. My two dogs went with me. The wax fit neatly in the back of the pick-up truck. This was my first large purchase of wax.

Over the next few years I made seven more purchases from that Michigan beekeeper, each purchase being from 200 to 500 pounds. I’ve also bought wax from a beekeeper in Iowa, each purchase again being 200 to 500 pounds, and there was one pick-up of 249 pounds of wax from a beekeeper in Wisconsin. Overall, over the past nine years, I have bought 5,705 pounds of beeswax, sometimes picking it up, other times having it delivered.

From my first beeswax purchase to my most recent purchase last week, the price has increased 76 percent. The largest single increase occurred between February and October of 2012, when the price rose by 50 percent, and that is what brought about that one trip to Wisconsin. The price I paid for the Wisconsin wax was a dollar per pound less than what my Michigan supplier was charging. But the quality of the wax was different. I was used to the Michigan wax and figured my customers were, too, so I went back to it. About this time I began having the wax delivered, as I had moved and the journey to Traverse City was 800 or so miles round-trip, entailing an overnight stay, which I did once, stayed overnight, in a motel with my then very old dog Buster, and that was a nightmare, so all in all delivery seemed more efficient.

In the spring of 2015, a second large price increase occurred, again about a 50 percent jump in a half-year’s time, and so again I looked for another supplier and found wax for sale in Iowa at a price that was just a 10 percent increase from what I had been paying. I purchased 199 pounds and arranged to pick it up on my way home to Michigan from California, where I had spent the winter. The pick-up was to be in April, a busy time for the beekeeper and I was traveling with an excitable dog and an unhappy cat in a fully loaded van, but all went well, and I was glad I was able to pick up the wax at the farm.

Since then, all the wax I have used has come from this beekeeper in Iowa, with subsequent purchases arriving by delivery truck. This January he offered wax at two prices based on the quality of the wax. Quality is somewhat subjective, but the higher priced wax was, for one, deemed “cleaner.” I went for it as over the years I have learned that the cleaning process the wax goes through before I receive it makes a difference, as the cleaner the wax I buy, the less cleaning of wax I have to do. (Starting with completely clean wax is, for me, cost prohibitive. And beeswax, before being used for most any purpose, must be cleaned of hive debris and honey, which can be accomplished in various ways, all ways using some combination of heat, water, and gravity, which I also use, melting chunks of wax in a crock pot with an inch or so of water in the bottom, then straining the melted wax through cloth to remove any remaining minute particles of debris and, as well, the occasional recalcitrant bee, stray wing.) The cleaner, higher quality wax being offered was just seven percent higher in cost from 2015, and 10 cents more per pound compared to last year’s purchase.

The wax I purchased last year, and now this year, was cleaned, I am told, in a “coffin melter,” and this is what makes the difference. I admit to liking the name, which relates, as I understand it, strictly to the melter’s shape.

Each lot of wax I buy dwindles down slowly over several month’s time. When the time comes to buy more, worrying questions arise. Will wax be available? At what cost? How much should I order? What will the delivery charge be? Will delivery go smoothly? Answers arrive swiftly at first, then more slowly—it all tends to play out over a week or two. Delivery charges can be a wild card, and I always mull the possibility of taking that road trip to pick up the wax, but, instead, I get the price of delivery, process it, and recall the time I picked up 500 pounds of beeswax in the van, and how I had to drive several hundred miles with the windows open, despite the weather, as there can be, indeed, too much of a good thing.

Yesterday, 500 pounds of beeswax arrived. The truck driver gave me a call about an hour out just to make sure he could get the semi down my street and get the wax unloaded without a lift gate, which I had said we wouldn’t need because in the past it never had been needed and a lift gate adds to cost. The truck driver moved the boxes of wax which were strapped to a pallet from the front end of the long long trailer to the back, slit open the boxes, and together we unloaded the wax blocks, about 15 pounds each, into some plastic bins I had ready at the end of the drive. About halfway through the second box I suggested we just let the box drop to the snowy ground, and that worked. The wax was unloaded. There was a fine drizzle, or mist, in the air. The truck driver told me about his beekeeping, just a hive or two (and its hard to keep those bees alive over winter), and how he and his wife also keep goats, a milk cow, not too far south of here.

The wax sat at the end of the drive for a bit, then a lucky friend who had just happened to stop by helped me move it to the shed. Turns out two old ladies can do this pretty easily, can move 500 pounds of beeswax down a snowy drive, especially if they have a “yooper scooper,” an item more commonly used to shovel, or push around, snow.

❄ ❄ 

Friday, January 4, 2019