Archive for October, 2013

What Sebelius should have said.

I am so thankful and pleased to find such overwhelming Republican support for our new health care system. Everyone is now pulling together to make the system work as smoothly and effectively as possible. This is such a welcome change from the past several years, all the votes to repeal, all the efforts to weaken or defund or destroy the Affordable Care Act. Now all of you are as anxious as I am that the federal exchange website gets all glitches fixed posthaste so people can sign up by the millions, just as we all want them to and find good plans, affordable plans for themselves and their families.

I’ll admit I expected y’all to just sit back and gloat, with I-told-you-so smirks, maybe sometimes waving little train-wreck banners. But, no such thing. You’re standing up for our new law and demanding we make it all work properly, right now. Thank you, thank you.


Tags: , , ,

Sage advice: everything but the squeal.


       I was twelve when we visited relatives in Austin, Minnesota, home to a Hormel hog-processing plant as well as to my cousins. I declined my father’s suggestion that I should take a tour of the famously efficient facility. Hogs walked in at one end, packaged meats were trucked away from the other. He thought I should know where bacon and pork chops come from, before they’re stacked in grocery store coolers. I thought I already knew more than enough about that, and had no wish to watch hogs die, however humanely the deed was done.

      I was wrong, of course; not that I ever told him. Twenty years later, when we picked up Nerissa in two halves for the pig-roast and a hundred butcher-paper-wrapped pieces of Milton, sliced and ground and cured, for the freezer, for the winter, from the slaughterhouse in Tennessee, I remembered the afternoon in Austin. Not that I ever told him. We learned it was better not to give our pigs names, and some of us learned it was better to eat less or not any pork. The slogan we worked by in those days (the kindest of farmers) was: happy meat is good meat.

      I missed that tour, but I did hear and still remember the Hormel facility’s slogan, celebrating their thoroughness, making mucilage and jowls and tanned skins and pickled feet and fertilizing blood, as well as the more familiar cuts: we use everything but the squeal. A laudable effort assuredly, then as now. I leave it up to you whether to linger over the squeal.


A wise guy.



      Now that I kill people, professionally, on a regular basis, I have found a new sense for the Hormel slogan. When you take a life, in fiction, or in war, just as when you raise or hunt animals for meat, there is a moral aspect you neglect at your peril. You owe your victim, or game, or livestock, in the most profound sense.

      I don’t like the “cozy” mystery convention that you kill some inconsequential stranger, or a character nobody else in the book much likes, to get your story going, forgetting instantly that the dead body ever belonged to a real daughter or bride-groom or economist, albeit a fictional one. That’s using only the squeal, and leaves the rest to rot. Murder rends a family, a neighborhood, a committee, a swimming team. A horrible hole torn. You must tell that cost, or the story doesn’t matter, the puzzle doesn’t matter, your other characters are cutouts, and their jeopardy cannot move your readers.

      Present everything, use everything. Including the squeal. It is better not to make sermons or long faces, but you must let the weight show. Then you can burn sage leaves and purify your scene. But save some for the sausage, it is the essential spice.


Tags: , , , , ,

Heavenly blue.

      People of a certain age recall when Morning Glory seeds were not made deliberately toxic, not even Pearly Gates White or Heavenly Blue.

Full bloom.



      After the peak, unlike us, they’re prettier than before.


End of the day.

We’re done.

      We’re safer, though, right? Unless we’re a bird or a squirrel.

      Ghost Walk is finished, the final big edit. Final read through, then publication. Question is, do I set a number of  agent rejections before I send it up to Kindle? Hate those letters. But I do love bricks and mortar, paper and ink. And with a non-rejection, I’d be eligible for the grown-up clubs, though there’d be no reason left why I’d wish to join. It’s a little trippy to contemplate.

      Suggestions, anyone?




Tags: , , ,

Retirement today, a country apple tree.

      We wake up every day and do our work, until suddenly, but not unexpectedly, we just can’t. Who takes over, when we’re done?


Sentinal tree down.

York apple.

      This season’s heavy yield, century-old damage to the trunk, and gravity — versus the tenacity of the roots, the will-to-stand projecting upwards through the small remnant of live bark (less than a quarter circumference), plus support from the locust props — resolved into a tipping point. Expected for all thirty-eight of our years living adjacent, the remarkable old tree pressed up in defiance and survived season after season. All done now, after almost a century of  making bloom for bees, keeper apples (Yorks, that still have snap the following March if well-cellared), drops for cider and the deer, and a lattice of branches for a hundred birds staging visits to the feeders it held. And cool green shade.

      Our national government today, after two-hundred-some years (the some depending upon whether you begin with the Declaration or with the Constitution) is braced between forces that would pull it down and forces that would sustain it. Stability and continuance are not given, not even the norm, in the history of the world, for national governments. Not a super-majority or even a plurality, just a sufficient chunk of nihilists (end-days seekers, zombie apocalypsers, witless ideologues, the psychopathically greedy) can tug the roots loose.

      We keep surviving, year after year. But one morning we may go to the window and see that, overnight, it all came down. Let’s not allow this. We need our national tree. Just as, at this moment, it needs us.



Tags: , , ,

Incidental garden.


      At the end of a story, the final reveal wants this inevitability. Here it is, and it could not be any different. The past three hundred pages have brought us to here, precisely here. Action, characters, narrative — resolved to this. Would that it could ever comprise such intricate texture and integration of form.

One layer of the biosphere.

Lichen bloom.


        By local legend, lichens require, and their presence proves, clean air. Seems lichely. These assemblies are not something a human can do, only allow to happen, if all conditions are right, and decades pass without a catastrophic interuption. A goddess is near.


Tags: ,

Ballet in the park.


      Lovely luck: the weather was mild and still and dry. The dancers pulled themselves and each other through stillness, reaching, leaping, turning, solo and unison and cannon and corps. Living musicians played to a live crowd, children mirrored the dancers, back and forth, through the audience. An hour-and-a-half outside of time.



      At that time, 7:30 pm on the 4th and fifth of October, 2013, in that place, the Roger McGuire stage in the Pack Place Park, in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina, seven lovely dances blessed the evening.



Tags: , ,

Free! Free at last!


      Special Kindle promtional deal, from 3-7 October 2013, Thursday through Monday: both of these titles are free. Penny savings for the pound foolish.

      You must have to have a Kindle to play, either a Kindle device or a Kindle ap (also available free from Amazon for PC, Mac, IPhone, Android and most recent model washers and dryers).




            Far better to regret what you have done than what you have not done. Enjoy anyway.


Tags: , , , ,

Go big, princess.

      A carolina wren danced with a pin, dropped two feathers, and demanded with a voice as large as she is little, that somebody pay attention.

Feathers and pin.

Pin for scale.

      This happens, she said. I didn’t ask for it, and you didn’t ask, but you mustn’t let it pass. Do your Fletchers take whole birds for their arrows? Or only drops, like you? Please infer no judgement, we have a long codependence and there is both honor and utility in voicing a true flight, though we might prefer to know our own old age.

       Then, I think, I was supposed to wake up.




Tags: , , , ,