Category Archives: Nature

Vote for Adam.  Wait… what? A New Adventure.

Vote for Adam.  Wait… what? A New Adventure.

Not ever wanting to be bored, not having enough to do being a precint committerperson, a chairman of the county’s voter registration committee, teaching full-time, which is never just full-time, and seeing patients, I thought I’d run for office.  But not just any office. I chose an office that is so obscure, yet important, with such a misleading name that I can’t just run for it – I have to fully explain it nearly every time I mention it.

My wife always wanted me to run for office. She was thinking school board. But I know what happens to teachers who run for school board around here. Better win or look for a new job.

I chose Sebastian Inlet District Commission – a commission that is one hundred years old this year and is charged with keeping the beaches and rivers in as natural a condition as possible (after they cut four un-natural inlets into it), restoring them when they are not, with promoting education and conservation, and protecting the lives of the creatures that live in and around them from Vero in the south to Rockledge in the north.  That’s fifty miles, through two counties, of one of the most ecologically diverse waterways in North America.

What they actually do, though, is keep millage rates low so people can afford to buy houses on the beach, and so development can keep moving forward, and business have plenty of rich folks to buy their stuff.

I’m running against a man who believes dinosaurs are still alive and well in Africa. Who doesn’t believe in science. What else am I to do?

I told a local group of about 300 people that I was going to change that. And, if I can’t change it, make the other four people on the commission as miserable as possible for at least four years.  And they know I can do it.

I have worked as an environmentalist in social and direct action for many years.  Since my twenties. From the outside of the Establishment, and sometimes outside of the Law. Now it’s time to do so from the inside.  And, I hope, make my wife proud as well.

For me, this is my dive back into deep ecology and ecospirituality.  In many ways, this may not be quite as exciting as my days with Earth First!, but I hope it will have a deep and lasting benefits and significantly less involvement from the FBI. And it might be safer, although, in this political climate, I might be less dangerous taking my chances sitting in trees and fighting bulldozers.

People who want to dismantle the EPA are the real ecoterrorists, and they are in office.  Time for me to be in office too.

So, if you’d like to help me, I’d love that. Please donate a little bit, or share the link to this, or the link below.

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Posted by on August 27, 2018 in Nature, Social


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Varieties of Religious Experience

A drive. Arlene next to me, my hand on her knee. On the radio, I have playing the overture from Jesus Christ Superstar. It has stopped raining.

We are driving south on US1, between Rockledge and Eau Gallie. One would think, from the names, these places would be much more interesting, more exotic than they are. Rock Ledge to Rocky Waters. US1 here is all a limestone ridge along the Indian River, a one hundred and twenty-one mile brackish sound, much of it shallow enough to walk across, separate from the ocean by a spit of land in some places as narrow as a quarter mile. It is a beautiful river though, with very little in the way of buildings to break the view, and often this is a beautiful drive.

Today it is gray. The wipers take the mist off the windshield. We talk about seeing plays, about Hair and Godspell, ideas for the future, and all the while, the river to the left.

A faint rainbow was in the sky when we left her house. Now, it is a bright bridge in the sky, and arc of refraction that spans the river. We look. Arlene loves rainbows. And clouds. And simple things and never tires of natural beauty, never taking the world for granted, and she looks at the rainbow from clear end to clear end and smiles. She smiles. She smiles and nearly I forget the rainbow.

How rare to see the rainbow’s end, and how rare to see both, and so solid, so bright, so manifest I am sure we could start at one side and walk over it to the other, look down upon the river from atop the rainbow bridge, through the light, see the world and the water in the full prismatic array of the visible light spectrum, sit, sit, and watch the clouds drift through as we lie upon the light.

The perfect arc. Then, as we watch, a vine of lightning appears, spreads, grows, center to sides, seemingly slowly, filling the color encased space with bright branches.

Who else saw this? Arlene. I. Anyone else? Probably. Maybe not. But it was not, then was, then was not again. There is no proof. Just memory. And beauty. An engram deep and quiet and I, I fortunate to have it. I need no photograph. I was there. It was perfect. It was glorious. It was beyond what can be beauty and it was shared.

Once, on a morning walk, I saw a meteorite. The memory lies next to the rainbow.

A brief, bright exclamation burned above the earth.

Celestial arc-lamp.

Below, predawn sirens,
Traffic noise,
My own padding feet.


William James wrote, in his 1902 collection of his lectures at the University of Edinburgh, Varieties of Religious Experience, that there are four hallmarks of religious experiences. They are ineffable, in that they are too great for words and cannot be described even though we may try. We may do our best in prose, poetry, paint, but we know we have not come close. They are noetic, in that they bring us to insight and contain truth, though we may be unable to speak what that truth is, we can feel it present. They are transient, in that they come and are gone. They do not last and cannot be captured. They are passive. We cannot control them. We cannot bring them on or replicate them. They seem a gift and we are powerless in the presence of them.

And, as such, this rainbow, and the sharing of it. This rainbow and lightning and the experience of it, is, in essence, an experience religious. I cannot do it justice in words, I feel the truth therein—it exists in my memory and in the memory of a shared moment and, in its time and space, I was powerless. I could experience it only and neither bring it, hold it, describe it nor own it in any way other than as a feeling, a memory and a truth.

But the religious experience need not be brought by only the extra-ordinary. There is spirit and beauty in the ordinary if we only pay attention. There is the mystical in the mundane.

Out of the freezer
Saved for iced coffee
Poured from a glass mug
Into a blender,
Add milk, sugar, cocoa
Put on the top and
Press the button.

Top off and vessel lifted
Above the mug
Poised to pour,
Stop, cease, stunned,

Icicles, horizontal,
Circumference to center
Fill the mug.


Pick up the mug
In awe of the
Quick miracle
Gaze transfixed,
Frozen pitcher raised.

Place the mug
On the counter
Crystals rain
Into the coffee film below,

I must write this.

How many miracles

How much beauty
Never seen,

It takes little convincing most people that coffee can be a religious experience.

Especially if it makes Arlene smile.



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Posted by on July 30, 2014 in Nature, philosophy, Religion


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She walks along the weaving foam,
waves bright under the full moon,
picking up shells,
perfect shells,
white shells,
bright shells,
leaving footprints to
fill with glistening sea.

She wants them all.
Each shell, every shell.

Then, when her hand, her arm, are full,
returns them,
one by one,
in splendid moonlit arcs,
again to the sea,
walking away with one,
only one,
the first one.


Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Nature, Poetry


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Preparing a Meal

(All life, every encounter, each moment, pleasant, unpleasant, “pure” or “impure,” may be transformed into a spiritual event. All life is tantra.)

Early evening.
Empty house.

I hear nothing
but the smooth separation
of snow pea from stem,
knife rolling against board
in rhythm,
and the low hum of the refrigerator.

Among the small piles of vegetables,
onions, mushrooms, garlic,
and a small hill of fish,
I discern origin from end.

All to become a meal
designed for how it will feel on the fork,
attract the eye,
appeal to the soul,
sustain the body.

Another day, another meal,
I am grateful
for the destruction and death
which precedes creation.


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When Did You Enter Me?

Look at you up in the sky
Shining, pulling oceans
Back and forth,
The flow of blood
Through my heart,
Thoughts in my head.

When was it you
Entered my genes,
Became part of me,
Wrapped around my soul,
Filled my veins with liquid

When did my
Comings and goings,
Ebb and flow
Fall under your gravity?
When did I discover
I saw better by

Look at you up in the sky
Shining, so bright
Mars hides
In your light,
Blushes at your beauty,

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Posted by on November 14, 2011 in Nature, Poetry


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I was there when the first pits were dug,
after the trees were cleared; torn, dragged and burned.
My family and I searched for concretions in limey sand
that had not seen the sun
in a span of time that can be measured, but not understood.
Set as coral in the ocean,
became limestone,
became oolite,
Miami Beach,
became my home.

I use to roam and dig under what is now
Aventura Mall
in what was an elegant, high-rise my girl comes three days a week part of Miami,
then Aventura,
now The City of Aventura
which lies engorged between the end of
a double-decked Atlantic Ocean causeway,
named after a State Representative
who owned a Chevrolet dealership,
and a bypass so long, so high
I can no longer see the vast expanse of shrinking ocean.
Only solid walls of perpendicular road
and the mall.

After the palms were greased
and the foundation razed,
one of the first stores to open
was a New Age Giant,
moved from across town,
far from its humble beginnings
as a place to launder cocaine
money through the sale
of health enhancements only slightly less dubious
like vitamin k, brain hemispheric synchronizers,
Angle Cards, singing bowls composed
of cave grown,
high-pressure hose harvested
designed to draw the harmony of nature and increase inner-peace and compassionate abide, and
classes teaching the myriad ways to simply life.

It opened after the protests
and the building and the pickets
and the building and the threats
and suits and the building
to sell books about the preciousness of the environment
and bumper stickers exhorting patrons to “Thank Goddess”
customers took home in pastel pink paper bags
printed on each side with delicate seashells.

And they were swamped
along with the Sears and Burdines
and Macy’s where the Cellar had to be on the top floor
because two feet underground,
just below where I use to dig,
was water.

The mall became a focus
for the area
as it drained and dried the commerce and custom from the west
as events were held to
draw crowds like the
“Parade of Whores”
The Cardiologists’ Wives Look-a-like Contest,
The Peach Polo Shirt and Beige Shorts Fashion Show and,
just down the road,
a bit past the beach you don’t dare tread barefoot,
the weekly
“Race to the Floating Bale.”

And so the mall grew,
so much so, soon
it was suggested the East Coast,
should be extended
to allow for its expansion
and, last time I was there,
I swear I saw it breathing.

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Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Culture, History, Nature, Poetry, Social


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Summer Solstice Eve

I have been standing in the Indian River for an hour now. Maybe longer. Maybe less. But, as I have stood here, the sun has disappeared behind me and darkness risen before me. This impossibly hot, long day has slipped into hot night.

A wood stork, never more than six feet from me, has been my companion since first I entered the water. We have both been listening. Just listening. Waves come gently in and out. Manatees nudge me in the knee-deep water. Fish jump, splash me. The bird and my self, silent and still.

There is no moon in the sky, only stars, numerous and bright. No light reflects in the lapping waves. They are felt, heard but invisible. The river, unseen. The water, silky, thick, warm. The air, dense, warmer, still.

After some time, I am moved to move, to travel to the sea and so I leave the river and make my way the half mile over it to the ocean, to the Atlantic.

Coconut Point. Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. My car is the only one there. I leave my shirt in the car. Sandals in the car. Wallet and keys and phone in the car. The boardwalk through the mangrove, over the dunes, is long, winding, impossible to see in the new moon and I feel my way along. The waves resonate thunder through the boards, reflect off the waxy leaves. The thunder is everywhere. The waves are everything. Everything drums and crashes, washes in and out.

The boardwalk turns and declines and becomes sand. The waves quiet on the wide beach. I walk. I feel no other human footprints on the dark sand but, from time to time tracks, shaped like those which might be left by a small earthmover, a backhoe. Follow them to the waves and they disappear. Follow them to the dunes, a sea turtle may be found digging her nest, laying her eggs. Some tracks lead from the water, to the dunes and back – a turtle having entered the air and exited again, leaving her eggs behind.

Still, there are no signs of people. No light, no print, no sound. I remove my shorts and walk. Walk. The world is naked to me and I to it, with no thing between me and nature that is not of nature’s making. Feeling the air about me, over me, covered in night and salt and dark and warmth, I am engulfed by the moist air and the sound of waves, each inch of me.

More sea turtle tracks. More and more. Some come halfway to the dunes, circle and return to the sea. Once a turtle is laying her eggs, she will not cease. Nothing will end it until she is done. Before she has begun, she may be followed behind, but cross in front and she will turn around to try another night, undisturbed.

Here and there I see a darker spot on the dark sand. They are patches of plant or stone, driftwood or the shadow of a depression in the beach. One walks carefully in the new moon. Slowly, they move. Turtles, the size of wheelbarrows, walk to the ocean, and I, from a distance, watch. Turtles, the size of kitchen tables, moving beachward against the oscillating surf. Do I see it? Do I see it? Yes, moving, moving, leaving the water for the land. I keep my distance, wait, watch, cross far behind.

I walk. Walk. There are small luminous, glowing spots in the sand. Shells, insects, glow worms, radium. I don’t know. I don’t want to know, I don’t want a description, I don’t want a name, I don’t want them named. I want only for them to shine blue and green and be the only lights on the beach. They are a mystery and I want them to stay that way. I leave them, undisturbed, like the turtles. Like the dunes, like the beach. When I have left, it will be as though I were never here. Already it is so.


Posted by on June 23, 2009 in Nature


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Night Garden

It was around eleven pm and I started feeling hungry. I’m not sure if this is my stomach or my brain. I had a cup of black rice with about a cup of cooked vegetables for dinner around seven. Yet, since ten, I wanted more.

I opted for a bowl of organic Cheerios-esque cereal with almond milk. Not long after – not even after, halfway through the bowl, actually – I regretted every spoonful. So I continued, more and more loathing building with each mouthful until I finished the bowl, now empty of cereal but brimming with contempt.

Having eaten, it being about a quarter after eleven, I have to take a walk. While I know this does not undo what has been done, there is a part of my brain that tells me that is precisely what it does. A part of my brain exists that says this one action, talking a walk, will undo the cereal. A crazy part, no doubt. This is not something of which I am unaware. But had this part spoken up before the cereal, I’d be in bed now.

So I put on my socks and sneakers, collar and leash the suddenly ecstatic dog and out we go.

Today it stormed. This evening it stormed. I could hear the frogs and various un-named creatures through the windows. So, while I would normally take my MP3 player with me, this time I leave it at home. While normally I’d listen to lectures on physics, or religion, or recorded books, tonight I will listen to the sounds of the natural world, all wet and happy, awake and loud.

We leave through the back door, quietly, as my wife is sleeping, grabbing the bamboo short staff. There have been, as of late, stray, large, unfriendly dogs following us on our walks. Dogs in pairs and triplets, one at the heels, one on each side, each pushing me into the other. Growling and showing teeth. I tell them to leave and they do, then return a minute or so following closely, more closely, at my heels and side once again. I tell them there will be one fewer if I find a stick. When I do, they leave me before I can pick it up. Since I have carried this thirty inch long, one inch thick bamboo, they have not approached.

Through the yard and out the gate to the sidewalk. I attach the free end of the leash to my belt loop and my dingo trots along my left side, leash loose, looped, swaying as we walk.

I don’t see her, of course, walking next to me. One side is the blind side and the other side is the one with very little peripheral vision, so I need to trust her. And I do. I know what she is up to. I can tell where she is by the pull on the leash. When she gets a sandbur, and we have some versions of cenchrus here that appear to have been developed as devises of torture by the SuperDevil, I can tell immediately by the change in her gate, the different rhythm in the paws on pavement, the change in the sway of the leash.

A short walk. Two and a tenth miles. I walk this in the morning in thirty-five minutes which is a shade under four miles per hour and quite good for a fellow with my leg-length. Far too fast for an extended conversation which makes the dog a perfect partner. Tonight, though, we’d take our time and walk for the air and the sound.

The rains have left the night cool. Wet. It feels like home. Not a specific home, not a specific place, but home, a home faintly, distantly recognized, comfortable, familiar, inviting and kind. The wind is easy and the frogs are singing. Insects are buzzing. As we walk, Dusty’s nails clack on the sidewalk, insects tick in the taller grasses. There are croaks and calls and buzzes.

I place the staff, lengthwise, on my right shoulder, a foot and a half or so behind me, a foot and a half or so before me. It balances easily, seesawing from time to time, swaying in and out now and then, like a compass needle. This will keep my posture in mind as we walk.

I wonder what sings in the grass. Not names, not labels, just what is. So many creatures and so few found. So few named. Many people think we know all of life on the Earth, but here, right next to me, could be life unknown. There very likely is.

Very few have any interest in this. You could gather all the taxonomists in the world into one small hotel. Experts on fungus? The world’s mycologists could meet at a Day’s Inn conference room.

In The Diversity of Life, Edward O. Wilson describes the work of one botanist who spent a few days in Borneo and discovered over one thousand new flowering plant species. More discovered in half a week than the total of what is known in North America since we have been keeping records. A pair of Norwegian scientists, as a lark, picked up two samples, only one gram each, of soil from a beech forest near their lab. Carefully analyzed, they found between four and five thousand separate bacterial species in each sample. More than is recorded in the best known record of things microbial, Bergy’s Manual of Bacteriology. Over nine thousand species in two pinches of soil taken from no place special. In Kenya, four new species of millipedes and a new tree, a big tree, is found.

Such is the myth of naming. Such is the idea that we explore, thirst to discover, to mark, to label, divide, organize. We don’t care, most of us.

I don’t care for names. But I listen as we walk, wonder what might be singing I have never heard singing before. Maybe something is thrumming with life, just beneath my feet, no one has ever seen. Maybe.

Bamboo leaves rustle. Jasmine glows under the three-quarter moon. Angel trumpets hang, moonflowers open as we pass. A rabbit is sitting by an in-ground pool behind a house no one has lived in for over a year. Owls call. Bats dart. Dusty, from time to time, walks out slightly ahead, looks this way and that. When I follow her gaze, I see cats.
Lives in the trees as we approach silence as we walk under them and resume as we pass.

I bend forward and the staff slips off my shoulder and down into my right hand. I twirl it forward, back, round and round, behind me, under my arm. I flip it over my hand and into my left to do the same. My dog never notices. I place it on the left shoulder, grab the front with my left hand and the back of the staff with my right, pulling down, bringing my shoulder lower, digging into the muscle, ironing it with the broad bamboo. Over the back and onto the right shoulder for the same. A large toad crosses the sidewalk in front of me.

I leave the staff to balance once again. Blue lights of TVs brighten and fade, one person argues with another, cicadas call, moaning gains intensity, breathing quickens rhythmically, gains volume, slackens, softens, intensifies again, a dog barks, a baby cries, there is buzzing in the grass, someone says they are not coming back. A car starts.


Posted by on June 3, 2009 in Food, Nature, philosophy


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Benjamin Franklin Broke My Alarm Dog

Tomorrow morning at 6:03, the invisible hand of Benjamin Franklin will reach to my bedside and wake me from a sound sleep.

I am in my office, the floor littered with books. I call it research. Next to me, flowing over the recliner, is a wild dog.

I had no idea she was a wild dog when, a year and a half ago, we strolled the aisles at the pound. All we knew was, of all the cages and all the pens, of all the dogs, this small fawn-coloured pup, at eight months old, breed unidentified, was the only creature that was silent. She watched us as we walked up and back, as we inspected the dogs for the one that pulled at our hearts. We passed her by. She was too old.

But my son kept returning to her, staring at her through the kennel chain-link. At that time it had not occurred to me she was the only silent pup there- the only dog not making an unholy racket. We had walked once through, looking at Corgies, Beagles, far too many Pits, Catahoula after Catahoula after Catahoula, and there was this one dog I could not identify and, still, second time through, silent, to which my son lingered closer and closer. Of course she was still eight months old so we walked again, fully planning, at least I was, on coming back to the pound once a week or so until the right dog arrived.

It was my birthday week. August of 2007, and I was about to turn forty-three. We were finally settled in our new old home, in a new practice, retired from an old job and marketing my new book. I wanted a dog.

It is never a good idea to get a dog. Never the perfect time. Just like a child, that perfect time does not exist, never comes. But the opportunity did, my son and I were ready and, it seemed, absolutely, my wife was not. So all the stars aligned in as nearly perfect an order as they get and so we found ourselves at the pound.

And he kept going back to the fawn-coloured eight-month-old unidentified pup.

We grabbed a leash and opened the door. She sat there. We put the leash around her neck and she sat looking up at us. Silent. It seemed she wanted to be carried. She, already a bit too big for that, I, bending at the knees because I do love the sound of creaking so, we walked out to the yard—a father carrying his too-large child. Once there, once down, she walked by my side. When I ran she trotted right with me until I found myself on my back, flat, staring at the sky,head slightly ringing, my leash-arm straight behind me. Fawn-coloured eight-month-old unidentified walked over and stared into my face. Apparently, she had decided to stop mid-trot and have a liedown. At the door in from the yard, she stopped to be carried again and looked with disdain at the other dogs. Never a sound.

“What kind is the mute one?”

“We don’t know.” This was the Pound-mistress talking.

“The paper on the kennel says Lab question mark. She’s not a Lab.”

“Nope. But we have to write down something and we have no idea.”

“The paper also says she is untrainable, incorrigible, does not know her name, and is an escape artist. Can you tell me anything good about the dog?”

Pound-mistress explained to us they must, by law, write what the owners say when the dog is dropped off. But, and she moved close to my left ear, this family kept the dog out all day and let her in only late at night, never trained her, never called her by name. It was her opinion she was a good dog with no training that got stuck with a bum family.

We left, knowing what was going to happen. We should have pulled her papers and plunked the cash but I wanted my wife to see her.

And we looked back at her as we walked from her line of sight.

I planned on soft-selling the dog, working my wife up to a trip toward Eau Gallie and the pound with promise of old pottery and fresh fish. Instead, my son got to her first, with the pound open but one more hour after she got home from the practice. He told her we were going to the pound because it was only fair, Daddy says, for her to see the dog we’re getting. This resulted in the need of much more in the way of promises extracted from both I and my son.

Fine. In the car. Grab a Philly steak sub knock-off. On the way we talked about the description on the kennel door and what Pound-mistress said about fawn-coloured eight-month-old unidentified.

Get to the pound, walk in the second time that day, into the building and quickly past the cats at which my wife sneezes and itches, out to the dogs and to fawn-coloured eight-month-old unidentified.

The noise was awful. The barking, whining, howling. All but her. All but fawn-coloured eight-month-old unidentified. She sat at the kennel-front and looked at my wife.

“She is eight months old,” says Lee.


“At least she’s a mutt.” My wife insists on mutts.

“No idea what she’s made of. Just random dog.”

We opened the gate and repeated the carry-out to the yard. She behaved perfectly, silently. When Lee noticed fawn-coloured eight-month-old unidentified never made a sound, that was all it took. Sixty dollars on the counter, come back in two days, a sad look back from my son and an even sadder look at him from fawn-coloured eight-month-old unidentified.

The sign on the door said her name was Dusty. A common, nondescript name. Alek called “Dusty” and fawn-coloured eight-month-old unidentified perked her ears straight, sat at attention with the widest eyes I had yet seen on a dog.

Two days later we picked her up, groggy from the morning’s spaying, and she was cuddled home.

Within a week she was housetrained. With the help of Robert at Petsmart, we got training to train us to train her. Within a few weeks she walked with us, ran with us, leash or none. She sat, stayed, came and laid down. And in this time, she still did not bark.

I remember the day she did start making noises. It was late afternoon. Someone in the house was laughing. It did not sound familiar. I peeked into Lee’s office and nothing on Stargate seemed the least funny. No surprise there. I asked Alek but he said he’d heard it too and was looking for the source. He, too, thought it was his mother laughing. Dusty followed us.

Giving up, we each went back to what we were doing, Dusty in Alek’s room this time and I again heard it. Alek, running from his room, looked up at me and said, “That was her,” pointing to our dog, “and that is the strangest sound I have ever heard.”

When she is satisfied after a meal, and she eats sparingly, never gorging, she’ll spread flat on the floor and a low, guttural sound, not a growl in any way but from someplace deeper, more bass-rumbly, will resonate the room. When she wants something, she will open her mouth and high-pitched whistle talk to us. If she could manage to make it any louder I am sure the few remaining bits of household crystal I have not already broken myself would shatter. If we forget to feed her, she will stand by her bowl and whistle. If there is low water, she will nose it and whistle. When we come home with bags, she will not jump us but will instead back off, sit at the couch and, when the bags are down, lay back over the couch arm, belly up, and whistle for us to pet her.

Once, on a morning walk, Dusty and I passed a student of mine. I had been out of teaching for some months then and my neighbourhood is full or ex and barely-ex students.

“Mr. Tritt.” I can’t get them to stop calling me that. “Is that your dog?”

“Sure is.”

“You have a Dingo?”

“I do?”

Apparently she had been studying Australia and was more than a little surprised to see a dingo walking with last-year’s English teacher. More and more people asked us the same thing. A bit of research, a check with people who should know and, sure enough, we have ourselves a wild dog. Once upon a time I wanted a wolf. I’ll take my dingo dog any day.

Far from being a baby-eater, she is the most gentle of creatures. She will instinctively sit with the infirmed, laying her head on a lap, patiently allows little ones to pet or pull or poke. She seems to have no preference for any particular member of the household and will become mopey if any one of us is away for too long. If one of us is not feeling well, she is nearly impossible to move from the sick one’s feet. When Lee had a week-long flu, Dusty was in the bedroom doorway all day and slept next to her, half under her, under the bed, all night.

She will walk through a crowd with ease and not give other dogs the time of day no matter how much they bark. She has barked on occasion but rare enough that, when she does, we listen, we get up, we see what’s there.

Dusty the Dingo Doggy went from being a good dog to great dog to wonderful companion we look forward to coming home to, one that can stay in the house by herself, will walk out the back yard when the gate is left open only to sit on the front porch and wait for us to remember we had forgotten to let her in. She plays ball with herself, tossing it into the air and catching it again on the way down.

And there is one more thing she does—Dusty wakes us each morning. As the sun rises, as it starts to colour our south windows, she walks into our room, whistles, puts her front paws on the bed and jostles Lee’s hand with her nose.

Neither of us has ever been a fan of alarm clocks. This is perfect for us. Up with the sun, more day in each day, awake in plenty of time to eat, shower, dress, do what needs to be done and get what needs to be got. No jingles, jangles, bells or chimes. A whistle and a paw.

Each day she wakes us, slipping slightly more than thirty seconds later toward the Summer Solstice and back as the Winter Solstice approaches.

And then came Benjamin Franklin and he screwed it up.

We are big fans of Franklin. My wife from Philly and I from his quotes, quips and scientific queries. There is more to Franklin than most know. Sure, he was a notorious womanizer but, as seen for the times and locations he lived, that seems to detract little from establishing libraries, the Postal Service, and newspapers as cultural standards. It does not detract from the creation of bifocals, which I steadfastly refuse every time I get my eye checked (the ophthalmologist checks them both but I’m not sure why he bothers—I think just look to see the other one is still there), the flexible catheter (which I also have no experience with), the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, the odometer, and more and more. He invented the Glass Harmonica, an instrument of ethereal aural beauty (which, in the early days gave off lead dust, but I accept that we all suffer for our art).

As people who would be happy if our televisions got only Discovery, History, and the Science Channels, that means quite a bit. “Well done is better than well said.” Ben, I agree.

But one thing he did that is fully, forever unforgivable was the creation of daylight savings time.

To be fair to Franklin, he did not really invent it. He suggested though, while living in Paris, Parisians should be awakened each morning by bells and cannon-fire so the stay-ups would tire earlier in the evening and conserve candles. He published this suggestion anonymously.

But the idea was taken up again, later, by William Willett who started pushing the idea in London in 1905. While good for local business that feed from late-shoppers, the original idea of saving candle-wax is no longer quite as valid as once was. Electrical savings are found to be nonexistent with usage simply shifted to the dark morning hours in summer and dark night hours in winter in an economy that does not work simply dawn to dusk. And international commerce certainly suffers, though not as much as agrarian economies still tied to daylight.

In the past, clocks were simply adjusted through the year to divide the day into twenty-four equal parts. The hours got a little longer or a little shorter and things ran quite fine that way.

We think with all our technology we can’t run that way now, but with some areas on DST and others not, we still become fully fouled up. Even in areas that do use DST, there are pockets that do not and time zones that opt out which, this month, are an hour behind and next month are not. Some US counties even opt out.

I say, make six a.m. the time when the sun comes up. We can certainly make clocks that can handle that. If the day is a bit longer, we have a few extra inter-hour minutes between five and six am. If shorter, fewer, but six comes when does the sun.

That way my dog would not be broken.

She was waking us at 7:16, then 7:15, 7:15, 7:14 and, the next day, gently, whistly, at 6:13. Daylight savings time had ended. This morning, as the sun peaked in through the windows, it was 6:04. Next week it will be before 6:00. Come DST again our dog alarm will move ahead one hour and, try as we might, we can find no dial or button to adjust her.


Posted by on November 21, 2008 in Culture, Family, History, Nature, Social


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I Love Creosote

I love creosote. Not just the smell, which many people, if not most, find hard enough to believe, but the feel of it as well: the tacky frictional darkness under the fingertips. I love the smell of it as I roam the lumberyard, search out the scent, get closer and closer to a board with just enough of it to get my hands on, my nose close to sticky yellow.

The feel of creosote is harder and harder to find. The smell, though, is not so difficult to come by. On the occasions my wife will drag me to a big-box home improvement store, for it is she who likes the gadgets and tools, not me, I will wander to and stall in the lumber area casting for whiffs of it. If there is an exterior lumberyard, all the better because the outside temperatures tend to drive the creosote to the surface and, if not the creosote entirely, the scent, certainly.

This has been my habit as long as I know. I remember if from Sunday station wagon lumber drives with my father as he would choose boards, plywood, two by fours for whatever project was next on his list. Back then there was more creosote to smell as it was used much more than today, much less discriminately. It was everywhere, oozing from the wood, down the stacks, to the ground. The lumberyards stank of it if I could to, it was heavenly.

One might think these memories are why I love then scent so. Association of a smell with a pleasant memory. True, smell is our deepest, most primal sense, nestled far within the limbic system, the part of the brain we share with lizards. Scent will bring an emotional response more easily and to memories more distant, more faint, than any other sense and it can do so even if the memory itself is lost. The emotional content is still there and scent will bring it back.

But it cannot be so with creosote. These forays to the lumberyards would be followed by build-time where I would be conscripted to help measure, which I never did well, cut, where the sound of the saw would have me doing as I do today – picturing myself falling on a whirring blade, losing bits of my body. Later, as he worked through the night, I, tired, would never hold the light quite right, shine it in the right place. The hammer and power tools would have me holding my ears. Home projects often ended in violence. None of this comes back as pleasant. I never looked forward to trips to the lumberyard. Except, of course, for the creosote.

My brain likes the smell. I like it. Love it. Always did. And that attraction to the scent must, somehow, be separate from those experiences.

When I lived in Gainesville we had an apartment near a wood treatment plant. Koppers would take lumber and pressure treat for exterior use, in playgrounds, in buildings, for gardens. In Gainesville they made utility poles and marine pilings. This involved copper and arsenic. This involved creosote.

Never mind the ninety-four acres of Cabot/Koppers is one of the top superfund sites in the United States. Never mind one could grow a garden in the area but was strongly suggested to not eat the produce one grew there. I could smell the creosote so it was all fine.

Still, today, if there is a roof being tarred, I will linger. If there is a road being resurfaced, I will open the windows of the car or raise the visor of my helmet and breath deeply. Still.

I also like camphor.


Posted by on September 13, 2008 in Family, Nature, Social


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