Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Pandemic Files, Chapter 1

It’s been kind of a slow week at the Farr chateau. Went to the grocery store the other day; they were all out of eggs, and now I’m thinking the corner of our front yard that butts up against our neighbor’s wood-panel fence (probably put up so he doesn’t have to be reminded of my lack of landscaping skills), that front corner would be a great area to raise some free-range chickens.

While you’re reading this, I’m sitting on the front porch in an old blue metal chair, drinking a cup of coffee, looking at the corner and yes, I do believe a handful of happy hens could produce a plethora of perfect eggs, enough to eliminate extemporaneous expeditions in search of the aforesaid currently unavailable food item.

(I know, I know. It’s way too early in the year for alliteration and big words.)

Hey look! A squirrel.

One advantage of being pert-near vegetarian is there’s never a crowd trying to buy chickpeas or Portobello mushroom caps. And you never, ever hear someone saying, “They’re out of tofu? What is this world coming to?” because there’s always plenty of tofu to go around. Soft, firm, extra firm, it doesn’t matter – just take a fork and scramble the tofu all up, and if you squint your eyes and use every last bit of your imagination, it might just look and taste like eggs.

No, it doesn’t. I’m lying.

If I had a coop full of chickens working overtime to produce dozens of beautiful eggs, you know what I’d do with them? Well, I’d eat them, of course. But the ones I didn’t eat, I’d share them with you. Yes, you! And you wanna know why? Because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Help each other. Someone needs a ride to work, you pick them up. Someone’s dog dies from old age, you help bury it. You feed the hungry, comfort the sick, offer a light to those who are in the dark – a shoulder, a smile, a laugh, and maybe even some extra rolls of toilet paper, if you got ‘em.

Did you know that without squirrels we wouldn’t have toilet paper? Squirrel finds nut, squirrel buries nut, squirrel can’t remember where he buried his nut, nut grows into tree, man comes along and chops down tree, lumber mill magically turns it into toilet paper, squirrel doesn’t care because he doesn’t use the stuff.

Next time you’re in the store picking up a package of Quilted Northern Ultra Plus toilet paper that has the strength and softness you can count on, thank a squirrel.

I just read a “treatise” on squirrels (located on the Mother Nature Network website) that describes squirrels as being “furry little forest ambassadors, using parks and backyards as their urban embassies.” That explains why we celebrate Squirrel Appreciation Day every 21st of January.

I guess we missed it. Sorry.

During this crazy time of holing up in our homes until someone says we can come out and play, I’m thankful for being able to sit on my porch with a cup of coffee, think about chickens, and watch the squirrels play “tag, you’re it” from tree to shining tree. That’s just the cards life has dealt me; has dealt us all. So, don’t fret too much, help others, scrub your hands with soap and water, and take time out of your day to go watch some squirrels.

Maybe even encourage them to go and bury more nuts.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Another stroll around the neighborhood

I have a good idea who the mockingbird is mocking as I pass him on my morning walks.

“Come here. Come here, you silly thing. See what I can do. Come fly with me above the trees. You can’t? Ha ha ha.

But I don’t speak mockingbird. It’s all music to my ears. Beethoven, Mozart, Dylan, Sting, Lyle Lovett alighting on tree limbs to enthrall the audience, then back into the air and onto the next gig. Tomorrow San Antonio, next week Denver.

On the road again, I always wonder what a ‘possum is contemplating as it wobbles by.

Probably: “Just keep moving, moving – wait a minute – what light through yonder nightfall breaks? It looks like two suns, and I am but potential roadkill unless I keep moving, moving – wow, that was a close call – moving, moving, moving.”

It’s possible ‘possums are sharper than they appear, but you never know.

I imagine a tree, after sucking up as much nutrients as it can from the soil below, takes a twinkling to catch its breath then turns to its neighbor and whispers, “See, I told you I could chug-a-lug just as good as those young cedars. Looks like the next round is on you, bucko.”

Have you ever noticed that trees are always whispering? It makes me wonder what they’re saying behind my back. More than likely: “Look. Only four limbs. How sad.”

Sometimes when I walk around the block, a small little yappy dog sneaks up on me from behind; yap, yap, yapping up a storm with a bark three times its own bite, making my heart beat a whole lot faster than it was a second before, which is probably good for my health, as long as I survive my ankles being mauled.

“I got’cha, I got’cha, I got’cha; just slow down an itsy-bitsy bit and I’ll bite that ankle clear off,” I can just hear it yapping. “Your meat might be a bit old and tough, but I won’t know until you stop moving and you’re down on the ground, yeppity-yep-yep.”

It’s best to just keep walking because once you’re down on the ground, you’re only inviting trouble from the circling scavengers up above.

VULTURE 1: So, what do you wanna do?
VULTURE 2: I don’t know, what do YOU wanna do?
VULTURE 1: He might be playing ‘possum, so let’s give him a couple of days.
VULTURE 2: Sounds good to me.

I don’t see Death as some hooded dude standing behind me holding a scythe. Death to me is a middle-aged, overweight white guy, lounging on the couch watching reruns of “Wheel of Fortune.” He’s always trying to get me to “come sit down. You’ll love this episode. I’ll even share my pizza with you. No? Well, you go on your little walk. I’ll wait for you right here. I’ve got some time to kill.”

The other day on my “little walk,” I saw a squirrel turning the tree limbs above my head into its own personal superhighway. Climb, climb, climb, up and over, take the next exit – don’t look down – jump to the next tree going one way, my way, jump again, higher and higher, never touch the ground, and around – now hide.

I imagine a squirrel’s thinking process is simple: “Find a nut, hide a nut, climb a tree, contemplate the existence of dark matter throughout the known universe, go find more nuts.”

Walking is good for the heart, good for the soul, good for waving at your neighbors as they drive by heading to work or the grocery store. Walking gives you the time to ask yourself who you really are, and what’s your purpose in this old world. Better yet, it gives you the time to make up whatever answers suit you best.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Understanding Walt Whitman

I am no better than you; you are no better than the planets in your orbit; we are each other and compliment the world in which we live.

I am the young man who assembles the two bean burritos for your lunch every Thursday, hoping to never accidentally slice off the tip of my forefinger while cutting up onions for a mere 25 cents above minimum wage.

You are the mechanic who peers inside my car’s engine wondering just how long it’s been since I’ve had my oil changed. That long? Well, it’s a miracle this car is still on the road.

I am the grizzly, old school bus driver who works hard at ignoring the noise of confined children. I secretly wish I could be their age again, sitting in the back and making the younger kids giggle every time I belch another letter of the alphabet

You are the welder sitting behind the wheel of your pickup truck, tapping the steering wheel with your fingers, wondering when this school bus is ever going to get moving. You’re running late and can’t afford to lose your job. Oh, to be a student again, you think. Responsibilities? Get to class on time, eat lunch, play a bit of basketball, absorb the mysteries of history and math, maybe even dissect a frog or two. Those were good days.

I am the trash collector who is happy not to have to work in an office; but boy, sometimes this stuff really stinks.

You are the old fisherman stranded on a boat in the middle of the lake, frustrated that you forgot to refill the fuel tank, but thankful that your wife packed an extra sandwich and a cold beer.

We are the teachers who at times have trouble making our classes understand; the preachers who voice having the same problem; the dairy farmers who wake up with the stars; the police officers out on midnight patrol.

We are the homeless who stand on the street corner, holding signs for help; the activists standing on other street corners holding different signs; the grocery store cashiers who smile and say, “Have a great day,”; the other grocery store cashiers who keep looking at the clock.

We are the writers, the musicians, the artists and poets who bare our hearts and ask, “Was it good enough? You’re not just trying to be polite, are you?”; we are the cooks, the waiters, the gardeners and delivery people who think, “This may not be much, but I will do the best that I possibly can.”

We are alike and different; each a wondrous one-of-a-kind creature made of exactly the same ingredients; molded star dust destined to grow into ourselves, do our taxes, forget to take out the trash, eat too much ice cream, go on fad diets, tell long stories without noticing the glaze in our listener’s eyes, get sick, rewrite our wills leaving everything to charity (those relations shouldn’t have looked so eager for me to pass on), and then eventually die and decay into fertile dust, making way for new leaves of grass.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever fully understand the essence of Walt Whitman. But if he spoke truth when he wrote, “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you,” then without doubt we all have a little bit of him inside us – a little bit that whispers in our ears: Be kind to those who are different, because they are us and we are them.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Taking a walk on the wild side

If you put on your best pair of walking shoes tomorrow morning and walked one mile every day for a year, you’d be in Memphis by next February, which isn’t very far at all, but I hear Graceland is worth visiting at least once, even if it’s just to say you’ve been.

Since it’s pretty easy to walk a mile in about 20 minutes, you’ll have plenty of time left during the rest of the day to set up a tent, eat a bowl of oatmeal, update your Face-a-Gram page – or, better yet, just walk another mile.

If you walked two miles every day for a year, you’d be 730 miles away in Knoxville, Tennessee – the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. You might want to bring a jacket. But whatever you do, don’t ask a local for directions to Fort Knox and its vaults full of gold bricks. You’ll end up looking like an idiot because it’s not in Knoxville. It’s in Kentucky. Go figure.

Walking two miles takes up only about 40 minutes of your time, so you might as well walk three miles and make it an hour.

If you walked three miles every day for a year, you’d be in Virginia, somewhere in the Shenandoah National Park, being ever so thankful you packed a pair of long johns along with that jacket. Oh, the countryside, the trees; the smell of wood smoke and cooking bacon. Why has it taken you so long to get here? Will you have enough willpower to go back home one day?

Walking for an hour gives you just enough time to do plenty of thinking – thinking about your goals, your dreams for the future. What books should I read that I haven’t read yet? Do I really have enough time left in my life to learn Norwegian? Should I repair the skylight or save up my money and buy a new motorcycle? Probably the best thing to do is walk another hour until you stumble upon the answers.

If you walked six miles a day for a year, you’d wake up on Day 365 in Malden, New Brunswick, just a few miles from the Confederation Bridge that leads to Prince Edward Island. I’ve never been to Prince Edward Island, but I read L.M. Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” and thought I’d like to go. 

Two hours of walking each and every day can melt away the tonnage you’ve gained over the years and years of sitting, eating, watching TV on the couch until you fell asleep and woke up just in time for a midnight snack that would hold you over until you really woke up, went to work, sat some more, ate some more, and gosh this is getting a bit wordy. But that’s what happens when you start taking long walks. You end up thinking in long sentences.

Imagine this: If you walked three hours a day for a year, you’d be somewhere in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean (if you could walk on water), so you might as well walk four hours a day and spend the night in a cozy bed and breakfast in Dublin. Of course, you’d have to answer a lot of questions like, “Where are you from?” Texas, you’d say. “How did you get here?” I walked. “Across the North Atlantic at this time of year?” It’s okay. I was wearing a jacket and long johns. “Why didn’t you just take a plane?” Good question.

If you walked almost every day for four years, you’d make it all the way around the world and wake up the next morning in your own bed wondering, “So, what do I do now?”

I have a suggestion. How about go for a bicycle ride?