Come And Around Me Stand

 

The song of the day is Angel Band by The Stanley Brothers. It’s a soul-sobering old hymn, of which there might be better renderings, but this is a classic. The Dead have covered it beautifully, as did Old And In The Way.

Look, everything living is on it’s way to being something else. And God will not be mocked; He gets the last word on how we have invested our lives. But the Bible warns of false prophets, and clearly says that no one but God knows his schedule. So I can say emphatically that today is not the day of The Last Judg

Nothing That Grieves Us

There was a bad accident on the freeway near my condo tonight. I heard it happen, not long after 8:30pm. Strangely, there was no stereotypical squeal of brakes, just an intense kind of whoosh, then Bang. I grabbed my jacket, cell phone, keys and hurried out and across the road, where others were already peering through the fence. Many people were coming out of their homes to see.

There wasn’t much visible. The accident scene was a couple hundred yards west, where the freeway is 20 feet below the level of our homes, and there’s a hedge of thick bushes. So I didn’t go down that far. I came back inside but after a while the continuous arrival of so many vehicles with sirens drew me back out. I’ve rarely heard that many emergency vehicles in one place.

It was impossible to see anything. I walked some, got some night air, and thought about it. I knew from the CHP website that there were 4 cars involved, one overturned, the road was blocked, people were going to the hospital, and crews were coming to clean up the mess.

The CHP information is raw, a transcript of the actual radio or car computer traffic. It’s hard to understand. But I think it says something about witnesses claiming that someone did something stupid …

No. Wait. Holy crap. While I’ve been writing this post, I think I figured it out. WW, it says. SV going WW. Somebody was going the wrong way on the freeway? It says SV (southbound vehicle?) going WW appeared intentional.

OMG

You know it’s been hard not to be distracted by the escalating, multiplying disasters in Japan this week. It is heart-rending, so massive that it’s hard to get the mind to seize and grip it. Maybe that’s because there’s so much video, far more coverage than with the Indonesian tsunami. Plus, there’s the multiple nuclear meltdown to ponder. In any case, it’s distracting. I’ve been using reading and writing time to watch Anderson Cooper.

As I was walking home, bearing witness to the fact that people were dragging small children with them to peer down from the roadside, and all the lights and still more sirens coming after half an hour, I thought this:

For the people in those 4 cars down there, this is just as sure a disaster than any that gets covered for days on end on CNN. Lives are being changed tonight, possibly ended. Here on the US 101, downhill from a flower field and uphill from a beach where baby seals sleep with their mothers, there’s calamity that has hit the top of the Richter Scale for those involved. And I remembered this quote from Mark Twain:

“Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child’s loss of a doll and a king’s loss of a crown are events of the same size.”

Longer Darkness

I have been outside this evening after dark, getting acquainted with the night, rearranging the strings of Christmas lights on my balcony irons. One of the strings went dead, you see. Probably a fussy little fuse.

But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick
He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!
"Why, my sweet little tot," the fake Santy Claus lied,
"There’s a light on this tree condo that won’t light on one side.
"So I’m taking it home to my workshop, my dear.
"I’ll fix it up there. Then I’ll bring it back here."

The days, you may have noticed, are getting terribly short. The sun’s arc is shallow, almost begrudging, even this far south of the North Pole. We’re only 10 days now from the Solstice. So Christmas lights are important, and I was out there in all this longer darkness, stringing twinklers at the top of my outside stairs. I guess there’s a slight chance of a quick and messy death in that. Which naturally set me to wondering what was the last thing I said to anyone, since that might turn out to be the last thing I said to anyone.

I couldn’t remember. It might have been something like “have a good night,” to my neighbor. But nobody wrote it down.

Wouldn’t it be cool if somebody – besides Facebook – was discreetly recording our every utterance, just in case it might be our last? Well my last words, if I had tumbled down the concrete steps, might not have been fit for polite conversation. Let alone to be etched in marble or quoted as an epigraph in literature. But you never know. I might have been wise or funny in the end.

Goethe is said to have thundered, "More light!" But there is, I believe, some contention. Some have quoted him as saying, “Open the second shutter so that more light may come in." The former is better. Still others say his final utterance was really, "Come my little one, and give me your paw." And where does your imagination go with that?

Henry David Thoreau’s last words were, "Moose. Indian." Just shortly before that, we was asked if he had made his peace with God. He said, "I did not know we had quarreled."

Walt Whitman’s last yawp: "Hold me up; I want to shit."

Emily Dickinson finally said, "Let us go in; the fog is rising." For her, everything was poetry, nothing ordinary.

When a nurse told Henrik Ibsen that he seemed to be improving, he said, "On the contrary!" and died.

Ludwig van Beethoven: "Friends, applaud. The comedy is over."

Oscar Wilde’s famous last words were, "Either this wallpaper goes or I do."

Welcome Christmas bring your cheer
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome all Whos far and near
Welcome Christmas, fahoo ramus
Welcome Christmas, dahoo damus
Christmas day will always be
Just so long as we have we
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome Christmas bring your light

Everyman Knows

 

What shall we say, shall we call it by a name
As well to count the angels dancing on a pin.
– The Grateful Dead

There was a well known and successful writer interviewed on TV the other day. Her name escapes. Suffice to say, her ship is in. She was saying that the writer has to know something in order to write.

I don’t know about that. I tend to throw in with Joseph Campbell, who said

He who thinks he knows does not know. He who knows he does not know, knows.

If he’s right, everyone knows, and nobody does. But see if you think this little piece gets any air among the clouds of unknowing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Passing Trees

“What time is it?”

Taking one hand from the wheel, he started to push back the sleeve of his jacket to see his watch, then stopped. He glanced over at her. She sat looking out her window through the rain, at the trees.

“There’s a clock on the dashboard in front of you.”

“Is it right?”

“Yeah.”

“So you won’t tell me?”

“What’s the use of having a clock in the car, if you always ask me anyway?” But now he did push back his sleeve and look. “The clock on the dash says the world is one minute older than the watch on my wrist. So I’m going with the clock. I’m feeling pretty old right now.”

She frowned and watched the trees, a dark wall and a dark road, a grim and rainy day. She did not look at him, or care about the time. It was only something to say, some excuse to conjure his voice out of the distance between them. It was a good voice, solid and deep, a comfort so often, and always in the dead of night. Sometimes she lay awake and whispered I love you, and he would answer in that voice, without waking. Love you too.

As they passed the end of the orchard, a field opened up. It was fallow, the earth broken and turned. Far back from the road was a brick house and a barn. The house was brightly lit, and smoke rose from the chimney. It was a stranger’s life sitting quietly surrounded by death, waiting to be swallowed by time and rain. She could not wait to get home, turn on lights and music, make tea, and pretend, like that house pretended, that the world was safe.

“I hate myself for leaving him there.”

He checked the mirror and said, “It’s a nice place.”

She turned at looked at him. “Nice? I hate us both.”

“Now, now. Yes, it’s a decent place, as …”

“And he hates us too.”

“… as such places go. Pleasant and homey.”

“Well.”

“He’ll come around. It’s very nice. He’ll get used to it, make friends, have activities. You saw they have a piano in the recreation room. And the courtyard will be warm on sunny days. We’ll visit and take him outside. He’ll be fine in no time.”

“He’s never yelled at us like that. Never at anyone, that I can remember. So angry. Like we’re Eskimos, shoving him out on an ice flow.”

“We’ve been over this. Can you really pretend we’ve been thoughtless?”

“Do they even do that, did they ever?”

“What?”

“The Eskimos.”

“I don’t know.”

“He said we’re going to hell.”

“Oh God. Everyone is on their way someplace, but not there. And we’re only doing our best.”

“No. We could do better. We should bring him back. Fix up the spare bedroom.”

“Honey.”

“Rent one of those hospital beds. I could take care of him, I know it. I could quit my job, we’d get by.”

“You couldn’t. You can’t even lift him. Neither can I.”

They passed the end of a narrow road that broke the blur of idle land and disappeared toward the hills. She saw that her hands were resting on her lap palms up, waiting to be filled by something only God could design.

“You know him better than me.”

“Yes,” he said.

“Since the hour of your birth.”

“Jesus.”

“So I hope you’re right. But he’s already haunting me.”

There was another line of trees close against the road. Almonds, dark and full of rain.

 

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magically suspicious

Many of us in Carpinteria got another reminder of our abject dependence on electricity tonight. Power went off to the eastern half of town today about 3:00pm. Large residential neighborhoods, the shopping center, city hall, and business/industrial park were effected at first. Some people got their power back in about an hour, while many of us waited about 5 hours.

Arthur C. Clarke said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Electricity is pretty close to qualifying, don't you think? Despite its ubiquity in every vaguely civilized corner of the world, it's still a little amazing. From bare light bulbs over barn doors to server farms, to the electronics on a jet, to the pacemaker in Dick Cheney's chest, we have learned to do practically anything with electricity. 

My power is finally back on, thanks to a crew from Southern California Edison, who had to climb down in a damp electrical vault up the street from my place. I certainly appreciate that. My Dad worked for Edison for over 30 years, and I know it's a hard job.

Still it seems like something in that same vault goes kerflooie about once a year. A transformer, a circuit switch, I don't know. But I'm really beginning to wonder what's going on down there. Is there some kind of lingering defect beneath the pavement? A curse? A malevolent mole? Do we need to send Karl Kolchak down there to investigate?

Maybe they're just getting replacement parts in boxes of Lucky Charms. It's Magically Suspicious.

no waves please

The earthquake in Chile today is awful. I feel sorry for the people down there. And these terrible earthquakes lately have me thinking that we could be next, here in southern California. Heaven forefend. So no thanks anyway on the tsunami.

I realize we aren't in serious jeopardy here, but there's nothing but a pitiful sand berm protecting the homes on Sandyland Road. And not much is left of that, with these storms we've been having.

It's kind of amazing, how tenuous life is on the coast, considering that people have been living here for several hundred years.