Mean Time Between Failures

I slammed the car door in anger
and then I thought about that crazy machine
that slams car doors all day long
so automotive engineers can see
which component fails first
after a lifetime of being slammed
by mad-as-hell people like me
and maybe some of you…

They could've asked if they wanted to know
it's always the patience that's first to go.

A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Selfhood

(Flash Fiction, 850 words.)

I had fallen into a kind of grumbling funk recently, upon reflecting that I was clearly not the protagonist in my own life story. I’m not sure ‘story‘ is even the right word here. My days are something like the output of a random event sequencer stuck on repeat. Like being a fly on the wall in a room where nothing much ever happens. A peaceful work-a-day grind, neither happy nor sad. Then again, I was not beset with overwhelming problems either. Somehow I became fixated on it. I couldn’t help wonder what life might be like in the plot-driven fast lane.

So, if not the protagonist then what role did I occupy? I wasn’t even sure. I might have been the plot-point casualty, that character whose sole function is to get killed off in order to inject an element of dread into the narrative without a lot of messy exposition. But I’m getting on in years and that seems increasingly unlikely. I could be the comic relief, but no one thinks I’m funny at all.

Then I started toying with the idea of marrying a protagonist. I could at least be an accessory after the fact in a yarn that’s actually going somewhere. In a fit of myopic brilliance I concluded this was a fine idea.

Then I met Anne.

Continue reading “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Selfhood”

Recent Photos: Houston in January

Red-shouldered Hawk

There’s a variety of woodsy enclaves within Houston’s sprawling metropolitan car colony, including the Central Park of the South, Memorial Park, as well as a number of bayou parks. Little islands where the cars are not allowed and they have to sit in lots while their owners walk around pretending that nature still exists. I gravitate to these spaces and manage to find some wildlife to photograph as well.

Carolina Chickadee
Eastern Phoebe
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Red-vented Bulbul
Northern Cardinal
Red-eared Sliders

Due to the ceaseless work of bacteria and fungi, dead things gradually melt back into the biosphere which is cyclically alive, trees falling into the hungry mouth of tomorrow’s forest, like eggs laying chickens.

The Novel Loses its Thread

un-baffled exhaust ports
of an unseen muscle car breathe
noisy fire, roar, then idle down to a purr

abrupt report of a pistol

then shifting gears as the motor fades
into the distance, like self-conscious years
writing their way to a halt
at the index of a history text

all the unprovoked thoughts
run adrift, then assemble at sleep's door
as the novel loses its thread
just like a life lived in earnest

innocent as a forgotten thing
its power to provoke all played out
on a Saturday night in Houston

Nutmeg Mannikin (Spice Finch)

Nutmeg Mannikin

First bird outing of the year was not bad at all. Encountered a small flock of these little seed-eaters at White Oak Bayou and was confounded as to what they were. Similar looking to female Indigo Bunting, but the bill size and shape eliminated that, plus there’s these scale-patterned black and white feathers popping out on the breast. Turns out to be the last featured bird in Sibley 2nd, the Nutmeg Mannikin or Spice Finch, another Houston area import/escapee from Asia. These are immature, as the adults have a scaled breast.

Nutmeg Mannikin

You can see on the right-hand specimen the lack of wing bar markings, good tell that these are not one of our grosbeaks. Without these photos to study I’d have never figured it out, I think. Always a thrill to find a bird that sends you into research mode.

American Robin

Also seen there, a large flock of American Robin, a strikingly beautiful bird seen up close in detail.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

And the Red-bellied Woodpecker, same time and place. A fast moving flock of Cedar Waxwing also came through. Only the second time I’d seen these, and the experience was the same: good sized flock appears out of nowhere, and disappears soon thereafter. Later at Buffalo Bayou I spend some time with a pair of Blue-headed Vireo and was unable to claim a satisfying photo.

Least Grebe

Moving on later that morning to the Houston Arboretum I saw only a single Eastern Phoebe and a Yellow-rumped Warbler, then headed to the Eastern Glades at Memorial Park to acquire another life-bird, the Least Grebe shown above. These range down through Central America with parts of Texas being the north-most boundary of its range.

Beached

Agile jeep-man plunged into the water and parked on a sandbar in the pre-dawn.

I set out early Saturday morning to camp on the beach at Bolivar Peninsula’s west end. I have converted the RAV4 into a micro-camper and wanted to give the new fixings another test run. I spent the morning in Galveston and took the ferry to Bolivar around noon.

The jeep photo was not desaturated or converted to B&W and the sky above that cloud bank was a bright grayish peach.

Sunrise on the gulf just East of the entrance to the Houston ship channel.

Black-bellied Plover
Snowy Plover
Western Sandpiper or Semi-palmated Sandpiper, I am never sure with these.

The tip of the peninsula is cordoned off for the bird sanctuary, east of this the beach is lined with camping rigs of various sorts and sizes. Ten dollar parking pass gets you a year of beach camping here, so it’s a fairly popular spot for RVs. Lots of birdlife with many wintering species staying here for the season without the burden of a ten dollar pass.

A vast winter sky holds no position in particular, but binds all within it to an inter-connectivity which teaches all things how to be.

Found this birder at the ship channel on the Galveston side before taking the ferry to Bolivar. Those are (mostly) Black Skimmers on the sandbar, wintering here by the hundreds every season.

One of the legendary Bolivar Mosquitoes. I photographed this one on the window glass after having had its fill of my bodily fluids and wishing then to escape. You’re welcome. A steady gulf breeze tends to keep them inland but that dies down at night and they will find you if you’re up and about early like I always am.

I intend to do some traveling next year, so expect more travelogue type stuff here. I will write another poem when one occurs to me and not before.

Happy Holidays

If there’s one thing Indiana Jones can’t stand it’s nazi sympathizing archeologists who leave their Christmas shopping to the last minute. I think we should all buy each other worthless trinkets (from a vendor in the street—no big box stores!) then bury them in the sand for a thousand years: voila! Priceless relics for everyone!

But seriously, may the blessings of all the wisdom traditions of gods and humans bring the enduring conditions for peace and calm abiding within the mind-streams of all the sentient beings, past, present and future. Svaha. Om.

Paul Gauguin with this, my favorite rendering of the Crèche.
Because it looks Christmasy, a still from Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven
Sorry, peace has been identified as a form of Socialism. [ D E N I E D ]
In space, no on can hear the store’s PA playing Little Drummer Boy.
Why must the birth of the Messiah be attended by so much utter nonsense?
Happy birthday, Jesus!

Peace out, my friends.

Red-tailed Hawk

Caught this red-tail picking at the body of some little critter just off the busy path at the Eastern Glades, Memorial Park, Houston, TX.

Chipping Sparrow in a small flock at Houston Arboretum, early the same day.

Snowy Egret at Brays Bayou, Houston.

Buffalo Bayou offers some nice wooded walkways right in the heart of the metropolitan bustle.