Pages from the Catalog of a Wispy Mind







And grasses, without paychecks, sprays of seeds thrust above,
say the purer claim of thanks than paragraphs of published love.

Published in: on September 21, 2008 at 5:05 pm  Comments (1)  

Saturday — Wind

August 23, 2008 — Winchell Lake

“6:40 AM The wind continued to blow fiercely the rest of the morning, and still is.”

It does not escape me that the words Winchell and windchill sound very much alike. Appropriate. As Steve prepared breakfast and the rest of us broke camp, we kept hoping the wind would subside and allow progress. We had to move. Too much distance lay before us to allow another layover day, and we didn’t know how long the wind would keep up. The sky was brighter in the west, but that was no promise of calm.

Canoes loaded, we began to push away. The waves made it very difficult for Steve and Mike, even from the first. Somehow they maintained ultimate balance and their labor into the wind caused movement. The next canoe in the water was Phil and John’s, but they wanted Jim and me to head out next, so we loaded our gear and mounted up. When we were clear and facing the wind, Steve and Mike had progressed a few hundred yards, but they were sideways to the wave action and had capsized. Someone yelled to us that they were in the water, so we headed that way to help, if needed. They were in a shallow place and were able to drag their boat and gear to shore for draining and reassembly. Jim and I retrieved a few floating items and met them at the shore.

Reloaded and back under way, the other two canoes joined us in what was the hardest paddling of our trip. That inexplicable wind just kept on coming.

Perhaps I should pause here and explain my regard for wind. I don’t know why, but wind is a major irritant to me. My blood pressure goes up in March. Even if I’m inside my house or a building, the presence of wind outside makes me grumpy and impatient. Wind is shells in my seafood, sand in my eyes, the jock itch of my soul. It distracts and keeps me off-balance. I don’t like it.

So, after being kept awake by it all night and feeling its touch for the past sixteen hours, I was pretty edgy. The futility of our struggle against the blow kept my frustration growing. At times, our strongest paddling was necessary just to hold our position. We moved forward only when the windspeed dipped, and then struggled again to not move backward. My good partner Jim patiently endured my muttering and grunting. The other boats found a lee in which to rest, but we kept moving. Later, when better positioned to move toward shore, we rested too. But the windwhipped waves swamped our boat where we sat, and we had to unload, dump, and reload.

Back out, we worked into the teeth of the wind. After a while, the boats in front began nosing starboard toward a peninsula campsite. This was “Methodist Point” that Phil had told us about. Two canoes landed for a rest, and Jim and I took position to come in third. While we were landing, the fourth boat found itself perpendicular to the wind and flipped. A few of us went into the water to lend aid, and everyone came ashore eventually.

So there we were. Wet, tired, and cooler than was comfortable, even though the sun felt good. We had progressed 2.25 miles in a little over two hours. The campers at that site were glad to have us share their shore, as they were preparing to leave, anyway. We took our time resting and warming, and lunch soon followed. After everyone seemed safely beyond danger of hypothermia, we gathered for a decision: continue, or stay?

Good discussion led to concensus that, even though, from this vantage point, we could see where we would leave this overly windy lake, we might not even be able to make it safely there under the present conditions. We would stay the night and hope for calmness the next morning. It was also agreed that we must paddle with the wind tomorrow, not against it, even if that meant going back the way we had come. We were approximately halfway around our route, but only two of our five days remained. We were still within timely reach of our destination, but contrary winds would never allow it.

Our stay at this site turned out to be a very enjoyable time.







Minnesota Nighttime Reflection

Nightfall, vision’s last call,
darkness was early tonight.
It’s mostly about sound, now,
wind and loons, brute and elegance,
poles in my love of this lake.

Red squirrel, come back tomorrow,
darkness was early tonight.
It all becomes fine, now.
It doesn’t matter what they’re saying
in the other tent.

SPj – August 23, 2008

Published in: on September 3, 2008 at 5:40 pm  Comments (4)  

Coin Connections

Remember this posting where I talked about finding a Mercury dime in my pocket change? Well, yesterday while visiting some church members in their home, I obtained some fascinating information about that coin that I didn’t previously know.

These folks are coin collectors, see. Part of the conversation turned in that direction, and the woman picked up the April 2008 issue of Coin Values magazine to show me a picture of the $50 coin whose gold comes from mines in South Carolina. Cool. As I absently flipped through the magazine, my eye caught a sidebar type mini article about myths regarding the so-called Mercury dime.

At this point, it would have been rude to just surreptitiously read the article while pretending to be listening to the couple talk. So I drew their attention to it and read it to them. Here’s what I learned:

The head on the obverse is not Mercury. (Okay, all serious collectors know that already, but I didn’t.) The name of the coin, in fact, is the Winged Liberty Head Dime. It has nothing to do with the character from Greek mythology. The designer of the coin, Adolph A. Weinman, was referenced, and it was his intent that the wings depict liberty of thought. But the exciting part was that Weinman’s model for Libery’s head on the coin seems to have been Elsie Kachel Stevens, the wife of poet Wallace Stevens! Stevens, one of my favorite poets, wrote “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” and many other perfectly balanced lines of verse.

So now I’m liking the coin even more.

For a more detailed and interesting account, see this online article.

Published in: on May 14, 2008 at 9:19 am  Comments (3)  

Green Month, 3-11-8


Kittiwakes and puffins fly here.
You can lie here, soft the grass
blown clean of hard will. Breathe
slowly, hold still, finger your dream
’til it sings. Listen and sigh. Clear
lingering insight grows wings.

Published in: on March 11, 2008 at 4:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Throwing Stuff — Story Four

Ethel Patterson Moore was my great aunt, the sister of my Grandaddy Patterson. She lived beside my grandparents, and we kids spent a lot of time visiting with her when we were there. She was very loving and good to everyone, and visits from her great nephews and nieces made her happy. This loose poem I wrote in the late 1990s recalls some of the interaction with her:

July Returning

The weather is festive
like a feather among dandelions,
and I almost squash a toad
while I roll
seeing sky — grass — sky — grass —

and there’s a cloud that looks like
the rocking chair in
Aunt Ethel’s living room
where I used to visit
like a good boy should
and say thank you when
she offered me candy from the
yellow-red-and-white enamel dish
by the kitchen sink.
Later I would sit on her steps
and laugh as she shouted
at those stupid people
on the afternoon TV shows.
Glad to be too young
for such things,
I crawled under the fence
and fed bright yellow bitterweed
to Cindy the milk cow.

I remember one time when she put together a little afternoon picnic for some cousins and myself, and we all went to a pretty corner of the pasture for the impromptu adventure. Years later, her funeral was one of the first I ever performed after becoming a pastor, and the first of several funerals for family members that I’ve either officiated or assisted. Anyway, beside her house was a clothesline, and beside the cloethesline was a pear tree. The tree seemed to try to outdo itself each year, becoming so heavy with big juicy pears that tall boards were used to prop up the limbs and keep them from breaking off.

One day early in the season, I was there beside the tree, and the pears were still small. I don’t recall how old I was, but I was not young enough that this isn’t embarassing. You might not know this about me, but I like to throw things, and these pears were irresistable. I picked several off the tree and looked around for a target. There, across the yard a little way, was the bathroom window of Aunt Ethel’s house. Something in my upbringing should have stopped me right there, but nothing did. That screened window became my target, and I started throwing, one after the other, hitting the window easily and seeeing how far I could make them bounce.

It wasn’t long before the lone resident of the house came to the window and told me to stop that. Told me I should know better. I think she even made me promise to not do that anymore. She went back to other parts of the house, and a few minutes later, I started throwing those pears again! There’s no need for any of you to write and ask me why, because I have no idea — other than raw sinful nature. When I finished, I left to go do other things, amazingly ignorant as to how my fortunes had changed.

There were no cell phones back then, of course. Aunt Ethel didn’t even have a phone at all. But when Daddy got home from work that evening, he already knew what had happened. I was summoned, made to give an account, made to understand that my spanking would happen by means of two hickories at the same time (unheard of!), and that I should keep my hands out of the way. Since I had obviously lost my mind, the remedy was that I would lose my butt, too. (A parental concept of balance!!) Of course, when hickories (switches, some call them) are used, they get their best result all up and down the backs of the bare legs. That’s the way it was. Later, I went to apologize to Aunt Ethel. And I’ve never thrown another pear, peach, apple, pecan, or grape at anyone’s window again.

Published in: on March 10, 2008 at 4:35 pm  Comments (2)  

Christmas Eve

I have appreciated your readership of Balance this year. Your comments and e-mails have contributed much to what has become a pleasant community in this small corner of the internet. Whether the content is serious or silly, I have enjoyed your interaction and hope you have enjoyed each other.

Today is December 24, and Christmas begins tomorrow. That can mean so many things. You might face the season with stress and dread or with relief and joy; either way, I wish for you some elegant moment in the midst of the clatter:

Perhaps laughter, and the smell of bacon frying,
conversation, deep and uncontrived,
a quiet smile you weren’t meant to notice,

music bad enough to ridicule all week,
music good enough to make you forget what you were saying,
and love at your elbow, holding on.

I wish you a gladness for the darkness, with early January frogs,
the sound of cards being shuffled,
and a dog who won’t leave you alone,

a savior Who is obvious,
a friend who is not,
the power of something strong left unsaid.

Published in: on December 24, 2007 at 9:10 pm  Comments (3)  

A Recent Sky




This air is cold and words are thin, but something alive stirs within
a silent heart which knows the night as tender spouse of ancient light.

Published in: on December 6, 2007 at 7:43 pm  Comments (5)