life is funny, part 387

You could cry or die
Or just make pies all day
— patty griffin

Mount Rainier glimmers in the background. The day is warm and sunny and bittersweet. We’re here for another verse of Lyle Lovett’s “Family Reserve.” And he’s mowing.

As a guy, I can tell you there are two basic kinds of males. Those who love to mow, and those who do not. It’s obvious he lands squarely in the first group.

He’s on a big riding mower, the 21st century version of the old farm tractors I grew up with. He’s tackling the football field of a yard in the front on the farm. As one who spent his early years pushing a mower over large areas, I feel an immediate kinship.

Row after row, back and forth. Mowing offers a joyous simplicity in a world spinning out of control. Just do this one thing. Go up, turn around, go back. Life is enormous, but if you break it down into these little rows, you can make it. And then a few weeks later, you do it all again. A rhythm of the seasons, a ritual of bonding with the world. A time to make peace with the cosmos.

He looks up, spots his cousin, and flashes that huge smile. Turns off the mower, takes out his protective ear gizmos and walks over. They catch up while I sneak cookies off of the buffet table. He has come so far; overcome so many hurdles. And now he seems happy.

He and Mo talk for a long time, about eight cookies’ worth if I’m keeping track of time by cookies, and there are worse ways to keep track of time. But then he needs to get back to work.

He returns to the mower, the male equivalent of making pies all day, the thing guys do when you need to go on autopilot for a while. Ear gear in, motor revved up, on to the next row. And then the next.

I’m happy for him. He seems to have landed in a good spot. That spot being a tractor seat. I go off to look for where they’ve hidden the pies.

At the end of the day, life is a series of snapshots you carry around with you, some happy, some sad, some so special that you stash them in a box on the top shelf where they’ll be safe.

In my mind, I have that Polaroid of him sitting on that tractor, plowing through his unruly crop, making his peace with the world, one row of grass at a time. That one is going on the top shelf for sure.

Mount Rainier glimmers in the background. The day is warm and sunny and bittersweet. And he’s mowing.

Life is funny …

Posted in margarine | Tagged ,

dreams, part 2

There are so many ways to wear
What we’ve got before it’s gone
To make use of what is there
I don’t wear anything I can’t wipe my hands on

— the prophet ani

I’m standing in the parking lot after a run. This being a dream, I can still run.

An old running couple, looking as if they might have been from Olema in the ’60s, stop to inspect my shoes.

“What are they?” one of them asks. Old runners have a way of cutting to the chase. Or the chase pack.

I explain that they’re made by a small low-carbon footprint shoe company in San Francisco, a properly liberal city.

They seem skeptical.

For real, I assure them. They use only socially responsible materials for their shoes. I’m not sure what socially responsible means, but they’re old hippies, and I assume you can dazzle old hippies with ecologically sensitive phrases. Still, they seem skeptical.

What are they made of? they ask.

I explain that the outer material is made from tree fiber, sourced from South African farms that minimize fertilizer and rely on rainfall rather than irrigation. Compared to cotton, it uses 95 percent less rainwater and cuts their carbon footprint in half.

I see an eyebrow goes up, which could be a good sign or merely a post-run twitch. Eyebrows can easily cramp up after a run. The Post-Run Stink Eye. I can see I haven’t won them over, so I continue.

I explain that the shoelaces are made from recycled plastic bottles. One shoelace is one recycled bottle. They seem ambivalent, believing there should be no plastic bottles to recycle in the first place, but grudgingly impressed. I’m reeling them in.

I offer that the eyelets are created thanks to unique microorganisms that consume plant sugars. I don’t even know what this means, and I’m hoping neither is a microbiologist. Not because a microbiologist would understand what this means; I just don’t care for microbiologists.

They nod. Or possibly nod off. Nevertheless, I persist.

I take a step in the dirt and show them the footprint. It’s an honest to god low carbon footprint. We all look at it closely, and there appears to be no carbon whatsoever. I have no idea how they are able to do this. I assume Magic Beer Weasels.

And the insoles! They use castor bean oil to increase the natural content in their insoles. Who doesn’t have fond childhood memories of castor oil? Actually, I don’t. I was quite young at the time. But I think this hooks them. They seem excited at last.

So what are the insoles made of other than castor oil beans, they ask, the one question I had feared.

Baby seals, I am forced to admit. They slaughter baby seals right on the beach and carve their carcasses into insoles. Very comfy except the whiskers can sometimes tickle the bottom of your feet. But they’re grain-fed baby seals, I point out.

The man faints. The woman kicks me in a shin with one of her Hokas, no doubt made out of nothing recycled nor organically sustainable. Some people are never satisfied.

I do my post-run stretch. Yes, since it’s a dream, I stretch. I buy a diet Coke in a plastic bottle on the way home in case I break a shoe lace.

And then I wake up.

Posted in margarine | Tagged , , ,

nature yin/yang

Yin: Yet another forest fire is raging out of control to the northwest. 9,000 acres so far, with no hope yet of getting it under control. They’re evacuating the tiny town nearby that serves as the finish line of one of the ultrarunning community’s most beloved races. With no rain in the forecast, high temperatures and inaccessible terrain, firefighters face an almost impossible task. Heartbreaking.

Yang: The massive smoke drifting into our city below makes for a lovely sunset.

Life always seems to balance out.

Posted in margarine

dreams, part 1

And i’m proud to be a hippie from olema
Where we’re friendly to the squares
and all the straights
We still take in strangers
if they’re Haggard
In olema, california, planet earth

— the prophet jesse colin young

We’re stuck in traffic in downtown San Francisco in an old pickup with a camper on back, the kind your grandparents bought if they lived through the depression and used their savings to buy a vehicle to see the world, or at least the world’s biggest ball of string. See the world today, in a Chevrolet. I have no idea where this camper came from.

Mo and I are in the back with an old guy I don’t know. He’s wearing overalls and he’s surly. He has a dog, an annoying little rat terrier sort of thing whose only redeeming value is that he’s wearing a bowler hat. Dogs and fashion. Hard to keep up.

Anna is up front at the wheel, which is odd because I think she’s 13 or 14 these days and as far as I know has no idea how to drive. But we’re leaving the city on a crowded freeway that has us pinned in, so I suppose driving skills aren’t required. I don’t know where Jami and Brian are; likely staying behind to guard the apartment. Rent control, you know.

Anna is smoking one of Brian’s cigars, so it’s hard to see her in the cab through the haze. Or maybe it’s the heavy smoke from the fire that is hanging over the Bay Area. I have no idea how we got here; only that we need to flee as the fire marches closer.

She drives with her left elbow propped up on the open window, the other barely touching the steering wheel as we veer from left to right to left, bouncing off vehicles and traffic barriers as the white stripes pass by. The painted ones, not the band. I don’t think they’re together these days.

The old guy in back wants pancakes. Mo explains that we can’t have pancakes because we had pancakes for breakfast before he showed up, and besides there’s no internet access here so she can’t look up the Martha Stewart recipe. The dog growls ominously. The old guy settles for oatmeal.

We drive for what seems like forever, but it’s hard to tell in dreams. The dog is an annoying whistler, which is unfortunate because he’s a Merle Haggard fan. I make a mental note never to take road trips with dogs who whistle. The traffic starts to thin out as we eventually make our way out of town.

We stop in Olema, so we can sing the Youngbloods “Proud to be a Hippie from Olema” spoof of Haggard, annoying the mutt greatly. And besides, it’s been an hour and Anna has to do her homework. Remote learning, you know. We get out to walk and to avoid possible algebra questions. The dog stays, whistling “Okie from Muskogee” while scowling, if little rat dogs know how to scowl, and apparently they do.

The old guy wants to play frisbee golf in the Olema park where we’ve stopped, using the leftover pancakes from breakfast. I point out that there aren’t any because we had oatmeal.

We compromise by playing oatmeal golf. It doesn’t work very well, but seems heart-healthy.

When we come back to the camper, Anna is wearing the bowler and the dog is smoking the cigar. Anna veers back onto the road, clipping a San Luis Obispo road sign and an ancient Volkswagen van. Flower power this, baby.

I hope the dog isn’t going to drive a shift. The old guy scowls, fishing oatmeal out of his pockets. We drive.

I wake up.

Posted in margarine | Tagged , ,

i’m just a bill

“We the People of the United States,
in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice,
insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,
promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty
to ourselves and our Posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution
for the United States of America.”

— schoolhouse rock

“The best art is art you can chunk
through a window in a pinch.
— mo

Mo is smitten with pottery because of the concept of functional art. You make a painting, and it just stares at you. You make a mug, and it joins you for morning coffee. Mo loves her morning coffee.

So when she had a chance to participate in a project by local artist Patricia Sannit, she literally jumped out of her shoes.

The idea in the artist’s words: “We the People is inspired by the Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, London — a lively place where members of the community regularly share their views to listeners gathered around.”

Ms. Sannit recruited artists to carve their take of “We The People” on bricks. I love it because there are so many different takes on one theme, individual expressions in a united cause, not unlike the founding fathers. Yes, I only enjoy saying “founding fathers” because of the alliteration.

Then they were compiled into a platform where you can stand and say whatever’s on your mind. “Our democracy is on shaky ground and I was compelled to build a platform for free speech that represents all of us,” Ms. Sannit said. Mo helped build the project by carving four of the bricks. We went to the museum today to see the finished project. It’s pretty great.

Mo already said everything on her mind last night during the dueling town halls, so she was mostly content to stand on it quietly and feel the power of so many people uniting for a just and noble cause, one that began so long ago and is struggling to survive. Her one political statement: “Anyone who supports transgender rights has my support.” Because the blessings of liberty shouldn’t apply only to one group.

As a journalist, I still cling to the lofty dream that the pen is mightier than the sword. But I figure toting a brick can’t hurt. Just in case.

Every four years, we get the chance to form a more perfect union.

Here’s hoping we get it right.

Posted in margarine | Tagged , , ,