12.7.2021 – where is orion

where is orion?
what equinox precession?
see that southern cross
?

When I was a kid, growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, me, my family, my friends and the whole neighborhood would go sledding at night in the winter time on the hill by our school, Crestview Elementary.

The hill wasn’t a mountain or anything but it was high enough and long enough to be the best sliding hill in the world for little kids.

Our neighborhood had been built on an golf course.

The mainstreet through the neighborhood, my street, Sligh Blvd., followed a more of less, east-west path of what had been a small creek and ravine through the middle of the golf course.

Even though my Dad had grown up on the North End of Grand Rapids and knew that the property had been a golf course, he didn’t realize what building a house along what had been an existing watercourse would mean.

But we learned and relearned every spring when our basement would fill with water.

This was really odd as there were no windows in our basement but there were two floor drains that were connected to the storm sewers.

You can figure out the rest of that story.

The streets that connected to Sligh and went north and south went up hill no matter which direction you turned.

Houses were built along these streets until you got down by our house and the developer must have decided that it was just to much of a hill and the land was left vacant and a public school and park was built there.

Our house was on the south side of the street.

On the north side, there was a single row of houses and then the school property started.

Crossing the street and passing that row of houses, we were at the bottom of the longest, widest hill on the North End.

And that is what we called it.

The North End.

There was even an NE on the street signs.

People from out of town thought that the NE stood for North East.

We all knew it was for North End.

Grand Rapids, had and still has, a North End, a South End and a West Side.

Back when we had a high school, we were the CRESTON POLAR BEARS because we were on the North End.

I recently had to answer some security questions at my bank and when the lady asked what my high school mascot was, she kind of paused and then said, “You are the only Polar Bears I have ever heard of.”

But back to the hill.

It was possibly the best sliding hill ever.

It was a wide, long, long gentle slope with few trees.

A fence ran along one side where there were houses that you had to worry about if you went of to the left, which was an attraction as that side of the hill was steep but then there was that fence at the bottom.

What you wanted to do was stay on the main hill and slide as far and as long as you could.

When conditions were right, you could slide forever.

There are a lot of things I remember about sledding on that hill.

There were always a bunch of kids up there.

There was a wide range of sliding equipment from sleds and saucers to toboggans.

The single bladed snurfer came along at some point.

Over the course of the winter the snow on the hill would get packed down into something just this side of ice in an ice rink.

When that happened, all the old fashioned sleds came out and you could fly down that hill.

Then someone would build a jump and we would all take our chances with that.

No safety gear, no helmets.

Kids started showing up in school with cuts and bruises on their chins that you got laying head first on a sled and speeding down the hill with your face inches above the surface, and you chin banging on the handles.

There was that long walk back up the hill that was the price for a really long slide.

There was the cold.

There was the wet.

Winter meant a lot of cold, wet and cold, wet wool.

I can feel it.

I can smell it.

But what really sticks in my brain were the stars.

I have rarely seen stars like the stars we saw as kids sledding on Crestview hill.

In my mind, it was like the winking twinkling stars in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

When I first saw Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, I thought Mr. Van Gogh had stood on our hill in winter time.

History tells us that Starry Night was painted in June and in France, but I don’t buy it.

Mr. Vincent was here.

It is one of those time space continuum things that you understand if you stare at Starry Night long enough.

My Dad liked stars and he liked to point out stars to us kids.

I can hear him say, “That’s not a star, that’s Venus.”

I say it the same way to my Grandkidz

I listened enough to my Dad to know that the big cluster of bright starts over head was the Constellation Orion.

At some point in a night of sledding, you would get tired and lay back on the snow and look up at all those stars.

The feeling of insignificance in this world was overwhelming while at the same time you felt close to God and his creative genius.

This was deep snow for a ten year old.

It was welcome to stand up and look across the Grand River Valley to the heights on the other side of the river where a giant red K glowed in the dark marking the K Mart store on Alpine to bring you back into civilization.

Now I live in the south.

When I lived in Atlanta there was too much light to see the stars much.

Now that I live along the Atlantic Coast, I am getting reacquainted with the stars.

But there is something wrong down here.

I can’t find Orion.

I did find a couple of really cool websites that allow you to follow the night sky for your location.

My Dad would have loved that.

And from what I can learn, Orion can be seen down here, but it isn’t right up overhead but low on the horizon.

The problem there is that living in the low country, there are few places where you can get the elevation to see the horizon.

I can, of course, go over to the beach, but horizon goes off to the east and I think Orion is to the southwest.

And that got me thinking, am I far enough south to see the Southern Cross.

Always wanted to, maybe just because it is on both the Australian and New Zealand flag and maybe because of the song that was popular when I was in High School.

So into the google goes Can I see the southern cross in South Carolina.

The answer is no, but the discussion on the Wikipedia page was fascinating.

According to Wikipedia:

The bright stars in Crux [the Southern Cross] were known to the Ancient Greeks, where Ptolemy regarded them as part of the constellation Centaurus. They were entirely visible as far north as Britain in the fourth millennium BC. However, the precession of the equinoxes gradually lowered the stars below the European horizon, and they were eventually forgotten by the inhabitants of northern latitudes.

Saw that last line over.

However, the precession of the equinoxes gradually lowered the stars below the European horizon, and they were eventually forgotten by the inhabitants of northern latitudes.

Again.

The stars were eventually forgotten by the inhabitants of northern latitudes.

I don’t know why I didn’t know that.

That the stars themselves are in motion.

Well, no that’s not it, but that the earth relationship to the stars is in motion.

In another 4,000 years the Southern Cross will be back up here.

Not sure that I would trade Orion.

10.12.2021 – those lucky ones whom

those lucky ones whom
clocks no consequence, times true
emotional drift

Adapted from the line:

“The summer came and went quickly which is the nature of summer for people who are not children, those lucky ones to whom clocks are of no consequence but who drift along on the true emotional content of time.”

from The Summer he Didn’t Die – A Brown Dog Novella, by Jim Harrison

10.10.2021 – summer came and went

summer came and went
quickly, summer for people
who are not children

Adapted from the line:

“The summer came and went quickly which is the nature of summer for people who are not children, those lucky ones to whom clocks are of no consequence but who drift along on the true emotional content of time.”

from The Summer he Didn’t Die – A Brown Dog Novella, by Jim Harrison

Me and grand daughter Dallas

9.4.2021 – satisfying first

satisfying first
the needs for understanding
compassion respect

Adapted from the book, A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary (2009, Vintage Books) by Alain de Botton, and the passage:

Yet it was more than a little disingenuous for the airline to deny all knowledge of, and responsibility for, the metaphysical well-being of its customers. Like its many competitors, British Airways, with its fifty-five Boeing 747s and its thirty-seven Airbus A320s, existed in large part to encourage and enable people to go and sit in deckchairs and take up (and usually fail at) the momentous challenge of being content for a few days. The tense atmosphere now prevailing within David’s family was a reminder of the rigid, unforgiving logic to which human moods are subject, and which we ignore at our peril when we see a picture of a beautiful house in a foreign country and imagine that happiness must inevitably accompany such magnificence. Our capacity to derive pleasure from aesthetic or material goods seems critically dependent on our first satisfying a more important range of emotional and psychological needs, among them those for understanding, compassion and respect. We cannot enjoy palm trees and azure pools if a relationship to which we are committed has abruptly revealed itself to be suffused with incomprehension and resentment.

Part of the series of Haiku inspired by from A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary (2009, Vintage Books) by Alain de Botton. I discovered this book entirely by accident. When searching for books online, I will use the term ‘collections’ and see what turns up. I figure that someone who has taken the time to gather together the etexts of any one author to create a collected works folder is enough for me to see what this author might be all about.

In this case I came across the writing of Alain de Botton. I enjoyed his use of language very much. Much of the words he strings together lend themselves to what I do.

As for his book, I recommend it very much though written in 2009, it misses the added layer of travel under covid but still the picture of the modern airport is worth the read.

8.19.2021 – taking out the trash

taking out the trash
into the Carolina night
warm dark overallness

Karen Blixen as Isak Dinesen (or Isak Dinesen as Karen Blixen) wrote in her short story, “From the Forests and Highlands – We come, we come” about living in Africa that, “The chief feature of the landscape, and of your life in it, was the air. Looking back on a sojourn in the African highlands, you are struck by your feeling of having lived for a time up in the air.

Having lived the first 50 years of my life in the great state of Michigan, I say that the chief feature of the landscape was also the air.

The COLD air.

Living up in the cold.

It wasn’t an Alaskan, Jack London, type of cold.

But an annoying, I forgot a sweatshirt, my feet are cold, nagging type of cold.

Always there.

Always lurking just below the surface of the warmest days.

And taking over the night even in the middle of summer.

My weather friends tell me that West Michigan is the 2nd most overcast region in the continental United States.

50 shades of gray dreary damp unoutshone only by Seattle.

Gray, dreary damp cold.

I am not enamored of the somewhat cheerful term of ‘sweater weather’.

The term ‘sweater weather’ was created by realtors or Canadians who endeavored to present a picture of a fun, if cold, lifestyle.

I now live in South Carolina.

I was outside last night.

It was in the mid 80’s both temperature and humidity.

Walking outside the dark warmth closed around me like a blanket

The type of blanket known as a comforter.

And I was comforted.

Lest you think I had forgotten my roots, the cold weather of Michigan was much on my mind.

I left my apartment and walked first into the building common stairway.

This part of the building has South Carolina air conditioning.

South Carolina conditions its inside air much like the city of Atlanta but on steroids.

As far as I can tell, air conditioners are installed and the settings are locked into the lowest possible temperate and left on forever.

Someone wrote that one of the benefits of Great Lakes beaches was that even in summer you could dig a shallow hole and bury your beer to get it cold.

In South Carolina, all you have to do to cool your beer to is leave it in the hallway.

I walked into the hallway in my shorts, T shirt and flip flops and tried to breath.

In my mind, it was Michigan in February.

Congealed is not a pleasant word.

Then I got out of the hallway and into the night.

My mindset had shifted to Michigan Summer nights.

No disrespect to Bob Seger and his sweet summertime, summertime.

Even at its warmest in Michigan, you can feel autumn moving in.

I was ready for chill.

I was ready for thinking why didn’t I have a hoodie on.

I was ready for thinking why didn’t I have a socks on.

Warm, thick socks.

And then, I didn’t think those things.

I didn’t because it wasn’t cold.

It was warm.

A thick delicious warmth.

The dark was so deep I could touch it.

I literally stepped out INTO the night.

And there was a light breeze.

There always seems to be a light breeze at night.

Just enough to keep the air moving.

After all the reading I have done of sea stories and navy adventures, I should have had expected land breezes and sea breezes.

They are real.

When the sun sets and the land stays warmer than the sea, a light breeze comes in off the ocean.

It was a delight.

It was delightful.

I was full of delight.

I had to laugh.

I had to laugh out loud just for the sake of the delight in the dark warmth.

Ms. Blixen also writes, ” … you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be.”

I know what she means.

And while I can say that, I still have a hard time believing I am in South Carolina.

But be that as it way, here I am, where I ought to be.

Ms. Blixen also writes about Africa that, “Everything that you saw made for greatness and freedom, and unequaled nobility.”

Not that I can say exactly that about the South Carolina shore.

But I will say this.

Everything I felt in the warm dark overallness (so I made up a word) made for me, greatness and freedom, and unequaled, well maybe not nobility but can I say satisfaction.

And I was just taking out the trash.

PS – Yes the short story, “From the Forests and Highlands – We come, we come” is better known as Out of Africa but had I wrote that everyone would be reading my essay in the voice of Meryl Streep as she used it in the movie of the same name. A voice that not too outrageously had me waiting for her to say beyork beyork beyork like the Swedish Chef in the Muppet Show..

6.9.2021 – it was a dawn to

it was a dawn to
remember on your deathbed
life lived within life

Adapted from Sundog by Jim Harrison, 1985.

It was a dawn to remember with a smile on your deathbed.

The sky was a vivid red as if the forest had caught fire. I drove through clumps of pink fog, re-crossing the river of the day before which lividly reflected the sky.

The roadside and small clearings in the forest were covered with a white blooming dogwood, around which misted coiled and released like unraveling white satin.

I stopped the car and shivered, imagining that I might HAVE died and this was some sort of afterlife designed by H. Bosch and Magritte, much less vulgar that Dali; or it was life lived within a brilliantly colored seashell for which one might not emerge.

I added emphasis to HAVE.

‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ by Hieronymus Bosch.

I would give $199.25 to find out if Mr. Harrison couldn’t spell Hieronymus and in those innocent days before the google, had no easy way to look it up.

5.27.2021 – floods of yellow gold

floods of yellow gold
gorgeous, indolent, sinking
burning, expanding

Adapted from When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d by Walt Whitman

Pictures of growing spring and farms and homes,
With the Fourth-month eve at sundown, and the gray smoke lucid and bright,
With floods of the yellow gold of the gorgeous, indolent, sinking sun, burning, expanding the air,
With the fresh sweet herbage under foot, and the pale green leaves of the trees prolific,
In the distance the flowing glaze, the breast of the river, with a wind-dapple here and there,
With ranging hills on the banks, with many a line against the sky, and shadows,
And the city at hand with dwellings so dense, and stacks of chimneys,
And all the scenes of life and the workshops, and the workmen homeward returning.

Sunset over Pinckney Island and Skull Creek at high tide on the north end of Hilton Head Island.

1.10.2021 – state, inclination

state, inclination
of the day, we judge by
the sky’s complexion

Adapted from William Shakespeare from his play, Richard II.

Big Bill writes in Act II Scene 3;

Men judge by the complexion of the sky
The state and inclination of the day:

Jesus said, recorded in Matthew 16:2-3:

When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’

The old rhyme in my head goes:

Red Sky at Night
Sailor’s Delight
Red Sky in the Morning
Sailor take warning

Of course to be complete I have to include:

Red Sky at Night
Sailor’s Delight
Red Sky in the Morning
Your Barn’s On Fire!

Jesus went on to add, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

I have very pleasent memories of the many, many meteoroligiists that I had the pleasure of working with in 20 years of online news.

When most most folks see Allison Chinchar now on CNN they see a top notch Meteorologist.

I think of how Allie would burst into my office and empty a bag of Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter cups on my desk before she asked for something she needed online.

I think of Paul Ossmann one time when I was chatting with the weather team at WXIA in Atlanta.

Paul was hunched over his computer and kept muttering profanity.

I asked what was up?

Paulie responded that no matter what model he ran, Atlanta was smack dab in the middle of an upcoming massive snow storm.

His alarm was real.

The storm he saw coming is now known as the Blizzard of January 2011.

I never got out of the house for the next week.

They are a hard working dedicated bunch of scientists and broadcasters who enjoy their role and embrace the public trust in their masthead to inform their audience.

But still, as folks say, everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it.

How often do they get it right?

How often do they get it wrong.

And yet Jesus said that we DO know how to interpret the appearance of the sky.

So we got weather forecasting right.

And we know that record.

How can we every expect to even imagine we might be able to get anything in the future right.

Or as Sir Humphrey Appleby said (In Yes Minister) about unforeseen problems, “If I could foresee them, they wouldn’t be unforeseen.”

Lucky for us Jesus still has the anwser.

It is in Matthew 6:34 that Jesus says this:

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

It was a clear white sunny morning today in the Low Country.

No sailors need to take warning.

My barn isn’t on fire.

Heading to the beach.

Tomorrow is scheduled to arrive in 24 hours.

12.13.2020 – heavy leaden skies

heavy leaden skies
dutch mist that gets in your bones
might find challenging

I was reading the online newspaper column “Lets Move To . . .”

It is a regular feature in my favorite online newspaper, The Guardian.

I mention the Guardian a lot in these essays.

I like it because it is from Manchester.

My family, the one non-dutch branch in my tree anyway, came from Manchester.

All the rest of my family tree is firmly planted in the Netherlands.

For 50 years Alistair Cooke, another person who seems to turn up often in these essays, write a weekly column, Letter from America, for the Guardian.

And the Guardian went into business in 1836 and it 1936 its ownership went into a public trust to “secure the financial and editorial independence of The Guardian in perpetuity and to safeguard the journalistic freedom and liberal values of The Guardian free from commercial or political interference.”

So there you are.

In a recent Lets Move To … column, they went to and recommended the Dutch city of Rotterdam.

They listed good points and bad points or the case for and the case against moving to Rotterdam.

The fact that the Netherlands public schools follow tweetalig onderwijs or Bij tweetalig onderwijs (tto) volgen leerlingen een deel van het voortgezet onderwijs in een andere taal. Meestal is dit Engels which means bilingual public education so that most folks speak english.

Then the article touched on the weather.

The weather was listed under THE CASE AGAINST.

“Heavy leaden skies, and Dutch mist (drizzle) that gets into your bones. Those who like beauty of a more conventional ilk might find it challenging.”

Boy HOWDY!

No wonder my ancestors moved to West Michigan.

They could write back home and say, “You would love the weather. It’s just like home.”

Heavy leaden skies.

Dutch mist?

I got to send that one off to my buddy George Lessens the weather tsar of West Michigan.

Dutch mist that gets into your bones.

Those who like beauty of a more conventional ilk might find it challenging.

NO KIDDING.

12 years ago we moved to the the south.

Just recently I relocated to the Low Country of South Carolina and the Atlantic Coast.

It is December here as well.

We spent the afternoon at the beach on Hilton Head Island.

For those who like beauty of a more conventional ilk there is nothing challenging about living here.

I lived in the West Michigan for 50 years.

I lived in the Dutch Mist for 50 years.

I lived under the heavy leaden skies.

Yes, yes, yes, there were beautiful days and beautiful vistas and if you went to the beach in July all you had to do was dig a shallow hole in the sand to the ice to keep your drinks cold.

All benefits.

But mostly exceptions, not the daily rule.

Leaden skies and dutch mist.

Distant memory.

Kind of a bad dream.

I would write more but we are just off to the beach.


12.9.2020 – man versus nature

man versus nature
acqua alta, time and tide
nature wins again

Gene Hackman in the role of Lex Luther in the movie Superman II, walks through the destruction of the offices of the Daily Planet caused by General Zod and crew when they burst through the walls and windows and he says to himself, “Even with all this accumulated knowledge, when will these dummies learn to use a DOOR KNOB?”

I read today about the city of Venice and its century old battle with the ocean tides.

Much like I am learning about now, if you build near an ocean it is a good idea to keep the ocean in mind.

Or as JRR Tolkien wrote in the Hobbit, “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”

Venice was built on worthless swampy tidal land with, so I was told, the idea that those hordes of Mongols or Visigoths or Viking or who ever else might be coming down the river would have little interest in sacking the place.

The problem with worthless swampy land is that it is worthless swampy land.

And being on the ocean, the water will come up and down twice a day.

In Venice it is called the acqua alta or high water.

Time and tide waits for no one or “And te tide and te time þat tu iboren were, schal beon iblescet.” as it is first found in recorded history back in 1225.

But that did not stop the Venetians.

The latest effort to stop the tide is a project named MOSE or MOdulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico .

According to Wikipedia MOSE is part of the measures to improve the shallow lagoon environment are aimed at slowing degradation of the morphological structures caused by subsidence, eustatism, and erosion due to waves and wash.

Gosh.

I said the latest though it was designed back in 1984.

Venice is in Italy and Italy being Italy, things take a little bit longer.

Again according to Wikipedia, the project suffered from multiple delays, cost overruns, and scandals.

As they say, when in Rome.

MOSE is also a take of on the Italian for Moses and alludes to Moses and the Red Sea.

Again Wikipedia says, “Moses or “Mosè” in Italian, who is remembered for parting the Red Sea.”

And I always thought it was God who did the work but that is another story.

Back in 1984 the MOSE project was designed to close of the lagoons of Venice from the ocean and protect the city from high tide.

And as they say, so lucky for us that the Venetians invented blinds or it would have been curtains for all us.

The project got started.

Everyone got their share.

Everyone got their cut.

Everyone got to get their beaks wet a little.

And after 36 years MOSE was finished and ready to go.

Last week there was the first high tide of the season.

Downtown Venice was a lake.

Okay so it is usually a lake but this was a deeper lake and the kind of lake the MOSE was supposed to stop.

Four feet of water in St. Mark’s Church.

And I did say IN THE CHURCH.

It was deeper outside in St. Mark’s Square.

Seems that, yes, MOSE was ready.

But you see.

No one turned it on.

In the long struggle of mankind versus nature the score remains, Mankind ZERO, NATURE 1,325,211.