Pages from An Old Woodshed

I. Dateline Farm, 17:44, Friday 11.22.2019. RIP JFK.

Nascent fire in stove. I should get some tongs for out here. Public radio from Columbia, MO. A moth wings my ear. Outside, clouded darkness. A breeze. And now, most rain. Eyes stung with smoke. I’ve stamped out two daubers already. In the cold, by lightbulb. Snow after midnight? They say.

Fire going, 52° in kitchen. Smudge hand, soot on this paper. Celebration Ale. Smoke lingers. I’ve covered the stove back up—putting the cast iron plates back in place after removing them to get a fire going in the wood chamber. Flames are robust. Mix of wood. Oak, cedar, pine lumber butt-ends. Headed to shed for vodka stash. Wearing the Tsurumi gloves.

59° in kitchen. Vodka retrieved. Along with a few oak shards for the morning restart.

II. Will I Sleep in the Kitchen?

I thought not but now I’m not so sure. I was doing some stretches on the wood floor in the first back bedroom. Working my psoas—muscles running from hip to back. Light stretch. Then bird dogs. Stretch and strengthen. Downward dog. I’ve been stretching again recently. To combat my persistent discomfort, stiffness, loss of range of motion. I might be on the right track. I’d like my back back! Stove at 225°. I’ve got one of my buttermilk biscuits in there.

I’ve lost part of me to text. Text messaging. My personality on text. My twenty-something-year relationship with Ray came to exist mainly in text. Then what? Then in person we’re not the same. At least, I’m not. There’s more to the fall than that but the texting, all of our texting, it’s part of what went wrong, part of what I didn’t know how to fix. Computers between us! A false intelligence. Like we were actors in a play. Oh, everything’s fine. After all, we still text. Texting alone—what’s it worth? What’s it good for? Not enough.

III. Cracking Myself Up.

The kitchen in the old Lee-Vaughan Farmhouse near Iberia, MO.

Am I here? Really here? Sometimes nothing feels real. Pain, pleasure, locale. It can be so easy, so absurd. My skepticism seems well placed.

Open-faced tuna salad, begun in oven, finished on stovetop griddle. Caramelized muenster, whoa baby. Those butt ends of timber left by Mark (Harry’s grandson) smell of pine, of Christmas, a Christmas tree. Home. Sap. Green taper. Presents. Skirt underneath. Fallen needles. Aid to Ukraine. First it didn’t exist, now you can’t escape it.

Photo of kitchen. I’m cracking myself up. This is Burisma’s Missouri headquarters. Rent is $12,000 a month. Giuliani is the landlord. Rodents abound.

IV. Theoretical Fiction.

Is a hotter planet more likely to be hit by an asteroid? Like a tall metal pole… a lightning rod? Temperature related to magnetism/gravity?

…If so, what ends a warming period is a sudden asteroid strike. Or a volcanic eruption. Then the sun is blocked out for years. Isn’t this what happened to the dinosaurs?

We’re worried about what we can do. I don’t think we can act fast enough, not before we attract a major hit. What would that mean? A colder Earth. Not global warming but climate change indeed.

People say, “Oh, I’m a dinosaur.” Maybe we’re the new dinosaurs. And we’re burning all the old ones, and all the plants that were around back then before boom, Yucatan, asteroid, major extinction. Now they, in the form of oil, have been unearthed just in time for another galactic comeuppance.

V. Coffee and Kindling.

Awake. Coffee and kindling. Ash swept out of the stove. Overseas radio all night. Slept on the kitchen floor. No coals remaining. That stove’s as dead as a hammer.

Now, the fire. I have been binging the podcast called To the Best of Our Knowledge. Density. Front door open. This is when the love happens! I did not have to put a tarp over the door last night. I was able to walk out and whiz in the early morning chill. At 3:35. I’m not afraid anymore!

Peripatetic mind. Podcast episode about how the internet has ruined our mind for book-reading. Lots of sneezes. It’s the smoke. The morning. But I won’t take a pill. I just gotta get through it.

It’s foggy out there. Pasture mist. It probably rained off and on all night. Or maybe it’s just the foggy dew. Dripping from the eaves. I can see my breath in here. I’m stuffed up after a sneezing fit. My eyes are wet with smoke-seeded tears. Coffee in the ceramic mug I bought with my blood donor points. I’ve donated thrice this year. I’ll be eligible again in January.

VI. Infinite Blessed.

My head hurts a bit. A slug too much of the Skyy. I’ll be alright. I reassure myself. I’m infinite. Right? The door is checked by the breeze. In the distance someone shoots a gun. At a deer? At the effigy of my idea of myself? At the mist. At the steam rising from the coffee. At the tear running down my nose, threatening to streak my glasses. Hey, how about some breakfast?

It’s right at freezing outside. Something that fancies itself snow tries to fall. Dreary. I’ll have to go up to the shed to get my shovel. When I go up there I’ll take the wood satchel and load up on stove pieces.

VII. The Oaks, the Old Fences, the Powerline.

I’m opening a wood-powered cybercafé at Farm.

I’ve been clearing out part of the shed. One of the bays. I think of it as a future café, or perhaps even a place to sleep. I’ll show ya. I’m taking certain old items—tire, rim, an old heavy plow, pure iron, the weight—and moving them into a different shed. A junk shed.

Now I’m taking my drill out there to reinforce the structure a bit. This is my playground, my school, my office, my church.

Junk shed!

I scrounged around for corrugated metal strips to put (back) on the roof of the café. The old wood is so stubborn. Won’t hardly take a screw. Went with nails. Cut some corrugated to fit. The clouds started to give way to sun but only for half an hour. Now it’s cloudy again.

I’ve restarted the wood stove. I want to eat a couple hot dogs. I made a cup of green tea and it’s delicious. I’ve been listening to baseball podcasts.

Karmack came by. He was wearing an orange baseball cap. He said he was checking on cattle and deer hunting. He leaned out the window a couple of times to spit chew juice. He had binoculars in the truck and presumably also a rifle. When he left, half an hour later, gunshot in the distance.

VIII. Long Song, Orange Hat, Fifty Later.

How much the Pleiades moved
Pat saw dos shooting stars
Night sky in all directions

IX. Early Cirrus.

I don’t even know what kind of bird this was. In the moment I thought it was a flicker. But looking at the photo now I’m not so sure. Red headed woodpecker? Grosbeak? Oriole? Suggestions?

Thing is: it’s going to be a beautiful day. Birds on the gold-orange wing of morning light. Flickers, blue jays, robins. I watched in wonder as a flock of waxwings moved like one whistling wave. Away from me, away from shore before turning around, flip-wending and flying above me in that honey-dipped light. Early cirrus, hints of contrails. Rime. Cows along the fence, where Helm and I cleared three weeks ago. Now it’s a sightline. To see the cows so close. They are like company on a chilly, bright morning.

Cedar, oak, cow.

X. About Last Night.

Pat and I both slept in the kitchen. He’s on a cot, his head toward the fridge, the door. I was on the old couch cushions again. Not a great arrangement. The cushion that I had—or wanted to have—my head and pillow on kept drifting northward, away from me in the night, like some breakaway glacier. I’d reel it back in, then awake to find it had given me the slip again. It’s warm enough in here but the stove is long since quiet. There were moments in the night where I thought I heard the pop of burning wood, the settling of a fire in the stove but it would appear I was just hallucinating. Condensation on the door. Our respiration made manifest. Hum of fridge. Tick of clock against the wall. The coffee maker twitches. I lit two candles last night. They burned all night, and still.

Pat made a couple of damn fine steaks.
Two beds in the kitchen!

I got up to pee twice. At least. I was pounding water last night. After beers and sips of Old Crow. The stars had the sky to themselves. Well—they share it these modern nights with satellites. I’m starting to notice. There was no moon as we stood out on the stoop toward midnight looking at the Dippers, the Pleiades, Cassiopeia, Taurus.

I pointed out ruddy Aldebaran, the top left star of the Taurus vee. I could perceive where some star clusters were but only by looking askance at them—looking just enough to the side of them. The Milky Way was a blurry ribbon. Pat saw two shooters. Over the course of the evening I watched as Ursa Minor spun along its axis (Polaris).

Pleiades, the only star cluster clearly visible to the naked eye, started out in the east, over the pasture, looking like a tiny Big Dipper, the handle albeit a star or two short. This morning I saw Pleiades in the west, just after five. Then when I looked over toward the pasture, there it was: the moon. A crescent, lit only as a sliver at its bottom, looking eclipsed. Occult and strangely glowing.

Pat slightly shifts as steam rises from my cup of coffee. Cows make their groaning screech up the hill. Morning replete with morning.

The rechargeables in my radio were exhausted last night. I thought there was an AC adapter here but I couldn’t find it. Why I didn’t just bring the radio’s adapter I do not know. We resorted to phone as speaker. Believe it or not, we survived.

XI. Just Shy of 15:00.

Patrick has departed. We got some good clearing done. Tarp work. It’s sunny, almost warm. Not a cloud in the sky, not even a contrail.

XII. Oh, Yeah. The Buddhists Are Nuts About It.

I do not buy “The Big Bang”. It makes no sense. It is preposterous.

I look outside and whoomp. It’s dark. But then… Cassiopeia. Polaris. And to the west two very bright stars. Oh. Wait. One of them is moving. Satellite. Fake star.

The radio that’s here has a problem or two. I had it on. It was serviceable. But I still felt there was an AC adapter here. I texted Helm about it. He gave me specific directions to a nondescript box in the back bedroom—second shelf next to cabinet, with the spotlight. Bingo. AC adapter there and… it works!

I cannot stop my wonder at this place. Earlier I stumbled upon a bottle of gin I had stashed in the shed almost two years ago. I looked for it once but gave up, told myself I had previously uncovered it and took it home.

I’ve been sipping on it here tonight. Fire going. TTBOOK on public radio from CoMo. I need to eat. I need to wash. I need to sleep. I need to get back home. Tomorrow.

Use the stove tool to work that feeder panel, the cantankerous one that falls on the floor, the one with the barely hinge. Or, use kettle water. Stopper half the sink, add some cold tap, wash your hands in warmest water.

Two hot dogs roiling on circular griddle. It’s 18:30.

Next time bring: candles or fake candles. We had two candles going in the kitchen all night last night. I will have them going again tonight.

I’ve eaten the two hot dogs, with sliced bread as buns, the bread having been warmed in the oven. Ketchup, mustard. Currently in the oven is a biscuit sliced in half with some tuna salad in the middle. Sippin’ vodka. Sleep not far off. 19:00.

XIII. Do not bury the old stuff. The old stuff needs to come out first.

Three questions. Why is the Milky Way where it is? What, just what exactly is the Milky Way? And, what is that very bright star in the west/northwest?

Responses: Unsure, ibid., Vega.

I feel second family here. Who needs a second family? Who wouldn’t be part of one?

Next up: an hour of Celtic music. Song called… “Carnack”. Close. Saw his truck today, once or twice. Heard a deer rifle nearby but never saw him. Not today. Only Patrick.

XIV. Morning Stars.

I was outside just now. It’s 5:25. Clear. Still dark. Using the star chart I took my first real, knowing look at Perseus, a fairly large, gangly constellation, a compressed vee sitting between the Little Dipper and the Pleiades. Near Cassiopeia. Above Perseus lay the pentagon of Auriga, Capella its brightest star.

That was the western or northwestern sky. The very bright star in the east? Arcturus, of Boötes. Which lay just east of the Big Dipper. Meanwhile, between the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper snakes the body-tail of Draco the serpent. To have a clear, dark sky (out here) and not to look at it would be a shame. So I’m grateful I had the chance, the presence of mind this morning to get the star chart out, to take a look. And to have honed in on a new spot in the sky: Perseus, east of the Pleiades, near Cassiopeia, a smashed vee, lots of stars.

XV. Overnight News.

Back inside I’m sneezing, blowing my nose. Allergies I guess. I was fine yesterday morning. I chalk it up to the smoke. I don’t have any other reason to think I’m sick. I am stiff though. My back, my hamstrings. I haven’t stretched enough. It’s not so easy here, there are no soft floors. I’d have to throw down the tarp outside, and lay to stretch on that. What seems to wake me up most mornings, these days, is the roaring ache in my back. It sucks.

The radio played all night. Did I mention Helm led me by text to an AC adapter in the back room? Overnight news: a local election in Hong Kong. A pro-democracy landslide. But is it only symbolic? Protesters are still holed up in Polytechnic University. Will a successful election bring an end to the protests? We’ll see. Perhaps. For now.

The Secretary of the Navy is out. The Ambassador to Norway will take the spot. Some row about a soldier posing with a corpse, Trump somehow involved. He’s been on a skein of pardoning soldiers convicted of war crimes. What else? Another huge merger. $16B Tiffany bought out by a company controlled by the richest man in France. Good for him. Oh, Über is being booted out of London. I can’t remember anything else. There was a segment about cryptocurrencies, their popularity in eastern Europe, especially in the former Soviet states. I was ready to hear about it but I guess I fell back asleep. I was waking often, feeling the tightness in my back, falling asleep again.

XVI. One Last Restart.

The stove needs a restart. I’ll heat up some beans-n-rice. When the sun peeks out I’ll start moving my things to the car. I’ve got seeds—butternut and milkweed—to plant. Multiple cloves of garlic. And I wanted to caulk the frame of that “door” in the first back bedroom, the door that goes nowhere, has no stoop, opens to a drop. There must have been a stoop there at some point.

There were a bunch of wasps congregated around that spot earlier this month, on the inside of the house. No bueno. Heck. The wasps were waking up yesterday. There was one under the sheet I had temporarily laid across one of the mattresses just yesterday morning. Readying to make my couch cushion bed on the kitchen floor last night I went to get the sheet, could not believe a dauber had crawled under there mid-day. On November 24. No, the climate’s not changing at all…

Next time bring: candles. Plain but enclosed in glass. Washed dish rags. Fresh spices. A knife sharpener. Also, follow up on the book this Norwegian wood enthusiast is talking about: Norwegian Wood. A fire-making method called Vallian Bridge. Not sure I’ve spelled that correctly, not sure at all.

Closing time.

XVII. Epilogue: Theory While Driving.

Death is knowing what you wanted to know about the universe. It is stepping the rest of the way through the black hole that borne you, your memories the stars, the planets your past. Everything goes through. The universe expands with and because of every new life. This here universe, any universe. Not because of some “dark energy”. But because life is being added, and therefore also time. Then there’s the “other 96%” of the universe, what we call dark matter but which we cannot find. We cannot find it because it is right in front of our faces. It is time. Not our own time perhaps, not all of it. A lot of it is wasted time. But maybe when we step through we are able to take a little bit more of our own along with us.