She is making a galaxy in front of me and
I have no canvas for that.
I make a little divet to mark the moment.
I am swirling by. It’s a curve. It’s a train.
It’s a corner
You are looking out and I am looking up.
Shutter falls, shadows rise
Light disappears and winds its way back,
Slack and sideways to this corner moment.
I am not even thinking about any of this
But of New Orleans and the
ragged edges after the flood
It’s 2010, but I only write the date out of guilt, because dates remind me that in New Orleans
everything is before or after Katrina.
I am in Chicago and the El rattles along and the corner disappears and your corner, blue window and my
Conjured memory of a windstorm I was not a part of
and the corner bends around and the train rattles a little
Stephen goes by Steve. He is a rocketeer. He makes rockets that go 40,000 feet in the air, for fun, like guys who make cars that go 250 miles an hour for a quarter of a mile. I met Steve in the desert outside Bend near a “town” called Brothers. There were a couple of hundred rocket guys out there, all part of Oregon Rocketry. Several rockets an hour blasted off, some only going a few hundred feet and some going miles in the air. After the flight the crew who put the rocket up follow a beacon to retrieve it. Most of the rockets have homemade fuel, many have homemade motors. Steve’s rocket here, which flew today – although I was not present today – was to ascend to around 34,000′.
Steve saw our family pull up with our two year in tow and he made us right at home, giving us a radio feed to the announcer (including countdowns for every rocket), told us when we had to move away from the parking/viewing area to a place further away for a really big rocket – on O class. Rockets motors get exponentially bigger with each letter in the alphabet. B twice as big as A, etc. Apparently, according to Wikipedia, a 5Z motor would power the space shuttle…if we had one (grrhhh).
Although this photo, and the idea of rocketry, may conjure up (other) testosterone laden images, Steve and his rocketry buddies don’t come off that way at all. They are, I gotta say it, down to earth, engineer types and all very friendly. I am sure ego come in to it, but I didn’t get deep enough to see it.
Specs on Steve’s rocket (forgive the likely errors, Steve):
Performance Rocketry Mongoose Assembled Rocket
98mm motor, N
Fuel is SOS, Steve’s Orange Sunset 45% N 1675
This is the rocket’s third flight. Previous flights to 42,000′ and 33.500′.
I love it that there are communities of people hanging out, doing something they love for no other apparent reason. Steve said he loses time out at Brothers. It felt like he was squeezing the life out of every moment that he was there.
To start, read this story and click on every link:
I took this picture months ago while walking around Guatemala City. I did not know what it meant. Exactly three days ago, I looked up “Justice for Genocide” on Google and that was the day that General Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity – that last one always strikes me deeply – convicted of being inhuman, the first time a former head of state had been sentenced in his own country for such crimes. Good for you Guatemala. Thank you. The erosion of trust for the powerful is in full swing here in the United States. Barak Obama is presiding over three disasters – dead Americans in Libya, apparently left to die without backup, that’s bad. The IRS has apparently been exerting itself to overly investigate conservative non-profits during an election year – that stinks. Worst of all, the Associated Press has had their phone tapped for months and then their records confiscated in the interest of the public “interest”. I am not interested in that. I want an overly free press. Way overly free. Without that we are in danger of tyranny. I am a social liberal (fiscally I am probably a Libertarian). I am willing to wait for all the evidence to come out, and I don’t believe all the evidence will come out, before I make a judgement, but I am hard pressed to believe that any reason to target political groups unfairly by the IRS or that the Justice Department would ever have good reason to tap every phone at the AP, is justifiable. Can’t swallow that.
This Guatemalan dictator killed thousands. We have much to be grateful for here in the United States, even now, but the relationships between us and “them” is growing narrower. It is growing scarier.
I am thinking about justice and crimes. I am thinking about my side of the street. I am thinking about owning what I do to hurt other people and what I have to make right. I am also thinking about where that ends and where I stand up for the fact that I am a good man even though I make mistakes. This is something I don’t think countries do. Can they take this step? Can anyone tell me of a time when that has happened? For my purposes in my own life, it doesn’t matter except that I won’t look to nations to learn morality. Politics is a different subset of human endeavor. Ethics, ideals, morals, integrities – these are things that well up in me, in you, in the individual, but don’t seem to be a part of governments or politics. That is why it is critical that government exists to support the individual, both for freedom and responsibility (they are as tied to one another as the A and B sides of a record). When we rely on governments to define ethics, morality etc, we rely on an entity that will wiretap the press, allow the IRS to target unsavory sorts, etc. I need to maximal freedom so that I show up for my side of the street, clean it up and be a better man today than I was yesterday.
I joined a writing group for a while. I should be in several of these. I like to write and I am not terrible at it. I like words and I know what lots of them mean and I can sometimes string them along so that they eventually believe my lies. The writing group fizzled, even though the titular (weird, awesome word) head, Will Akin assured us we could continue on even if all we ever submitted was a “damn haiku” once a month. I didn’t even get that done and I fell out of the group. I wonder if it persists and I still think I should be a part of it. This has nothing to do with this photo I took out at Smith Rock.
I am not really a sports photographer, but I could be I think. I took lots of sports photos for the 1983 Carroll High School Anchor yearbook. I would spend hours in the darkroom of the journalism classroom. Mrs. Walraven, an odd woman with a hawk shaped face, gave me a key to the classroom where the darkroom was and I was often there past midnight. She trusted me. She trusted no one, except her students. Those of us who could hang in there with her bizarre paranoias long enough to learn how to write a news story or take a journalism photograph or draw a semi-ironic cartoon etc, those of us who did those things, she loved. She was teaching us journalism. I learned how to edit (the lack of evidence in this blog notwithstanding) a story. The facts in order of importance, supported by salient quotes. Cover the five “W’s” and that ‘s it. It is harder than you think. Try it. I loved it. I could remove the silly feelings from the thing and just crank away on the “facts” as I now know they should be called.
So I spent many days of hours in that darkroom. I kissed a yearbook editor in there once. Mostly though I worked very hard at learning photography and how to print photos in baths of developer and fixer and washes. It is incredibly complex. I won’t list all the steps here in the interest of the previously mentioned editing. You can just trust me. Or this example: It’s like playing the guitar. What a ridiculous instrument! It’s hard. Trust me, again. I can’t imagine who thought of it, some demented genius.
We like doing hard things. Must feel good. It does feel good. Sometimes I make my life hard. That is different. It does not feel good, but it is all still me. The important thing is that I hold with all of me, on to me, no matter how hard I have made it. That is the hardest thing I have ever done, every day.
I haven’t been writing. I haven’t been checking in with myself. I haven’t been drinking in the life my body is moving through.
I have been raising my son. I have been loving my wife. I have been doing my best at work.
I haven’t been carrying my camera. I haven’t been screeching to a stop when the wind blows plastic through barbed wire in a beautiful way. I haven’t been stopping.
I have been sleeping…more. I have been stopping earlier, sometimes. I have been better to my colleagues at work. I have started running, a little.
I haven’t been holed up in my privacy. I haven’t talked with some friends. I rarely cook dinner.
I am talking with some (other) friends. I am writing now.
I am grateful
for the light on thorns
for the curve of the park in front of our house
for the word arc.
I am not done.
If I had a Sunday morning off while I was a surgery resident, it felt like Christmas and my birthday every time. They did not come often. I worked over 100 hours/week and was on call either every third or every other night. The year I stopped being a resident, laws were passed limiting resident work hours and that is a good thing. I do however, have whining rights so that when a younger surgeon complains, I can tell them I walked to the hospital and back uphill both ways and without shoes, etc.
Anyway, Sunday mornings. In my memory, the day started with diffused light through kitchen curtains, hot coffee in the press and an endless day ahead of us. The smell of the coffee, of course, better than the coffee can ever be and then the smell of the grinds going down the sink when the press is spent. Really, this post is about that. My memory of those spent coffee grounds just before they swill down the sink — not burned but cooked, for sure and done. The acid in them is revealed and they have given up all their flavor. Today, I smelled that again. I hardly drank any of the cup I poured. I mostly just lingered in the aroma of the cup and the spent shells of the beans that fired.
On those rare Sundays off I would almost never be off at the same time as my wife who was also a resident, but in pediatrics. Her schedule was usually every fourth night which was in opposition to my usual every third night. If we landed on a Sunday morning together, it was truly special. I am a person who likes my alone time but when the day together with my partner happens only once a quarter, I am in for that. It was usually about sleeping as long as humanly possible because one of us had been up the night before or both had. In any case, sleep, top priority.
We would live the two hours of morning before noon as if they were an eternity. Eggs and b. and the coffee and an English muffin. I would like to say we hiked across the plains or climbed a new route, but mostly the morning lingered in to the afternoon and two young, exhausted doctors made their way eventually to the store for dinner and a video (!) or we hung out a bookstore or we tried to find the energy to talk about the future…we weren’t good enough at that and eventually the present tense of fatigue and my own lack of wakefulness led to the end of our marriage. Many residents crashed on the rocks of residency. It really felt like a climb that simply could not and would not end. I was in it for seven years. I worked unquestioningly for any length of time that any person on the ladder above me said to work and sometimes there were four or five people above me on that ladder.
The end result of that work is that I know when a person is “sick” as in really ill. I know when I need to get my ass out of bed and go to the hospital and when I can wait a few hours and store up rest. I can’ know that unless I have been through the fire of having seen it all, easy and hard, for seven years.
So this morning the coffee roasted and as I poured the spent grinds, I smelled the past, was grateful for my young self that learned those hard lessons; and I wondered about what other route I might have taken up this climb, my life.