Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Stupid Tree

The biggest tree in my yard needs to come down. That's my opinion, but it might not be the opinion of the City of Portland, so we just dropped off our application for permission to remove it.  The application ran to four pages. They wanted color glossies of the tree. They wanted its size, weight, lipid profile, zodiac sign, and likes and dislikes. They wanted to know exactly what I intend to replace it with. They wanted a site map showing location of the house and all the trees and which ones are staying put. I drew that up in two colors for extra credit. I want to get a good score.

On page two of the application, they want to know why I want the tree to come down. I want it gone because it's a stupid tree and I hate it. I didn't put it exactly that way, but it's true. I could have planted anything fifteen years ago when there was nothing in the yard. And I read up on trees, but I missed some clues somewhere. It's like how people make little lists of what they're looking for in an ideal mate: handsome, well-educated, sense  of humor, likes to socialize, picks up all his acorns, that sort of thing. The only thing I wanted was a tree that would get nice and big in a hurry, and that had a deep root system that wouldn't interfere with anything I planted under it. Scarlet Oak seemed to fit the bill.

But the problem with making lists for your ideal mate is you never really get the whole picture. And there you are stuck with a handsome well-educated funny mate who makes these excruciating juicy noises whenever he eats until it could drive you right up the Great Wall of China and into the arms of a vicious, yet somehow attractive, Mongol.

This tree got big in a hurry. But it's not the right kind of big at all. The branches go straight out horizontal, for like miles. It's on track to shade the entire yard and not just the half I had in mind. Here's where the stupid comes in. Those horizontal branches do not have twigs and leaves on them. They have nothing on them until they get to the very tips, miles from the trunk, and that's where, with great reluctance, they eke out a few petulant leaves. A petunia patch probably sequesters more carbon. If you look at the tree from the street, it looks like a big leafy tree. But it's an empty shell. It's all shade and no habitat. Birds hate it. If birds liked it, I'd keep it, even though.

In the part of the form where I was supposed to say why I wanted the tree down, I wrote a lot of stuff about native plants and bird habitat and threw in words like Diversity and Density and I might have intimated my tree was in favor of coal trains, big banks, and the assholes in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. I said I wanted to replace it with not one but three native Socialist Democrat vine maples and a spotted owl. They still might say no.

At which point I will look at it sneering at me, and I will think I brought you into this world, and I can take you out, while trying not to think about Bill Cosby. But I won't take it out. I'll keep the stupid tree and feel glad I'm in a community that cares about itself more than it cares about any one lone cowgirl and her stupid mistake of a tree. I think, mostly, things work better that way. I'll keep the stupid tree.

Then I'll blast it with a liquid suet cannon and crust it over with thistle seeds. Maybe hang up a little bell and a mirror. If it dies, it dies.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Schrodinger's Cabin

If Schrodinger opened all his Christmas presents and left an empty box on the floor, his cat would jump in it. I guess that's the only thing we ever know for certain about Schrodinger's cat. Because if Schrodinger cares at all about his Christmas tree, he's going to tape that cat in the box good and tight. And then nobody will know a darn thing about it.

Schrodinger developed his famous boxed-cat thought experiment in order to point out the absurdity of some of the ideas floating around the new field of quantum mechanics. Some were positing that subatomic particles must exist in all possible states at once and remain that way until the instant they're observed. He tied the viability of a cat to the state of a radioactive atom and suggested, chuckling to himself, that the cat must be alive and dead at the same time and wouldn't resolve one way or the other until someone opened the box and had a peek. Which is silly. It could just have a little kidney infection. Even Schrodinger thought this was silly with regard to cats. The problem is that some things that are very, very, very small don't act according to Newton's laws. Not cats. Kittens, maybe.

It doesn't have anything to do with physics, but I've always subscribed to the notion that unobserved things might not even exist. One doesn't want to go about sticking one's head in the sand--even ostriches don't do that--but I no longer feel an obligation to be aware of every last crappy thing that happens in the world. In the course of a life there's enough crappiness to go around and I don't think I need to be exposed to all of it. With that in mind I'm putting off a trip to our cabin.

Trunks of two of the three trees that aimed at the cabin
We do need to go to the cabin. We haven't been in three months and by this time it's possible the only thing holding it together is mildew. Worse, there might be a tree on top of it. That's actually likely. There's nothing but trees around there and there's nothing much keeping them up except force of habit. We've had a ton of rain lately. This turns the soil into pudding. The trees, which are more than 200 feet tall, don't actually have a very deep go-it-alone root system. They're not libertarians. They band together in more of a co-op. Given a little push, like, say, the recent great winds that have accompanied the recent great rains, they'll go down like bad drunks. Bunches of them at once.

This is such a likely scenario, in fact, that we pack up and leave when it's been wet and gets real windy around there. One time three massive Douglas firs came down right alongside the cabin and just nicked the fascia board on the corner. They were stacked up like cordwood on what used to be our deck. If I had been inside at the time they came down, the authorities would have found me stone dead in a puddle of pee.

Anyway right now the cabin is unobserved. It could be alive or dead. I like to imagine it's still standing. I'd hate to think of it all smashed to kindling just because I had the temerity to go have a look.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Push-Button Fire

Suddenly, Tater noticed something.
Almost forty years ago we bought a Vermont Castings wood stove and put it in the kitchen. Now it's gone.

It's done a great job for us. A lot of the time we didn't turn on any other heat. Over the years, the house got bigger and bigger, but the wood stove meant that in the winter, the man, the woman, the dog, and the cat were always in such close proximity that a single small explosive device could take us all out at once.

Our dog Boomer was really fond of the wood stove. She would park herself a foot in front of it and stick one hind leg straight up in the air, exposing her, well, her highly personal region to the heat. She always kept her highly personal region very clean--gracious, how clean she kept it! She cleaned it and cleaned it and cleaned it; you never saw a dog so devoted to personal hygiene. Why does she do that, I'd ask Dave, and he'd say because she can. And then she'd air it out in front of the stove.

Things change. Forty years ago, I hung out in the liberry for months and researched efficiency and quality and ratings and requested mail brochures to find the very best wood stove at the very best price. We had fluff blown into our old walls and had storm windows made and caulked everything in sight but the dog's highly personal region, and Dave and his brickie buddies put in a hearth and a chimney and installed the stove themselves.

This time, one of us mentioned that it might be a good idea to replace the old stove with a natural gas fake one. You know: some day. The next morning, Dave pantomimed standing in the kitchen and pushing an imaginary remote control button aimed at the stove: click. That afternoon, we Googled gas appliance retail outlets, picked one we could walk to, found a stove that looked okay, whipped out a VISA card, and started grousing about having to wait three weeks for installation. The guys are here today to install it. They're taking away the old one. I feel like we're abandoning an old friend. But I get over things like that fast. Especially if I have a remote control. Click.

The only downside is that Dave has devoted a lot of time since his retirement to looking in Dumpsters for dimensional lumber to scavenge for firewood. He'd haul it home in the pickup and saw it up and stack it. It's a little hobby. And now that the wood stove is gone, his Dumpster-diving is just going to look sad.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Oh Say Can You D.C.

I've never had that much interest in the Constitution. It's old and cranky and set in its ways, and every time I visit, it just rags on and on about the olden days. But I had a look when I found out how important it was to them there Patriots who are holed up in a bird sanctuary with a bunch of assault weapons because they don't want anyone to get hurt.

Evidently there's some part of the Constitution that restricts the amount of land the Gummint can own, and that means the Bureau of Land Management is in a heap o' trouble, boy. Cliven Bundy, an antique deadbeat cow collector with fourteen excess children, says it's right there in Article One, Section Eight, Clause-a-Mercy, Schedule D, Passive Carryover Limitations, or some such. So I looked it up. And that got me thinking about the District of Columbia.

I've always been fond of the District of Columbia because it was square and also because there was that liquor store on McArthur Boulevard that didn't check I.D. I was born in Arlington, Virginia, which is really a sloughed-off part of the original square, but I never knew how the boundaries came about. What's not to love about a square city! You could almost prick yourself on it if you stood in the right place. But when Arlington slid off, it wrecked the cool squareness.

The plans for the District, as it turns out, are right there in the Constitution. They made it a square because a star would have been too hard to survey. It was to encompass a hundred square miles. If they'd tried to come up with an exact hundred-square-mile entity using all the normal squiggly boundary lines, they'd have to determine the area using calculus, and the Founding Fathers weren't up for that, although my father would have been. So. Square it is. Or was, before Arlington fell off.

It was scotched together in 1790 out of pieces donated by the states of Maryland and Virginia, which was nice of them. But Virginia was tired. She had basically caved on territory by that point. She'd already ceded Maryland, for instance, but that was the least of it. Initially Virginia was pretty much the whole country. In 1620 they decided everything above the 40th parallel would be something else, but it was still Virginia out to infinity in the western direction. They didn't know what was out there, except that it was just more Virginia, dammit, and no mistake. But bit by bit it got carved down until it was only the size of modern Virginia plus West Virginia. West Virginia was too hilly for plantations and eventually got sheared off for insufficient slave-holding. By the time Virginia was asked for another little slice to make D.C., they figured, what the hell.

But if you looked at that square, there was the Potomac River chugging through the southwest corner like a rip in the fabric. I always figured good old Arlington came about because it got torn off the square and succumbed to gravity at the bottom end of the map. But no. After Virginia had graciously ceded its portion of D.C., there came a rumor that someone might outlaw slavery there. And the once and future Virginia portion was a major slave market. Sure enough, in 1850 slave trading was outlawed in the District, but not slavery itself. You could still probably win slaves in Bingo or something.

Unacceptable! The town of Alexandria begged Virginia to take it back before anyone lost money. And so the cool square was ruined, and I eventually showed up as a citizen of Virginia at a time when slavery was technically outlawed but the descendants of slave-owners still didn't have to fret about sharing any space or treasure with the descendants of slaves.

So, back to Bundyworld. Yes. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution does state that Congress could acquire property to establish a seat of government, not to exceed ten miles square. That would be your District of Columbia. It doesn't say anything at all about limiting government land ownership otherwise.

There is something about being able to organize and discipline the militia to suppress insurrections, though.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Up Against The Wall: Part Two

All right, I've gotten to work on the new tile backsplash.  In fact, I've been working on it for a year and a half. The design is way more involved than the last one was, thirty years ago. That's not surprising. I drink less now--that being the only direction my beer consumption could have gone--and I'm not as inclined to half-ass my projects. In fact, I'm tinkering with it even to the extent of painting individual fir needles. I'm tidying up the intersections of colors with an Exact-O knife. In fact, I have, with maturity, become a complete fussypants.

And there's no guarantee that's going to do me any good.

Because here's the thing. After I sent the first backsplash to the kiln, all ten-plus square feet of it, and it came out as well as could be expected, I started painting tiles as Christmas presents. Little things, like trivets. And about half the time they came out just fine, and half the time they Most Certainly Did Not. They came out of the kiln all runny and blurry, like over-nuked leftovers. I'd paint a flicker and it would come out brilliant with all the feather edgings intact, a constellation of spots perfectly arrayed on the belly. Then I'd take the same amount of time and trouble on another tile, and it would come out of the kiln looking like frat barf on Taco Night.

There was no predicting it. In a disturbing parallel to the current state of my cognitive abilities,  the result could be precise and orderly, or it could be all over the place. I asked the kiln owners if they had any insight into this. Not one did. "That's the beauty of ceramics," they'd tell me through rumpled grins, shrugging in their muddy smocks. "You're playing with fire. You never really know what you're going to get!" Ha ha!

Bite me.

And this is the real reason I never finished the backsplash project, thirty years ago. I was terrified at the prospect of spending literally thousands of hours hunched over in my studio, inches from my work, with my glasses off, with Exact-O knife and tiny brush, like some medieval monk, and have the whole thing go straight to hell in a few hours in a kiln. And no one can promise me it won't.

Picture Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. He's been on his scaffold for four years with his head cranked back so far it might snap off at any time, and once he got around to creating God, there He was hanging right over him unnervingly for the whole rest of the project, and poor Mich had to paint chubby little babies over and over again just to get over the willies, and finally he eases off of the scaffolding and stands under his work and he's disoriented and miserable but there's this big ceremony and somebody hands him a bottle and tells him to go ahead and whack a pillar with it, and he doesn't know if it's a bottle of Champagne or a Molotov cocktail because he still doesn't have his neck working properly yet, but everyone's smiling and clapping and he just has to give it a whirl.

So I'm ready to pack my eighty tiles off to the kiln, and I don't know what's going to happen. It could be grand, or it could blow up. Either way, there's going to be a bottle involved.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Up Against The Wall: Part One

Last century, I glazed a bunch of tiles for a backsplash in our new kitchen. My friend Katie set me up with all the proper glazes and instructions. All I needed to do was draw out the design, fill in the glazes as though coloring in a coloring book, and then put two more coats of all the colors on. Then anyone with a kiln could fire them for me.

There are easier ways of going about this. Most of the time, when you see a scene depicted in tile, the artist has painted the scene--once--and then put a clear glaze over the top. It will look like a watercolor. But I wanted the thick, jewelly, luscious version. The deep, yummy, stained-glass version. And that takes three coats. Katie strongly recommended I make test tiles of all the colors so that I would really know what they looked like. So I took the time to paint each glaze--three times--onto test tiles and label them.

Already, this is way out of character for me. I was always full of ideas but had no interest in spending any more time on them than I had to. I used to sew clothes without pinning or ironing anything. They ended up with accidental ruching and off-set, asymmetrical seams that you might now see from a Project Runway contestant, although not from a winning one.

The tile project proved to be a complete pain in the ass. It's one thing to draw in a design and fill it in with a coat of glaze. The precision required to repeat that design exactly with the second and third coats could fry your eyeballs. Glaze is not paint-like. I used a tiny brush. It was like pushing mud around with a bunch of eyelashes.

Also, my design was not that great. I started with Mt. St. Helens erupting on the left, because that's what Mt. St. Helens was busy doing at the time, but I had seven linear feet to fill. That covers a lot of ground, especially when you're using a bunch of eyelashes. So I punted. People like it well enough, but I always see this large, lumpen green hill sprawled across the middle, a hill that represents--well, if there was an artist's statement associated with it, it would be "In this work I hope to demonstrate my sincere desire to get this piece of shit project over with."

The original idea was to continue the backsplash all the way around the kitchen. The trim for the window was installed with small nails that never got hammered in all the way, because tiles were going to be slid under them. I could have soldiered on with the rest of it, but as I recall I had a lot of drinking to accomplish at the time. The nails are still sticking out. Sometimes I hang baggies on them to dry. The wallboard behind the sink is degraded from moisture. I'm used to it; it barely registers.

Then a couple years ago Dave came up to me, and in a mild voice with all the wheedle removed, he said: Now that you've been retired for--gosh!--five years, and we're coming up on the--gosh!--thirtieth anniversary of the original backsplash, do you think you could maybe have a go at finishing that tile work?

He was so nice about it. He's been waiting a long time. I said I would.

Although I really don't like to reward a nag.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The First Bird

People are always assuming I'm a birder, but the evidence is circumstantial. For instance, they note that I often make comments about birds on the social media. And I hang out with known birders. Basically, they're profiling. Homeland Security probably has me on a birder watch list, but that does not mean I should be detained. Not at my skill level.

Oh, I'm probably better than a lot of people, but that's only because a lot of people have managed to go through their whole lives without looking up. My neighbor once swore he saw a pheasant in my tree here in the middle of town, and then he described a flicker. I don't know how a person can remain that unaware of a large colorful bird with a red mustache and an ascot and a polka-dot waistcoat that lives in the yard all year long and might even be drilling holes in the house, but I guess there are such people, and compared to them, I'm a birder. I probably learn one or two birds a year, but I'm old, so they're starting to add up.

However, I don't have a few things you really need to be a birder. Like good eyesight, good hearing, and that other thing. You know.

A good memory. And just because you can use a guy with no arms or legs as home plate, that doesn't make him a baseball player.

But this week I was forced to admit that I am in fact a birder, just a really stupid one. It was a cold, sunny, windy day, otherwise unremarkable. Mid-afternoon I suddenly realized it was New Year's Day, an occasion I used to mark with a hangover. And then I remembered that you're supposed to make note of the first bird of the year you see. It's a little birder game. If you want to have more fun, you can take that first bird as a personal portent.

It was late in the day, but I thought back, and was actually able to recall the first bird I'd seen: a gull, struggling mightily against the east wind, and finally giving up and shearing off to the west. So there was my first bird. And the fact that I knew I was supposed to look for my first bird makes me a birder. And the fact that I have no idea what kind of gull it was makes me a stupid one.

Gulls. Bleah. We have a bunch around here because Launie, one block over, puts out doughnuts for them and her house is poorly insulated, so her roof is warm. Gulls love to sit on her roof because they spend the rest of their time with their butts plopped in frigid water like dufuses. Here's the thing. I don't know what kind of gulls they are. I worked at it once. The differences between gulls come down to things like tiny little spots on their beaks or their eye color or leg color and their plumage is all over the map depending on their age and religious affiliation and the time of year. So you might have a winter herring gull on your hands or a third-year California or, you know, a pheasant.

Mmm, doughnuts. Doughnuts and whale.
What sort of portent could my gull be? Gulls can unhinge their jaws and consume really large food items. And gulls have been known to land on surfacing whales and take chunks out of them. Perhaps this is the year I will complete a great work by reducing it to bite-sized pieces. Perhaps this is the year I will, for instance, master the identification of gulls.

I'm going to eat a cheesecake bigger than my head and give it some thought.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Debbie Saves The Day

This is Debbie.
The reporter glanced at his notes as he trudged back to his car. "We're prepared to stay here for years," the men occupying the bird refuge had said. "We're calling on all patriots to come join us and help us take our country back. We're just the tip of the spear."

"Nice line, Ammon," Junior said, back at headquarters. Ammon Bundy nodded, acknowledging the compliment. "Where's the rest of the spear?"

"They're coming," Ammon said. "Stay ready. Everyone have a copy of the Constitution? That is the source of our strength."

"No lie. That dude who shot off his butt cheek in Walmart when he mistook his gun for his wallet would've been fine if he'd had the Constitution in his pocket," the man said. "Or maybe that's the Bible."

"HERE THEY COME!" The voice came from the watch tower.

photo by Julie Zickefoose
"They who? Is it the spear, or is it the feds?"

"I can't tell."

"They armed?"

"Looks like it," the voice came down. "Sumpin' odd about it, though."

Every man stood at a window with one hand on the Constitution and one hand on a weapon.

"My God, there's hundreds of 'em. Thousands! It's a damn army! They're coming in from three directions! On foot!"

"Get out there, Junior. Find out if they're ours."

The vanguard of the approaching horde had nearly reached the entrance gate. Junior geared up and went out, but came back shortly.

"They ain't ours, Ammon."

"Well, get rid of 'em. Take B. J., Dwayne-O and Other Junior and get rid of 'em."

"I don't know how," he said, squinting and scratching the back of his neck.

"What do you mean, you don't know how? Get your weapons and..."

"That's just it, sir. I don't know what to do. They ain't armed. They've got...binoculars."
photo by Julie Zickefoose

"The hell?"

Even Ammon jumped at the sharp knock at the door, but he opened it and stepped outside, his men arrayed behind him. A woman with a dazzling smile stood before him. A crowd stretched behind her as far as the eye could see. Slung at her side was--what? A missile launcher?

"What the hell is that?" Ammon leveled his pistol at the item in question. The woman abruptly swatted it away.

"That is a Nikon Sigma 150-600mm sports lens with optical stabilizer," she said. "Mitts off, Bucko."

Ammon stepped back.

"Sorry, bad start. I'm Debbie," she said, and stuck out her hand, smile blooming anew. Ammon could think of nothing to do but holster his weapon and shake her hand.

"So," she went on, "we hear y'all are planning to camp out here a while. My friends and I are looking for some assurance you're going to be good neighbors and not make too much noise. You're sitting on some of the most important habitat on the Pacific Flyway."

photo by Julie Zickefoose

The sky above them darkened momentarily and several thousand birders tugged on their Tilley hats as a rain of Tundra Swan shit filled the air. Junior hopped and howled, clutching a butt cheek.

"Jeez Louise," Debbie said. "There are trumpeters up there, too. Apologize. Apologize, or we're going to have to ask you to leave."

"Leave!" Ammon stiffened up, aroused. "We ain't leaving. We're just the tip of the spear."

"So." Debbie looked over the men standing behind Ammon. "You're saying you're all prick and no shaft?"

Ammon charged on. "We're here to reclaim what's rightfully ours. The land the government took from we the people."

"Sweetie, please. 'Us' the people. It's the subject of a prepositional phrase. And besides, this already is our land. We're a republic. Check the Constitution. The government is the people."

Several thousand birders stood and swayed with their binoculars over their hearts, humming This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land. Ammon was strangely unnerved.

"I mean it," he said bleakly. "Patriots are on the way here from all over the country. I can't guarantee your safety."

"Pssh," Debbie said. "Patriots. You see these people? This isn't the Portland crowd out for the bobolinks. This is just the beginning. Within three days you're going to be completely surrounded by birders. There was a report of a Rufous-Necked Wood-Rail last week."

"A Rufous-Necked Wood-Rail? Did you say a Rufous-Necked Wood-Rail?"

"I know, unbelievable, right? But after they confirmed that one down in New Mexico, nobody's willing to rule it out."

Do something, Ammon, Other Junior whispered.

I don't know what to do. We've planned and planned and we never developed a contingency for dealing with...unarmed people.
photo by Julie Zickfoose

The woman was still talking. "And we're going to have to ask you to keep away from that whole area over there altogether. You're looking at probably the most significant breeding ground for greater sandhill cranes in the western United States."

"Huh," Other Junior said, emboldened by a thought. "We're here to breed patriots."

Debbie's eyes swept back and forth over the horizon, her gaze taking in acres of marshland, and turned back, her smile bright as the sun. "But you could always do that somewhere else, right?"

"I guess so," Ammon said. And he and his men packed up and threaded their way carefully through the burgeoning throng.

"MIND THE SPOTTING SCOPES," Debbie called out after them.

"Sorry, ma'am."

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Purpose Of Time

It's in a women's magazine at the doctor's office. With a little ingenuity and the instructions on page 158, your clothespins, ribbons, and orphaned buttons can be repurposed, it says, into a Nativity scene. The word "repurpose" is a new one, with a scent of wistfulness about it, as though it pines for the days when everything still had value. What's now called repurposing didn't used to have a name. It was just what you did. Your wedding dress reemerged as baby gowns, your skirts were pieced into quilts. Nails were straightened and string saved for certain future use. Like as not, these days, things are repurposed into decorative items that nobody really needs. You probably even have to buy the clothespins, now that we bake our laundry dry.

So every day we try to stay just ahead of our own debris field, but ultimately, everything is repurposed. Supposedly that's the way the whole universe operates, some of its dust congealing into stars, and some into the planets the stars keep as pets, and every so often some of the dust motivates itself into life like us: self-conscious, tiny sparks that crumble fast away.

The stars we see may be long gone. There's some evidence that the present is all there is, but we're not comfortable with that, and we enlist Time to keep the present from getting all jammed up. Still, there's no making sense of the thing. If time does flow, it doesn't do it evenly.

Dave and I have a little mountain cabin in the moss-happy woods that we go to when we can, and it's somewhere around 1960 in there. The forest fends off the Internet and cell phones sulk in silence like artifacts or curiosities. We do have electric lights, unless a gust knocks a tree across the line and sends us back another century. Not long ago, we brought in my childhood chest of drawers, a familiar piece that traveled unchanged from Virginia to Montana to Oregon over the course of fifty years, but after mere weeks in the damp of the cabin it clamped itself shut and refused to open. So we decided to make another trip to bring up open shelving to stack our linens in.

When we got there, the place was damper than usual. A large window lay shattered to pieces inside and out. We did a quick inventory and discovered a number of items missing that had been repurposed into methamphetamine. It was nothing we hadn't seen before. Thirty years ago, we might have felt seriously ticked off. We might have nurtured our wounds as though ignoring them was doing them a dishonor, but that was thirty years closer to our childhoods, and time has contracted. Now we just sweep up glass and skip ahead to the time when we aren't thinking about it anymore. The back of the warped chest of drawers is repurposed into a temporary window and the rest repurposed into kindling. We're buttoned up and to the weather, and it's starting to look like some of that is on the way.

"Beer?" Dave asks, waggling a bottle from the refrigerator.

"It's kind of early for beer, isn't it?"

Dave was already pouring. "We're on mountain time."

And mountain time runs different. By evening it has nearly come to a stop. A wafer of the ocean a hundred miles west of us has repurposed itself as snow, and it piles up outside our wooden window and buries all clamor, without and within. Two companions who had not always been old sit in front of a chest-of-drawers fire with glasses of beer. They've still got a little more spark before they crumble.

Happy new year,  friends.