Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Garden

I wasn't going to be a sheep and do a long retrospective, but I really, really need something good to hold on to, anchor into, and over 4 years now it's always been the garden. Many good things have happened this year (poetry collection accepted, work in Orion and The Sun, radio interview, self published a garden book after narrowly missing a press), but none as evocative and moving as this small world I help along each year--just as it helps me along.

"'What is the world?' [my son asked] What the world is and who we are meant to be within it and how we are to conserve what is good and beautiful and true in the world, and in ourselves; and how we are to forgive and, if we can, redeem what is bad and ugly and false in ourselves and, because of us, in the world--this may be what we're here for." -- Mark Tredinnick

Early March
Early April--post cut down
90% of my garden gets cut down each year. It's something that can take me 2 days, or if I savor it, 2 weeks. I savored in 2011. This is all the work I did the whole year, except for mulching the paths.

Our trip to see 500,000 sandhill cranes
Sandhill Cranes one hour west
Early May
Mid May
In May I took my wife on a research trip for my next book through Oklahoma, from the NE corner to the SW. Interviewed family, visited bison and prairie preserves, saw the OKC Memorial site, walked the 1894 homestead. I discovered a place I didn't know existed, and came to some measure of peace with one I loathed most of my life. It meant a lot to share the state I was born in with my wife.

Tallgrass Prairie Preserve Oklahoma
Family Homestead, Corn OK
Black Tailed Prairie Dogs, Wichita Mtns Wildlife Refuge
Garden Tour
In June I was one of several gardens on the Wachiska Audubon Society Garden Tour. In a few hours hundreds came through, and I only wished that I had started my native plant garden consulting business before instead of after, since so many people asked if I did that.

Day Before Garden Tour
Garden Tour, Mid June
Tour Day, Muggy Muggy Muggy
Mid July--My Birthday
Monarchs on Liatris Ligulistylis--raised 200
Mantis Cat
Early September
Late October
Balanced on a cosmo petal
Golden Smokebush
I also set up an Etsy photograph shop, with a focus (pun intended) on macro shots.

I'm hoping 2012 brings a book contract for any of my mixed genre or straight memoirs, and a good teaching job--somewhere I can put down roots and have long term relationships with students, peers, landscapes. But if not, I have my quasi prairie garden here in Nebraska, whose roots are amending the clay soil just as they work their magic on me. I hope you've had some of that magic, too.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Poem O' Mine

Today one of my poems, which appeared in American Life in Poetry a few years back.
Grandpa Vogt's--1959
The food is on the table. Turkey tanned
to a cowboy boot luster, potatoes mashed
and mounded in a bowl whose lip is lined
with blue flowers linked by grey vines faded
from washing. Everyone’s heads have turned
to elongate the table’s view—a last supper twisted
toward a horizon where the Christmas tree, crowned
by a window, sets into itself half inclined.   
Each belly cries. Each pair of eyes admonished
by Aunt Photographer. Look up. You’re wined
and dined for the older folks who’ve pined
to see your faces, your lives, lightly framed
in this moment’s flash. Parents are moved,
press their children’s heads up from the table,
hide their hunger by rubbing lightly wrinkled
hands atop their laps. They’ll hold the image
as long as need be, seconds away from grace. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Future of My Writing

I've decided that, barring a last second miracle, I'm probably going to self publish my 75,000 word memoir Morning Glory next summer. It needs one more swipe of the knife to take some fat off, and then a tummy tuck. But first I'm writing my Great Plains memoir Turkey Red this spring, which should be 90,000 words.

I've had enough editors and agents tell me that MG has promise, and more--it's lyrical, moving, reflective, a good story. My experience self publishing the mini memoir Sleep, Creep, Leap hasn't been a watershed moment, but it has put my work in the hands of over 100 readers--and the responses I've had from them have been positive (I wish I'd hear a negative so I knew what to change, besides making it longer, a common suggestion).  And self publishing is not about making money--with 100 copies I've made $90 between the ebook and paperback versions, just enough to break even with production costs. I don't think I'd have sold 100 copies without making the book affordable.

I'm not sure what self publishing one of my big books like Morning Glory might mean: will it short circuit any chance to have a real press take it? Will it be a waste of time? Will it erode potential to get an academic teaching job? (Obviously, self published books don't get put on a cv or recognized because they've not passed a peer review process--as it should be.) Will it lead to something bigger, or smaller? Am I boxing myself in?

In general I take rejection well--after a few hours--and send out work again right away. Yet too many of my submissions to literary journals are nice ones, encouraging ones, even offers to edit and resubmit, but I don't know how to get over the hump. I had one essay at a very nice journal that "caused quite a conversation among the editorial board" and had a similar response from another. I have an essay about hummingbirds that, 50% of the time, gets a hand written compliment and then a "sorry." Yes, this is par for the course. But I hate golf. If you're gonna keep the horse moving forward you have to change out the dangling moldy carrot for a fresh one. And stop using so many allusions. (Also, please don't read any of this as a pity party or a narcissistic need for encouragement. I'm not trying to whine either--I just see this space as a forum to document my process and life as a writer, which is I suppose pretty much like most others.)

Tell me what you think--would you read Morning Glory?

When a son reflects on a childhood of gardening with his mother, he finds clues to a family lineage built around silences, distance, and forgetfulness. Eventually, his mother begins to openly reveal a past that confronts the author’s own dark nature. In the history of gardens there are great tragedies and triumphs, and in the garden we continue to discover our truest selves.

The day before the author’s wedding, his grandmother is in a serious accident a mile from the church. This event sets in motion a quest to discover the origins of mysterious letters sent from strangers, hints by aunts about their father, debilitating migraines, and the “Anderson” family persona—the ability to swiftly and sternly cut off an offending family member for years at a time for a seemingly trivial matter.
MORNING GLORY: A STORY OF FAMILY AND CULTURE IN THE GARDEN explores the wary and subdued relationship between mother and son, a relationship which typifies our species’ own with nature. As a son grows up learning about gardening with his mother, he eventually earns the right to ask questions about who she is, and who he is in her shadow. Revealing her own childhood of poverty, abuse, and religious fundamentalism, two people begin to understand themselves and their lineage of solitude and depression in a new light—particularly for the son in a difficult and new marriage. As this son looks at diverse cultural attempts to connect place with self, a powerful metaphor develops between gardening and emotional balance, and how ending our violence toward ourselves and each other is synonymous with ending our violence toward the planet. Ultimately, the only way to understand ourselves is to understand the garden, and vice versa.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I was watching a PBS show I taped months ago about the fight for wilderness, about the feds designating vanishing landscapes as wilderness and so protecting them. In the west, the "frontier," it's a special issue where ranchers and ATV hounds love their private access and call it freedom, but it can be destructive to wildlife. Yet environmental groups who sit down with ranchers often find that they are not at odds, but want the same thing just in different ways. What is here is almost gone.

I think about the people that have come before, and that I live on a farmer's field, perhaps a pioneer's, on land once traveled by the Pawnee and Cheyenne and Sioux. On bison range. On prairie chicken booming land. On thick stands of bluestem as far as one could see. These voices barely echo anymore. These are the apparitions we willingly slaughtered.

And then it occurs to me--bison and bluestem are not the ghosts, but we today are the ghosts, searching for our place in the world, our meaning, still as hungry to conquer our fears and feed our desires in the landscapes around us. We are the mirages, the apparitions longing for something we lost or never had, wandering the earth, condemned to find our souls in places that can no longer hold them. This is America on the Great Plains.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

James Wright Partay

Well, it's his birthday, though he passed away in 1980. His poetry has been one of my core influences as a writer and a person. And though this poem is often considered one of his greatest--and it is one of my favorites--I don't think it's one of his best as a poem. However, it is one of his best on the level of blowing your mind and making you see yourself through everything else so you can see yourself deeper and truer--and this is what a deep imagist poet, and what a good writer, is all about.

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in the green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Labeling Memory

I posted the below on my Facebook wall, but I think I want it here, too, so I can more easily refer back to it as I write the memoir.
"When we cleaned out my grandmother's house many years ago, she had labeled all sorts of stuff--belt buckles, souvenir spoons, vases, nicknacks--letting us know who gave them to her and / or when and / or where. But reading a book today that she owned, she scribbled in a margin where she was baptized, on the Washita River, where Cheyenne chief Big Jake camped after allotment in 1892. This is also the same river, further upstream, where Black Kettle's body was found after Custer massacred that Cheyenne peace chief's village in 1868. My grandmother was washed clean of her sins in a river filled with them."
I know what the first chapter will be, and I want to write it this very second, but I'm holding off until I gain more perspective from the last of my research. I know once I start writing, I won't stop. It's like a can of Pringles, or so the ads tell me.

I have less than 1,000 pages left to annotate, having completed my reading this week, then I can begin organizing about 100 sources, quotes, and info into topics:

Great Plains flora and fauna
History of Mennonites
History of the Cheyenne
Family stories and anecdotes
Oklahoma history, cultural and geologic
Grandmother's diary
General quotes / possible epigraphs

You get the idea. This way as I'm writing I can just pull up a word document and quickly dip into whatever source material I need, paste it in, and move on. Nothing is more killer to the writing process than having to stop for any length of time. I even find the space bar and return key very very very annoying and disruptive. You should see the number of folders on my desktop, the amount of books and papers in my office. Being organized, or trying to be, is the only way to approach a messy and large project. And a paper trail may come in handy later on if someone (a publisher? maybe?) wants a fact checked, or some authority calls into question something. I wonder how often that happens to others.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

To Structure a Memoir

I'm thinking that, as I write the next book, I'll try to do updates along the way about the process. Not many, since I'll be busy teaching again, but enough to shed some light on the insanity, maybe calm my nerves and focus my brain (this next book is very much a thinking book). After writing two other prose works in the last three years--22,000 and 75,000 words--I feel much more confident going in to what will be a 90,000-100,000 word project. Having a poetry collection forthcoming helps the writerly ego, too.

I've been thinking a lot about structure, and a lot about a common criticism agents and presses have of my work, namely that it's too quiet. I'm not entirely sure what it means, but I presume it's a combination of the following:

1) It doesn't move fast enough
2) Not enough suspense or action or story
3) Not enough zombie sex

I'm a poet who loves language, metaphor, and symbol--these are not loud things like characterization or plot or zombie sex. I've written several poetry collections and have a multi genre garden memoir I self published (this still makes me feel sick, so trained I am as an academic, but I had to try something different). Anyway, I was talking about being quiet, and structure--it's important I have a decent idea of structure once I begin writing in January; I'm not the kind of person who does well editing back in structure, it'll just be a nightmare, like building a house from the outside in. Still, structure, like content, is about discovery along the way and things will change, they must change in order to be the drug writing is.

I have several core narratives to the book, Turkey Red:

1) My discovery of my late grandmother and her family, stories I ignored as a child and am searching out now, and a depression-filled relationship with Oklahoma that this book hopes to cure or lessen.
2) The story of Mennonites, from the Netherlands in the 1500s to Prussia in the 1700s to Russia in the 1800s to America in the 1870s. Who they are. Their forced wanderlust and persecution. Their yeoman tendencies.
3) The story of the Southern Cheyenne in Oklahoma, their history as a people from Minnesota and the Dakotas to Colorado and Oklahoma Territory, along with the overall stories of Native Americans in the Territory. Their forced migration and cultural dissolution.
4) Great Plains flora and fauna, with a specific look at grasses, black-tailed prairie dogs, Bison, and horned lizards. The extinct ecosystem. The culture of agriculture and manifest destiny.

Obviously, I could interweave each of the four components--with each having their own stories to tell--letting off of one just as a story came to a head, coming back to it twenty pages later, and thus creating suspense. But that feels.... annoying. And if I talk about all four at once it's too much at one time.

I have a diary of my grandmother's from 1950-1953, where she wrote a few lines each day. I'm hoping this will provide a scaffolding and that I can use her brief words as someone about my age (back in the 1950s), perhaps as metaphor or symbol for my life now in my mid 30s.

During research I was worried each of the four areas were too different, or too alike--it depended on the day. Now I see that they are the right balance of the two, enough to give me symbolic legroom and running space to ramble about myself, my family, my Oklahoma, which should tie everything together as I go along. And this book will have more stories than my last big memoir, Morning Glory. But does that make it a collection or a memoir? I think readers are growing toward the former, especially as e-readers develop, which is also why I have a tendency to play with mixed genre works, and sub genres of nonfiction all at one time.

But again, I worry about being too quiet. There's nothing flashy I discovered in my research. No one in my family was in an infamous outlaw gang. No one made a land run. No one killed an "injun" or worked on the railroad or hunted bison or married a Cheyenne or anything "neat." They lived simply. And this is the Great Plains--simpleness, hardness, flexibility, community, unwavering determination and hope. Tornadoes, fires, floods, and locusts. That's not loud. That's why people look out their plane's window and go "huh, squares, I sure could go for some saltines."

I'll write whatever I write. And it may be a colossal waste of time, nothing but a line on a resume or a footnote to some genealogist 100 years from now. It's something to do. It's something I have to do. It's my field to plow, my bison to shoot, my embrace I can no longer give to people, animals, and places I'll never really know until I grow up and look hard into my own shadow, our country's shadow. I don't see how this is quiet.

(And to tack something on--it snowed 3" on Saturday, see below, and this morning it's -3 outside.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Snowblowers v. Lawnmowers, Case 263, District Court of TDM

With our first few inches of snow comes the end of the brief month were the neighborhood was silent. Gone was the constant drone of a lawnmower, and far off seemed the pulsing vibrations of the snow blower. Since both are pollution hogs, both in regard to the atmosphere / spilled gas and noise levels, let us weigh which is truly the more evil machine in the court of The Deep Middle.

Defendant 1 -- The Snow Blower

-- Its sound is not as smooth or even. It ricochets as the mechanism spins. When the machine hits a dry patch it hums loudly, and when it runs into a drift it gurgles and goes baritone, sometimes being turned off then yanked back on once the chamber is cleared of frozen rain.

-- For some insane reason, owners of snow blowers have no time limit to their practices. Not only will machines be seen idling alone on drives and sidewalks as if they were making a slow run for it, but the machines are employed at any hour: 5am, midnight, it doesn't matter. Theoretically, one must assume, this is because clearing the drive and walk is essential to the business of the house, for example, the visiting UPS men or mother in laws, or rear-wheel drive cars, or unattended toddlers. Clearing snow is an urgent business, one best performed even before the snow has ended so that it can be done a second time hours later.

-- The placement of blown snow seems not to matter the least to the operator. If the snow is shot onto a neighbor's clear drive, across their garage door (open or closed), or into the freshly plowed street, it seems not to matter at all. In some instances, the violent thrust of snow will pass a young tree's path and branches will be snapped off without a notice at all. It seems that an "eye for an eye" law would best negate any of these practices.

Defendant 2 -- The Lawmower

-- There is a summer vigil with these machines, as if a secret neighborhood pact is in place like the guarding of the unknown soldier's tomb. As soon as the 8am mower is safely stored away until three days later when it comes out again, the next mower comes out, and so on until about 9 or 10pm given proper daylight conditions. Let it be said that a neighborhood can never be perfect unless a lawnmower is on its stern, Jeffersonian grid walk across the landscape, all along the watchtower, perhaps with the person operating the machine plugged into an ipod ironically listening to Bob Dylan.

-- Most prefer to mow their lawns during the dinner hour. Is this because they've been cast out of the kitchen by a domineering spouse, or because they despise the power of their neighbors grilling freely and almost heroically on the oasis-like patio next door?

-- Though lawnmowers provide a relatively constant acoustic level of insanity, the ocassional stick, rock, or frog will create an explosive discharge of metal upon metal, and an oft lowering of blade speed to address the problem. Wet lawn also causes a frequent interruption of sound level, and a much longer mowing time. Often, a father will be heard barking commands to an indoctrinated youth: "Damn it, go slower," or "Damn it, you mowed your mother's roses," or "Damn it, you missed the left side of the house why don't you just go back inside and let me finish it since you clearly aren't capable of helping out around here even after we paid for your mission trip to Mexico."

While we can see that both machines are cruel, we must rule wholeheartedly and fairly against the lawnmower, for only it seems to be the true terrestrial leviathan when it comes to destroying an environment. On levels of acoustical nuisance, wildlife endangerment, parental torture device, and noxious fumes which can create cancer and impotence, it seem the more frequently used lawnmower is truly the scourge of our modern world. We, the jury and judge of this blog, encourage the use of rocket launchers, C4, and any and all other violent means necessary to dislodge the rule of both lawnmower and snow blower from our society. Amen.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'm Ready

Something shifted in me. I know it is not the cornucopia of holiday ads, or the now TWO all-Christmas-music radio stations in town. It is not that the shopping is done. No. It is that there's not one more excuse to go out in to the garden. I've done everything. I prolonged it as long as I could.

I didn't put away all the pots in one day. I didn't pull up all the plant support stakes in ten minutes. I didn't roll up the hoses or better secure staked plants for winter winds in an afternoon. I didn't even mulch in less than a week. Today it will be 54, and the next three days 30s, then 20s, and maybe snow.

But the biggest problem is that my garden is in college--that's the age I think of it as, maybe high school. It can cook and clean for itself, it does things I don't know about, it likely talks behind my back, it parties and gets drunk and french kisses dates. In another year or two I could be an empty nester. How time flies.

In just four years I've made an ecosystem, a self-sustaining individual. There is less and less I have to do in the garden each month. Few weeds, minimal staking, minimal plant moving and even dividing. I putz because I want to, but if anything I might be more of a nag, too intrusive, trying to dress up my garden child in clothes long outgrown and outdated. I have to let the garden go.

I only ask for a good winter. A hard winter. Lots of snow, which my garden captures and holds exceedingly well. Give me the full season, make me hunger hard for spring, the distance between us closing as the days grow longer in January even as the ice holds us down, still, patient and impatient at once like a coiled spring. There is nothing I want more to do each day than look out of my window at the beautiful dead stems piercing the sky, echoes of the future, and know how loved we are when we surround ourselves with the life on this planet.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dazed in the Pre Memoir World

I had planned to have all my research annotated and in Word documents by 12/1. This clearly won't happen. 12/15 is the new target date. The next memoir is a freaking beast and I'm in no mood to have a foot race with it. As long as a first draft is done by the end of March I will be most pleased. Even after all my notes are typed up, I still have to go and organize them into viable topics and folders, then, perhaps, chapter outlines. At least I know what the first chapter will be. The rest will come as it comes, and that makes writing exciting.

I asked my wife at lunch today who in the world would care to read a book about some guy exploring his family history, lamenting the lost lessons of his grandmother who tried so hard to teach him about his family, but he never listened. Who would care to read a book that says Oklahoma is our apocalypse, a nexus of everything wrong and right with this country, a convergence of greed and hope that reshaped prairie ecology, Native American cultures, and Mennonite German settlers. We never listen. We don't change until we have to. Until it's too late and we have to start over, start the story over that we cut off and killed.

“How will our children know who they are if they don’t know where they come from?” – John Steinbeck

“For in OK all the experiences that went into the making of the nation have been speeded up. Here all the American traits have been intensified. The one who can interpret Oklahoma can grasp the meaning of America in the modern world.” -- Angie Debo

As I'm bringing together literally hundreds of sources I stop along the way to research some question I asked myself in the margin of a book or pdf document, so I spend an hour more researching. At some point, the research must end, because it could go on forever and ever. Just as I'll never know the lives of my family or the true prairie, so this memoir can never be fully researched--in the loss and the absence, the negative space, is the story of our species.

I ask myself--remembering the first draft debacle of my last memoir, Morning Glory, unpublished but much better than it was three years ago--what kind of narrative will drive and sustain this book? My search for myself, myself and America, or just America? I will have stories of my own, then there are stories of my family, of Cheyenne, of Mennonites, of prairie animals and grasses. Will those dozens of smaller stories coalesce into a larger narrative? Will they spiral together and collide, play off one another like metaphors, lead to one point naturally, or will I have to force it to a head?

Obviously a writer has to be careful at this stage--a memoir is a marathon, and the writing is the discovery, and the editing is the real writing. First thing first. Get me a brown paper bag. I'm on a slippery slope, about to slip into memoir writing hyperventilation and coma.

Turkey Red: A Memoir of Oklahoma

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Last Fall Images / Imagine the Last Fall

I find the garden much more visceral as I think about this, potentially, being the last autumn here. Or not. You never know. I will go where the door opens. At least November in zone 5 Nebraska still provides breaths of fresh air--one day it's 30, the next it's 60. This makes winter seem more manageable to me, since really, things start to warm noticeably come late February. Just enough winter to make spring worthwhile.

Some winters the weeping bald cypress dies half back. Stinks.

Tossed a bunch of seeds in that black pot. We'll see.

Rare view from the other gate.

I had a surprise call this week from UNL and was offered to teach a few classes this spring. Truly a godsend, both for the money and for the fact I miss teaching. And bringing the research together for my next book is taking longer than expected, so I now hope to begin writing the memoir in January and have it done by mid spring. Really need to have that first draft laid out asap. Isn't this an exciting blog post? Well, this next book will be rich, I tell you, rich like the finest dark chocolate mousse. It's my great American memoir.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Garden's Land Ethic

I've been swamped organizing research for my next memoir, so TDM has been a bit quiet (and shallow I suppose). However, I do have a post up at Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens that is a "thinking" post, based on some reading I've done lately. Here's the first bit:

I’m going to start off my semi philosophical / ranty / musing post with two quotes from Richard Manning’s book Grassland:

“Our science, our poetry, and our democracy fail because they lack specific information of the plants.”
“The culture of plants is the same as the culture of people.”

That last one is around a discussion of Aldo Leopold’s idea of a land ethic (and if you’ve not read A Sand County Almanac, exactly what are you waiting for?). In all my thinking and writing, and sometimes in my doing out in the garden as I plant or photograph, I’m developing a land ethic. It is not one that is in response to the land—not as a manager, caretaker, or gardener—but one of learning from the land the cycles of life, of creation, of existence beyond myself, which in turn makes me more aware of my own creation.

Recently there was a video, which I posted to my blog’s Facebook page last Friday, showing a massive swarm of starlings shifting and pulsing like bed sheets over a lake. Superimposed on the spectacle was loud music, which destroyed the birds, the lake, the moment. I wonder why we have to push ourselves so much on the world, why we can’t or won’t or don’t shut up and listen and be in it (why do college students surgically implant ear buds into their ears?). Maybe we’d be less apt to get angry, be jealous, and want something else, that promised land over the next horizon where life must be better, where we won’t be so human. Oh, the history of our pioneers....

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Etsy Photograph Shop

Over the last few weeks I've spent some free time putting together a collection of my photographs for sale on Etsy. Most of the photos are from a series I've been working on, the autumn leaf project, but I've also got some flora and fauna shots. Here are some samples:

Maybe you'll stop by and let me know what you think? Buy a print? 4x6" is $10, 6x9" is $15, and 8x12" is $20. I also have my little garden memoir listed for sale. Hey, why not.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

One of My Poems

I normally prefer to post poems by other writers, but here's one of mine (which will, ahem, be in the forthcoming book Afterimage next spring). Also, lots of really cool autumn leaf pictures coming soon I've been working on for weeks--stay tuned. But for now I'm swamped, so, to the poem.

Last Rites                                                                   

Believe me when I say that lavender cries.
This is why in autumn mornings butterflies
move silently across the stalks, buoyant
like bells that slide over altar candles.
That exhalation, after scent has ambled
toward the heavens, removes life’s memory, fervent
intensity of freedom from the stem—
it makes the world a stunted requiem.
And insects burning with the forests—wings
a folded canopy of maple red,
yellow ash, umber oak—these inclined
transmuted shadows slip into this wonting.
Even we, within our lightly tended beds,
will fade into another, intertwined.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

One More Spin

70s the next two days (not the era, the temp), then 50 and freezes by the end of the week. I've set out all my cut flowers for the insects since a lot succumbed to the 22 degrees we had last week. I'm trying to fully immerse myself in autumn, in the garden, not just like a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter, but a squirrel gathering nuts for years (perhaps). I don't mean to sound melancholy--if anything, I'm seeing more in the autumn garden than I ever have before. And having fun with the camera along the way.

Cosmo v. fly

Tachinid fly--scourge of the monarch

Paper wasp

Unique design

Add caption

I've had the house to myself the last few days, and in an effort to focus on the next book by making metaphorical room, cleaned up my office (I see carpet!) and tossed many old student papers. The latter is always particularly sad for some reason--all I need to do is see a name or read a sentence, and I instantly know that student again, the class, the context, the conferences we had, the good agony of living through language. It's hard trashing all that work, but I don't have any need for it. At the same time, I feel cruel--like a mother robin pushing out young from the nest. I suppose I had my chance, did what I could when I could. Fly, papers, fly. (Better than burn, papers, burn--right?)