Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Spring training - 3.31 #sol21 Story Challenge

We land at the Challenge's end, a
small miracle. We have each become a student
of daily habit, presented
for the first time or again with this writing place, theirs or ours, hers or his,
welcomed to the fold of a just so, chef-turned omelet.

It amazes us still how the
writing ritual itself becomes our instructor.
At a keyboard, we poked
until it
surrendered (or revealed) a slice. And
perhaps once, an idea shook
us so suddenly -- as a hitter who meets his
bat head
to a ball that he
even bother
size up, the abrupt taste
coming only from the unseeing instinct of it.
I sometimes know how he
feels, tipped
over with the swing's effort, putting his all into it,
blind hope that the result will be more than trash;
the payoff of essential optimism, not unlike an
unexpectedly delicious filling cached in an omelet.

Our simple writerly wants
might in fact distill to
a wish to be
vulnerably soft
when standing in
of earthly bustle, pillowy
any and every experience, the
unthinkable alternative being to lose touch.

Source text for this golden shovel poem: Dirt by Bill Buford, page 130

Tuesday, March 30, 2021


Today, I believe, represented the largest number of young people with whom I've shared an actual classroom in over a year. I'm rereading that first sentence to myself because I find it barely believable. I counted 17 students, seated compliantly in desks arranged in rows, each separated by at least three feet from the next. They all remembered to bring charged devices to school; their families cleared new hurdles by submitting electronic health screeners in timely fashion. A video set-up cobbled together at the front of the classroom brought another seven students into the proceedings from home. I plopped into what I wrongly thought of as a command center of sorts, toggling my attention between the remote and in-person crews. We were all using laptops to mediate our participation, yet we were together. ("Together"?)

We read aloud and discussed two poems. Even with our masks deployed effectively, we could all hear each other, whether in the room or patched in digitally.

Everyone contributed, by speaking or writing or both.

That's something.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Other than under glass - 3.28 #sol21 Story Challenge

"Pheasant, peasant? What a pleasant present?" --William Steig, Shrek

Upon returning home today from the winter forays I've been writing slices about this past week, I found a neighbor blocking our apartment entry with his truck. He apologized, saying sheepishly how this had never happened before. "No big deal," I responded. "We have stuff to unload ourselves, and we can just park behind you for now." He said he'd move the truck right away, to make room for us. We shuffled vehicles and proceeded to jockey bags to our respective doors. In the process, we all traded pleasantries about what we'd been doing since we had last seen each other. For us, skiing; for our neighbor, hunting.

"You like pheasant?" he asked.

"Never had it before," my wife and I replied.

Our neighbor said he had bagged more than he could use, so he would bring some by. I spent the next stretch of time fretting about bird heads with beaks or feathered bodies that might need my attention. Soon, though, a knock came at the door along with our neighbor bearing a plastic bag containing three cleaned ('processed,' I think, is the word) pheasants, ready for cooking. Convenience and carnivorousness go hand in hand, I now realize more acutely than I did before.

I turned to one resource that I thought might be able to help me out of this sudden culinary jam: How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. Bittman didn't disappoint and, about 70 minutes later, my wife and I dined on pheasant braised with onions, mushrooms, and dried fruit, served over Israeli couscous.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Phew: clerihew - 3.27 #sol21 Story Challenge

With this month dwindling rapidly, I'm overdue
for a clerihew!

We met a mountain guide named Joe
near Mount Uneva, scouting solo,
for ski lines where he could lead paying clients
who trust his understanding of snow science.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Ski safari continues - 3.26 #sol21 Story Challenge

Lakshmi, another slice writer, asked a question that inspired today's blog. On Wednesday, she asked -- in response to one of my recent entries about sliding on snow -- "What type of skiing is this?" That particular slice focused on cross-country skiing, also referred to as Nordic skiing (deserving of a capital letter, I learned from the Internet's copy desk, though 'internet' these days is acceptable all lower case).

Cross-country skiing equipment's relatively light weight suits it best for two-dimensional travel. While going up and down is possible for short stretches, it's a different experience than downhill or alpine skiing. Those activities, with their three-dimensional demands were our focus today, involving both a slower pace (at least on the self-powered way up) and burlier gear (for the gravity-fueled way down). In between, the reward was a view like this:

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Serendipity - 3.25 #sol21 Story Challenge

I'm back on skis today because spring break remains in effect. I'm chasing after my wife along a nordic center's groomed trails. She's flying, uphill. Over the pounding of my heartbeat in my ears, I hear someone shout, "Lafayette Jazz!" This would typically be a strange thing to call out in these circumstances, except those are exactly the words splashed across the royal blue t-shirt I'm wearing. It's the name (or former name) of the high-school Ultimate Frisbee team I coach. The moniker's origins are semi-mysterious, particularly the bit after the name of the town where the school is located. I surmise the speaker must be one of two women waiting at the crest of the hill for me to summit so they can descend. No one else is around, not even my wife. As I approach the pair, one introduces herself as the mother of a former team member, a graduate last spring. One glance at the mountains around us makes clear that, after all, the world is far from small, and yet...