Marcescence

We stand on the side of a hill
a beech tree and I, as the 
cold January wind blows between us
rustling its lingering foliage and stirring my thinning hair

Its leaves are bleached brown and brittle, that beech
devoid of the green that gave life in the summer sun
They hang on because of the tree’s inability 
to let go of what it does not need anymore

Marcescence, the trait is called
I linger a moment, thinking on that
then turn and walk down my winding trail
holding tightly to a few things of my own

A Sentiment of Love

Until recently, I had no idea Billy Collins has a most-days Facebook Live broadcast.  Not every day, but most days.  Well, I think so–like I said, I just found out about it.

It’s a rambling sort of affair, and I find it to be enjoyable, in a Billy Collins sort of way.  A little of this, a little of that, and there’s also his wife in a producer/director/host role that seems to work well.  Their cat made an appearance today, which was nice.  Clearly I’ve been listening to Billy Collins, as “which was nice” isn’t something I’d normally say.

During today’s broadcast (show? presentation? episode?) he read a poem by Hayan Charara entitled “Ode on an Abandoned House,” and its last two lines have stuck with me over the hours since. 

Charara finishes his poem with, “May you live forever, / may you bury me.”

After reading the work, Collins went on to discuss an Arabic phrase, transliterated as “To’borny” or “Ya’aburnee.”  The phrase translates along the lines of “May you bury me,” and it’s a sentiment of love.  I don’t want to live without you, so I hope you bury me instead of the other way around.  To say Arabic is a poetic language is sort of an understatement, isn’t it?

My counsel to you at this moment? Use the link, read the poem, then hug (physically, if practicable) someone you love.  Reader, I hope this finds you well.

The Trolls of My Adulthood

The trolls of my childhood

lurked under bridges 
waiting for the perfect goat

or sat deep in the mountains
feeling lucky about the errant dwarf

Today’s hide behind a screen name
waiting for the next tweet to pounce upon
just for the sad pleasure of doing so

Trolls never have had much of a life


This week’s Poetry Friday roundup can be found on Laura Shovan’s site here: Laura Shovan

Squirrels

Sometimes I think of the natural world–both flora and fauna, but mostly the fauna part of it–as a joyless place, a place of survival, red in tooth and claw and all that.  Joyless.  Survival.  It’s not a regular thought; it’s rare, actually, but sometimes it comes.  Death is real and ever-present, but so is life. Oh, so is life.

There are two squirrels in my back yard that are doing their best to help me focus on the life part of things.  Which is good, because that first paragraph got a lot darker than I intended.

Coffee, specifically morning coffee with my wife, is a highlight of my day.  I sometimes joke about the day going downhill starting around six o’clock when we get up from it–it’s just that good.  We sit, drink coffee, and talk almost every day.

Death – squirrels – coffee.  Are you following me here?  Good.  

Now, Lisa and I both have our chairs.  They’re not really “our” chairs, as in, “Tim’s chair,” or “Lisa’s chair,” but more often than not, they’re where we sit.  In our chairs…the ones that aren’t really ours.  (They’re clearly not, as my wife naps in mine on a regular basis when I’m not in it.)

Add chairs to the list, right after coffee.

So, it’s morning, the traditional time for morning coffee, and we’re in our chairs, settled into conversation.  The dawn is just breaking, the black becomes grey, and the view through the window just behind my wife’s shoulder is getting more and more interesting.  This happens on a regular basis, given our daily schedules and aforementioned love of coffee and conversation.

I have to say my wife also has a view out the window which happens to be over my shoulder, but I also have to say I don’t think it’s as interesting as mine.

My view has squirrels.

Squirrels that visit most days, probably because of the oak and pecan trees in our back yard.  With my peripheral vision I’m aware of them climbing around, traveling up and down the trunks, and moving horizontally from one tree to another.

I see them with my peripheral vision, because I’m actually looking at my wife, the person with whom I’m conversing.  With coffee.  That’s what we do.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone, though, with squirrels being squirrels and all, that the activity causes me to be a bit impolite on occasion.  There are days when they play in the trees, and I have to just excuse myself and baldly look out the window.  The pair is absolutely flying through the canopy, leaping impossible leaps, ascending and descending with incredible speed, looking like nothing more than two grey streaks.  On the best days, there will even be time for me to suggest that Lisa look.  On those days, she gets to smile at them too.  

There is life in the world beyond our walls, and it is wonderful.  

Untouched

I stepped outside this morning and was overwhelmed 
by the beauty of the new day

Despite the turmoil of my human heart and mind
the world rolls on and on 

The sun is rising higher above the horizon 
and the shadows are growing shorter  

The trees are showing buds 
in anticipation of leafing in the next few months

The air is crisp and clear
absent the wind and clouds of yesterday

The birds go about their business of singing and surviving
their minds untouched

by those things I allow to touch mine 

My Team Lost

January 12, 2021

My team lost last night.

I wish they’d won, but they didn’t–the other team did.

For whatever reason (some call it fate, divine providence, chance: take your pick), I was born in Dayton, Ohio. As I understand it, I spent the first few years of my life living in an apartment within the city boundaries before spending the rest of my childhood in what I call, “a suburb of a suburb” some 25 minutes from the place of my birth.  

I don’t have much of a recollection regarding those “first few years” of my life, but I distinctly remember leaving the second house at the ripe old age of 17 to join the Marine Corps, so I’m pretty sure about those later years.

Ohio was a great place to grow up.  

“If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.”

Wilbur Wright, 1910

My memories involve snowy winters and hot clear summer days.  A few tornadoes, hiking through the woods in the southeast part of the state, and a relatively uneventful childhood.  It was Ohio, for goodness’ sake.

My team lost last night.

I grew up with one sport in my life: Baseball.  I wasn’t a particularly good player, but I could throw the ball to home plate from center field, so that was the position I remember playing.  (I do have one good baseball story that comes to mind every time I hear Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” but that’s about it.)  The Cincinnati Reds were usually competitive during my childhood years, and they were dominant for a few of them (see Big Red Machine). Baseball was and, to a degree, is still my sport.

Football, though, is pretty big around my home here in north Alabama.  It’s pretty big up in Ohio as well, despite my lack of awareness when I lived there.  (One quick anecdote about how clueless I used to be when it comes to football: When I moved to Alabama in 2000, I got my family members Alabama sweatshirts because I thought they referred to the state.  Um, no, Tim, they’re all about the football team.  Oddly enough, I’ve never seen a family member wear that shirt.)

My team lost last night.

Most of the folks I know here in the south are fans of the University of Alabama football team, but I decided years ago to root for the team of my birth state, The Ohio State University.  It just seemed right.  I was born there and raised there.  Most of my family still lives there, and I visit when I can.  

I have a lot of good reasons to support my team.  Despite their loss last night, the OSU football team is a darn good group of players.  They were good enough to score 24 points against the best team in the nation.  Unfortunately, the best team in the nation was good enough, last night, to score 52 points against them.

I’m not one to talk (too much) trash, but I can point out that last time the two teams met some six years ago, my team did win.  And, historically, they’re good enough that they could win the next time they meet in the future.  They’re a good team, a competitive team.  I believe in my team.  

My team lost last night.

We could talk about some possible reasons my team lost last night.  Our starting quarterback took a debilitating hit just 10 days or so ago.  Certainly that slowed him down–it had to.  The Buckeyes were down three starting players due to Covid-19, and they lost their starting running back to injury on his first possession of the game.   

We could also talk about the advantages the University of Alabama enjoyed last night.  Their coach’s name is at home amongst the greats of the game, and–as of last night–he’s won more national championships than any other head coach in the history of the game.  Their starting quarterback is nothing short of top-notch, and one of their receivers won the Heisman Trophy just a few days ago.

Two good teams, great teams, historied teams, and in their most recent matchup, my team lost.  At the end of the night, my team lost.  There will be a post-game analysis, some soul searching, and an effort to do better next time, but last night my team lost.

It’s not the fault of the referees, the field, or the weather.  They lost.  Next time they might win, but this time they lost.  The other team scored more points, and that’s what wins games.  I hope the best for them next time, but this time…well, my team lost.  When one’s team loses, they lost.

Honestly, this post isn’t about football at all, now is it?

Finding Peace


Berry’s “The Peace of Wild Things” drifts in and out of my mind
As I walk the woods of north Alabama on a crisp Sunday afternoon

Like the poet, I, too, experience the grip of despair some days
Despair and fear

Unlike Berry, though, I do not lie by the water of the drake and the heron
Rather, I walk a path among the pines, the oaks, and the hickories

There is a stillness here, known by the face of the limestone above me
A face that has borne witness to millenia upon millenia in silence

In that place, I know peace as the cool wind moves around me
In that place, I know the Grace of Creation, and find my rest

Bot

So, I met my first bot the other day.  

Twitter bot, that is.  I suppose it’s safe to say I’ve seen their work (if that’s what it’s called) before, but never directed at me.  It wasn’t a bad experience as that sort of thing goes, and I’m happy to say it actually gave me food for thought.

This is not in any way, shape, or form a political post, but a bit of background is necessary for the bot to make sense.  I almost always shun away from using social media to air my feelings about politics or other topics of the day.  It’s not productive and the replies cause my blood pressure to go up–not a win for me in any fashion.  That said, I said “almost always” which implies there are rare exceptions.

I’m not particularly thrilled about some current national events, so I tweeted a thought that started with, “I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that …” (if you need to see it, I’m @timgels; again, this isn’t a political post).

Within just a few minutes, I had a reply that read, “I fixed your tweet for you: I’m not a lawyer.” 

Okay, that’s cute.

Believe it or not, though, I get it.  Mind you, I still blocked the bot, but I get it.  I’m not a lawyer, but I know they regularly have to put up with people who fly off the cuff and pontificate as if they, too, had passed the Bar exam.  That’s got to be frustrating, so I get it.

However, while I’m not a lawyer, I’m a fairly well read individual who does his best to practice critical thinking, and I don’t think my tweet was too far off the mark.  For what it’s worth, an actual lawyer replied to my tweet, saying, “I think you just passed the Bar.”  

Take that, you bot.

The food for thought I mentioned earlier?  If that bot was a person, I’d reply along the lines of, “Look, I’m a teacher.  Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you they know how to do my job!” And, as with the lawyer who has the technical chops to put together that bot, I sometimes get tired of hearing about it.  When I think about it, though, sometimes critics from outside the field have valid points.  I believe I did, and perhaps they do too.

I can respect the views of others, but now I’ve got a new interest I’m pursuing: I’ve gotta figure out how to make my own bot.