Summer Weather

Predicting the weather, especially in the early days of summer in the south, is always the pursuit of a moving target.  Air pressure rises and falls, fronts move, winds shift, and water vapor collects in white masses that turn to gray then turn to black. Temperatures drop ten degrees in a matter of minutes and the trees wave back and forth, welcoming the lashing they are to take.  Nature holds on.

warm turns to cool
clouds roll in from the west
we brace for what’s next

The Cost of Labor

I’m a maker.  In addition to making narratives, poetry, and other forms of written work, I dabble in carpentry, cabinetry, pottery, gardening, stonework, painting, sewing, rope work, carving, weaving, and a few other activities that will come to me later.  I enjoy making, and I enjoy being around other folks who do so as well.  

There are two ideas floating around the maker world that I’ve seen expressed in different ways, and they always make me chuckle.  

The first is usually found at craft shows or fairs, and it’s a form of, “Sure, he can make it, but will he?” 

As a quick aside, I’m sure “she” could make it too, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen that sign.

The second idea deals with the cost of a service or making of an item.  There’s the basic price, the price that is charged if you watch, and the price that is charged if you help.  Guess which is the cheapest?  Here’s a clue: It’s the one that doesn’t involve you being in the room as the work is being done.

Both of these ideas are floating through my mind this very day, and it’s been tough.

You see, until about two hours ago, the roof on my house leaked.

Before I continue, I’ve got to give a quick tip of the hat to Jerry Garcia and David Grisman for the lyrics to their version of “Arkansas Traveler.” 

Well, hello stranger
Can’t you see that your roof is leaking?
Why don’t you fix it?

Well, right now it’s rainin’ too hard
And when the suns a shinin’
Why, it don’t leak!

Anyway, like I was sayin’, my roof leaked.  In addition to that, I tend to pick up other folks’ speech habits, but that’s another story.

Thinking about how to address that leak, I had a conundrum.  That is, I can do the work, but I don’t have the time.  To be clear, I’ve laid a shingle or two in my day, but I have a flaw in my disposition that accounts for the two guys who are currently on top of my house: I’m a ponderer.  I think too much.  In a word, I’m slow.  I can probably do it, but it’s going to take a lot of time.

I’m fortunate right now to have the resources to have someone else do the work, but I’m absolutely itching to get out there and help.  With my speed, though, they’d charge me double.  

Rightly so, rightly so.

Don’t Read the Comments

I have an opinion, and a way to get it out there
…….I can share it, so I will
What’s an “informed opinion?” I don’t care — this one is mine
…….And that’s what matters
I see that you have an opinion as well, your own point of view
…….Even though it’s flawed
As easily as I can share my opinion, I could do some reading
…….That doesn’t matter
I have no time for nuance, as there are other battles to be fought
…….I have an opinion
You’ll try to scroll on by, but you’ll probably see it, this opinion of mine
…….I can share it, so I will

Tim Gels, Draft

Please note: This is not an autobiographical poem!

Dividing Fractions

I remember my muscles tensing and my body freezing, my eyes growing wider as my mind started to race and adrenaline started to pump.

“I don’t remember how I used to explain why dividing fractions oftentimes ends up with a quotient larger than either the dividend or divisor.”

A few panicky seconds passed.

“Oh my gosh — I can’t remember, I can’t remember,” I said to myself, over and over.

I searched for the answer in my mind.  I worked examples, looking for the pattern that was going to -click- make everything fall into place. I knew this, but I just couldn’t remember.

“I have got to know this.  I can’t just say ‘flip the second fraction and multiply,’ without being able to explain why.”

I looked at the clock, on the off chance that it might give me the answer.

2:40 A.M.

Knowing that I don’t start teaching fourth grade for another two and a half months, I did my best to let it go, telling myself I could look it up in the morning.  “Besides, that’s not even a fourth grade standard,” I added for good measure.

To my later-in-the-morning amazement, I actually went back to sleep.  

A new grade level is going to be fun!

Out of State Plates

The driver ahead of me hesitated
physically straddling the line between turning or not
as one does when a decision is uncertain.

It was a small car, road-dirty with out-of-state plates
and a single occupant, a man whose greying hair 
was visible in the early morning light.

As I would too, he pulled through the light in the turn lane
and it was curiosity, I confess, that soon had me alongside him 
for just a moment before pulling ahead.

Perhaps mid-60s, needing a shave but not a haircut.
A look of concentration with his left hand on the wheel
and his right clutching a sheet of paper.

A few moments later I looked for him in the mirror, but he was gone. 
Where was he going, this far from home?  
Where was I going, this close to home?

Shaking the thought, I slowed once more 
dutifully put on my signal 
and made a turn into the rising sun.

You Can’t Sneak Up on an Owl

It’s almost impossible to sneak up on an owl.

No, really.  Their eyesight is near the top of the charts. Their vision is better than ours during the day, and there’s that whole night vision thing they’ve got going for them.  

Their hearing?  Well, their hearing is enough to make one wonder why we even have charts.  They don’t need to see their prey in order to capture it — the sound of a rustle in the grass or even the beating of an excited heart is more than enough for them to locate their next meal.  

Owls don’t typically have much of a sense of smell, so that works in the favor of any would-be sneaker, but that’s about it. 

All of that said, I recently found myself wishing I could sneak up on an owl.  

An owl who was awaiting my arrival.

A hungry owl — an apex predator — who was waiting for me.


Okay, really, I just needed to feed Max.

I’ve written before about the volunteer work I do with the RISE Raptor Project here in north Alabama.  We’re a small stewardship and conservation education organization that works with birds of prey to communicate our message to the public.

Those birds have to eat, and it was my turn to feed them.  Max’s food, though, was still frozen, so my presence — which should have meant dinner was about to be served — didn’t really mean a meal was imminent.  That’s why I wished I could bring my car up a gravel driveway, turn off the engine, shut the door, unlock and open the building he stays in, thaw his food, and go into his enclosure, all without him knowing I was there.  As if. 

He knew I was there.

Did he let me know he knew?  Yes.  

Did I thaw his dinner as fast as I could?  Yes.  

He gave me grief in the form of an impatient squawk until I finally fed him some 20 minutes later, but he did eventually get his well-thawed meal.  

Did he shower me with thanks afterward?  

Well, no, not really. He was quieter, though. I guess that counts.

Maximus, a Eurasian Eagle Owl

Picnic Table

A picnic table sits beneath a spreading white oak tree
just outside the building where I spend many of my days 
extending an unspoken invitation to all who walk past it.

Perched on a slight incline, it is bathed in deep, cool shade, and 
a breeze has, more often than not, accepted the invitation
and it, in turn, entreats passersby to do the same.

Were it not for the heavy chain tethering the table so close 
that the tree itself takes two of the end seats 
that haven on the hill would be perfect.

Enjoy the table, but don’t steal it.  Things are complicated.

Draft, May 2021

The Tower

“Do you want to climb the tower?”

“Sure.  Do you want to climb the tower?”

“Sure.  Let’s go.”

Honestly, in a lot of ways, it was as if we were kids looking at a roller coaster, saying, “I’ll do it if you do it!”

Except it wasn’t a roller coaster, and my mother and I weren’t kids.


Dayton, Ohio, is a city with a lot of history.  I know there are a lot of cities with history, but Dayton is mine, so I’m a bit partial.  Part of the city’s history — and there is a lot — is embodied in what is known as the Callahan Clock.  

Until the late 1970s, this clock stood atop Dayton’s first tall building, the Callahan building.  When that building was taken down, the clock was removed from its 14 story perch and moved to another building near Interstate-75, giving it even more visibility to those moving through the city. 

That location was eventually torn down as well, and until two years ago the clock sat on the ground in Dayton’s historical Carillon Park, home of the Wright Brothers museum and its airplane, the Wright Flyer III.  (I told you Dayton had a lot of history–oh, yeah, the whole “birthplace of flight” thing.)

In 2019, the clock was placed atop a tower built in Carillon park just to hold it, a structure known as the Brethen Tower.

“The tower” that started this narrative.

Now, the tower itself isn’t necessarily a thing of beauty.  The clock is, but the tower is a simple structure made of I-beams and steel grating.

Therein lies a problem.

It’s 120 steps to the top, and every one of those steps is made of a rock-solid-no-way-you-can-fall piece of steel grating firmly welded to the structure itself.

Just because you can’t fall, though, doesn’t mean you can’t see through it.  As you climb it, there’s never a time when you’re not aware that you’re getting farther and farther from the ground.  I climbed it, and I’ve got the pictures to prove it, but that doesn’t mean I was comfortable doing so.

Once we were there, however, we were rewarded with a view of the downtown area as well as a fantastic vantage point from which my mom and I could look at another attraction: a bald eagle nest.  Currently occupied by a pair of eagles with three maturing eaglets, it’s a sight to see, perched at the top of a large sycamore tree on the edge of the park.

We came, we climbed, and we saw.

“Okay, I’m ready to go down now.”

“Okay, me too.”

The Callahan Clock, Dayton, Ohio

Bald eagle nest, Carillon Park, Dayton, Ohio
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