Blue lawn chair, 2014

I spend time trying not to think about losing my dad this year. And then other times, it is all-Jerry-all-the-time playing across my consciousness. Tonight, the blue lawn chairs in our campsite are triggering him. As I sit to coax a fire at the fire-ring, I’m fully aware that this was his skill, though if he was not on the task, it was usually because he was letting someone else learn the trade (another one of his skills).

Last summer during our vacation to Michigan, and during an evening around the backyard firepit, he gave me the fire starter task in his backyard because his oxygen tube was a real hazard. There can sometimes be too much oxygen when starting a fire.

His white beard, shaved close to the skin, showed off his dark skin. He and mom were not missing beach days in Frankfort, and their gardens were receiving a great deal of attention from them both, even as pulmonary disease redrew lines of expectation. Instead of blowing on the flames, his eyes moved from sticks in the yard to the woodpile, nudging me without a word into a routine we had performed together a thousand times.

So that’s how quiet fathers act. Not turning it all into blogs, but certainly conveying the message and creating opportunities to let you show that you had heard him—that you knew something now, too.

The fire is rolling now. Smoke pouring over the guy typing and remembering. And the campground is host to shadows walking past in the new dark.


It is Thursday. I’m working. But I’m also camping. I’m working from home. I haven’t gone anywhere. But I’m camping. I can smell this dog’s wet hair and the lake. The fire was a challenge but who am I fooling? I used a big fire starter with a minimal tinder effort. The coffee perked. The corned beef has sizzled in that pan. I’m sorry about balancing things on the dog. That’s a prick move. But the patience of dogs! She enjoyed a couple scrambled eggs from the fire. She thinks I can make it through my day of spreadsheets. She is sorry about the desk. She says we can go outside after this work gets done.

Puzzle from 2012

Great weekend. M came to me, smiling, with a geometry question that she quickly figured out. She brought me a coding question that she solved while explaining to me. She worked on some Lucretius, her uncle’s favorite puzzle. We sorted some of her art, she read a book, she swam and laughed with geriatrics at the pool while listening to big bands. We watched two episodes of Merlin. And before she fell asleep she wrote in her journal — half under the blankets with a light clip and pen — habits gleaned from her mom. I’m thankful for the wide company of teachers that animate her interests. The wind is howling outside on the ridge.


Red corduroy chair from a pair that mom and dad bought in 1964. Orange rocker liberated from Ptown 23 years ago. Blue rocker from Mawmaw (great grandma), reupholstered by Henry and Ruth (grandparents), sculptures by Dana (sister), venomous animals because watch out, bird guide because of Warren Hall (department chair) and Mike Chamberlin (ecology instructor), Tolkien and Winnie in Latin because of Mavis, 1736 physician manual because of Faith’s deep interest in malady and cure, Gorey tarot pack because Martha taught Faith how to read cards in Bloomington, blue shark and green alligator because of the snakebite sisters: Turtle and Wookiee, resident dogs.

Cards in the spokes

I know that everyone has probably seen Theo Jansen’s kinetic sculptures. But I was thinking how nice it would be to have one just waving or cruising past. Would it pass like an electric car? Like bicycles with banana seats and cards in the spokes? Would it feel more like being passed by a willow tree on the move?

Woman with dogs

Three dogs cross the meadow
at three speeds, oriented
in different directions
like a compass that has lost north.

The dachshund drags through
the mint. The lab’s thick tail
knocks the new fiddleheads.
Puppy leaps like a fish from the grass

creating her sunset ripples.
Each sniffs and paws, lifts a leg,
imagines a deer.
They watch each other,

they watch her, making moves
to be seen by the path-picker,
to be known by that fuzzy sorrel,
this damp ground.

The woman conjures the W. A. L. K,
and probably the sun’s
golden hour. She wags them
with a predictable happiness.


Thinking has always been described as a conscious effort. Artist Henri Cartier-Bresson called thinking a “decisive moment” of consciousness, but in reality thin-slicing is an unconscious behavior. Similarly, photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt referred to a direct connection between his eye and his shutter finger, bypassing his brain, which was critical for many of his most celebrated images.

-Wikipedia entry on “Thin-slicing” (Miscellaeous)



On the island where I was a child
nearly everyone was retired, their fortunes

already made. Death was around them
the way water was around our streets.

They taught me how to go fishing
without catching fish; the tide’s breath

was marked in notebooks they kept
beneath their pillows. One old lady

fed me chocolates from a tin
until my teeth were stained by greed.

The old do things slowly so I grew used
to grocery store lines

that did not move, cars that stopped
in the middle of the road. One man spent

a whole day helping me bury a squirrel;
we wrote odes and dirges

to the way it once hurried and planned.



Faith Shearin

Ownership of the anticipated rhyme

“Rhyming and echoing were important in preschool learning. Little ones find comfort in the patterns but also take some ownership of the anticipated rhyme.” – my mom

My mom and I were talking about gameplay today.  How a “get out of jail free” card makes you feel in Monopoly.  How learning and fun are constructed from (or at least always include) emotional echoes.  Surprises.  Recognition.  Comfort.  Relief.  Connection.  Ownership.  Resilience, etc..

In the movie, Witness, the Amish grandfather admonishes the boy: “What you put into your hand you put into your heart.”  Which might also be expressed as: What you put into your heart, you put into your hand.  When you feel, you participate.  When you anticipate, you engage.

Personal Helicon

As a child, they could not keep me from wells

And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.

One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
I savoured the rich crash when a bucket
Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.

A shallow one under a dry stone ditch
Fructified like any aquarium.
When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch
A white face hovered over the bottom.

Others had echoes, gave back your own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.

Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.

Seamus Heaney