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Testing Mortars


You might think your home was a battlefield,
the way a bass shiver chills the wall
when a shell thumps ground,
a broad dent in the Earth
some unknown distance away, old dust
beaten from the house like a rug shaken out.
It’s not so much that initial jar,
but the anticipation of the second,
the third,
the fourth,
braced against an impact you can’t see,
can’t time with the mental addition of seconds.
If only you could fast-track sleep
by a careful closing of the eyes, an exact stillness
of the body, a perfect cadence of inhale, exhale.
But again—the thunderous shudder,
desk lamp quaked to the floor,
and you rise to steady the room, piece by piece.
Remember the sigh you breathe
when the tremors stop,
because you can still walk to the front door,
run your hand along the oaken grooves,
twist the brass knob,
and welcome quiet across the threshold. 

Bryn Homuth
On a comfortable couch, recalling a once close proximity to Fort Riley, KS
September 3, 2014

"The Bombardment of Hartlepools (16 December, 2014)"
Oil on Canvas - 1915
James Clark 


Ambler, No. 23 [On Making Mountains out of Molehills]

If therefore any shall affirm the joints of elephants are differently framed from most of other quadrupeds, and more obscurely and grossely almost then any; he doth herein no injury unto truth. – Sir Thomas Brown

About two months ago a friend and I were out west of town and, like Zebulon Pike and John C. Fremont, we made our way along the Pipeline Trail of the state park we were at, with walking sticks in hand. Now, there is a peculiar etiquette concerning the walking stick that one ought to always follow. First, man should only get his walking stick from the dead limbs that have fallen or will soon fall from dying trees. It is best if this stick is slightly taller than the walker but not too tall lest it becomes more of an encumbrance than a help. The height matters when on trails heavily populated by overhanging trees which produce shade and scenery but also spider webs. A stick properly used keeps one from unwittingly getting caught in one of these webs, and the walker is best served by holding the stick slightly in front as if it had a light on its end and was guiding him, and he should, now and again, cry, “Attercop! Attercop!” for added safety measure against the spiders. This done, the stick of a walker should also be relatively smooth and firm. A stick with too many protuberances may cause physical harm to any fellow companions and a flimsy walking stick may falter if one meets with sharp inclines or rocky roads. Finally, every walking stick should be placed at the head or end of the trail when the ambler is finished with it, placing it back in its natural environment from whence it came but in such a way that other travelers may one day notice and use to their own benefit. There is, of course, an etiquette for discarding your staff. One does not merely set it down or fling it away as if it was mere utility for a good walk. No. But when one returns his stick, he must, if it has served him well, proclaim some benediction over it before replacing it. Such a benediction should be thoughtful, and the best ones are witty or rhyme and rely on puns. A few humble benedictions I have heard consist of the following:

O stick! You’ve served me well. May your bark be ever better than your bite!

Stick! You have gotten me out of many a sticky situation. Be free!

Stick! If they made you into a club, I would join you!

Stick! If they made your bark into a bark, it would sail the seven seas o’er and o’er and never cease to remain afloat!

And so on. Thus, the proper etiquette for obtaining, using, and returning a good walking stick. If it was a bad walking stick, then a curse should be pronounced, it should be broken in two, and hidden from sight.


Making our way across the Pipeline Trail with two hardy sticks, my friend and I spotted wild turkey. Unable to catch any, we kept our eyes open until we at once spotted a blue object in the distance. It is very common for man to seek opportunities to both explore and discover. And so we set out to discover whatever this object happened to be, unsure if it was some type of stagnant bird or inanimate treasure. Leaving the path and using our sticks, we weaved our way in and out of pine trees, chanting “Attercop!” and keeping our eyes peeled on this object. It occurred very quickly that the object was not sentient. It remained fixed in its position as we approached. But the thing about forests is that one often backtracks or proceeds around lines of trees, rarely making a direct beeline to his destination. So with eyes fixed on the item we made our way sometimes to the left of it, other times to the right, always coming a little closer to our magnificent discovery.


My friend who accompanied me that day has often bemoaned the sad fact that he will never have the opportunity to name something. That nearly every area of land in this country has been previously trampled on is a sad fact indeed. And so in the genuine simplicity of his character, the man, some weeks later, said to me that since he cannot discover anything new, he may as well be small--as small as a mole perhaps. For then we need much less to be contented and happy. The 1200 acre state park would afford an explorer many years of discovery, if he is the size of a mere mole. The pond is a great lake that can be crossed by the bark of that walking-stick which now seems more like a limbless tree than a stick.

And the world becomes so much more dangerous. A spider bite may mean losing a limb; the majesty of the great blue heron grows into a very real terror when it soars about you like a sentient 747. The true explorer needs this element of danger if he is to have any satisfaction at the end of the day. If the element of danger is completely taken away, the wild becomes nothing more than another type of playground.

And while I am on it I must state that the smaller a man is, the happier and more contented he is. How much better if you are so insignificant that no one is actually thinking about you? If you could go through your day without worrying about what anyone thinks because you have a true view of your own worth, would you not be free from a need to be liked and accepted? But we tell our students that they are the most important beings on the planet, and then we wonder why narcissism and selfishness are so rampant. We tell our students in writing classes that they need to “look within themselves” to write well, and in doing so we create a bunch of writers who create works that are meaningful to a select few but largely useless on a universal scope. True originality and creativity come from speaking Truth in such a way that has not been done before; it comes in making oneself very small, so that he can write about everything else that has become rather large and wild.


Our exploration continued as we dodged trees, all the while convinced that we were doing something unprecedented and illegal, convinced that we were the first souls to make our way out to this area. As we neared the object, its size shrunk and the initial blue tint was discovered to have a good bit of silver and some red. The object was situated near the foot of good old pine; it had been sliced down the middle, though its oval shape still remained, and as we got close enough to take in our first true glimpse, our spirits sunk within us and we groaned, cursing the modern world. For the object which took us from our path was nothing but a Red Bull can. We, at least, rested easy that this time it was not Bud Light*

Sam Snow,
Written at The Ole Midshipman,
Manhattan, KS,
August 23, 2014

Transcribed by Adam the Scribe II,
After Much Delay and Vexation,
September 2, 2014

Image: "Papa's Walking Stick"
By James Rannie Swinton
Oil on Canvas, n.d.


*I say, if one is going to roam around this world and litter it with his trash, the least he can do is litter it with a higher quality beer than Bud Light. His reputation would be somewhat salvaged if it was a Guinness or a Boddingtons. Better yet if he littered his own parks with the brew of his local land. Better even if he locked himself in his house and trashed that instead of spreading his filthy disease of sloth where everyone else has to deal with it.


Snowy Cabin (An Oil Selection)

"Snowy Cabin"
Oil on Canvas - Year Unknown
Fehmena Assim 

"Better than all, I had known a corner [of a nation] as a householder, which is the only way of getting at a country. Tourists may carry away impressions, but it is the seasonal detail of small things and doings (such as putting up fly-screens and stove-pipes, buying yeast-cakes and being lectured by your neighbors) that bite in the lines of mental pictures."

--Rudyard Kipling, Something of Myself


For more items of this nature please visit our Oil section here but not here.


The Princess and Curdie (A Blurb)

Quite actually, a good book is worth the reading posthaste and a terrible book is hardly worth the mentioning. Therefore, why all the hem-hawing over lengthy reviews? Although the following is not a remonstrance, it may be an adequate resolution. For the purpose of keeping them short and to the point, we submit our blurbs:





"Macdonald has written a fairy tale more verifiable than a great mountain of non-fiction works." -P Tippin






The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald


Ambler, No. 22 [On the Transitory Nature of Man, With a Poem Addressed to Adam the Scribe, On Account of His Tardiness]

 Circles and right lines limit and close all bodies and the mortall right-lined circle, must conclude and shut up all. -- Sir Thomas Browne

Roughly one year ago I was traveling by automobile in the city when I came across another car with a bumper sticker which read something to the effect of “We are not earthly beings having a spiritual experience but spiritual beings having an earthly experience.” Whether or not the theology of the statement is true, it had a profound effect upon me, and I confess to agree with it in part. Man, though very earthy, is spiritual, and he spends the majority of his days, whether he acknowledges it or not, feeling as if he is not entirely home. Even the unique soul that has spent the majority of his lifetime in one geographical location wrestles with the peculiar longing for a more permanent lodging, and those physically transitory souls on earth are necessarily aware of their lack of permanence as they are reminded of this truth with every move. For the body of man is but a tent, settled but for a moment until the elements of nature have so battered and bewildered it, that it remains no more and must be replaced with a more secure structure.


A recent evening afforded me the opportunity to sit outside the Ole Midshipman and have a pipe. Now, anyone who has ever tried to smoke a pipe is aware of the difficulties one has in keeping the thing lit. As a very novice pipe smoker, I go through roughly fifteen matches before it decides to cooperate, and every time I curse myself for not properly packing it - an art in itself. Thus, I hold that pipe smoking should be a relatively private affair in which not much else is being tended to but the bowl. It is best to smoke amongst friends who are also smoking and who delight in good-natured conversation. The second best way to smoke a pipe is to do so in complete solitude with only the bowl and the brain working on all cylinders.

It is in this state which I smoked. The night was cool and the sun had just gone to bed. After what was probably the thirteenth or fourteenth match, I finally hit my stride, and through the billowy smoke proceeding from my mouth, I gazed upwards at the heavens. It was a clear night which meant that, despite modern pollution, a few stars could be seen, and I specifically noted the handle of the big dipper and the north star --that ever-fixèd star that remains entirely constant. As I was gazing I perceived one of those stars begin to move westward, for it was no star at all, but a plane. I wondered to myself where it could be going and where it had originated. It struck me that the plane could possibly be traveling from any number of distances and that man has so greatly advanced that both time and space are with each passing decade becoming less relevant.

Moments later a much larger plane entered the ether, reinforcing my earlier belief that the first plane came from some distant land. The pipe in my hand was at full throttle -- smoke billowed from from the bowl and poured forth from my mouth as if I were a dragon in long cloudy lines, lasting for a good ten seconds. The mouth from which that smoke came grew warmer, and the mind reposed into deeper thoughtfulness.


It is true that man, at the end of his day, is a very restless being, moving to and fro, never fully satisfied with his geographical positioning on the globe. The night grew darker; the stars shone a bit brighter; my thoughts turned inward in reflection. I began to muse on where I had been a year prior to this date -- likely I had been out on an evening stroll or sitting out in my backyard, observing the same nightly ritual I was currently undertaking. In any case, it was all too true that I was miles from my current place of residence, in another city entirely.

Those transitory souls that haunt this globe -- moving from city to city and unable to settle down -- have a few common qualities. In a negative sense, we look down on those stationary souls who have never traveled the globe, let alone moved their residence, as if choosing to invest in one’s town, city, or state was morally questionable, as if the world traveler experienced in lands in he will never invest it, is thus superior to the man who knows his town better than Timbuktu.

The world traveler, though, does have a leg up on the man who has never been anywhere. I once knew a young man who rarely left our county. In fact, he had left his state but once in his life and happened to only because the city he was visiting happened to be on the border. There is both a quaintness and a sadness to this story. For though my friend possessed a thorough knowledge of, and a healthy respect for, his county, he suffered from the narrow-mindedness that may keep one from properly understanding outsiders. And thus while the negative quality of the traveler is one of vanity and pride, a nuisance to lifers and townies, a worse quality arises from the transitory being.

For those who spend so little time in one city develop the much worse habit of physically residing in one town while mentally, and therefore spiritually, residing in another. So as I smoked my pipe and reflected on where I had been but one year prior, I thought more deeply about where I would be in one year. As the past fourteen years of my life have roughly been on a two-year cycle, in which every two years a new town is introduced, it happens that more time is spent musing on where I will be next than where I am presently. And the habit has become so normal that slowly distancing myself is but second nature. I am unaware if this is peculiar to my own capricious whims or if other transitories out there are familiar with the symptom.¹ What I do know is that though it is a negative quality, engendered by my constantly moving, I am not so sure I am willing to give up my transitory nature. It is good for a man to invest in a town or city.

There is nevertheless a certain sense of adventure in moving to a new town which never entirely grows stale unless one allows it to. The adventure would have been more tangible fifty years ago, when towns differed in more ways that mere size and scenery. In this I find that oddly the fear in life comes not from constant up-rootings, not from hopping from house to house, but from staying put. It is far easier to invest little in your neighbor when you know he will only be a neighbor for a relatively short period of time. And the fear comes not in feeling out of place in a new town, for we often feel very much at home in a strange town. But the fear comes in feeling out of place in your own home: In commitment. In such things as marriage or parenthood. For the gypsy can leave without a second thought, but the mayor must stay for better or for worse. And the tragedy arises when the mayor begins mentally residing in some far off land. Thus whether man grows stale and stagnant in the town he was born and raised; whether he is merely passing through, he ought to embrace where he presently is, and should not be like so many millennials on Facebook and Twitter, forever fastened to their phones, eternally elsewhere.

Sam Snow,
Written over a period of days,
Manhattan, KS
August 13, 16, and 17, 2014

Transcribed by Adam the Scribe
A day late,
August 19, 2014

Painting: "A Peasant Filling His Pipe"
By Adriaen van Ostade
Oil on Panel, 1660-1669


¹Word courtesy of Adam the Scribe


“To Adam, On Account of His Tardiness”

As fruitful lands, yet have barren spots,
Your work, though good, sometimes does blot
the page and your good name,
which , in time, will acquire such fame

Birds fly here and there, and everywhere,
No sense of time do those beasts share.
Yet every spring and fall will surely prove,
Their timely arrivals they will not move.

--Sam Snow
August 18, 2014
Transcribed by Adam the Scribe, 
August 19, 2014