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This site is a group of individuals sharing thoughts, stories, and passages together on one site. Peruse, join the conversation by comment, and enjoy. 

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Monday
Nov162015

Liturgy

church

The celestial spheres silently roll,
The frozen sun sits, gazes, grows full;
Three-hundred plus suns, yet rising from one,
Round whom bodies must live, unless out-run.

One sun sets, rises, another awakes,
Obeys his father, his dear duty takes,
Daily toils in his terrestrial trade,
Humbly he lowers both body and spade.

Spuds, sprouts, carrots, corn and the waving wheat,
Rise from dusty dirt despite the sun’s heat;
Father, mother, son to earth’s goodness raise
Glasses with gladness, the Father they praise.

Brave liturgy! The silent soul’s routine,
Obeys the Son’s law, its praise it may preen;
Our weekly rotations, on bended knees,
Shall daily make our knees weak and minds freeze.

Broom Snow,
Written at the Desert Schooner,
Las Vegas, Nevada
November 9, 2015

Painting: "Wallasey Old Church and Manor House, Wirral, C. 1853"
By Harold Hopps,
Oil on board, n.d.

Friday
Nov132015

Gambler, No. 5 [The Trees That Talk]*

Were I a rich man, I would propagate all kinds of trees that will grow in the open air. A greenhouse is childish. I would introduce foreign animals into the county; for instance the reindeer. — Samuel Johnson

Palms

Suppose a man, disillusioned with society, were to pack his bags and flee that society for the hills, until he arrived in the forest; suppose that this man made a nice little hovel for himself to live in, digging and scraping his existence, until he created a new Society of One in the woods; suppose, then, that this man decided one day to inquire of the trees his intrusion. I suppose those trees would trounce on him immediately. “Sir,” they would say, “We very much hate your presence; you are a nuisance.” I suppose that if those same trees could walk they would squash him immediately, especially if he tried to give them a hug. Now, I could not flee to the forest if I wanted to, for lack of trees here. If I walked to the nearest wood, I would most assuredly give up the ghost on the way. Even if I did arrive—if any of us arrived at the wood—we would all perish within a week if not by Wednesday. There might be nothing more obnoxious that a man telling you to pay homage to, even to sacrifice your life for, a tyrant. A human giving up his humanity for the forest is no different than a Christian giving up his Christianity for Nero. But to say Nature is tyrannical is not to say that she is not lovable. And to say that she is lovable is not to say that I have to hug her.

I have been noticing a queer fact about a few of the trees recently. There might be certain, scientific explanations for what I’ve noticed, but I care not for such explanations. Go ahead and give me your science; I will give you my mysticism! I will write a bad poem. For when I gaze upon a tree at Freedom Park, near my hovel, I can’t help but notice that these trees (fruit trees of some sort, I gather) do not shoot straight up like your everyday tree. Perhaps I have been palling around with palms for too long now, but some of these trees barely make it five or six feet out of the ground before they start shooting over to San Diego or San Francisco, as if setting off for the sea. I do not mean to say they always shoot west. Some are so gnarled and gangly, Medusa’s head might be buried beneath. But, whatever the direction, trees ought not randomly sway halfway through their trunk, as if leaning on a fencepost and staring at the sunset. One almost wonders if they are leaning over to listen in to the rest of the trees in the grove.

We had a few trees like this, I suppose, back in Kansas. The grove of Walnut Trees on Kansas State’s campus all lean to hear the organ of the university religious center. And I can’t blame them for wanting to hear such a noble instrument. But these trees here make little logical sense; we have no organs here. I imagine the tall strait ones are giving the orders; the leaning ones are listening and preparing for action.

That is the other thing about it. The tall, straight trees—palms, primarily—have no roots. In fact, many of the trees here have no roots, that is, no roots that shot up out of the ground. When rambling around campus at UNLV, I cannot help but notice that the trees look placed. It is as if a group of giants have come through during the evening and thrown their toothpicks at random. It is as if some large, underground porcupine woke up and stretched too far only to get stuck. It is a wonder to me at any rate that the trees stay where they are and don’t get blown away by the wind. They look as if they were born full-grown, as if all of that majestic root-ness that accompanies natural growth was done away with. They look anything but intimidating. I know a few cottonwoods and oaks that would have them for dinner—or use them as toothpicks.

__________

Having recently moved to Vegas, I question with men before me whether city-life or rural-life is preferable. Johnson and Chesterton loved London like they loved life; Wordsworth and Thoreau were more pastoral. As with any of these debates, we quickly recognize that the answer is both. A field of corn is prettier than a graffiti-laced building; a man does not experience the mass of humanity in a field like he does in the metropolis.

While I’m scurrying around this place like any other ant, I often forget the deeply spiritual nature of everything around me. It is easy to contemplate a man’s soul; it is difficult to contemplate a man’s ears. So I forget that the trees here were placed; their physical presence nearly presumes a spiritual truth—that Someone thought these things up. That a being actually thought of that tree! Reality! What curious facts surround us! They tell us there are nine-thousand genders. Two will do just fine, thank you; I don’t even understand the female. I say, the contemplation of mere fact ought to be a regular ritual for me.

I think we modern, American Christians are often a bit confused on what to do with the trees. We’ve got people out their hugging and fawning all over them, while lumberjack Joe is trying to shave the world bald to build his barber shop. I wouldn’t be the first to say that virtue is somewhere in the middle; I wouldn’t be the first to say that virtue is a little bit of both without either extreme. The proper end of man is certainly not to discard his humanity and be one with the trees; that is stupid suicide. I say we would be silly not to cut down a few trees for they make lovely tables. But if we are going to cut a few down, might we stop for a few seconds and write their epitaphs for them? We’ve allowed criminals a few last words, why not the innocent trees?

I’m not sure how moral the point is I’m making, but if I turn from the grove to the grocer I see the same thing. I use trees; I do not contemplate them. I use grocers; I do not contemplate them—those men who stack the melons so neatly and make sure no bad apple spoils the bunch. They are the new gods of the new garden:

The nectarine, and the curious peach
Into their hands themselves do reach.

If then, these gods grace my presence I imagine I ought to act a bit differently. If these talking trees that surround me in all colors, shapes, and sizes are eternal gods placed here by a jolly giant, I imagine I ought to give them my daily sacrifice. I can, at the very least, do them some good; and perhaps the little daily good I do them will have eternal value. It cannot hurt to contemplate the fact of man; it cannot hurt to do good to the fact of man; it can hurt to hug a tree, specially if we hug too hard. For we do not know if we are hugging a tree or the sword of Cyclops.

Broom Snow,
Written at the Desert Schooner,
Las Vegas, Nevada
Early November, 2015

Painting: "Cocoanut Palms on the Coast near Galle, Ceylon"
By Marianne North,
Oil on board, 1877

__________________________________________

*The only excuse for this essay is that I have been reading a lot of Thoreau lately, as well as Wendell Berry’s “Christianity and the Survival of Creation," which I don’t completely agree with but find interesting nonetheless.

Tuesday
Nov102015

The Mad Motorist

(c) Luton Culture; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Little Ford and his boys hated all joy,
As chiding children, they made a new toy,
For they loathed legs, and knees, and feet,
Instead of lawns, they’d sit in the street,
As lecherous goats, they grazed and gobbled grass,
Giants came, bulldozing hills, plains en masse,
But horrors are justified by such lies,
When we’re told we’ll fly, we ought to sigh.
Concrete is poured across all this land,
It’s ugly, but Independence is grand,
To zip around town in a new red car,
Who cares if there’s smoke, and smog, and tar?
What does it matter that we’re blotting the sun,
To Phoenix and back in a day, what fun!
Our fathers had more adventures per inch,
But could they make Boston in a tight pinch?
Our father’s sons, well they had a plan,
To kill space, time, contract them in a span.

“The horse,” they said, “is all too tame a beast,
He does not sputter or leak or overheat,
He—like our living feet—is a fetter,
We need something faster, something better,
We need to make the fair plains in an hour,
Just like those babblers needed their tower,
Texas and Maine can talk, that’s fine,
But for them to be one, that is divine,
Let’s create a machine that crosses town,
Let’s create a devil that will break down.
Our sons will honor us, they’ll build statues,
Those men without cars they’ll nobly rue,
Men to come will pay parking fees,
But they’ll take comfort in knowing they’re free,
Free to be forever vexed, chafed, and irked,
Free to nearly die when driving to work,
But those ignorant few, using feet like old,
Don’t have a heater, get stuck in the cold,
They’ll be forced to buy our new gods,
They’ll be dependent on these new frauds.”

Freedoms, for a few who can pay the repairs,
Are chains for the many who own but mares,
If Ford and Sons saw the monsters they made,
That they came to destroy the world, yet won’t fade,
They should start a revolt, take to the streets,
With their feet, hit their drum to a new beat,
Declare themselves free from the automobile,
To roam this world, to touch concrete and feel,
Then they, by their own devils will be hit,
In their coffins, they’ll all coil up and sit,
Since they hated joy, time, life, ambling, space,
The grave’s a fine and private place.
Why not creep into your coffin at once?
There is little enough space there for runts.

Broom Snow
Written at the Desert Schooner,
Las Vegas, Nevada
Late October 2015

Painting: "Dunlop, Early Motorist Asking a Cyclist for Directions"
By Gerry Fruin,
Oil on board, n.d.

Tuesday
Oct272015

The First Bread

THE FIRST BREAD

No recipe propped next to flouring board,
no careful measuring by cup or spoon,
no oven to circulate even heat

instead, an impetus to hand-mill grain,
to mix with oil, with water, to roll flat
and feed toward a flame

Who can guess at the number of attempts?
A browned, amorphous edge, dough and fire
monitored by human eye alone,

lavash, tortilla, naan,
cake, pita, matzah.
The blackened, failed crusts that made their names.

Consider the choice to cover it overnight,
yeast spores gorging under cloth, dough-growth,
shock in the morning reveal.

The baker kneads,
the people need,
and we eat on—

butter and knife,
sandwich, toast,
confident in its perfection.

Still, in our golden age,
where all must be known
and mastered,

a moment’s inattention
or a degree of difference
can leave a lasting burn.

Bryn Homuth
After breakfast
October 27, 2015

"Jewish Baker, 1921"
Oil on canvas 
Yehuda Pen 

Monday
Oct262015

Gambler, No. 4 [The Joys of Cycling]

“Yes, Sir, there are many happy people here. There are many people here who are watching hundreds, and who think hundreds are watching them.” — Dr. Johnson 

I hold that if a modern actually followed me around and observed me, he (or she!) would grow bored and fall asleep; they may imagine themselves to have time-warped. I believe my brother-in-law said something along the lines of “You are the true hipster. You do things they would do, without knowing they are supposed to be cool.” If that is my title, so be it. I press on.

The new “hip” thing I have picked up this weekend is riding a bike. This arose from a tragedy. This weekend I received the dreadful news that my lovely Toyota blew a head gasket; while waiting for the news, I wrote a forthcoming poem (full of angst and anguish) about my deep disdain for the automobile. (I here spare you from my poetry, dear committed reader.) We must observe, as a race of humans with feet, knees, legs, that the automobile makes us less human. Take this moment to close your eyes and imagine your town without any cars. What do you see? What do you hear? What can you DO? Beautiful isn’t it? To walk wherever your feet may take you without getting blasted by a Mac Truck, to hear human voices mingled with their feet tapping against the concrete, to hear birds singing for joy that the monsters are gone, these are beautiful, other-worldly joys, and I think we should all take up metaphorical weapons against those dreadful dragons spewing smoke and smog and making men mad who would otherwise be quite sane and happy.

“Such was the happy garden-state,
While man there walked, driving no crate.”

C.S. Lewis makes a striking comment in The Abolition of Man that any generation who feels they are freeing themselves and “defeating” nature with stupid inventions like the automobile are only creating new ways in which man is fettered. Modern Americans have to have a car. Whether they can afford it or not, it is a necessity. This is just another way to be chained to something that our generation had no say in because a future generation thought they were freeing men and defeating nature. They were doing no such thing; they’re intentions, good or ill, only created new beasts that roam this world largely for ill-means. Go drive your car to Boston and back; I will walk outside and touch a tree.

__________

Enough. I am done. So the news about my car blew my own head gasket, and I resolved to finally begin biking. I will get the ugly part out of the way first. Yes, I write with a rather sore neck and tomorrow will be painful. That is it. The rest is happy, joyful bliss. I took off this morning, and not being able to attend my traditional Anglican (not Episcopalian!) Church, for lack of an auto, I headed to the campus of UNLV.

It has been five years since I rode a bike. Five years ago, I was rooming with a buddy in Chattanooga; he is an avid biker (I think he road from Waterloo to Cleveland one time), and I thought, “Hey, this is great, I’ll join.” So I bought a bike from some bro and his son on Craigslist, took it out to the trail by the Tennessee River, rode about two miles and never once got back on the bike.

Well, now I don’t have a car, so I am forced to ride this beast. I bought a Giant Escape (?) bike, got myself a nice basket, named it “Snowmane,” and took it out for a spin this morning. I took off at about 9:00; it was partly cloudy and roughly sixty-five degrees; thus, I wore my K-State hoodie, which I eventually had to discard to display my EMAW shirt.* Those items, with my brown Royal’s cap, I looked as misplaced and Kansas as possible. My course sent me out on Bonanza for less than a block before I took to Pecos for about a mile heading south. Many of the more major streets in Las Vegas are six lanes total, the far right lane will often have a bus in it. Unfortunately, Pecos is one of the streets that does not have a bike-lane, though the city is doing a decent job of creating more, I hear. Anyhow, this was the worst part of the trip because I had to stick to the sidewalk. I nearly drove an old man off into the street today because I’m still figuring things out. From Pecos and Charleston though I cut across through some pretty sketchy neighborhoods. (On my way back I heard a woman yelling and something go “bang” from inside a house. Though it wasn’t the “bang” of a gun, but the “bang” of a door slamming or something hitting a wall.) I thought about driving this at night and scurried my way out of there, hooking up with the bike-lane on Sandhill road and eventually what is known as the I-515 Trail.

The I-515 Trail is, from the little I am on it, a dumpy trail. Fittingly, it rides up against the interstate and is not the quietest of trails due to this. I hear it also attracts a good number of homeless people, but I know this not from experience, for I left it almost immediately for one of the “Wash” Trails.

Las Vegas has a number of disconnected trails for bikes that go along the old washes that I don’t believe are used any more. Your iPhone map will make it look like there is a river; there is a little trickle of water surrounded by concrete that reeks like sewage. But this was by far the most enjoyable part of my trip. I see the usual homeless people, other bikers, and people walking their pets or just walking. The path is wide enough for me to easily avoid them and not endanger their lives. About a quarter of the way in on this trail, I noticed a familiar looking man. Indeed, he noticed me, for he sold me my bike yesterday. I saw him riding both on my way to UNLV and my way back, and I am content to know he saw me using my new bike.

So on one side of the trail is the “Wash” and on the other side is a cinderblock wall with purposeful graffiti that is interesting to look at; typical modern art, that is. I think one person took the “Wash” literally, for she was carrying clothes in her hands as if she was heading down to it. On two occasions I passed busy roads by climbing up a pedestrian bridge. The first is Boulder Highway, also known by its better name Fremont. The second is Desert Inn, named after the old casino that I think does not exist any more. On both of these bridges, I have a pretty spectacular view of the Strip, downtown, and Mt. Charleston in the background. These views made the trip worth it, aching neck and all.

I eventually had to get off the Wash Trail, but it does a nice job of cutting diagonally toward campus. From here I took Twain and paid homage to my literary friend. Emerson is also nearby, but I have no reason to take, or read, that road or writer. The plan this morning was to take Topaz, but finding out it was a gated-community, I wrapped around to McLeod. I then hopped on Viking, crossed Eastern—the “old road I used to take back when I was a mindless car-driver”—and weaved around to Flamingo, where I gave a glance and a bow to the Bellagio, crossed, and hit up Harmon, which has bike lanes and takes me to UNLV. The majority of the streets I take are either dead and sketchy enough to not need bike lanes or they have bike lanes. This was pure joy, with the wind whipping in my face, bugs hitting my eyes and mouth, feeling either cold or hot but never sweating; I felt like I was seven again, and I loved it.

In total, the trip is a little over seven miles one way. It took me fifty minutes outward, but I cut off ten minutes homeward. There are the obvious noted benefits of riding a bike, the least of which is that you help the environment. But I think, if anything, the bike gives you a different sense of freedom that you simply don’t have with a car. You see and notice things you would have never noticed before. In a car you are primarily trying to stay alive and not kill anyone else; on a bike you are viewing, smelling, feeling, hearing; you replace the racket of the radio with the quiet of the town; you find out that the quiet of the town really isn’t that quiet; you, in some sense, begin to see the town differently; you see it almost as it should be; you see it, and naturally Vegas, not as the Roman Coliseum of autos, but as the large playground of man.

Broom Snow
Written at The Desert Schooner,
Las Vegas, Nevada
The Lord’s Day, October 25, 2015

Painting: "Repairing the Bicycle"
By John Quinton Pringle,
Oil on canvas, 1889

*On my wearing a hoodie in sixty-five degree weather, I must comment that I had resolved not to be like everyone else here and only wear hoodies in fifty-degree weather or colder. I have quickly abolished that resolution. I am a wretch and, worse, a wimp.