Silence of the Elms

Our power-mad HOA slaughtered several trees this week. I was home to hear the last of them fall to the fearsome teeth of the chainsaw.

I heard the roar of the chipper shredding life itself into mulch.

Now all is quiet.

‘Toady’ on my mind today

Somewhere between 1.37 and 1.79 miles on my post-workday walk* on a treadmill at the gym today a favorite old word came to mind. I was watching CNN on a screen just off to my left – Fox News being a few monitors over to my right, of course – when it happened.

Image by Егор Камелев from Pixabay

“Toady,” my brain said. I can’t say for sure if this was triggered by the sight of Rick Santorum or Lindsey Graham, but they both appeared on the screen just minutes apart.

Unsure if either of them met the actual definition of the word, I looked it up when I got home. Among other things, I’d decided I absolutely have to use toady correctly in a poem that is beginning to take lumpy shape in my brain.

Here’s what I found.

What surprisingly fond amphibiotic memories came rushing back!

…the toad hotel my siblings and I built from corrugated boxes on the banks of the Little Cedar River, which flowed gently just behind our childhood home in Mitchell County, Iowa.

…the tiny toadlets leaping for their lives, desperately trying to escape the deadly blades of my reel mower in the big back yard in Cedar Rapids.

…the lovely toad sculpture that lives on my desk in the basement under the watchful eyes of a Milton B. Davis carving of a Golden Eagle.

Toads. You gotta love ’em, warts and all. Toadies, not so much.


* A brisk 3.2 mph on a steadily increasing grade, prelude to semi-vigorous and repeated lifting of weights.

Homo sapiens in nature

Nature doesn’t exist
apart from us, Rabbit Mountain mule deerand we do not live
apart from nature.
It surrounds us, permeates us.
We are in it, and of it.

We are no less a part of nature than
chattering wrens and howling wolves,
flitting butterflies and buzzing bees,
mountain forests and lakes and raging
rivers and meadows alive with wildflowers.

Squirrels outside a window,
birds at the neighbor’s feeder,
mule deer grazing on a hillside
take what they need to live
while we claim to be wise.

Imagine there are mountains

Imagine a bull moose, shy and alone, just out of sight to the left, the east. There is no fog to the south, just pine-covered rock piles, gap-toothed hills blocking your view in the near distance beyond the meadows. More distant, through the gaps and barely visible, untold miles away in the sunshine, there are mountains.

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Near Red Feather Lakes, Colorado. August 2017

On plumbing, omnivores and procrastination

It’s time to install the new garbage disposal* yet here I am.

Its predecessor disposed of itself Monday night in a rattling, grinding paroxysm of destruction, brutally digesting its own entrails and leaking greasy drippings over the assorted spray cans and bottles of caustic chemicals that live in the dark just below the sink.

We put the old thing out of our misery and pulled the plug.

On the way home after a long day today, I picked up a replacement and some plumber’s putty. Since it was Tuesday, I hauled the trash and recycling to the curb. Since it was well past dinner time, too, I grilled ham and cheese between slices of sourdough and sat down with a cold beer.

The laptop was sitting right there, with my free digital trial of High Country News reminding me of an impending threat to the omnivorous Ursus arctos horribilis, my second-favorite mammal.

Not three feet away on the countertop sat the new fixture, a 1/3-HP chicken-bone pulverizer looking harmless for the moment but cleverly named for another voracious omnivore, Taxidea taxus.

wisconsin-badgers-stencilAh, Bucky, I thought. How many times have you chewed up, swallowed and crapped out Hawkeye fantasies of glory, you bastard?

Awesome marching band, though.

Funny how one thing leads on to something else and the next thing you know it is too late to deal with a simple plumbing task.

That’s why we have tomorrow.


Why is it not a garbage disposer? Are we the disposers who feed the disposal?

No escaping the reality of Trump

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Visited the desert SW for a week and returned to real life only to learn that Trump is more than hallucination. Good trip, otherwise.

Critters, critters everywhere

A theme of sorts appeared out of nowhere in the past week and a day or so.

I happened upon a mule deer, two if you count the one that’s mostly hidden…

Rabbit Mountain mule deer

…went with friends to watch the elk and listen to them bugle…

Rocky Mountain elk

…and spotted this critter hunting on a hillside near where I work my day job.

Hunter on Table Mesa

Makes a guy wonder what’s next.