Wednesday, 31 December 2014

WW: Winter emu

(This giant bird has lived behind a local housing estate, beside a well-travelled bike path, for many years. You'd think a creature of the hot dusty austral plain would be miserable in our cold wet boreal forest, but this one seems healthy and happy, routinely greeting gawkers with an otherworldly, grunting growl. No-one seems to know how he ended up here -- not a top-ten pet here on the North Coast -- but he's a fair dinkum landmark hereabouts. As in, "Let's take a walk. Not far; just to the emu.")

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

Christmas 1976

Here's a quick source of good cheer for Christmas Day:

Google "Christmas" and a year, i.e.: "Christmas 1972" (without quotes)

At the top of the search results page, click on "Images".

Your computer screen will fill with photographs of people from the past, surrounded by love and light.

People you used to know.

People you used to be.

Then try 1964. Or 1991. Or 1930. Or 2004.

I could surf this stuff all day. And I may.

From all of us here at Rusty Ring, Happy Holidays to all.

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and a generous photographer)

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

WW: Festive Christmas snake

(I have no idea why this garter snake is afoot -- so to speak -- on 23 December, in the midst of a typical cold, wet, and grey North Coast Christmas. Seen him "sunning" by the trail [in the complete absence of sun] two days in a row. Perhaps he's too excited to sleep.

Happy Holidays to all my Wordless Wednesday droogies.)

Thursday, 18 December 2014

1973: The Dark Christmas

This Christmas I'm remembering a December 41 years ago, when the one-two punch of an OPEC oil embargo and a dry summer in my hydro-powered state caused electric rates to soar. That winter President Nixon extended Daylight Savings Time in a bid to conserve energy reserves. It didn't, but it did make all us kids get yards of reflective tape sewn to our coats and carry flashlights to our half-lit and -heated schools, because the morning commute was pitch black.

That crisis, which set the tone for the entire decade, swims in shadows in my memory: the dim classrooms, the wet, coal-black streets, the miners' headlamps my parents bought us for the walk to the bus stop. And especially, that drab, apocalyptic Christmas.

That year, Americans were enjoined by patriotic duty to eschew all festive lights, outside and in. (The power bill alone would have beaten any renegades unconscious, but they'd likely not have survived that long; citizenry that winter gave themselves wholeheartedly to rousing rounds of Finger-The-Slacker, Siphon-The-Gas-Tank, Flush-The-Hoarder, and other Serlingesque sport normally reserved for wartime.) Some jurisdictions went even further; neighbouring – and equally dam-dependentOregon straight-up outlawed electrical expressions of good cheer, and in fact, lighted displays of any kind.

That year my family forwent our traditional single string of outside lights that didn't even span the front of the house, and instead of lighting the Christmas tree, we strung garlands of cranberries and popcorn with needle and thread. In this way, I learned three important life lessons:

1. It takes forever to string popcorn and cranberries with a needle and thread.

2. You'd think the birds would be all over that when you hang the garlands in the yard on New Year's Day, but in reality they could give a crap.


3. Garlands of any kind are in no sense or capacity, by any law of morality or aesthetics, anywhere in the Universe, a substitute for Christmas tree lights.

I've mentioned before that it takes such penury – properly lived – to give the ordinary its due shine and worth. Fact is, I've remained a huge Christmas lights fan ever since, and never miss an opportunity to darken the room and bask in the glow of a fully-decorated, suitably illuminated tree.

I don't know why these recollections are so acute this year, but to honour them, I believe this Christmas I'll stand in my front yard and shake my cane at passing teenagers, shouting, "YOU SPOILED-ROTTEN BRATS!!! JUST WAIT TILL SOME ARAB TURNS THE GAS OFF ON YOUR DAMNED CHRISTMAS!!! WE'LL SEE HOW YOU SMART-MOUTHED NAMBY-PAMBIES GET BY!!!"

Call it old-man carolling.

(Adapted from Growing Up Home, copyright RK Henderson. Photo of downtown Portland -- famous for its luminous holiday city-centre -- in the 1973 dark, courtesy of David Falconer, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

WW: Faintly macabre

(Encountered this on the beach after a wild storm. Very likely flotsam from the Japanese tsunami. Chilling sight in that dark desolate place.)

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Parted Stays

By the time I reached Alan's apartment -- six hours of rainy interstate blockaded by accidents -- I was exhausted, disgusted, and keen to leave freeways behind for a very long time. My glasses were embedded in the bridge of my nose, the bows biting into my ears.

But how good to find Al at the end! He smiled broadly as he opened the door, and I was heartened to see that the break-up hadn't taken the glint from his porcelain-blue eyes. He laughed his "H-e-e-ey, man!", clamped my hand, and suddenly we were college kids again, as if Al could make it so simply by combing his thick blond hair the same way.

There was nothing for it but to return to the scene of the crime, and so we drove across town to Fairhaven and our favourite restaurant. As I savoured a mushroom burger and frosty porter, Al regaled me with tales of his tour in the Air Force, his current job fixing helicopters, and a bar fight he'd recently witnessed, his large hands evoking the knife-whirling Canadians as he mugged and gesticulated, eyes wide with an enthusiasm that fell away from the rest of us with our hair.

We picked up frozen yogurt on the way home and spooned it out across Al's breakfast counter -- I in the living room, he in the kitchen. Missing furniture and blank spaces on the wall told a story that lost none of its poignancy for remaining unspoken. When at last Lake Whatcom blacked out of the sliding glass door, he said that Michelle had been with abusive men before they met, that she treated him like a child, and at last came to consider him the enemy. I understood, and said nothing. That Al's relationship had failed at the same time as mine only deepened the anguish: another stay parted on a sea grown surly. But there was exhilaration in facing the storm together, damming it up in silence, and so defeating it.

I slept fitfully on the sofa that night, and woke to muffled morning-jock banter from Al's clock radio. We gulped tea as he readied for work, the anticipated stress of our respective days twanging between us in monosyllables. At the door we hesitated, I in the hall, he on the mat, reluctant to desert the other in the presence of danger. But there were aircraft to repair, roads to run. We clasped hands again, muttered "See ya, man," and the door swung shut.

I showered and dressed, but the sadness didn't break till the Ram's engine roared to life.

(Adapted from Rough Around the Edges: A Journey Around Washington's Borderlands, copyright RK Henderson. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and a generous photographer.)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

WW: Spawned out

(Remember, young people: SEX KILLS.)

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Koan: Liberation


One day a man found a battered lamp by the roadside. As he polished away the grime, a genii came streaming out of the burner in a pillar of flame.

"For liberating me from that prison, I will grant you any wish!" he cried.

"Make me the richest man in the world!" said the man.

And POOF! The genii took away his desire.

(From an old Russian story. Photo courtesy of David Falconer, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

WW: Solar prescription

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