Haiku Today 2015.01.28 –

Notre Dame circulaire
(Image credit: Didier Bonnette Photographies)


a mooring ring
fixed ‘gainst untied tide —
the captive spy



There’s something . . . secure . . . about being moored to one spot. In so being one can assume the solid self-confidence and high-hung wisdom of being an established part – a fixture – of everyday life in their place; of being knowledgeable about the past, thus having a better ken of how the future will play out; of having the singular opportunity to watch things change as time passes in the same place, day-to-day, until one can look back and celebrate that though many things and people have come and gone, we never allowed the wider world to take hold, old as we are. With the ending ding of Life’s bell, we are reassured (as only the established eld are) that we wasted no time in searching for anything else, anywhere else.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite literary characters, whose family “had lived in the neighborhood . . . for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected”
The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien)

Of course I’m kidding. There’s no place like home, they say – the old cliché that only clearly says that where we find ourselves at home is unique. It does not posit that one’s home is superior in any way to any other place in the world. So why stick around for too long?

Here’s an interesting question: does it frequently seem like the precision-engineered wiles of modern life are designed to keep us reigned in? Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t (some shadowy) somebody’s agenda to manufacture a certain level of fear in our lives to keep us all busy as bees, working at building walls that don’t need building: walls of debt; of education; walls of financial and physical security, job security, et al. — walls that hide the world from us, and that hide us from the world-at-large. We push and push, giving modern life that incessant essence that keeps us tethered to the ground below our feet, and how often do we bother to step outside of those walls to explore the outside world?

Not often enough?

Tell me, are the walls really worth it? How much of what we do is mindless and automatic? Do we need all the things that tie us down? The smartphones? Cable TV? Video games? Various tchotchke collections? The job or career? The mortgage (gasp!?)

How many of us are willing to sell the homestead and strike out for contrasting-hued pastures? That’s a bold move, I know . . .

But how much do we really need these things? I mean, if you’re going to put down roots, shouldn’t you be able to roam the world and pick the appropriate locale for you and your family? Why be a mooring ring, a perpetual victim of the modern security complex, ex machina / in machina, never really safe and never really threatened?

What’s the risk?

Further, what if we tried it — ditched all of our safety nets — and failed? Would we be able to come back and pick up like nothing happened? Same old grind, same old channel? You can never go back, they say.

Damn right — keep pushing forward.


(Daily Post prompt: Embrace the Ick | Header image by Alan Levine)

Tanka Today 2015.01.21 –

(Image credit: Martin Fisch)

ways and bridges made
within realms of pure



It’s so easy for me to say that I’m fluid — that I can adapt to any given situation, because I know that’s the right thing to be; but then to avoid the chance to flow makes such a statement difficult to prove, doesn’t it?

I can be hard as ice. I expect no less from others than I do from myself, and judgement comes quick. Things can freeze overnight. I almost expect things to stay the same, even as they change — even as I wish for them to do so.

So much better would it be were I to be a fog; to attenuate the clamor of a busy, visual world until all that remains is what has always been right before my eyes. To find my way from one pillar of thought and expression to another, remaining open to whatever comes until the Sun has a chance to cut through, both saving me and revealing to me whatever new kingdom my actions have led me to. Better be a fog and remain open, hopefully to choose the right course when the time comes . . .

and then there’s that nagging question, always: is it now?

(DP Weekly Challenge: Ice, Water, Steam | Header image by Alan Levine)

Tanka Today 2015.01.13 –

(Image credit: Massmo Relsig)


stone footprint —
nature’s groping shore
exposed bones
pathfinders ancient
as the Earth herself



(Header image by Alan Levine)

Tanka Today 2015.01.12 –

(Image credit: Wonderlane)


thund’ring shore
a timeless siren’s song —
the vap’rous sigh
elicits tribute
of long-lost kindred



(Header image by Alan Levine)

Haiku Today 2015.01.07 –

(Image credit: glava2005)

searching hands
pulling you along —
rambling roots


Looking at this photo I’m struck by how my perception of late has been altered by playing video games – not in a necessarily good or bad way, but in opening up my eyes to the possibilities that exist in the world around me, and I wonder where in reality that might take me.

A little backstory: I decided a few months back that I wanted a new laptop because the one I purchased last year just wouldn’t play my favorite game, Guild Wars 2. I was aiming for a Macbook of some kind until I discovered by reading a lot of review online (and I do mean a lot!) that Macbooks, while powerful in their own right, make mediocre machines at best for gaming. After researching my options and looking up some more reviews and best-of articles, I pulled the trigger and purchased a gaming laptop. I also got to choose a few free games after I set it up, as a promotion from the company that made the video card, and one of them I chose was the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider.

A conceptual render of Lara Croft in Tomb Raid...
A conceptual render of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. She wields a bow, pistol and climbing axe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tomb Raider was so engaging that over Christmas week I spent many wee hours playing the game, and I completed it. It was a kind of visceral experience, partly because of the graphics, which were the most realistic I’d ever seen to date on a machine in my possession; I started out with a sense of trepidation, and I actually felt the physical reactions — the quickening heartbeat, the bated breath, the cold flush — as on several occasions I fell to my death, was crushed under rocks in a cave, attacked and killed by wolves, stabbed, shot, beaten . . . obviously there’s unlimited do-overs here, but it did little to deaden me to the experience of the next one.

Instead, I began to see opportunities. I went from being hunted to becoming a stalker and a warrior. I was up against nature, the supernatural, and the depredations of a cult of shipwrecked mercenaries on this island in the Devil’s Triangle. I was on a rescue mission, but almost nobody here wanted me to succeed. As I explored this crazy place I wondered: how small was the ratio of time I actually spent with my feet on solid ground?

So back to the point, my perceptions changed as I played, and it came to me suddenly as Mme. Ross, Little Miss, and I sat around the supper table last night watching this episode of Bob’s Burgers on Netflix. Bob had been volun-told to join a field trip to the zoo as a sort of chaperone, and then decided to break loose with his daughter Louise and her bus buddy “Regular-size Rudy” to find trouble. After some predictable taunting from Louise, they found themselves at the top of this overlook against the wall of an unfinished exhibit, with simulated jungle below, when a zoo worker comes along and takes down the log they had used as a ladder to get up there. Then Regular-size Rudy has an asthma attack, and they have to get down, and they’re like how? I mean, you could see it was probably a good twenty feet up. At this point I told Mme. Ross how simple it was: Bob was going to have to go down to the lower level (which was connected to the upper by stairs,) hang from the edge and drop down. Then he’d have to catch each kid as they dropped off. Risky, but as long as he didn’t break anything it was doable. That’s when I realized I had internalized Tomb Raider. Then as Bob sights a rope going from the overlook to some point just above the ground, I raised my arms and went, “zipline!”


So now I look at this photo and I don’t think about how crazy this guy must be, which would have been my reaction prior. I used to be afraid of falling, but now I’m not sure anymore; now my mind goes back and I think about how I’d jump out over some abyss, and I’d swing my climbing axe to catch myself on a wall. I get that some of the physics of that video game are likely impossible — after all, how can you feel the sheer triumph of climbing a crumbling precipice and a burning Asian temple under the (imagined) pressure of time slipping and the (very real) dramatic music underscoring that pressure without realizing that the odds of success in the real world would be a very slim margin indeed?

But to a climber who has been there and done that (climbing, not necessarily risking his life) it must seem a routine to climb something like what we see in the picture. They’re probably not afraid of falling, but they trust in their gear and they trust in their own experience, capability, and strength. To that guy it’s not difficult to leave the ground behind, it’s simply a challenge that makes life worth living: exploring the world, both horizontally and vertically, and finding those incredible places where most people don’t go.

I don’t want to be that guy — I want that guy to be me.

CAMP X-All Mountain Ice Tool (Amazon.com)
(Header image by Alan Levine)

Haiku Today 2015.01.05 –

Roo by Alex Cheek
(Image credit: Alex Cheek)

begins with a whiff —
baited breadth


So here we are, in 2015. I’m a few days late to the party, after protracted holiday projects and extended video game sessions filled up the time I wasn’t spending with my lovely little clan. 2014 went out predictably with Chinese take-out (our new tradition, since that’s what we did last New Years Eve when we were moving into our new-at-the-time house) and a movie. We didn’t watch the ball drop or go to a party, but that’s alright with us.

The Rice Bowl gave us a nice, new Chinese calendar. It looks like a mini-blind with this cutesy Chinese Zodiac artwork that is not quite as cool as last year’s calendar, which featured artwork of panda bears. According to the calendar, 2015 is the year of the goat — not a particularly cool animal, which would explain why I didn’t see any “year of the goat” Starbucks cards at the counter. What the Chinese calendar didn’t tell me was that 2015 is the year of exploration. It’s a good fit for me, and an excellent way to follow up 2014’s year of adventure; it’s like, “keep the adventure, but hold the fast-pace.” Heavy on the depth. Keep it coming. Is that enough? I don’t know . . . what else can I find?

Last year, Mme. Ross, Little Miss, and I dipped our toes in the world of geocaching. This year, we’re going to keep doing that (after Jack Frost releases his relentless talons, that is,) and we’re going to try canoeing as well. We’re going to attempt to plan a Summer road trip through Minnesota utilizing KOAs as a trial run at getting back to the west coast in the future; a scouting mission for a future home. Other ideas may pop up too, and I hope we will have a chance to employ them all.

Welcome, my friends, to 2015: The Year of Exploration. It begins today. I’m not promising frequent posts, but that is one of my wishes. I would like to share my explorations with you; may you find them somewhere in that range from interesting to profound.

So go and explore your world, why don’t you?

(Header image by Alan Levine)  <– tell me what you think: does it fit?

Also, check out my updated About page.

Flash Fiction: Breaking Free

Dilly watched the children from his perch, coveting them. They were free to leave, and they did so frequently. They were on break from school, so he watched as they bounced and flounced in and out all day, leaving the entry mat askew when they left, and their snow-crusted boots in a random pattern of disarray each time they returned. Messy little pups, they were.

But they would also be his ticket to freedom.

For so many years he had been dissatisfied with his work; he was a specialist in his field, and to be honest he wasn’t as great at doing much else. Where once upon a time he would go to a job site, do a few weeks, then go back home and find a position in light assembly to keep him busy the balance of the year, which would go by fast enough; the very nature of manufacturing left Dilly floundering. Where once he passed the off-time cheerfully making modest items of wood, string, paper, and cloth; he was now left out in the cold as microprocessors and injection-molded plastics became the essential fabric of all things most desired. Now he often just . . . hung around, twiddling his thumbs, drinking hot peppermint cocoa and counting the voluminous, excruciating, long days until he would return to his work.

Much as he loved it, it just wasn’t worth it anymore — not for a measly few weeks of job satisfaction.

Dilly was the top, the most proficient of any in his field. He knew all the tricks, all the best hideouts, ways to gain the intelligence required of him — even the peculiarities of the magic that kept him immobile in the presence of the clients. It was the same wizardry that kept them tied to their jobs, providing the crucial near-instantaneous transportation over thousands of miles from home base to the job site and back; not to mention that it allowed them to be recalled at any time without warning. It also made them harder to notice; in order to do so, a client had to catch you right in the corner of their vision. In fact, Dilly would have bet good gold that he hadn’t been noticed all season; between the snowball fights outside and the video games upstairs, all these kids seemed to do was run from one to the other, and then back again.

With a little bit of luck though, that was going to change. Dilly had connections, you see; he knew a guy that knew this little old lady who had helped someone else break free of those arcane chains.

“Did Rinkle really get away clean?” he’d asked the crone. She merely sighed – the weight of millennia in that breath — and shrugged. The cold was so keen you could almost hear it chime, and they puffed heavy, vaporous breaths as they conspired, each unconsciously wiping off the ice that formed at the tips of their noses. This cave was a secret place, kept for secret business.

“If I knew for sure,” Nammi replied as she worked at the strings of the bag that hung from her belt. Her accent was thick and unidentifiable. “Then I’d have to say no. But if that, then surely we’d have seen him again, so I’d have to say yes.” Pulling the talisman carefully from the bag she held it out, almost daring him with her eyes to take it. In the pinging cold it was warm to the touch, as though it had just come from the fireplace hearth.

Dilly felt the weight of it in his pocket now. Solid. Heavy. Ready. He had spent his time scouting out the best positions — finding a different spot every day, watching the children as they came and went, looking for the places where the extreme edges of their vision would betray his presence. He was lurking in one such spot now, and could hear clambering up the steps of the front porch. He could only hope . . .

Yes! The door flung wide open and in plodded Shane, apple-cheeked and huffing out the last of the cold winter air in his lungs. Not just Shane, but Shane all by himself. Dilly didn’t want to risk flight with a bunch of kiddos around to give chase, and here was his opportunity to do it right. Shane yanked off his snow boots, tossed them onto the entry mat, and looked exactly where Dilly had seen him look every single time Shane walked through that door: at his stocking, hung on the mantle by the chimney, yet to be filled.

The old man had them all on a chain, workers and clients alike. Not that he was unkind or anything, but he was blind to the realities – these kids were coddled and uncommitted, practically gaming the system, and who paid the price? Wasn’t it the ones like Dilly, who didn’t fit in with the high-speed modern work force? What could you do when you were as useless as a lump of coal when confronted with a computer? The real insult, when he thought about it, was the heavy-handedness of the modern age; they rarely ever made anything of substance anymore. The wholesale replacement of warm materials with cold metal and cheap plastic was a slap in the face of respectable makers everywhere; and it did the clients a disservice by hooking them on this technology that seemed to suck the life out of . . . well, life.

Dilly rubbed the edge of the talisman in his pocket with a finger – the only part of him that could still move in the presence of the child who had yet to notice him. He felt its inner warmth.

Dilly rubbed the talisman with a palm, feeling it chase the cold from his bare fingertips. “This will help me escape?” The crone nodded. “How do I use it?”

“At the right time, you will know.” She cocked the remnant of an eyebrow and half-smiled. “Or you won’t. Either way, it will work for you.”

“If you make these for others, why haven’t you used one?” It was beside the point, but Dilly asked anyway. The question had been gnawing at him.

Nammi gave him a sideways glance. “What makes you think I haven’t?”

The warmth of the talisman spread through his arm like the fiery pins and needles of a waking limb. By compulsion he pulled it out as his shoulder came back to him, then his neck and head, and looked down at it: a shiny brass button from the old man’s favorite coat, as big to Dilly as a sandwich plate and adorned with a snowflake design around the edge. It pulsed with an energy that took the edge off the fog of the magic binding him. Dilly held it up and squinted, looking through one hole at Shane. The boy’s head swiveled slowly around and for the first time he really saw Dilly, who had been lurking around the house for better than a week.

Dilly’s arm was petrified again, and he was stuck in that pose of looking through the thread hole as Shane approached, head cocked in curiosity. “Where did you come from?” He reached out.

The lore said they weren’t to touch you, Dilly knew that; but the lore wasn’t very well known among the clientele. It wasn’t for his own protection that the magic kept him obfuscated under normal conditions, after all. But as Shane’s fingers brushed the red velvet of his tunic, the button winked as though a beam of light passed over it, and with a sound like a clap of hands the magic holding Dilly receded.

Just like that, he was free. Under other circumstances he would have been instantly transported back to home base, a stuffed toy look-alike left in his place. But here he was, and the boy Shane was getting ready to wrap one of his diminutive human meat hooks around Dilly’s body. He had to act fast.

Dilly retreated from the boy’s questing hand. Shane jumped back – startled, eyes wide; there was a pregnant, frozen moment: two ticks of the old cuckoo clock, and then the young man screamed. Dilly took two quick steps and leapt from the edge of the shelf onto the boy’s head and backflipped down to the floor, landing with the grace of a cat. In two shakes of a sleigh bell, Dilly was at the front door. He jumped up, caught the edge of the mail slot, and wriggled through to the outside. He could hear his liberator inside, yelling for his mother.

Freedom! Down the front and onto the sidewalk. Holding the brim of his pointed hat to keep it from blowing away, Dilly ran to beat the devil.

This tale is my response to the What If? Holiday 2014 Writing Challenge, and although JED asked for about five hundred words I gave at least twice that amount. To be honest, I’m not sure the story is ready for prime time; but then again, maybe that’s just pride messin’ with me. I’ve been working on this story since the challenge was posted, and I keep thinking there’s more story here.

Along with the challenge, JED posted some interesting Q&A here. I thought I’d take a crack at that, too.

1. Where is the weirdest place you found yourself on Christmas morning?

Somewhere other than at home. Staying over at the in-laws’ place is becoming something of a tradition now, but it’s still a little strange to wake up Christmas morning in someone else’s house.

2. What is the one present you wanted badly and have never gotten?

Nothing I ever wanted so badly has made such an impression that I remembered the next year that I still needed it.

3. What is the one thing you wanted badly, got and wished you hadn’t?

I don’t think I ever regretted any Christmas gift I ever got.

4. Have you ever re-gifted? If so what and why?

Not to the best of my recollection.

5. If Santa is real would you really want to meet him in person?

Sure, why not?

6. How many Elves could fit inside the biggest Christmas present you ever received?

I think that would depend upon the size and age of the elves in question; their state of magical regression, if any; and the number of orcs doing the stuffing. At any rate, only a limited number of elves will fit within a given space, regardless of how tightly you pack them or how much you tamp them down with a warhammer. To be honest, the weird thing is that I don’t remember what the biggest Christmas present I ever received was.

7. What is your favorite holiday movie, show and/or song?

Elf for the movie, and instrumental versions of Sleigh Ride for the song, especially the part where they use the slapstick to make the whipcracking noises. Oh, and for the show, that episode of Tales from the Crypt where an escaped psychotic dressed as Santa is menacing this lady in her house and he gets in because her daughter opens the door for him.

8. What is your least favorite holiday movie, show, and/or song?

I would say Love, Actually for the movie because some argue that it’s a holiday movie and it’s really not, but I actually do like it a little bit. No, I don’t have any least favorites — just a short list of what I’d like to see or hear, and a long list of what I have better things to do than to see or hear them.

9. What would you name a reindeer if you could? Why?

I would name a reindeer “Moose”, because it’s funny and ironic, as well as being a short and somewhat cool name.

10. Do you think Santa could benefit from a healthier snack on Christmas eve or are cookies and milk the only choice? What would you recommend for the jolly old fat man?

First of all, Santa’s not a man, he’s an elf. As the oldest he’s the chief elf in his realm (the North Pole,) and has long had the ability to affect his physical appearance to some degree. So he chooses to appear human to avoid the inconvenience of being more frightening to kids than he already is. I mean, in the first couple years if the kid cries it’s because they think you’re giving them away to this overgrown, live stuffed animal. What else are they supposed to think when you sit them on his lap and back away while trying to get them to smile? They’re not falling for it! After that, it’s like Santa’s a rock star and the moment they meet him its a coin toss as to whether or not they can hold it together. So he looks like a fat man, which worldwide elven demographics research has shown for millennia to be both a powerful and yet jovial figure most widely respected, not to mention he’s also strong enough to lift that sack, which means a lot of the bulk is muscle anyway. That gets to be a helluva workout, so why shouldn’t the old guy have cookies and milk? There’s his sugar, there’s his protein, BAM. Energy for the road. For what it’s worth, NPR&D looked into the possibility of switching Santa over to quick-release nutrient gels like a lot of runners use in marathons, but for some reason nothing has ever worked as well as real cookies and milk, with the best results coming from fresh baked cookies and whole milk.

Put that in your stocking, folks.


Haiku Today 2014.12.11 –

(Image credit: Mark Stevens)


I can see
running to the edge —
daring sight


A surprising amount of life comprises the age old question, “who am I?”

Even when we think we aren’t looking for the answer, we are subconsciously feeding the question. Changes of pace, changes of routine — trying something new, moving away from old preferences and ways and things . . . These are indicative of the exploratory nature of the human creature in the never-ending struggle to define oneself.

We’ve covered the face of the planet, probing down into the depths of the ocean and branching out into space, setting foot on the Moon and sending robot scouts to Mars; and do you think we are really exploring the Universe?

Or are we exploring ourselves? Asking “who are we, what is this thing we call the human race, and how do we define it?”

Knowing this, at the same time I feel like something is wrong with me when I realize how many things I’ve started and then stopped doing, like I’m some kind of a quitter. Bookbinding? Not anymore. Knitting? Here and there, but not so much right now. Blogging? Trying to get back in the habit. Guitar? For the first time in years I can say “yes, I’m doing that,” thanks to Rocksmith 2014, the video game that lets me plug my real guitar in and then teaches me to play songs.

I feel like something of a hobby-hoarder. I think next year I ought to find new ways to define myself and new experiences with which I can put myself and the Universe in context. The ironic thing is, that puts more things in danger of being on the “done it / dropped it” list, but I don’t mind that so much.

I do this in the spirit of adventure.


Tanka Today 2014.12.08 –

(Image credit: Mathilde AUDIAU)


flame colored
trees baring their limbs —
an act of penitence
both lovely and bleak


I’m a little disappointed in myself; I was unable to get out and take wintry snow pictures this weekend as I had planned to do. You know how it goes: things caught up to me and had to be done, then I worked Saturday afternoon, then chores on Sunday until something came up at the very last second . . . and I failed. But I meant what I said, and I still mean to get out and get pictures, if I can find the time and the right place.

Here in Bismarck we’re in one of those phases right now where the snow melts some, and it’s neither white Christmas-y nor green. Patches of snow still linger in yellow brown grass, and what stands out most is all the garbage that careless, lazy people throw all over the ground, as though the medium is a dissatisfied mixture of trash and dirty snow.

I’d take a couple inches of white powder right now, or a scene like the one above.

A little superordinary adventure.


Haiku Today 2014.12.05 –

(Image credit: Mark Stevens)


shattered anvil
vouching violent skill —


So I spent all day trying to think of something on-topic to jam about, if even for a brief moment, and I think I had a couple of really good ideas.

Unfortunately, they got lost in the shuffle.

And don’t things tend to do that? So now here I am on the dead line, four walls around me. There’s a cat sleeping in the chair, a box for the basement by my foot, not nearly enough shelves for my taste, given the collection of books and Legos in this house, and yet I fear it’s a bit distracting.

I had this weird idea today: what if my office is not the optimal space for me to create in? You know, if you read about creativity and creative spaces they talk about sometimes you’re in the wrong place or going someplace that isn’t conducive and that’s why you have some block to your creativity, and here in my office I have four walls and within them my current “bedroom” feel. I don’t sleep here — not on purpose, anyway — but I have lunchboxes and Legos and Rubik cubes; a Detroit Tigers baseball, books books books, guitars, knitting crap, a trunk full of work clothes, an RC helicopter, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera . . .

(that’s what the King would say, once Julie Andrews had her way)

But I don’t think that’s right. This place is me, and yes — it could use a LOT more shelving. So maybe it’s not the place, but it’s my habits. Or maybe it’s where my head is at! Is it in a laser cutter? Lending new imagery to the phrase “rebuilding a head”? Or is it really just a matter of switching gears yet again?

Is it possible this is less a matter of “how do you solve a problem like my office?” and more like “the hills are alive with the sound of Rob Ross!”

The thought of which brought me around to my real and most current issue here: I get my images from pretty much two groups on Flickr. They are both groups for Creative Commons, which means the images there are free to use. One is pretty much a magic Santa’s bag of photos, and the other one is dedicated to nature, period. While the former has been around longer, the latter has quickly amassed a pool of photos of over six times the size of the former, and contains no picture unsuitable for haiku. My problem, though, is that nearly everyone submitting photos  to the nature group is apparently somewhere without snow, and right now I want snow.

The only natural solution, of course, is that I should beef up the winter picture count with my own photography. So I’ve decided to go shooting tomorrow morning. The great part is, I’m sure I must be meant to do so because I successfully negotiated a half day at work. THE SECOND HALF. When in life does that happen???

I smell adventure in the morning air, and I’m (almost) certain it doesn’t smell like napalm.

Here’s a task for you, though, if you are so inclined: if you like to take pictures and live in a snowy clime, wouldn’t it be great to get out and take some nice pictures and post them for public use? The Creative Commons Nature group on Flickr could really use some snowy submissions. No subject is taboo, as long as the nature is on full throttle. You can set your license, make it noncommercial, with or without modification, et cetera et cetera et cetera . . .

And hey, I’d love to use photos submitted by my blog buds. This is a community, after all, and I dig all of you.

Where the closest ocean is all in my mind


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