Category Archives: Creation

Stuff about creative efforts – making things, reusing things – that bring us closer to the primal force of creation itself.

Out of the Draft Box, Part 4: Haiku Today 2015.10.23 —

autumn leaves
(Image credit: Phoenix Wolf-Ray)

falling leaves
wash the ground with death
in color —
unseasonable
as it’s been lately


Here it is, the last post in my draft box. These drafts were nice jump-starts to posts, having a haiku to roll around in my mind while I’m writing out whatever happens to be streaming from my consciousness at the moment. Though I can’t say what I was thinking at the exact moment that I was writing this tanka, I do know that at the time I was starting to figure out that manufacturing was going to eventually do me in.

And by that, I mean to say that I had recognized my folly in thinking that I would ever see any kind of relief from the soul-crushing work schedule I had been subject to whilst working at the Bobcat plant here in Bismarck. This plant had shut down in 2008, just a few months after I relocated here from Detroit, and at the time it was a Union shop. I was told my only way in was to know someone and at the time I really didn’t know anyone. So when the plant re-opened quietly under subcontracted management (Bobcat’s way of snuffing out organized labor, I suppose) I was able to slip in and almost instantly find more gainful employment than what I’d been doing in the interim; but they worked the hell out of us.

When I first started, they had just set up the fab shop. We had some brake presses, a laser, a plasma cutter, a saw, a lathe, and a couple of vertical machine centers. They had us working twelve hours a day, five days a week, and ten hours on Saturday, making parts to feed the weld lines. And for years, they told us they’d cut back hours when we caught up, but we never really caught up. We clamored for years for pay increases that were promised and never delivered.

So at the time I wrote this tanka I was almost three and a half years in, and thinking that one day I was going to just jump into my lathe and let the machine pulverize me.

Of course I wouldn’t do anything like that; but I’m sure we understand that when things get dark, the imagination goes wild.

This is the darkness that pulled me away from writing. I turned to escapist routes to keep me from getting dragged down. I played a lot of video games, I watched a lot of TV, knit a lot of hats, and tried to think hard about what I was doing.

I realized at the time that my folly was in falling to the sunk-cost fallacy of my facile choice to be a fabricator. And it took me another year and a half to feel comfortable enough to extract myself from the situation.

So the question is, where does this particular folly end?

How do I know I’m not making the same mistake right now?

I probably am, and now I wonder whether my folly was in thinking that it was my career choice that was sucking all the joy out of life.

More likely, it was my choice of employer; could I be repeating that folly even now — just going from one disaster to the next? What comes after this, then?

(Image credit: suRANTo dwi saputra, CC0 1.0)

My New — Fruitful — STEM Hobby

(Image credit: Erik Furulund, CC PDM 1.0)

I wonder who’s going to see this.

Yes, we have no prompts today! I looked them all up, I looked them all over . . . I considered them all. I had a funny idea of using them all in an alternate title to this post, and then just freestyling the rest.

It would be a shameful play for more reads, more eyeballs on my post. But shouldn’t I let that happen naturally? I decided that today, I will go prompt-free. Bold.

I’d rather talk about my latest passion-project: promoting the production, and packaging, the excretions of microscopic fungi for future consumption. How exciting, to bring so many worlds together! It’s like cooking food for billions of pets, most of which do not yet exist; then you throw a relatively small portion of the end population right into the food and check in on them frequently as they feed and multiply and excrete over the next three to four weeks. When the food runs out, they all go to sleep. Then you move all that fungus-pee to a different vessel, and wash all your pets right down the drain.

It’s like a science experiment!

Then you throw in a little more science. You see, it’s not easy to actually move all of that end-product exclusive of your prized pets — you know, the ones you washed down the sink. A few may be left stranded behind, and the last thing you want now is to have them start the experiment all over; after all, you’re past that step. So you add a few minerals to make sure they can’t do that anymore. Then you sweeten it up a touch.

Then you drink it and get all kinds of fish-nickered!

Of course, I haven’t had a chance to drink any of my mead yet. Well . . . not technically. You see, every time I rack a batch to a clean carboy it leaves some behind. The lees, which is not what we want, with a thin layer of mead on top. So every time I try to finish siphoning off that liquid with just the tube into a glass so I can try it. My first few batches, being based on a basic recipe, were somewhat harsh on the alcohol flavor. That ages out; they say that mead needs to age 6 months to a year to mellow out and whatnot. But when I hit my fourth batch I discovered something interesting: If you use juice instead of water, the product is drinkable almost right away.

Science!

My fourth batch, I’m so proud of it. So delicious that when I couldn’t get the last of the liquid separated from the lees I drank the whole thing. No regrets. Now I’m doing all kinds of crazy stuff. Making hooch. Looking at recipes by people who do it cheap. So often nowadays I find myself wondering, ‘I wonder if I could ferment that?’ Or thinking, ‘I could definitely ferment that.’

Batch 5 is just about done, and I do believe I have a new crazy experiment in mind for batch 6, a recipe called Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead.

So if anyone is wondering what I’ve been getting up to while letting my blog languish, wonder no more. Making wine is only the latest thing I’ve taken up, but it’s fun and takes a lot less work than one might think.

And it’s science. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Out of the draft box, Part 3: Haiku Today 2015.10.24 —

Ironclad
(Image credit: Rob Ross [that’s me!])

Ironclad —
a pact between waters
of Earth and sky


The gray autumn sky chills. It’s full of reminders of things we have yet to do –– things left undone. It’s packed with guilt and frustration; it hangs around like a guest who’s worn out their welcome, chilling us to the bone. Consuming the warmth of summer as quickly as it came. It hangs heavy on my heart and weighs on my mind.

The gray autumn sky comforts -– it’s a looming alarm that says, “time’s up, buddy. Whatever you had planned, you may as well shelve it. You’ll have plenty of time to make it even better than you had hoped. So put on a pot of coffee, some slippers, and your hoodie. Play some video games. Dig in, stay warm. It’s not the end of the world, or else I would not be here.”


Here I am again, taking stock of what’s left in my draft box. Just one more after this, and I’m going to have to work that much harder to turn the purse of my mind inside out; and it may look, for all I know, like a TeeTurtle with the same question mark and dubious smile on both sides.

My instincts tell me that I still have much to tell and stories to unfold, I just have to get after them. And even when life and work and all things seem like a huge cluster . . . bomb, I intend to find the time to make it happen. After all, I have been known to be a time thief. 😉 The time is coming for me to take stock of all that is overwhelming in my life — for it’s been so good for so long that the load is getting ponderous.

I remember a time when life flowed more quickly. Moving here, moving there. Not having the kind of discretionary funds to do much more than live day-to-day and cobble together my hobbies as cheaply as possible. Things were simpler, and less of a hassle. Now I take stock and everything I see looks like something all-too-neglected . . . every skein of yarn I thought I was going to turn into a pair of socks or whatever; every exercise widget and gadget that’s rarely used in my fitness regimen, such as it is. Books. I haven’t read a book in forever, it feels like — and yet I still own quite a few of them, some of which will only be taken from me when I am dead. Clothes that no longer fit. Clothes that I’ve never really worn.

I’ve been ramping up to this: building up the temerity necessary to start going through and whittling it all down — mercilessly working to get things down to a manageable level. I feel like it would be great if I could take time off from work to do this, but unfortunately that is not possible at this time because . . . well, COVID.

So there’s the elephant in the room that I didn’t want to bring up, because it’s a little too on-the-nose. But rather than hide out at home or find new ways to make money to avoid contact with the public, I live life boldly by serving my community in a capacity that often feels underappreciated. I personally feel underappreciated by those above me in the chain of command, and yet I do this not because I feel a need to be appreciated; indeed, if I ever had this particular need I was disabused of it a long, long time ago. But thanks to COVID and the omicron variant now making its rounds through our facility I have all this vacation time saved up that I am unable to use.

So here I am, putting all my plans on the shelf as staff shortages rise once more. Delaying the inevitable, but not for much longer. I’m going to clear out the clutter and find myself somewhere therein, turning the gray skies blue once again.

Image credit: U.S. Army Europe, CC PDM 1.0

“Strap on those boots, soldier.”

Out of the draft box, part 2: Haiku Today 2015.11.17 —

(Image credit: Eric Huybrechts)

fading ages,
protruding via
tenuous
pockets of space-time
grown cool . . . bitter . . . thin.


January 3, 2022

This is an easy one to knock out. A haiku which felt unfinished, and no longer relevant today. But I breathed some extra room into it — made it tanka — and felt the icy ping of cold air, as I finished it. The original text I’d composed for this photo went:

Faded ages,
protruding
through holes in time

Of course, at the time this was written as a draft and I meant to come back to it. For six or seven years I’ve meant to come back to all of this in some functional way as I struggled in my manufacturing job for fair treatment by my employer. Fair for me, fair for my coworkers, some of whom I still feel don’t make enough even though I haven’t worked the plant since September of 2017. I’ve meant to return to all of this as I worked retail in the interim, as a hardware department floor associate at Menards — as I transitioned to a career in the law enforcement sector, serving my community for real this time.

And the Interwebs and all my readers have been so patient all this time. I’ve had things to resolve, and I’m not even sure I’m all the way through this process as I still deal with some of the hangups I’ve collected throughout my life. Yet here I am, presuming that I am ready to insinuate myself into the blogosphere once more . . .

Is this really a new dawn, or just a waft of scant inspiration? There have been some false starts, of course. It reminds me of quitting cigarette smoking, only in reverse — I had to try several times before I could quit permanently. And yet . . . there have been relapses. So is anything really permanent?

All this to say, I now have this design to pick up my writing once more, but I know I can’t go back to what I was doing before. That’s why I’m cleaning out my draft box. I need to figure out a new direction, or at least create a new plan if I want to go long-term again. I don’t think I will ever say goodnight to this blog, though I’ve considered it before; but I’d love to find a new groove and get back to writing.

I’d love to write more flash fiction for you! 🙂 🙂 🙂

What I wouldn’t do for some bargain-basement inspiration right now . . . I’m so thirsty I just know I would soak it all up like a sponge, and I feel like once I get some momentum I should be able to maintain. I’d build new suburbs of sweet script, neighborhoods of knack, communities of composition — cul-de-sacs of content! And I’d erect it all, block by block right here on WordPress. I can surround and obfuscate those cryptic, monochrome bones with my inspiration. . . .

Then I can forget that they’re still there, and there they will always be.

And in other news, in case we need to know: robssurfreport.com is back.

Out of the draft box, part 1: Haiku Today 2016.04.20 —

(Photo by Mahir Uysal, CC0 1.0)

A chill mist
pervades this frigid heart
of battered stone


Sometimes it feels like life has a habit of pulling me along with a string, moving me one way or another along this linear direction. Occasionally I will go, “I’m going to try this, and then before I know it I’m in so deep I’ve dropped everything else and forgotten where it is I came from, like it never mattered. 

. . . or maybe I can be obsessive — maybe that’s the more accurate way to put it; and to find myself in a reclusive, self-interested fog seems to always be the primary clue that I’ve gone way too far from where I’d like to be. 

A fog is just a cloud of particles that move in this lazy way; they hang around with no real intention, and when moving they tend to slink and creep, not having the coherence to withstand the slightest breeze. That dearth of energetic motion promotes further energy losses; by which I mean that it has this tendency to bleed over into the soul of one enveloped within that chill fog — a vampiric effect that “puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills . . . ” than to change.

Emerging from a fog of frustration, of self-enmity and frivolity, is like coming out into the first warm day of Spring. It’s not the doom of gloomy days, but could be herald of what’s to come if I can stay the course and keep a solid heading. 

After all, who knows what adventure waits around the corner?


January 02, 2022

Holy smokes, that was almost six years ago. I pulled this one out of the draft box and generously edited for language, trying to keep the content while trying to not leave too much cheese behind.

My goal here is to dig all four drafts out of my draft box and start anew. I know my last post was heavy, and I won’t apologize.

It needed to be.

Things have eased up a little bit in the interim, but those challenges remain and are often exacerbated by the most imaginary slights. Attempting to feel supported and appreciated in a milieu where appreciation is rare and support should be a call away but sometimes feels remarkably extinct is challenging, and may require some self-adjustment. After all, I may be part of the problem. I can admit that.

It’s a new year now, and while it might sound like a cliché to say it’s a time for new beginnings, I can’t think of a better time than now to figure out how to rediscover the mental headspace I inhabited back when I was posting regularly. A new beginning, this far down the line. After all, you can go bankrupt what . . . every seven years? What’s the statute of limitations on rekindling the light of optimism, of chucking all the emotional debt and starting over from scratch? And regardless of the (largely subjective) answer, how is that even accomplished?

I intend to figure that out. I will clear out this negative clutter, and find the dusty corners. I’ll sweep them out and set lamps to light them. I probably can’t commit to writing here daily, but I should probably do it a lot more. We’ll see how that goes.

I am the medicine man. I will make the medicine if I have to sing, dance, chant, and call to the heavens to make it happen. I don’t have a grass skirt but I do have some fine kilts. Maybe I’ll have to swap the tropical beaches for some snowbanks. Combat boots instead of bare feet.

I know, it still sounds amazing. 🙂

(Image by Frank Schulenburg, CC0 1.0)

Blowing Dust

Small comfort,
pithy post-nailed note:
I want you here”
,
scrawled in fading ink
on timeworn paper.

(Image credit: στρατός. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)

There are days, and then . . . there are days. It seems like there’s been a lot of those days lately, and with the holiday season in full swing there’s the added stress of things to do, people to see, dealing with shopping for people . . . things can get just a tad overwhelming.

And is it me, or are people getting harder to shop for anymore?

Lately I’ve been feeling a little touched out by the constant activity. Not to mention I’m falling behind on fitness. I’ve got a whole bunch of things I’d like to be working on but I have no time for. My guitars are dusty and lonely. I need to just take some time off to decompress but we’re too short-staffed at work to allow for it and the first available days off are out in February, so . . . screw me, I guess! The only way to get time off is to be sick, and I’m famous for not getting sick. 200 hours of sick leave: pointless. Over eighty hours of vacation time: unusable.

And then there’s the real enigma: how I can do my very best at my job, improve on practically everything I do, pull off some great work and train great people on how to do our jobs well, and get trashed on my yearly performance evaluation by — apparently — the only person whose opinion matters; based on situations and metrics that either can’t or won’t ever be corroborated; to the confusion of the other supervisor who had to read the eval to me, who later told me that he tried to back me up but . . . well, we both know how that goes with the boss. Once something’s on paper, boy it is done! There’s no defense, there’s no reasonable explanation, and there’s no appeal that’s going to make that steaming, smelly pile of contrivances go away.

"starr-100218-2532-Dianella_sandwicensis-habitat_with_helicopter_landing_and_blowing_dust-Helu_West_Maui-Maui" by Starr Environmental is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I suppose I’m fortunate that this has no other negative effect on me other than weighing heavily on me; in order to keep this career I have to just accept my fate and admit that I will never have any chance at success so long as I am assigned to this shift. I’d have a better chance making it as a helicopter pilot. Good news is, my boss’ boss wants me here so I guess . . . that makes it better?

Yep. I guess I have to keep that bit close to heart, to keep me warm during our 30 days of nights.

(Image credit: Starr Environmental. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.)

I had to get that off my chest, anyway; I apologize if it’s a real downer. There’s certain “morbid” statistics associated with careers in law enforcement, and though I never intend to be a statistic, I’m starting to see how one gets behind that curtain. This job attracts certain types of people, and some of them should not be given power over others. For my part, I just want to help people — legitimately, help them. I think I do that well but I’ll never win any awards doing it and I’m fine with that. Just don’t micromanage me, nitpick me, poke or prod me with baseless accusations and falsified accounts of behavior that no one else can verify. Don’t lie on me and then laugh it off like it’s the end of a Scooby-Doo episode. That shit burns.

Forget about the holidays. The rhetoric about the time of year, how we should be all happy and nice and forgive people their trespasses, all that noise; make it a way of life. Those whom you have responsibility over, make sure you support them and validate their work. Don’t forget that they’re human beings. Don’t squash them because you think it makes you look good, like you’re doing your job when you’re letting others get away with murder. You know who’s going through a lot right now? Everybody. Don’t be a dick.

That’s my PSA; I sincerely hope you enjoy the remainder of 2021, in case I don’t get a chance to write again this year.

*This post was brought to you by Tanka, where Haiku is a lesser included offence

Not just another Tanka Tuesday

Have you ever found yourself clearing out a craft space that has long sat unusued, only to discover a finished product that never saw the light of day?

I said the other day I’d be working my way through the handful of drafts in my draft folder. Here’s one that I found today, and it was fully written. Here it is, with zero changes. Originally written on December 20, 2016, this post dates from about a year after the lights started going out on my original spate of blogging . . . about three years solid, and five years since post one (seriously, I just scrolled through all of it; Holy Hannah Banana, I have a ton of material!) Today this blog is nearly eleven years old and I have some cobwebs to clean out, but as it turns out, I also have something left over to offer — a little look into the mood that pulled me off the page for so long . . . .

room by room
turning off the lights
unsure as to why
I get the impression
it’s time to withdraw


I’m pretty sure I’ve been islanding. I’m almost certain that it’s not entirely my fault — I blame some of it on climate change. Things aren’t the way they used to be, and I can’t tell whether that’s because I’m always either resisting or having trouble keeping up, or whether it’s simply because I am no longer a kid, and I get that now. 

Every year the ocean levels are rising, and the shores of my island become smaller. I’m being forced inward. 

Or maybe it’s supposed to be like this. As the drum beats time marches on, and as we disconnect from the Matrix of old social paradigms the tubes and wires connecting us to them pop off, leaving us cold and alone in our very own pod, surrounded by a sea of machines and trite little tchotchkes, a blip of life in a Universe drowned in invisible data.

But I can’t believe that; it’s fatalistic. It’s dark, I know — and I promise that it won’t always be this way. But sometimes to find treasure you have to be willing to dig through a mountain of trash, decaying remnants of old life, mouldering bones and offal. It’s a dirty job for sure, but someone ought to do it. 

I’ve had the good fortune to be a WordPress blogger for years, even in spite of long absences, and this place has helped shape who I am. Writing gives us an outlet and a place to put our thoughts and ideas in order. To put ourselves in order. And I must write more, or risk losing myself in the shuffle. And I guess that means getting some of this stuff off of my chest and working it out. 

I find it ironic that I use this space to talk about how I see technology as an increasingly efficient disabler of the natural social construct, leaving unfulfilled more and more the visceral call to community that built the world that made WordPress possible. 

Maybe it’s evolution, or maybe someday it will turn out that my job was to document the fall of humanity. If so, then I might be woefully behind as outsiders have already set up shop within our borders. Or maybe I’m just looking for something other than myself to blame. 

This is me, digging. 

Haikuna matata

phoenixes, in fact;
we all rise from the ashes
left by mid-night fires

I don’t know how I managed to start a new year, posting on the first day. Maybe it’s a fluke.

I thought many times about coming back to blogging on the regular this past year. I felt like I had some things to say, but lately it’s felt like everyone’s got something to say and there’s too much noise for my words to matter; it felt like everything worth saying became something that was grossly overused. In a year that felt too political, too dramatic, too over-the-top from one day to the next, it was hard to process much more than the day-to-day changes as we constantly adjusted to the milieu.

But you know what? I miss writing. I’ve been back in school for like two years now, and if there’s one thing I miss, it’s writing for fun. Don’t get me wrong — school is school! But when I write for school, I still try to make it fun. So sorry to say, I’m not going to be that guy — that “how about that COVID guy”, the “how about that terrible politician” guy.

Noise, noise, noise!

I’d rather talk about anything else.

So? . . . Maybe this is the year I rise again. Perhaps I will find that 20 minutes, here and there, for getting back in the habit. Perhaps we will all find ourselves coming back again, shaking off the dust, getting back in the groove and finding that for all the noise and inconvenience we have endured, life is still an adventure — one worth exploring.

Maybe I’ll kickstart it by finishing the handful of drafts I have in my draft folder.

Sink or swim — here’s looking forward to kicking 2021 in the pants.

Dust storms and the desertification of the literary mind

DUST STORM 1968
Image credit: Sydney Oats (CC BY 2.0)

Storms. Storms in my head! I thought that I could do a little throwback Thursday or something. I would go back through some of my older posts and repost one of them to get a sense of where I once was but it’s only come to frustration because I realize that once upon a time the downpour of words that bombarded the page was so different than the sparsity that I struggle to ration out lately. I read it and I think, where the heck did that come from?

Check out Getting Rich and the Tribble Epidemic, from December 28, 2013.

I sounded so glib.

Today, by comparison, I think my prose has dried out somewhat. As though a sandstorm has come through and blasted my creativity down to bare metal.Maybe that’s what it feels like to come back to writing after a long period of no-writing. Or maybe something has changed. The thunderbolts of inspiration don’t just light up my brain like they used to.

But for whatever reason I can’t seem to give up altogether. Every time I think about hanging it up — admitting that my writing is just another fad, a fly-by-night hobby — there’s something inside that won’t let it go, and when I look back I see what it is that I must be holding on to. I would like to think that perhaps some day I can find my way back to writing long form, the off-the-cuff essays, the flash fiction — to being, and moving forward from, the bedazzling literary cyclone that I must have been.

I actually work really hard on this. And maybe I’m a little too aggressive, because here I am the next morning trying to finish this reconstruction of my feelings about this on a screen when I could be doing other things, things that I also feel I need to do . . . but they must not be as important as this. Even though I have to go running and then go to work in a little bit.

Because when it comes down to it I guess I have to write.

Can I bring life back to the desert?

Desert Life
Image credit: Wiros (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Do you need to seed the clouds of creativity in your mind? Maybe try the one-word prompt from the Daily Post — you could do worse!

Tanka Tuesday 2016.07.12 —

Guest
Image credit: Andrey (CC BY 2.0)

 

bumbling off
the guest will take
leave behind
transferring spirits
communion of souls

 


 

Nothing is better than having guests to break up the routines of our daily lives. People like Mme. Ross and I — that is, people who don’t thrive in large social circles — craft our lives day by day in the comfort of our home and our lives there. The occasional gathering of our closest friends really brings something to our home, and we do our best to give back as well. We help our friends move, we make them our neighbors, and we share what we have with them. To live that life on a permanent, unbroken basis seems like an idyllic dream.

On the other hand, to go to work forty hours a week for people with ridiculous, half-hearted, loosely-applied restrictions on the use of personal technology; who rarely appreciate what I’m bringing to the proverbial table; and who seem to specialize only in making others feel stupid for being themselves; had begun to seem like an awful chore until the plant was given the week off for the 4th of July, and while I thought that going back after that week off would be like more of the same torture, it seems as though the days are going fast, maybe speeding me along toward the next Summer adventure.

Or maybe it’s just a small respite in that tug-of-war.

I sometimes feel like a guest in my own life — like nothing I do entitles me to comfort or indulgence. As though very little that I do gives me a reasonable excuse to be the selfish person that I often see in myself. I stay withdrawn, and the work life that drives to the rhythm of hammers on metal while presenting as a music video fit for the Doors’ People Are Strange becomes the theme I take home in my head as I frustrate myself trying to pound some inspiration into the hearts of those who feel like their only purpose at work is to make a paycheck. To work as little as possible, think as little as possible, never realizing that it’s easier than they’re making it out to be. I often end up taking that unwelcome guest home with me.

A little effort goes a long way, is all I’m saying. But what if I’m putting too much effort into the wrong endeavors?

It would be interesting if every day was a different event — a parade, a carnival in the park, a bike ride along the river. Somehow our culture insinuates the fulfillment of that dream in a life that often demands more of us than we can reasonably give. It stretches us dangerously thin, like worn-out bubblegum.

Where can we reasonably say “no”?

Now there’s something to chew on.

 



Looking for a word to cunningly inspire the perfectly-crafted spontaneous blog post? Try the one-word prompt at the Daily Post — probably the best thing since split infinitives.