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Yule goodies

Since the winter solstice occured just after noon yesterday in our time zone, that means the longest night of the year was last night, not tuesday night. Hence, we marked the holiday at sunrise today, the sunrise after the longest night. Just the convention we personally have adopted; others figure the date differently. After hiking up the hill in the crystal clear pre-dawn chill (tossing a few pebbles to make the frozen pond sing again on the way) we greeted the sunrise with a little drumming. Then a chilly gift opening around the tree. Peggy got me a hat and three pair of Carhart jeans, I got her an electric blanket and some networking stuff for our computers (the real gift will be my setting up the network, not the hardware). Plus she got us a vase with bacchanalia scenes. Now to finish up wrapping and mailing for a few family members who celebrate their holidays later in the month. A quiet homebody sort of day... quiet is good this time of year.
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Night beesties

When I was growing up in Georgia, spending all my free time chasing birds around the woods and fields and swamps, one of the things I always loved coming across was woodcock displaying in the first dawn twilight of a clear early winter morning. This wasn't something I'd find very often; only when I made an effort to get well out of Atlanta to be at some marsh or swamp somewhere as the sky first lightened. It's one of those ingrained experiences of the small secret mysteries of wilderness back here in the well-trammeled East; a private thing that most people never know of nor would understand. It's a simple thing really: as the eastern sky acquires the first hint of orange, a nearly invisible bird circles high overhead against the indigo sky. Every few minutes he plunges in a death-defying dive, and as he pulls out at the bottom his wings sing a delicate tinkling song. If he is lucky, there is a female hidden away in the weeds watching him and calling up to him with a buzzy little voice.

A few days ago, I got home from a pre-dawn errand on a clear, cold morning. As I walked from the truck to the house, I heard the courtship song of a woodcock. In the sky over our weedy orchard, right in our yard, the woodcock were displaying.

Another reminder why the annoyance, inconvenience, and poverty of this life are worth it.

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A few nights later, when we pulled into our yard in the evening, our headlights revealed a strange creature hopping through the grass and leaves. It took me a second to realize that it was a woodcock. There have been very few times I've ever seen one on the ground before. They're a secretive, well-camoflauged nocturnal beeste of brambles, thickets, and marshes. Usually they're seen when they fly up suddenly from right underfoot, having remained invisible to the last second.

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p.s. Please refrain from the 7th-Grade jokes about this bird's name. Have heard then ALL before, many times. Thank you.
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Yeehaw!

Not only was "Intelligent Design" absolutely shot down and blown to pieces in today's court ruling in PA, it was blasted out of the sky by a judge who was appointed to the bench by George W. Bush himself. Woo hoo!!
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Pond music

After a high yesterday of 35 and a low this morning of 4 (that's +2 and -16 for you C-speakers) the pond is frozen again. I took advantage of the chance to play a little pond music. When you toss small rocks onto a freshly frozen pond, they make the most marvelous sound as they skitter along across the ice. It is an otherworldly musical twittering. The closest thing I know to it in nature is the chittering of Purple Martins.
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Deconstructing Windows

Literally. Taking off the casings, removing the stops and lower sashes. Going at everything with scraper and heat gun, repairing damaged bits. Putting it all back together, replacing some parts that were removed and thrown away when the house was dry-walled 20 years ago, caulking and spackling it all. Results: Windows that look like they did 120 years ago but that actually work and don't leak air.

I am wondering where I found this wellspring of patience for the meticulous restoration work I am doing here. Dedication to long slow repetitive tasks was not a hallmark of mine before. I guess it's because of the tangible results and the clear value and larger context that I don't get bored spending days working on the cracks and fiddly bit of just one single window.
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Sex and the City

Continuing my belated intro to pop culture from a few years ago, I happened to finally see "Sex and the City" last night in a motel room. Ye gawds, what garbage. Brain-dead dialogue, paper-thin characters, mediocre prodution values, bleah. Bunch of standard TV-pretty women sitting around talking about penises. Sorry to bruise all those little straight boy egos, but this just doesn't happen, dudes. "Your" women have full, complex, varied lives that do NOT revolve around your dick, and when they get to hang out together that is what they talk about, not your gonads. On the occasion that they may waste some of their time talking about you, they are far more likely to talk about your stinking dirty laundry or your shitty taste in movies than your dick.

Yech.
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Brokeback Mountain revisited

OK so after having dissed the movie unseen because of its casting choices, and then deciding I probably wouldn't be able to bear sitting through it because of its way-to-close-to-home plot, I decided instead to read the short story. It is available online:

http://www.newyorker.com/printables/archive/051212fr_archive01

First off, I shoud say that I generally do not like Western fiction all that much; I just don't warm up to its bleakness, emptiness, and hopelessness. And this is definitely a piece of Western fiction. I had a bit of trouble with the style, too; I felt too much sometimes like I was reading bad gay cowboy porn. Now, with the superficialities out of the way... the story is the universal tragedy of impossible love that so many experience. It just happens to be set amongst two male ranch hands in late 20th Century Wyoming. Brokeback Mountain is the metaphor for the peaks that many of us have scaled, only to spend the rest of our lives never able to return. Its particular setting and gender-sexual combination does indeed strike right at the very core of my own greatest heartaches, which is why I still think I could not bear the intensity of seeing this as a feature film in a theater. The final scenes, if portrayed faithfully in the film, would leave me incapacitated...

I still think a couple of more ordinary-looking fellers would have helped give this universal tragedy the particular flavor applied to it in the short story, but that is a done deal.