Thursday, April 4, 2013

MY YEAR OF LIVING CONFEDERATELY: WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT WATER


It's been almost eight months that I've lived in this antebellum (1847) that sits on 600+ acres. Below is a picture of the antebellum tucked away in its grove of trees from the vantage point of a family of hay bales where I go to think. I typically leave a beer at the hay bales to determine if any trespassers are, well, trespassing on the property. To this day the only wino who has opened that beer is me.



While we have breathtaking views all around, we also experience difficulties of the most fundamental sort that we find to be both perplexing and discouraging. And, also, disturbing, taking into account that I've professionally taught children the laws of nature for the last sixteen years. 

For example, I direct you to the embarrassing situation below:



For someone who learned to swim at age eighteen, I certainly think I know a lot about water. In an overgrown tangle of trees on the property is an abandoned house as my kids like to call it. Oops, I didn't realize that I didn't take a picture of the house. To prove there is a house, here are armadillo remains near it.


One afternoon I thought I would visit the abandoned house. Instead of walking, I thought I might drive the car down to see it. Yes, I said "down." The object of my attraction lay near a culvert. That's why this happened.



Of course, a culvert is designed to catch water. Culverts would not catch water if, like me, they didn't understand the nature of water. Here are two things I did not take into consideration that got me in a considerable bind:1) It rained all day the day before and 2) culverts can only collect water if they are "lower" than the water they intend to catch. Yes, I drove right into a flood plain that was flooded. I realized my mistake three seconds before it was too late for me to back out. As I started to sink, I began to laugh at myself for being so naive. 

I wouldn't have laughed had I not known that my car would remain there for three days. If you look at my back tire below, you will see that it has sunk almost a third of the tire. That's because I spent three moronic days trying to "rev" it out of the flood plain which was foolish because revving it lost me solid dirt and, being at the lowest point in the flood plain, that dirt was rapidly replaced with water which everyone knows is impossible to ride on. Oh, but, no, I know something that no one knows, right?


That's my friend, Ed, behind me with his Ford 250. I asked him to come help me. Ed told me later that he had a hunch he would sink, but he hadn't seen me in a while, so why not come by? Ed sunk. And he laughed.


Some guy driving past thought he wanted some of the action when he saw Ed and me stuck. 



He proposed that he pull us both out with his suburban, but Ed told him to focus on his Ford 250. Well, suburban guy, kind as he was, almost got stuck. He called up his friend with a tow truck. I recognized these guys, because they towed my brown Volvo sedan three years ago. They pulled Ed out, but had to go get more chain to pull me out. 

Ed left. I figured I would keep busy while I waited. So I got myself some garbage bags and policed my property perpendicular to the culvert. I must have picked up well over 100 bottles. It's like people driving buy know to toss their bottles into the culvert... or the bottles know to be tossed into the culvert like Tolkein's ring trying to get back to its master.



I'd like to say that I learned my Physics lesson that water lusts for the lowest point possible and, being a liquid, is malleable enough to conform to the size of any space. And then it sunk into my head that the classic illustrations will always be the organic ones. Like water, I am driven to a certain... bottom line, shall we say. Like water all of those actions, no matter how differentiated they appear to be, are all expressions of that bottom line. That bottom line, whether or not I acknowledge it, speaks to the sum total of all that I do from waking to sleeping, working to resting, thinking to daydreaming. So what is that bottom line for me? What is that bottom line for you? Good question. 

Below is a picture of me after the adventure. And I don't look in the mood to have six children ask me what's wrong. I calculated how much time ignorance cost me, and it was shy of almost 75 hours. And by that time you know what I wanted? A beer. But this wino had already drunk the last one.






Monday, April 1, 2013

MY YEAR OF LIVING CONFEDERATELY: WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT MICE


The picture above are little mice made from spiced or peanut butter cookie dough. Adorable with their little almond ears. But Mickey Mouse, Mighty Mouse, Chucky Cheese, Stuart Little, Despereaux are all lies to extol the myth that mice possess a benign cuteness. Within two months of moving into this antebellum in Franklin, Tennessee (aka, "Sweet Home"), I thought I was seeing ghosts, but little, furry ghosts that ran along baseboards, always keeping in my periphery so that I couldn't honestly say I ever really laid eyes on one. Each night I believed the same mouse to be raiding each of our rooms, leaving black poopies in almost every corner. Clearly the media fiction I'd been fed for the last 40 impressionable years of my life barred me from seeing what I now attest to be obvious realities. Oh, I will confess my delusions first.

First, media never mentioned mice. They always mentioned mouse, as if each is a little, unique individual sparsely distributed throughout vast but proportionately contained ecosystems in conservative ratios like that of the one-Black-man-per-Starbucks-at-any-given-time ratio. It never occurred to me that mouse might be an intentionally individualistic term used by pro-rodent propagandists.

Secondly, I believed that like angels, mice (if they existed at all) must only reveal themselves to that group of humans who don't possess the articulation to snitch on their whereabouts. My then two-year old possessed the vocabulary of the King James Bible (but evidently not the inherency, revealed in heretical statements like "God hit me in the face", "Dobby is bad", and "Mice play in my bed"). It's just like the devil to have me discount the one honest statement of a two-year-old by confusing me with two or more falsifications.

Thirdly (because there has to be a third or its not a legitimate sermon) mice were responsible for the plague in England... but that was a long time ago. They are more progressive now, differentiating themselves and burrowing their little furry selves into the hearts of non-discriminating Americans through the Disneyfication of the masses, fictional superhero antics, bland pizza adverts, and compulsory middle school reading lists. 

But the one lesson I learned and learned well is that you never have only one mouse. Field mice move in families with copious reproductive abilities, rapid replication of themselves evidently the focus of all the gnawing on my furniture, scurrying along my walls, and scavenging for my crumbs. Where there is one, there are many in the shadows that support that one. This sunk in when one evening I looked behind my daughter's toybox to locate what I thought was the same little brown mouse I had seen the past two nights, and a larger and heavier mouse thudded along the wooden floor between my feet. When I believed that there was more than one, it was easy to see that one mouse couldn't have pooped all of the mouse poop in my house unless he were the size of a small dog.

One day I was playing piano in my piano room, being accompanied by an awesome cellist, Stonewall Jackson Pent. We actually didn't get to play that Tuesday because each time I hit the keys we heard squeaking. After starting and stopping for a while, I lifted each of the keys of the middle octave only to find a nest of five baby mice living there. Here are two below, peeking their noses out.


You can imagine how baffled I was at a couple of things. Number one, mice really did get jiggy at all times throughout the year (and were doing "it" in my house). Number two, the parents were brilliant to raise their babies beneath the keys I pounded on at least once a day. I presumed that the mice I finally believed existed lived in holes in the wall when in reality they lived under my very nose. 

Here are the five baby mice I pulled out (None of these mice were harmed. I simply put them outside in the woods at the base of a tree).



I finally got some mousetraps, liberally spread with peanut butter. One evening I caught six within fifteen minutes of putting out the traps. I finally knew I was getting somewhere when the only mice I was catching were babies (someone has to feed them when the parents aren't around). I now have a cat, which I learned is the best mousetrap in the world. Females are the best mousers actually. Not only does Bailey dispatch of the mice in the house, but she dispatches the mice outside the house as well as moles, and bunnies, and she's crossed the path of the groundhogs living beneath the barn. 

I now know that Mickey Mouse is just a cartoon character, Mighty Mouse is just a, I don't know, flying squirrel, Chucky Cheese doesn't really make pizza (he just endorses them), Stuart Little is just the fiction of some post-modern's imagination, and Despereaux is... well, Despereaux is still cute. Below is my tribute (my caricature, compliments of Ahmed Saleem from New Delhi, India http://www.3danimationindia.com) to all of the mice who endured a short stay in our now mouse-free antebellum.



Or peanut butter.