I haven’t posted anything in a week or so because there seems to be a problem with my brain. It’s not quite spring yet, but the temperatures here have been in the 70′s lately. Step outside and you’re likely to hear the high-altitude honking of geese, heading north in formation. The Braves have gathered at their spring training headquarters in Orlandisnopolis, warming up for a new season that looks really promising. After the winter we’ve had (four or five measureable snowfalls and an entire week of roads shut down by three inches of ice— positively arctic, for Georgia) it seems only fair that spring should arrive a bit early. We need a break.
There’s something about early spring that turns the mind toward spiritual things, like fishing and baseball. I wrote about it in Bad Ground:
In the spring, when the sun returns from the south and once again warms a man’s back, when the dogwoods and azaleas explode, when a field of new grain bursts out of the ground so green it hurts the eyes, when pollen turns the…
If only I’d learned to play guitar I might’ve been somebody. I could’ve sat on a stool, just me and my Martin, an island of light in a dark sea of eager hopeful eyes, upturned faces waiting breathless for me to pluck that iron string that vibrates in every heart, the one that makes them want to cry because all this time— all this time!— they thought they were alone. A thousand eyes would fasten on the old guitar when I leaned over it, oblivious. Waiting, they’d see the shadowy smudges where hands have carressed that butterscotch face so long and so often that the guitar, like the Velveteen Rabbit, has become a living thing.
We could have poured them out a haunting ballad of lost love, an unplucked rose withering on an untended vine, and the hush would be so complete you could hear the tiny squeaks of callused fingertips sliding into painfully perfect notes.
We’d have sung about triumphant youth, songs of discovery and laughter and surprise, the moments when the heart grows wings, and then…
We’re spending the weekend with old friends on Folly Beach, South Carolina, just up the coast from Charleston. It’s on a barrier island, sort of the front bumper of the United States (which I guess, figuratively speaking, makes Cape Cod a hood ornament and Key West a curb feeler), so when I stand on the beach looking east I can’t help thinking there’s nothing between me and Gibraltar. I can’t recall ever having been to the beach in winter. It’s different, but kind of nice. Apart from one or two hardcore surfers in wet-suits sitting on boards waiting for waves there’s nobody in the water. There are people in coats and scarves out walking their dogs on the beach, but no swimmers.
The beach itself looks the same, a wide expanse of white sand spilling down from weed-anchored dunes and tangles of ash-gray driftwood. Up near the dunes the choppy, foot-worn sand is nearly white, but approaching the water it flattens out and gets dark like wet concrete. Somewhere between the dry white sand-ripple and the mirror-smooth water’s edge there’s…
A while back I did an interview with my Amish cousin Katie where readers posted questions on Facebook and Katie answered them here on the blog. One of the readers (Doris Dunavan Reedy, a very nice lady and a regular reader of my blog) asked for a recipe, and I said no.
Now, I have to take a moment here to explain a bit about who I am, where I come from, and what I can and cannot do. I worked most of my life in construction, and most of my friends are construction workers. A huge part of my mental makeup, ethics, and personality comes from there, and for that I don’t apologize. Those people are the salt of the earth; the stereotypes foisted on them by a shallow media and a host of sitcoms over the years are patently false. Underneath those hard hats I have consistently found not only resilient spirits with uncommon common sense and unflagging good humor, but a functional code of honor and a brand of loyalty that I have not found elsewhere.
A few years ago a radio interviewer asked me a really weird question.
“What was the worst day of your life?”
I didn’t even have to think about it. ”The day I got burned,” I said.
She wanted to know the whole story, so I told her.
In April of 1985 I was working as the night shift electrician on a mining machine, drilling a twenty-eight foot hole for two miles through the granite underneath Atlanta. We were about a mile and a half in when I went to the heading one night to change a main fuse, made a mistake and blew up the motor control cabinet. I was in the cabinet when it blew, at the center of a white fireball. The blast melted the edge of my hardhat, boiled the plastic nametag, burned a lemon-size hole through the back of the steel cabinet and blistered the enamel paint on a door a foot and a half behind me. The miners all jumped over the rail to get away from it and rolled down the curved…
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