Outside In

There’s a tree in my house. Like INSIDE my HOUSE.

It is tall, way taller than me. It is green. It has thousands of tiny needles, which is its version of leaves. It has little, browned leaves hidden in its boughs. It stands upright in a small red metal vase filled with water that it thirstily drinks. It smells of winter, of cold, of outside.

It will be in my house for the next few weeks. Tomorrow it will lose its wildness. I will string bright lights on its branches, pushing some deep inside so that it glows and leaving some on the outside so that it shines. I will hang a hundred or so trinkets on it, some are as old as me, some as old as the boys and some even younger than The Beast. I will top it off with a star.

It will scent the house with pine and outside. It will hit us square for the next few days, then it will be the background smell, taken for granted. It will cause us to change our paths through the room, walking around its fat bottom, bumping into it and making the bells that I hang low jingle.

It will protect the boxes and bags that will be stacked underneath it on Christmas Eve. It will watch over us as we have parties, imbibe, nibble and feast. It will hear our secrets, our disagreements, our barks and our love.

And then, after the New Year, it will be gone, leaving an invisible mass that we will walk around for a few days, until we forget. It will hide a few needles in a corner, between the floorboards, camouflaged in the pile of the rug. And I will pick a needle out of the bottom of my sock sometime in July and remember that there was a tree that finished it’s own time inside of my house.

Air Aria

A tree on 10th Street. There is a glass building behind it.

It almost sounded more like squeaking bedsprings than tweets and chirps. Except that there would have been an old time hospital ward full of beds, and those beds would need to be fully exerted in a most athletic fashion to create this level of racket.

Maybe the tree was a bird version of a packed convention center exhibit hall, the echoing din of vendor and vendee voices combining to fill the cavern. Except that the pitch was much higher and frequently punctuated. The noise didn’t grow to a generalized loud buzz. It didn’t fade into the background. It was scraped, like a metal rake on concrete, onto the air.

You couldn’t actually see the birds in the tree, but there were likely hundreds. It wasn’t as much that the tree was large–although it was–but that there were a lot of birds. Peering into the dark foliage you might think you could make out the movement of a bird, but it was as likely to be the movement of a leaf. Undoubtably disturbed by a camouflaged bird. Their shiny black eyes didn’t reflect any light and their beaks and wings melted into the evening shadow of the bounteous greenery.

Walking under the tree, people only thought about birds dropping. Not the birds themselves, you know. The gray sidewalk was splashed with white splatter shapes of guano. It wasn’t slick, but it looked it. Pedestrian heads ping-ponged between carefully looking up to avoid walking into dropping poop–carefully in that they didn’t want anything falling into their eyes–and looking  down at the ground to avoid a slip and a fall onto the fresh “paint.”

But it was the shrill turbulence of peeps and warbles, and the furious rustling of leaves and branches, that drew attention. And questions. Why that tree? Why so many birds? Why this evening?

As the walkers reached the second half of the block, they forgot that they had even wondered.


Little Action in Action Park

Waterfall Action [!?] Park, Rodanthe, OBX, NC.

There is loneliness in abandonment. Like a baby’s sock spied on the sidewalk. You know the baby kicked it off, and the parent is later annoyed by an unpaired sock. Yet, you see a single sock alone on the concrete, maybe it has a ruffle and little multi-colored hearts, and your heart breaks. Just a little.

Combing though boxes at a yard sale–and seriously what the hell are we doing going through other folks’ castoffs??–there’s that beat up puzzle box. It’s likely missing two or three pieces. You find the beat up box next to an old Barbie with a fright wig style hairdo. She’s always naked. And her twist and turn waist is seriously wrong.  Pawing through, there may be a few stacking blocks, the ones with the ABCs, rattling around. I guess someone just couldn’t throw it out. So you are stuck with their melancholy just because you were hoping for… Oh, nevermind. Don’t go to yard sales.

Even a car up on blocks in a front yard, once you push past the eyesoreness, is mournful. Especially when you see it in front of a short boxy house with a mostly sunken roof and peeling siding framed by what had been a screened in porch. Today, though, the door flaps in the wind and makes a loud clapping sound when it tries to fit in its frame. The porch is minus much of the screen. You can see the broken couch that would have been hidden on the porch. Nobody is there. But the couch, a pile of mail overflowing the mailbox and an old green hose snaking from the side of the house toward the rusting car makes it clear that was not always true.

Driving on NC-12 reveals the remains of what had been the Waterfall Action Park in Rodanthe. First, what an odd name. What were they trying to sell? Anyway, it was built in 1980 but had the look of the worst of a 60’s amusement park. Passing by, it looks like it was abandoned 30 years ago. The grass is growing through cracks in the concrete. The chutes and flumes of what must have been the water action slides are both sun bleached and misshapen. There is almost no color left. Everything is askance and a silvery grey-white, with maybe a darker gray that was once blue.

The park was big and spanned both sides of the highway. There was a putt-putt golf course and two or three go-kart courses. All that is left is a bunch of old tires and the curve of the concrete that the absent carts dragged across. Seeing this wretched wreck over the past few years makes me mourn a past that I never knew.

This wreckage, despite its full ruin, is all of four years old. After a one-year decline, due to the founder’s death, Hurricane Sandy ripped through. In less than two years, this “action park” became an inaction eyesore.

Like that. The story isn’t ancient history, although the site looks it. It’s more like the missing sock from a baby’s foot. Immediate. Transient. And sad.


College paper. Printed out.

My son wrote a very good, very smart paper.

It was all the more remarkable by the restraint. His argument was tight. His passion was clear. He made his points with clarity and only a hint of his impressive vocabulary that he wields as a poet.

And I couldn’t throw it out.

It was the print copy that I proofed for him. I was clearing the table for dinner, and had to move the pile of pages, unnumbered and with only a very few specs of my penciled carats in the margin. It interrupted the laying out of pork loin chops, Swiss chard and a very, very good warm potato salad with Dijon and capers.

And I couldn’t throw it out.

As if it was an original. Irreplaceable.

I know that the bits and bytes, the zeroes and ones, the binary form of this paper that are these smart words are in the computer. I know they are also accessible via The Cloud. And they can be reproduced easily via .

And, still, I couldn’t throw away these sheets that made the words real. Because if they are not held in my hand, can the thoughts disappear? Forever? Unretrievable?

I can’t throw it away. I want it.  For real.