I happen upon my name and pseudonym here and there on the intertunnel, many times in funny little places. The blog "Never Yet Melted" has an interesting list of links, and a fantastic masthead quote from a man that understood Americans a little.
The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted. — D.H. Lawrence
Well, some Americans. We'll get to that. Isolate, used as an adjective and not a verb, is a word I use all the time. I feel it separates me from other people to use it.
That's a joke, son.
Anyway, Never Yet Melted has me in their roll, for which I am grateful; but that's not the end of it. Their roll is neatly partitioned: News; Culture; Astronomy, you name it. They've parsed it by continent and country alike. And there I am in the middle, with the most accurate and welcome assessment of my offering I've ever seen: "Defies Categorization." They don't pay for ink and paper on the internet, or perhaps they would have shortened it to: "Dude, WTF?" At any rate, I adore it.
I'm ten miles of bad road in a five pound bag of mixed metaphors. I'm a rabid ladybug. I'm an interior decorator with a machete. I'm the left cloven foot of Satan's My Little Pony. I'm a limp-wristed UFC champ. Learned barbarian. I'm a mess, neat. But what I'm not is: afraid to go outside. If you need a laugh, read this, from an article in the New York Times my D.H.Lawrence-loving friends have linked to:
When Evan Gotlib and his fiancée, Lindsey Pollack, bought a three-bedroom cottage surrounded by pine trees in rural Sharon, Conn., they couldn’t wait to flee their cramped Manhattan studio on weekends to spend their days dozing in a hammock and barbecuing on their brand new 42,000 B.T.U., 60-burger-capacity Weber grill.
But being city people, they did what anyone looking to “get away from it all” would do first, before they even spent the night: they paid $3,000 for a home-security system complete with motion detectors, a one-touch intercom that connects to fire and police dispatchers and an emergency hand-held remote-control device they could leave on the bedside table at night. “I know it sounds ridiculous now that I talk about it, but I just feel safer sleeping with the remote control,” Mr. Gotlib, a 32-year-old corporate sales director for Time Inc. Media Group, confessed, “because those deer are aggressive.”
For many urban sophisticates who trade the big city’s drunken crowds, blaring sirens and claustrophobic living spaces for bucolic second homes on weekends, the very solitude of mountains and forests that drew them in the first place can turn into a nerve-jangling — and sometimes costly — source of anxiety. As much as they adore their country houses, these harried homebodies quail at the thought of stepping out into the pitch-black night or meeting some wild animal or armed local in the woods.
Some armed local? Oh brother. In Sharon, Connecticut? People -- in Sharon Connecticut you lock your doors so your friends will know you're not home if they come over unexpectedly and you're out. They know where your key is anyway. William F. Buckley was born in Sharon Connecticut. Do you really think he's coming in the window at night with a dagger in his teeth and darkness in his heart for you because you're so Vegan you only eat things that don't cast a shadow? Get a grip. Of course it's true that a fish out of water works both ways; but when those "armed locals" go to the big city, they are timid and suspicious in return, but only because they're worried they're going to be charged fourteen dollars for a cup of take-out coffee if they're not careful. They don't wet themselves if they see a pigeon acting hinky.
I'm not a farmer or anything. But I do live out in the country. Let me offer you nice folks afraid of your own shadow some perspective. Nature is messy and unpredictable and maybe a little dangerous and that's the point:
The Woodpile At Night:
You're out there on the edge of it, you know.
You can smell it of course. The winter's just a hand on the shoulder, not a fist in the face, and the dull swampy flavor of the place washes over you when the wind shifts. Rotten and fecund. When it freezes over, the wind tastes like metal, or an ice cube that's been in the freezer too long.
It rustles from time to time. A bird in a branch. A squirrel in the leaves. A possum or a raccoon or a bear or a griffon or a tyrannosaur, for all you know. They never announce themselves.
The good wood clanks when you drop it on the splitting stump. It sounds ceramic. You know it'll split along the medullary rays in one quick stroke, a few stringy tendrils left to cleave the splits together until they tumble to the hard packed dirt and wait for the stack, the gentle arc of the bark side always up to shed the water that sneaks under the pile cover.
The raptor goes overhead. In the winter the sun is too low in the southern sky to put you noticeably in their shadow. The first you know of them is the shriek they emit, cruising way over the tall pines. No fish today. Something soft and furry that the cat missed.
Come out here at night, with the chilly stars pricked in the slate firmament, the wind abated. Come out to the edge of the forest and fen to the woodpile. That edge has moved with the sunset, and you realize the new edge of the wild was the doorknob. You're in it now, not at the margin of it.
You can stand there a quiet minute, and all the sound is gone but the blood in your veins. The air is redolent of woodsmoke already, but something else, too. You're just another beast, without claw or tooth to speak of, and you're among them. You're not afraid; you're attuned to the place your kind once kept in the order of things. You turn back to the path you crushed in the frosted dormant turf, and know the stuff of the cave.