This day.
The dawning of a new era of light, a new truth, the triumph of good, the defeat of death.
So many live each day with the small death of darkness within, anger, hatred, deceit.
Yet on this day, of all days, those who believe and celebrate the meaning,
have reason to look within and let the light banish the darkness.
One who spoke in parables and lived to set an example,
took the mote from his own eye, healed his enemy come to arrest him,
and counseled his disciple to set down the sword.

Seek then to live in the light of truth and cast no shadow of darkness.
Seek first to clean the evil from your own heart, speak truth to evil, and
extend the hand of peace to all who truly repent and ask your forgiveness.
There is a price to be paid for things done wrong. There is a price to be paid
for things done right. Death takes us all, and the judgment of God and the light
of our remembrance on earth will show what we have done.

Clair Button

Clair Button is a writer of of humor, fiction, and now and then, a serious piece. Nobody with any literary integrity would stoop to call anything he has written “poetry.”   On the other hand, he has written and published three fiction mystery novels which you might find entertaining.

Clair Button

When did you last think about building your “dream” house? Here are a few things to remember before considering the possibility of buying or building a new home.

 

Remember that building a new home is a good test of the stability of your marriage. If you really want to break up your marriage, this might be a good starting point, one step above having an affair with someone you really don’t like, who is not particularly good in bed either. But, it still requires some significant forethought to avoid major pitfalls, including joint debt, inability of your spouse to pay you alimony, and being stuck with a lemon house in a divorce settlement.

 

First, I will presume that you do not intend to enter into a commitment to build a new house with your spouse simply as a means to break your marriage contract. After all, there are so many other options to accomplish that purpose, nearly all less stressful, and some of which are much more rewarding in the short-term. Second, I will presume you have enough sense not to build a new house and make major financial commitments with someone you would rather divorce in the short term, thereby deriving significant financial rewards or savings. Third, I will offer some gender specific advice and instructions for how to survive the experience in good form, which means keeping your relationship intact (assuming you think it is worth keeping) and getting those things from the process that are truly important to you.

 

Guys: Since men have a genetically-determined deficiency in character and must at all times be in control, it is your responsibility to choose a house plan that meets all of your wife’s requirements.

Ladies: It is your responsibility to evaluate each home plan your husband suggests and clearly state, “NO, that will not do! It has to…” or “NO, that will not do! The kitchen (substitute any room or feature here) doesn’t….

 

Guys: It is your responsibility to learn how to design a home plan that meets all of your wife’s requirements. Computer and software experience is a huge plus. You will otherwise spend zillions of hours reviewing and several million dollars buying home plan books for no purpose at all.

Ladies: If you actually want to stay with your spouse, look at the plans he finds or draws and occasionally tell him, “Well, that (feature) looks good, but I also want….”

 

Guys: Depending on your personal lifestyle, insist on a suitable workshop (preferably detached so you can make noise), Man-Cave (in the basement), or garage storage space for your motorized toys.

Ladies: Allow your spouse at least one such room or facility if he stays within budget. Tell him to make a choice of which he prefers if necessary. (If you are already rich, this may not apply.)

 

Guys: Allow your spouse anything she want in terms of Kitchen, Bedroom, Bathrooms, Living Room, Guest Rooms, Closets, Dining Room, Sewing Room, Office, floor covering, furniture, window treatments, landscaping, gardening space, or any other damn thing she wants. Get used to saying, “Yes, Dear.” Remember you only have three basic requirements for life, a television, a Man Cave (or workshop or garage), and a separate old refrigerator in the garage, shop, or Man Cave to hold sufficient beer for a weekend for you and a friend. Yes, there are other worthwhile amenities, but Jesus proved you could go 40 days without food.

Ladies: Allow your spouse at least one room for himself (see above description of spouse personal lifestyle choices). Otherwise, be clear about features in the house you want.

 

Design Considerations: Since it is the Guy’s duty to choose the home design, here are 12 pertinent points you much consider:

1. If your wife is conscious of such things as ecology and energy efficiency, all windows must face south for solar gain. Exceptions are allowed when you paid extra for a “view lot” and must make all rooms have windows facing the mountains, lake, or whatever. Air-conditioning may become essential, and provision of some windows facing north or east to provide cross-ventilation can be a plus in rare circumstances.

 

2. The Kitchen sink must be against an exterior wall (preferably South wall or one facing mountain view), with a window over the sink, regardless of whether or not you have a dishwasher.

 

3. No feature of the house or landscaping may shade the Garden spot.

 

4. The garage door and driveway may only face north (think snow) if you, personally, are physically able to shovel the drive or run the snow-blower (exceptions for rich people with dependable servants, or if you married a woman of Russian peasant stock who enjoys shoveling snow). The same goes for the primary entrance to the house.

 

5. The garage must have a pedestrian door leading directly into a utility pantry/mud-room and from there into the kitchen for delivery of groceries. The garage may not block any wall from having a window view. (Think about that.)

 

6. Secondary bedrooms and bathrooms for children or guests must be in some “other” part of the house, well removed from the Master Bedroom. Your wife may be much more social than you are, but guests and children are noisy.

 

7. No room used by human beings may be close to noisy traffic, trains, or outdoor activity areas for children.

 

8. No room may be too cold, too hot, or too close to a noisy appliance.

 

9. Laundry appliances (which are usually noisy) are usually situated close to the Bedrooms or Kitchen. Don’t ask “Why?” or “What?!!”

 

10. “Open” floor plans are in vogue. At a minimum, the Kitchen, Dining Room, and Living Room must be combined in one open space. Interior walls that separate rooms demonstrate inferior planning. On the other hand, walls which separate the toilet from the Spa Tub demonstrate clever sensitivity.

 

11. No home design may contain more than 15 Square feet of “wasted” space, defined as hallway. No room may be too isolated by hallway. Exceptions are allowed if you have Children who require bedrooms.

 

12. At least half of the architect-designed plans in Home Plan Design books do not show where the water heater, or more especially, the loud heating/air conditioning unit fits within walls, closets, or (if you are lucky) basement space. You darn well better figure that out before you spend hundreds or thousands of bucks buying the plan. (See Item 8 above.)

 

I hope all this advice is helpful. I have spent many hours in contemplation of these things before developing the list. May you find your new home a dream, not a nightmare.

Dave Rama

If you’re old enough to drive, you’ve heard the message: “Lock your car. Take the keys”. We know that a person determined to steal your vehicle can do so, even if the car is locked and the keys are gone. Nevertheless, most of us do this common sense act of taking the keys, with the rationale: “Why should I make it easy to steal?” “No keys, no theft” doesn’t work every time, but typically, it works.

An assault weapon with a thirty round magazine has only one purpose, which is to kill large numbers of people rapidly. Why do we have legal assault weapons? If your justification is to ward off State or Federal cops or the military, you are clearly deluded. The world has never seen a military force as powerful as the Pentagon. Is the next step in the right to bear arms the right to own a submarine equipped with nuclear warheads, or privately owned F-22 fighters? Happily, neither of these ridiculous ideas is going to see the light of day.

A reason often put forth for legal assault weapons is that more weapons somehow brings about less killing. That makes no sense. Will banning assault weapons contribute to fewer tragedies like Aurora and Blacksburg and Newtown? Of course it will. Will it prevent all murders? No, but it makes it less of an option. It’s like taking the keys.

This nation has more privately owned firearms than any country in the world. The rate of homicide by guns in the United States is 32 times the rate of that statistic in Canada and Australia. I’m not interested in banning deer rifles and shotguns, but I find zero justification in having assault weapons available to anyone with the money.

For those who insist there are Americans who can use assault weapons safely, I ask you to visit Connecticut, sit down with the families of those dead teachers and children, and explain your fearful, illogical thinking. Those families have far greater perspective than you do in this matter.

 

Dave Rama

Dave Rama

I always chuckled at the line “You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince”. I don’t recall the source of the joke but it sounds like Phyllis Diller. The joke is funny enough that it might have come from Ellen DeGeneres, although she has indicated a certain lack of interest in princes, and frogs, too, for that matter. It was certainly a funnier joke for me before God blessed me with daughters.

Someone in the dim mists of history established a tradition that fathers are supposed to protect and defend the honor of their daughters. This puts a lot of pressure on fathers. I really can’t speak for all fathers of daughters, but my girls never expressed much, if any, desire to be defended or guarded by me.

In addition, you should remember that just because something is listed in the all-purpose book of guidelines for fathers does not require any father to follow that rule. It is not a commandment; it is more like a suggestion. In any case, I was really, really torn about that defending business. I never knew, and truly, I did not want to know, which frogs and toads were being favored by my daughters’ attentions at any given point in time.

My own experience with kissing was limited. When I was a boy, it seemed barely possible that I could be part of some list of frogs available for kissing. If so, I was apparently quite a long way down that list as there was never any conversation about kissing (or any other topic), with young women. If there was a lack of conversation about it, you can only imagine how little actual kissing took place. My only experience at puckering was the result of biting lemons.

There was an unofficial society in our town called the all-village smooching team (the AVST for short). There was only one rule for nomination: you were required to have two references, not to include aunts and grandmothers and older relatives like that. Smoocher nominees were then voted on by the smoochees. Alas, I remained buried on page seventy two of the available frog list.

And now, friends, I think you should know the daughters have survived their father’s neglect, and with a minimum of complaint. One is married and one is exploring her own list of toads and tadpoles so all is well on that front.

For myself, I have recovered from the trauma of youthful disappointments but I’m very happy that youth is a thing of the past. At this much more advanced stage of life, I now find great comfort and satisfaction in the time I spend licking my lips (flavored chapstick is one of the really great inventions).

Dave Rama

I fondly remember the fantasies of my school days. Not the school days or the lessons, just the fantasies I created to pass the time. One example involved rescuing a fair maiden from a dangerous situation. We would meet and talk to one another, and discover there was life outside of geography class. Smirk if you like, but these imaginary voyages got me through my last six years of public school, and two decades of college.

One issue that prevented my fantasies from becoming reality was my physique. I was a skinny child, and did not find skinniness to be cool. In many magazines of that era, you could find ads offering body-building equipment from Mr. Charles Atlas. If you could scrape up whatever the cost was, you could become a real muscle man and not get pushed around by the bullies on the beach. The spring-loaded mechanism invented by Mr. Atlas would help to raise a powerful muscle. I knew if I would work really hard for maybe an hour, my newly developed muscles would make me socially acceptable on the beach. Annette Funicello would fall for me right away. I was always able to ignore the fact that both the beach and Annette were about two thousand miles from the grade school. That was a mere detail, and could be dealt with sometime after I had acquired at least one bicep. Alas, neither the biceps nor the adoration of Annette came to pass.

My next strategy for developing a muscle somewhere on myself involved picking up hay bales with my uncles on my grandparent’s farm. This was not actually my idea, but it had the merit of earning a bit of money which I might then invest in the fabulous device invented by the powerful Mr. Atlas. This was during a time of rapid growth for me (In the summer of 1958, I grew from five feet ten inches to a height of six foot three; five inches of growth in three months is still a personal record). I did gain a bit of strength that summer, but the only visible bulges were my ribs. My Uncle Jim pointed out my physical deficiencies one day in his colorful Oklahoma way. “Boy”, he said, “you are so skinny that if you drank a bottle of strawberry soda pop, you’d look like a thermometer”. I laughed at the description, even as it wiped out an entire collection of fantasies.

Another year passed. I grew another inch to six feet, four inches, but my weight still hovered around one hundred fifty pounds. I was a rural white version of Bill Cosby’s friend, “Old Weird Harold”, so thin I couldn’t cast a shadow on the sunniest of days.

In that summer of 1959, I went to Canada on a Boy Scout canoe trip. My friend Joe and I were assigned to be a team for one canoe. I paddled the front and Joe ran the smart end of the canoe from the rear spot, steering the craft and keeping us on course. The trip involved paddling around a group of lakes and camping out at night. At least once a day and sometimes more, we would portage with our gear and canoes across a strip of land and then reload and launch into another lake to wherever we would camp. On one of the first days of our expedition, our canoe was carrying the food pack for the troop. Due to the fact that we had the food pack before much food had been eaten, it was still quite heavy. On one particular portage, Joe was to take the canoe overland, and I would hoist the food pack on my back and tote it to the next lake. I set the pack upright on the beach and got my right arm through the strap on the pack. The next step was to insert the left arm into the other strap and I did that part correctly as well. From this position all that needed to be done was to stand upright, shift the pack to a comfortable position in the area of my shoulder blades and move my load and myself off across the portage.

Have you ever seen a kid jerked onto his back by an eighty pound pack? The transition from almost vertical to completely horizontal happens very quickly. So, there I was, on my back, looking straight up into a blue Canadian sky speckled with fluffy white clouds, locked into a position very like a turtle on its back. There was no escaping my situation and I could not roll over to get to a standing position. Having come to the conclusion that I needed assistance, I called on the only Boy Scout in what might have been several hundred miles, my fearless navigator. Joe had not left with the canoe. He was standing nearby, and he was in a helpless situation himself, quite incapacitated with laughter at my plight. My yelling at him served only to convulse him further. After several very long minutes of uncontrolled glee at my problem, Joe recovered enough to provide the help which got me to a better position and we eventually completed the portage.

Even though I played a key role in providing Joe with the most entertaining highlight of this scouting outing, I didn’t get to see this event. Now, when I see Joe, and he starts to get a familiar grin on his face, I know he is thinking about the time he saved my life in the Canadian wilderness. He tells me that now when he sees an inverted sand turtle, he always helps it get righted; and then he laughs.

Linda BergeronBy Linda Bergeron

I came out from the restaurant where I’d been watching from the window for his plane’s take-off, but I knew it was early yet. The shoulder bag and map I’d carried in with me were put back into the car, and I walked the parking lot a bit, stretching before the task of more driving. My son had driven us here to the big city airport; we left home in the darkness of the 1 a.m. hour. After the three hour drive, he took the exit and the turn to the terminal, and parked at the very end of the line of cars to unload his things.

 

He double-checked that he had everything, with boarding passes for the upcoming flights right inside his jacket pocket. We hugged and detached. He was walking away, I was standing at the open driver’s door, and I yelled, “Say Hi to Jubal and Kate ..,” and he did a deep quick nod, already stepping away from now and embarking toward the summer job.

 

I still had the drive home alone, but I had planned a detour – thinking since I was already this far from home, and eager to see another view of the Snake River, I would travel through a string of small towns, starting with the one that shared another son’s name.

 

But I continued to check the overcast sky from my stance in the parking lot, and it was still not quite take-off time. I used the restaurant restroom, then returned to see in the sky the disappearing body and tail of a small plane – the size he exactly predicted for the first short jaunt from Boise to Salt Lake City. Off he goes.

 

I easily imagined being seated inside, vividly recalling those first tremendous moments of lift-off, and one’s tendency to pray the words, up, up, keep going up. Just then a pair of doves lifted from a bush around me into the air. I smiled to myself and moved toward the car, seeing also a hustling pair of Canadian geese flapping in eagerness, together, up, forward and away.

 

I drove from the airport roadway, onto the westbound freeway, and saw yet more had I not yet gotten the message of freedom and flight – an entire flock of geese in a long wing-strutting line, sky creatures challenging gravity’s intent with their own strong muscles and forward-sight.

 

Further through the morning – as I got a little lost with a police car tailing me, then re-oriented and heading aright, following the signs, measuring the miles ahead to a town against the odometer’s own measure – I saw more:

 

* A lone duck on the east side of a bridge over the muddied gentle Owyhee River, and another lone duck on the west side too, but he took off flying;

 

* A dark bodied bird circling above the cottonwoods and willows who moved faster than my camera click, and even circled once again, but I missed that too;

 

* A wide flat valley of a few small towns and many family ranches with fields of foot-high onion stems, dark green against pale dirt, everywhere canals and ditches and the sandy soil, and walls and house foundations all of the same kind of stone, and darting sandpipers to talk about the morning;

 

* And in the western distance – which I moved to fit into the camera view – were cliffs and brutal, stony hills – each alone but connected, feeling like they were full of story, and I was opening up to the great history of this old place – of first farmers, of the people before farmers, all the way back, to the creation of the hills.

 

Hours later, nearing home, in the last mile that embraced the reservoir before the road pulled up and turned hard, were two does – the one I had slowed down and pulled to the side of the road for, checking for no cars in the side mirror, reaching for the camera as in a quiet flow of hand, then spotting the other doe already halfway up the steep and rocky hill where they both paused and looked back at me, gauged their terrain, and I took the silent shot.

 

I had told him today was the new moon, that the new is considered precipitous for a beginning, and we both stumbled over whether that was the right word but our communication was correct. I said too it was the 20th of May, the day my mother died in 1960 when I was 12-and-a-week.

 

‘Twelve-and-a-week,’ he repeated, unconsciously filling his response with time. Although I’d surely shared this fact before in the litany of my self to my child – to all my children – I felt him comprehending this completely today, and thought I saw how he lay what the words added up to against his own experiences of life.

 

Clair ButtonSpring has sprung
a leak in my brain
voids “duties” and makes “should”
a debate between
trimming shrubs and meetings

dirty fingers, holes in gloves
stubborn roots
and aching back
rows of plants in pots

I can still swing an axe
if not remember appointments
I found some wine

and warm sun to calm
the aches of conscience

Hope you did OK without me.

Clair ButtonDear God,

I sure wish you would make me a whole lot smarter, or at least a bit more certain that my self-righteous opinions were absolutely correct. I’d like to be more like my friends who send me emails every day. They sure know what they are talking about, even if the greater half of their facts are really just opinions.

The problem is that a lot of my friends are starting to sound just as willing to impose their beliefs on the rest of America as the radical Muslims they despise and fear so much. They do seem to be a bit more fearful than I am that somebody is already forcing them to follow Sharia law or have sex with another gay man. Whoops, I mean a gay man. Not another one.

Personally, I would not want to watch the kind of porno flicks my friends watched when we were in the army together forty-some years ago. What little I saw when I took my mind off of getting drunk back then looked pretty gross, so I am sure I would not want to watch any modern, politically-correct porno flicks. I sure hope nobody really forces my friends or their children to watch them.

Now the most recent thing they seem to be concerned about is being forced to give up their religion and pay for someone else’s insurance plan to cover contraceptive prescriptions. I presume that means women. Me, I kind of get disgusted thinking about how most of those guys are asking for the insurance company to cover the cost of Viagra. Most of them are just plain too old, fat, and ugly to get any anyway. (Any you know what, not the medicine.) The Viagra seems like a waste to me.

Speaking of fat, I am really disgusted that these butt-heads have fallen to the sin of gluttony all their lives, not to speak of consumption of vile spirits that pollutes their minds and corrodes their livers and stomachs. We will not speak of delusions of sexual potency or attractiveness.

Given my own beliefs in following your word, God, I do not feel it right that people like me must help pay for their quadruple bypasses, liver transplants, and heart transplants for those who smoke. They have failed to follow your advice and corrupted the temple of their bodies. Let them die. Screw them. Oh! Wait a minute. No, that might be what they want. Don’t screw them. Just make them pay for their own damned heart operation. Serve them right for screwing around if you know what I mean.

You see, it is getting a lot more complicated to be an old, white, male Pee-rublican. It used to be all about money and responsibility. Today, it is all about who is screwing around and doing bad things I disapprove of.   Please do not look too closely at my own habits, just give me a shot of holy certainty.

Thanks. Your humble servant,

Me.

Dave RamaI’m telling you, if it ain’t one thing, it’s eight others.  The latest is this bit about the “sky is falling”, just like Chicken Little predicted.  Bus size chunks of space junk are about to start coming home to roost, so to speak.  Keep an eye on the sky.

The space engineers and mathematical whizzes that fired that junk into the cosmos have no idea where this trash will plunk into the planet.  You may know that 2/3 of the Earth’s surface is water.  If the junk splashes in the Pacific, will that be the trigger for the tsunami/earthquake/ volcanic eruption that wipes out Seattle and Tacoma?  If so, would that event be a natural disaster, or a man-made one?

Can you guess where the buses will land, and try to hide?  Is there time to build a shelter and stock it with cigarettes and beer and prescription drugs?  How do you dodge a falling bus?  Maybe you fake right and go left, like the Republicans.  Is there a siren to signal us of the upcoming crash?  Can we sue the government for failing to protect us from objects falling from the sky?
Can we tell whether this is actually our own garbage coming out of the sky, or is it actually the long-awaited attack by the little green men of far away galaxies?

There are so very many unanswered questions.  The only people who truly know the answers are those who find every big event to be a conspiracy.  The conspiracy experts have the inside scoop on every happening.  There are people in Roswell, New Mexico who have known this event was imminent for decades.  Those Roswellians are first cousins to the fundamentalist minister who predicted the end of the earth (he called it the rapture) for May of this year and then discovered in June that his calculations may have contained an error.  Is this his prediction coming true?  It could be.  It is possible, so it seems prudent (and thrifty!) for us to hold off on any early Christmas shopping expeditions.

If you don’t hear from me again, please consider this my attempt at a heads up.

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!!
Dave Rama

Linda BergeronBy Linda Bergeron

It is the cool of the evening in the first week of July. It was nearly 90 degrees in the late afternoon, but now, at an eight o’clock dusk, with the brightness of the sun having long descended westerly over the ridge, the cool greens of the varied tree leaves, the bushes, and the watered lengths of grass create a softening in the quiet.

Where are the evening birds? The drops from the upward cascade of the sprinkler in the strawberry bed also dowse the nearby maple, its bottom leaves bobbing under every hit, while the plaza of a thousand blades of grass are silently drenched. Each small activity is noticeable in the great pause of day’s decline. A single wingéd thing darts through the yard’s low cathedral and is quickly gone.

The moment feels like a whole trail of seasons in a single day. While the slow hours of a distant winter, in memory, would have dragged its long gray drape – occasionally freshened in whiteness – and dulled by the constant cold – here, in summer, a day evolves through many incredible changes.

Long before dawn, when the first solitary bird sounded a meek minor key announcement shyly, and the un-darkness began in the northeast casting change upon the highest places, day moved in. It will be a slow April-almost-May series of moments in these early hours as the sun sends brushstrokes of light to touch further and further down toward the bottom of the hillsides, bringing brightness, cow calls, the slow waking day sounds. Had one looked at the mountains earlier there may have been that glow of pink upon the last snow tops when the un-awakened valley was still in old night’s shadow.

Remnants of spring stand as spent bloomed irises, their now-shabby tops upon still-strong stems; as the decadent poppy leaves, bleached and fallen over; as violet leaves (once the first tiny green when still there was snow), but now like enlarged green hearts thrilled with the early summer moments. Potato plants in rows are vibrant and thirsty; cucurbits are gaining in health, vigor, and size by the hour. The peas are crowding themselves and pendulous, all of white blossoms gone, tendrils reaching, in silence asking, ‘Where’s the string? Oh, I’ll grab hold of you! Upward we go!’ They dangle their pods so they won’t be forgotten, for their peak moments are so very near.

The basil impossibly gets greener in their scant gloss, its leaf edges curling slightly down from their rims so they can thrust their surfaces ever more so toward the sun. The tomatoes are surely deciding this very day if they can proceed upward and bush out now, or if they cannot possibly recover from that earlier weakness, and will look sad or hang low, unexcited by the season….

It is only mid-morning and dawn was such a long time ago. When the dew is fully surrendered away to the burden of the heated and breathtaking air, and the sky is the bluest blue, and the sun shines down upon it all like a great blessing of life, it is without doubt a summer day.

The heat builds up in the great surround of the valley, lying still to the utmost in some places, shimmering in others. Were we idle enough, we could patiently watch to see the grass blades heighten, or measure the amazing rapid changes in the corn.

It takes nearly a full summer of light for the day to go on toward its end, to the banter of the birds as the radiant light begins to fall from its angle, dwindling ever so slowly into little shadows in the other direction, inching up then dissolving to non-existence.

There is a quiet, and a change of activity. It has been like an evolution of seasons in but 15 hours, as darkness moves closer in, and the cool returns. Indeed, a summer day.

Originally published in Hells Canyon Journal, July 27, 2011