Category Archives: Life

Preparing to visit the moon’s shadow in the mountains

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According to Being in the Shadow, 39% of the people in the United States live within 300 miles of the eclipse. We’re well within that distance of scaring ourselves by the fast-moving moon shadow racing across the sunny (hopefully) sky, so we’re going. Our trip to the North Carolina mountain rental cabin where eight of us will meet is only 188 miles,–according to MapQuest, that’s three and a half hours on the road.

Artist’s conception of an eclipse.

We’re arriving at the cabin several days in advance because if all Americans within 300 miles decide to travel to a great viewing location, that’s 127 million people on the road. So far, we’ve seen estimates for north Georgia of about 60,000 extra cars on the road.

This is the post-eclipse estimate of people streaming back toward Atlanta minutes after the totality period is over. I-85 backs up every Thanksgiving, so–even if we still lived in an Atlanta suburb–we’d travel on a different day. That’s the good thing about being officially retired and working at home: we don’t have to rush back to work.

Initially, my attitude about driving so see the eclipse was kind of “ho hum.” I maintained that I saw eclipse conditions every night after it got dark. Nobody else in the family bought this. We have the shortest drive. Four people are coming from Maryland and two are coming from central Florida. It will be fun getting together in a cabin where we have plenty of room. Of course, as soon as we get there, we’ll check out how much sky is visible from the cabin’s deck.

We’re getting ready to go. We have our approved eclipse glasses (the cops say don’t wear them while driving). The car has new tires and a recent oil change. We have somebody coming by the house here in NW Georgia to check on our cats. We have extra wine.  We have dinner reservations on eclipse day, compliments of my wife’s tireless planning efforts. And we have a nice list of places to go and things to see while the eclipse isn’t happening–depending on traffic. As for pictures, I’ll post some if I can capture anything that looks exciting other than the black rectangle.

What are your plans? If you don’t live along the eclipse track, are you giving there?

Malcolm

 

Mayonnaise Users Are At Fault

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Today’s politics is a highly polarized mess. People on both sides of the political aisle have been asking how this happened, why there’s not more love in the world, and why people would rather spout weird beliefs rather than seek compromise.

The short answer is: mayo, which, as you can see (unless you’re a user) is a four-letter word.

The United States is composed of several kinds of people:

  • Good people: We use mustard and possibly ketchup (but not catsup) on our hamburgers.
  • People on the wrong side of the tracks: They use mayo on their burgers and probably break into grocery stores in the middle of night when they run out of it.
  • Special Sauce Scum: They use thousand island dressing mixed with God knows what else on their burgers.

True Americans know what belongs on a hamburger. Americans who are supporting the wrong political candidates and putting the country in peril are people from the Mayo and Special Sauce camps.

Some of us add stuff to our burgers, but we don’t force our beliefs on others. I like bleu cheese (the scum spell that as “blue cheese”) and a dab or horseradish on my burgers. Some years ago, I accidentally got addicted to guacamole sauce  on burgers, but I have been clean for over twenty years.

I never force my habits on others, much less go to Congress or the Supreme Court to get my likes and dislikes codified one way or another into the national psyche. But I draw the line a mayonnaise.  Why the hell (pardon my French) would anyone want to spoil an all-American hamburger with (as Wikipedia defines it) “a stable emulsion of oil, egg yolk, and either vinegar or lemon juice”?

As a survivor of the cold war, my first thought is “Commies.” But the conspiracy is wider than that. Have you noticed? A lot of so-called “regular people” are slathering mayo on their burgers–and just about everything else. Yes, it works in chicken salad and tuna salad, but that’s about it.

If you’re a mayo user–or even a thousand island dressing user–please stop for the good of the country.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “En Route to the Diddy-Wah-Diddy Landfill While the Dogwoods Were in Bloom,” a new e-book short story available on Kindle, iTunes, Kobo and Nook.

 

 

Happy Independence Day

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“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” – Ronald Reagan

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” – James Madison

“It does not take a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” – Samuel Adams

“Independence is a heady draught, and if you drink it in your youth, it can have the same effect on the brain as young wine does. It does not matter that its taste is not always appealing. It is addictive and with each drink you want more.” – Maya Angelou

“The independence of the United States is not only more precious to ourselves but to the world than any single possession.” Henry Cabot Lodge

“The Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the constitutions of the several states, and the organic laws of the territories all alike propose to protect the people in the exercise of their God-given rights. Not one of them pretends to bestow rights.”  – Susan B. Anthony

Have a free July 4th.

–Malcolm

Memorial Day Excerpt from ‘At Sea’

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Excerpt from At Sea

Jayee’s Lists (The Poor Sons of Bitches who Died) lay faded in a low kitchen drawer beneath batteries, broken pencils, expired dog food coupons, forgotten pink birthday candles, gum erasers, and other unsorted miscellany.

Superimposed over the small battlefield of the ranch where lambs and eagles met largely unrecorded deaths on a rangeland framed by fences and box elders and cottonwoods and a narrow creek carrying water off the backbone of the earth in years of drought and years of flood, the old man recorded soldiers’ names and souls.

He read the news from Vietnam with morning coffee and evening spirits, and with a fine surveyor’s hand, he tallied the bare bones of body counts between narrowed-ruled lines in light-weight Bluehorse notebooks intended for the wisdom of school.

After dinner he walked his dessert out through the bluebunch wheat grass and settling sheep to his ancient Studebaker pickup truck. He carried a sharp yellow pencil and a pack of Chesterfields, tools for doing his sums, “calculating Montana” in a cloud of cigarette smoke from “vintage tobaccos grown mild, aged mild, blended mild.”

On the first page of the first book he wrote, “Here are the poor sons of bitches who died.” On the last page of the last book, he wrote, “The dead, dying and wounded came home frayed, faded, scuffed, stained, or broken.”

On the pages in between, he wrote the name of each Montana soldier who was killed or missing in recorded battles far away. Sipping bourbon, smoking like a lotus in a sea of fire, he ordered, numbered, and divided the names by service branch, by casualty year, by meaningful cross references, by statistically significant tables, by the moon’s phases and sun’s seasons, by the cycles of sheep.

Jayee remarked from year to year that the notebooks grew no heavier with use. He saw fit to include the names of the towns where the dead once lived, fathered children and bought cigarettes. These names he learnt were also lighter than the smoke.

The current of his words between the pale blue lines of each thing page arose in fat, upper case letters that scraped the edges of their narrow channels. They began as a mere trickle from 1961 to 1964 that grew in volume in 1965 before the first spring thaw, to become a cold deluge that crested in 1968, wreaking havoc across the frail floodplain of pastures and pages, carrying the dark angry names scrawled with blunting pencil, and broken letters, through irregular grey smudges, over erasures that undercut the page deep enough and wide enough to rip away the heart from multiple entries. There was little respite in 1969. After that the deaths receded and most of the physical blood dried up by 1973.

The pages were dog eared, marked with paperclips already turning to rust, and fading to pale dust behind the list of towns: RICHEY, WHITEFISH, HELENA, CHOTEAU, BOZEMAN, BUTTE, KALISPELL, THOMPSON FALLS, THREE FORKS, STEVENSVILLE, TROUT CREEK, BILLINGS, CHOTEAU HINSDALE, GREAT FALLS, HARDIN, SACO, SIDNEY, HAVRE, HELENA, GREAT FALLS, HELENA, BOZEMAN, BUTTE, DODSON, HELENA, ARLEE, REEDPOINT, HAVRE, BIG SANDY, MISSOULA, BILLINGS, WHITLASH, ROUNDUP, ROUNDUP, ST. IGNATIUS, HARLEM, BUTTE, BUTTE, WIBAUX, STEVENSVILLE, ABSAROKEE, LIBBY, WHITEFISH, GREAT FALLS, MISSOULA, HELENA, LIVINGSTON, CONRAD, GREAT FALLS, EUREKA, GREAT FALLS, HARDIN, HELENA, JOLIET, BUTTE, MISSOULA, BROCKTON, MISSOULA, LEWISTOWN,  LAME DEER, SCOBEY,  ROSEBUD, GLASGOW, BILLINGS, ANACONDA, FT. BENTON, MISSOULA, KALISPELL, GREAT FALLS, HARDIN, ST. IGNATIUS, DODSON, MISSOULA, SHELBY, MILES CITY, CUSTER, GLASGOW, LEWISTOWN, BILLINGS, BELT,  LARSLAN, MILES CITY, BUTTE, BUSBY, MISSOULA, MELROSE, BILLINGS, LIBBY, BILLINGS, BAINVILLE, HATHAWAY, BOZEMAN, BILLINGS, BILLINGS, BUTTE, MCALLISTER, WIBAUX, BROWNING, MISSOULA, THOMPSON FALLS, THOMPSON FALLS, LOGAN, AVON, MISSOULA, ST. IGNATIUS, KALISPELL, BILLINGS, ROSEBUD, DENTON, CHARLO, ST. XAVIER, HARLOWTON, SANDERS, LEWISTOWN, LIVINGSTON, MISSOULA, LIBBY, BUTTE, BILLINGS, SUNBURST, TROY, BUTTE, CHINOOK, JORDAN, DODSON, GREAT FALLS, LIBBY, HELENA, BUTTE, ROSS FORK, GREAT FALLS, INTAKE, BUTTE, BUTTE, GREAT FALLS, LIVINGSTON, BILLINGS, REDSTONE, MISSOULA, BILLINGS, MCLEOD, FORSYTH, BILLINGS, HELENA, BILLINGS, MISSOULA, BOZEMAN, BUTTE, MALTA, KALISPELL,  ANACONDA, GREAT FALLS, ST. IGNATIUS, INVERNESS, RONAN,  MISSOULA,  SCOBEY, ANTELOPE, BUTTE, MISSOULA, FORSYTH, BILLINGS, BUTTE,  BILLINGS, GREAT FALLS, DODSON, HELENA, GREAT FALLS, LAUREL, BUTTE, CUT BANK, WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, DEER LODGE, BUTTE,  HAMILTON, MILES CITY, KALISPELL, VALIER, SHELBY,  KILA, CHOTEAU, GREAT FALLS, MILES CITY, HAMILTON, GREAT FALLS, HAVRE,  LAME DEER, GREAT FALLS, TROUT CREEK, POLSON, PABLO, HELENA, BIG TIMBER, LAUREL, BILLINGS, GREAT FALLS, GREAT FALLS, BUTTE, MISSOULA, ANACONDA, GREAT FALLS, MISSOULA, BOZEMAN, GREAT  FALLS, GLEN, GREAT FALLS, ST. IGNATIUS, FROMBERG, MISSOULA, KALISPELL, CORAM, KALISPELL, BILLINGS, HAVRE, GREAT FALLS, COFFEE CREEK, LIBBY, FT. PECK, BOZEMAN, FORSYTH, POLSON, MISSOULA, WOLF POINT, KALISPELL, BUTTE, FAIRVIEW, MISSOULA, MILES CITY, ANACONDA, GREAT FALLS, BILLINGS, WIBAUX, BILLINGS, CUT BANK, TERRY, ANACONDA, BUTTE, MISSOULA, FLORENCE, HAVRE, SUNBURST, EUREKA, BILLINGS, THOMPSON FALLS, RONAN, WOLF POINT, FLAXVILLE, GREAT FALLS, HELENA, KALISPELL, MISSOULA, ANACONDA, ALDER, VALIER, TROY, RICHEY, LINCOLN, CHOTEAU, BUTTE, MISSOULA, BILLINGS, CLYDE PARK, MISSOULA, MISSOULA, HAVRE, and TROY.

Jayee’s tallies added up like this:

USA  – 169

USAF – 16

USMC – 59

USN  – 23

TOT  – 267

 

The old man made 267 trips around Montana between 1961 and 1972 that no surveying jobs could account for. He said little to the family about it and they didn’t often ask.

During Jayee’s second trip to Havre in 1966, Mavis, a waitress at the Beanery, noticed a stack of 44-inch white crosses sticking out from beneath a tarp in his truck.  On each cross there was a name. When she suggested that Jayee was stealing them from roadside accident scenes, he said he made them per spec to repay old debts.

Mavis asked Katoya if Jayee was all right and Katoya said “right enough.” He returned to the restaurant multiple times to prove he was right enough and was sitting there on August 31, 1967 when the 77-year-old Great Northern restaurant served its last bowl of Irish stew and closed its doors for good. When the building was torn down the following February, he pounded “an extra cross” into the rubble where the counter once stood and said it was the best he could do.

Months passed and additional stories surfaced about an old man crisscrossing the state searching for the families of the fallen, and of warm conversations lasting long into the dark hours. Jayee remained solitary and taciturn in the face of public or private praise or blame and traveled from town to town methodically, as though he was marking chaining stations along an endless open traverse.

After each individual’s name, he wrote XD (cross delivered), XR (cross refused), or CNF (could not find).

On October 18, 1974, Jayee died (surrounded by old relatives and the close perfume of vintage tobacco) with a freshly sharpened yellow pencil, with a half-smoked pack of Chesterfields, with lists and spirits close at hand, “waiting,” he always told those who asked about them.

Reverend Jones stood before the mourners in the small church and read the names of those who wished to remember and to be remembered, and one upon one, they created a great hymn that rose up over the banks of their consciousness and flowed down the rivers of their perception in a crowned deluge.

Copyright (c) 2010, 2016 by Malcolm R. Campbell

For Mother’s Day – One of Mother’s Recipes

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Green Rice

Kathryn Belle Campbell

Mother kept her recipes on 3X5 cards in metal boxes, one of which ended up with me. This is one of my favorites because it works so well as a comfort-food side dish for many things, including fried or baked chicken, pork chops, pork or beef ribs, and even cubed steak or fried fish. As her recipe card said, “this rice dish is unusual and very good.” (Note: the rice itself is not green.)

  1. Cook 1 cup of long grain rice according to the instructions on the package.
  2. To the cooked rice, add 1 cup milk, 1 egg, 1 cup grated sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese, 1/2 minced green pepper, 1/2 cup of minced parsley, and 1 half clove of garlic.
  3. Mix thoroughly and pour into a greased baking dish.
  4. Pour 1/2 cup of olive oil over the top.
  5. Bake for 1 hour in a moderate (350 degree) oven. Casserole top will be slightly browned.
  6. Serves 6-8.

Notes:

  • Neither of us likes green pepper and since the taste in the casserole is pervasive, we omit it.
  • Fresh parsley tastes a lot better than dried. (No offence to the McCormick Company.)
  • We use a lot less olive oil: you can get the taste of it with 1/4 a cup or even a little less.
  • We cheat with a little garlic powder. (Yes, I know, Chef Ramsey would be ticked off.)

When I was recovering from kidney surgery a year ago, my wife found that this food was gentle on my stomach and hit the spot when served alone. It warms up easily in the microwave.

–Malcolm

Renewal

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“There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Springtime and Easter bring thoughts of renewal as nature–and, perhaps, men–leave the often misunderstood darkness of Winter. That this brings many of us a reaffirmation of our spirituality, regardless of the name of our religion, cannot be doubted. Or, perhaps if can be doubted, but for many of us renewal is as natural as the seasons.

Symbols of renewal. Wikipedia Photo

Carl Jung, in his Red Book, referred to the spirit of the times as a force or set of forces that drew men into the temporal clutches of popular thinking. We often lose confidence in ourselves because the spirit of the times often seems so chaotic, fragile, focused on expedient ends, and sometimes predicts that one kind of doom or another is all the future holds.

It’s hard to ignore the spirit of the times because it’s our common currency. Yet, it sows doubt and can lead us to believe that renewal is something for another time eons into the future or am experience many steps or miles away from wherever we appear to be stuck at the moment.

The spirit of the depths, as Jung called it, appears as madness and insanity to those trying to live “properly” within the consensus spirit of the times. Yet that spirit contains all the great truths, everything that can be known about the cosmos and the Creator behind it and within it. We’re afraid of it and believe its truths are beyond us. So, we often speak of our spiritual journey as a lifetime or multi-lifetime trip. We look for destinations that “matter” and “steps that seem important” and experiences that seem to hold the keys to transformation. It’s vain to think otherwise, we believe, because the spirit of the times continues to lead us to believe that important goals take years to accomplish, and who are we to find the creator in a moment?

And yet, I cannot help but think that spiritual renewal–unlike the clock-like cycle of the seasons–has no timetable. Perhaps we rush hither and yon without grasping how we are changing and why we are going one place or another. While Springtime and Easter remind us of renewal, I rather think it’s always an eye blink away–whenever we’re ready. There’s no hurry: we’re ready when we’re ready, though it seems that we deny how close it may be by brainwashing ourselves to think it’s far away.

Like the “force” in Star Wars, it’s with us always. We’ll hear it better if we can tune out the loud and clamoring voices around us that tempt us to follow one fad or political party or spiritual journey of the moment.  That’s when we finally grasp that we’re already at the place where we’ve been going.

–Malcolm

Should I be writing about political issues?

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Arts, publishing and books websites are showing us a large number of links about writers and politics these days. Some writers are speaking out (from one side of the aisle or the other) at rallies, via letters to Senators and Representatives, and posts on Facebook profiles. Others are writing poems, entire poetry chapbooks, essays, book reviews, short stories and novels that reflect their concerns about a wide variety of political, economic and social issues that became part of the very polarized national debate during the Presidential campaign.

Somebody–I forget who–once said that all fiction and poetry is at one level or another political. Perhaps so. My contemporary fantasies can’t help but show sadness over a world that relies more on technology than spirituality. My two Florida conjure novels shine a light on the racism of the 1950s. Nonetheless, my primary intent with these novels was telling stories I was passionate about rather than creating “message novels.”

When I think about the folk songs of the 1960s–and a lot of the poetry and fiction as well–I remember them as being intensely political, about “the military industrial establishment,” segregation, poverty, and the Vietnam War. We seem to have come full circle back to writings of protest and resistance against conservative policies as well as writings suggesting that that previous liberal policies created a mess that needs to be cleaned up.

Of course I have opinions about the issues. One opinion of longstanding favors a better approach to the environment, conservation, protection of wild areas and natural resources, and more care about not polluting the environment. Since these views go all the way back to the days when I was in the Boy Scouts and first began to participate in conservation organizations such as the Wilderness Society and the National Parks and Conservation Association, I will keep writing about this–and referring to it in my stories.

While I respect writers and others who feel a need to speak out for or against the issues that now threaten to further divide this country into camps that refuse to work toward consensus, I’m not going to do it. For one thing, I have no credentials that give me any special insight into whether we should be doing ABC or XYZ.  For another thing, much of the debate in both the news media and the social media is being driven by biased or skewed news, sensationalism and other misleading information, and voters on both sides of the issue who approach discussion with a “my candidate right or wrong.” All of this divides us further and makes the truth harder to find.

So my “voice” is going to stay focused on environmental issues and in writing fiction even if the two things get stirred up together a little bit. None of the rants–even those I basically agree with–on Facebook and elsewhere are changing people’s minds. Why not? Because they’re skewed toward the far right or the far left rather than a more centrist approach where people can really discuss the issues sanely rather than throwing gasoline on the fire with dueling wisecracks and graphics.

I welcome those journalists and other writers who do their best to look past the hysteria and tell us the facts and/or to carefully analyze the practicality, ethics, and legality of the issues in their news stories, features, essays, poems, and fiction. Anything else is pretty much spitting into the wind.

–Malcolm