Dead and Dreaming

The news came on Thursday that my Great-Grandma had died.  I’d heard that she believed there wasn’t much time left to live, and it turns out she was right.

What a blessing it must be, to be so prepared to die.  If I thought I were going to die soon, the weight of everything I’d left undone would be crushing.  She was well into her 90’s, so maybe she felt there wasn’t much left to be done with her life.  Maybe it’s worse than I imagine- knowing that the great decisions of life all lay behind, rather than ahead.  It would be easy to lose one’s sense of purpose (which has nothing to do with age, it can happen to anyone).  Of course, it all depends on your perspective-  no matter how aged they become, some folks stay purpose-driven to their last day.

I find it interesting that so many people my age lose their sense of purpose.  After obtaining a diploma in whatever field was supposed to get you a good job, they can’t find work.  Maybe that’s why they so many of them get married- two people can give each other a sense of purpose, but I doubt the sustainability of such an arrangement.  There has to be more to a relationship than two rudderless people.

For my own part, I can’t articulate what my purpose is just yet.  There even be purposes; why limit myself to one thing?

In any case, my family has gotten just a bit smaller.  It’s difficult to grasp the loss of someone you haven’t seen for a long time- if I may make a blunt analogy, it’s like a tree losing a limb.  There’s only a dim awareness that something is different, and looking at the extant branches is proof that one is missing.

There was a death very close to my home this weekend, too.

A brother and sister were playing on an old conrete aquaduct a few hundred yards from my house.  I’d walked by the site several times; it’s on a small lane that is amazingly well-hidden within a developed city.  On Friday, the aquaduct collapsed, killed the sister and trapped the brother.  April and I were working in the yard when we heard the sirens go by, which is not at all uncommon since there’s a firestation about a half-mile from our house.  The sign that something was really wrong came roaring over the tops of the trees; a medical helicopter flew so close over our heads I could feel the force of the blades.

It touched down across the street in the schoolyard, as more police and firemen arrived.  I had no idea what had happened, but a crowd was gathering to watch the helicopter, and folks were exchanging rumors.  Evidently, there was a boy trapped somewhere.  A few minutes later, news helicopters appeared in the sky like giant locusts, and our neighbor was watching their live broadcast.  It was announced that a boy had been trapped beneath fallen concrete, and was being carefully extracted.

Awhile later, we watched the medical helicopter lift off, the boy safely inside.  After observing the relative calm with which they transported and attended the stretcher, I suspected the boy was safe.  Elated by a successful rescue, April and I decided to take a ride that evening, so we set off into the cool evening air for a trip around  the city.

On the way home, we noticed that there was still a news helicopter hovering over the site of the accident, about 2 hours after we’d seen the boy safely lifted away.  Totally non-plused, we rode by the aquaduct, which was still teeming with rescue and police officers.

At home, we checked the news for updates.  Evidently, the boy had sister who was with him during the collapse- she was already dead when the rescuers arrived.

What a horrible realization it was.  Earlier, we were happy that the boy was safely rescued, and assumed that disaster had been averted.  Now, we still feel shock.  We’d walked by the aquaduct so many times, never giving it a thought.  Similarly, there are always kids outside playing in our neighborhood.  This is the way the world ought to be.

The aquaduct has since been completely destroyed, the damage done to the family immeasurable, and a cloud of malaise hangs over our neighborhood.  It’s not possible to completely grasp a tragedy like this, but the effects are usually much more salient.

What concerns me most is that parents will be even more restrictive with their kids.  Accidents make us consider what we would do if we were the victim, and I’m certain many parents are full of chagrin thinking about what could happen to their children.

Not being parent, I have a limited understanding of their thoughts.  As a human, I will say this much: I think a worse fate than death is a life of constant protection and insulation.  In this case, the child was playing outdoors with her sibling, not watching TV, playing video games, snacking, or any of the myriad things kids are accused of doing too much.  These were two kids enjoying life.

Kitchexplosion, meet ReStore

With Kitchexplosion winding down, we find ourselves faced with a garage full of crap.  Leftover  boards, drywall, sinks, paint, rusty nails, it’s all crammed into the one-car wonder.  In an effort to assuage our collective conscience, Ape and I agreed it would be wrong to throw it all in the nearby dumpster; rather we would take it to the Habitat ReStore in St. Louis.

It’s a great place to take leftovers from construction/destruction.  After we dropped the kitchexplosion remains off, we browsed the warehouse for a few minutes.  I’m pretty sure you could have built 15 houses from all the stuff they had, but there wasn’t anything I needed….this time.

Anyway, take your old stuff there rather than the dumpster.  Maybe they should call it UnDumpster

Spring ist gesprungen

There’s been too much going on for me  to write these last few days.  Or maybe I’ve been to tired to do it.  Or both.

With that in mind, I’ll say that Spring has flung itself on central Illinois rather early this year.  The seventies are a magical temperature; one or two days of that warmth and little green sprouts appear everywhere.  In fact, this might be one of the only St. Patrick’s days I can remember where there was an abundance of clover on the ground.

In honor of the warm weather, I went for a hike in the woods, something I  enjoy immensely.  The pleasure of walking in the woods is hard to define: it’s not a feeling of solitude that fills me when I walk the narrow path between trees; on the contrary, it feels like I’m right at home.  The trees remind me of people, like I’m walking through a crowd.  Only these people aren’t doing anything; their only duty is to exist.  I think that’s what I like about them- if humans like me just tried existing for awhile, without appointments or distractions, without emotion, without thought, life might not feel so overwhelming.

So I tried it.

I tried to just exist in the woods- I didn’t talk, hum, sing, or create any other disturbance.  I also tried not thinking, but that turns out to be really difficult, since the act of willing yourself not to think takes a conscious effort.  Instead, I tried to only think about my surroundings, and forget about the past and future.  Emotion was out too, but that’s not as difficult to supress as thought.  Practiced meditators might be able to suspend thought and emotion, and verge on tree-like, but not me.

Instead, I tried to behave like an animal; not devoid of thought, but ignoring things that aren’t immenently affecting me.  For a couple of hours, I resigned from my responsibilities as homo-sapiens, master of the Earth.  It didn’t last, as you might have guessed, but it was interesting at the time.

Baby, it’s cold outside

Fortunately, I can still bask in the warm glow of the Interweb.  I like it when libraries make information available online; I love it when they do so in a format that regular people can understand.  Some librarians are completely unaware that using the library can be considered a customer experience; what’s more, most librarians eschew the word ‘customer’ when referring to users of the library.  To me, the only difference is that people have already paid for library services, whereas they have a choice of what to buy in a store.

I’ve noticed that library websites tend to resemble old Carnegie library buildings; many of them look a bit dated, there’s too much material in too little space, and it can be quite difficult to find what you want.  In defense of the Carnegie buildings, they possess a bookish atmosphere that can be very welcoming.  For websites, however, the effect is mostly negative.

The trouble seems to be that librarians want library websites to be created in their own bookish image-  organized by some long-dead system of classifying information, with one-click access to a dizzying array of bibliographic information, online databases, and other library bricabac.  Not easy to use at all, if you don’t have your Master’s degree in library science.

In fairness, there should be some continuity between the physical library and it’s website- that’s  natural.  But for library websites, the medium is the message.  It’s our way of staying relevant- and the time has already come that library users are expecting more than we are giving them.

Anyway, what all this was leading to is that I found a library website that impresses me- and right in my neck of the woods:

Best of all, it runs on wordpress, just like my blogola.  Is there anything that can’t be done with open-source software?

*If you guessed ‘open a Microsoft Publisher file’, then you’re right