Thursday, January 31, 2019

January 31: Last Orders, Coldageddon, Flaming Rum Punch

So, Ford has finally convinced some of the people in the pub that the world will soon be coming to an end in a couple of minutes . . .

The man sitting next to Ford was a bit sozzled by now.  His eyes weaved their way up to Ford.

"I thought," he said, "that if the world was going to end we were meant to lied down or put a paper bag over our head or something."

"If you like, yes," said Ford.

"That's what they told us in the army," said the man, and his eyes began the long trek back toward his whiskey.

"Will that help?" asked the barman.

"No," said Ford, and gave him a friendly smile.  "Excuse me," he said.  "I've got to go."  With a wave, he left.

The pub was silent for a moment longer and then, embarrassingly enough, the man with the raucous laugh did it again.  The girl he had dragged along to the pub with him had grown to loathe him dearly over the last hour, and it would probably have been a great satisfaction to her to know that in a minute and a half or so he would suddenly evaporate into a whiff of hydrogen, ozone and carbon monoxide.  However, when the moment came she would be too busy evaporating herself to notice it.

The barman cleared his throat.  He heard himself say, "Last orders, please."

It has been a long week of Armageddon.  Actually, it was more like Coldageddon.  This morning was the coldest of the week.  Negative twenty-one degrees by my car thermometer, and that doesn't even take into account the wind chills.  With the wind chill, it was around -45 degrees.  It was enough for me to want to drive to a pub and order a round of drinks.  Warm ones.  As Clarence Odbody, the angel from It's a Wonderful Life says, "Flaming rum punch!"

I spent a good portion of my day putting the finishing touches on my annual evaluation narrative for the English Department where I teach.  It's one of those rituals required by union contract.  A hoop to jump through.  However, I can never just half-ass something.  I gathered data, highlighted student papers, updated my curriculum vitae, and did some serious self-reflection.  At 6:30 p.m., I e-mailed the finished product to the department secretary.  BOOM!  Done!

And now, I can relax a little.  Read some.  Make myself that flaming rum punch (or its Bailey's Irish Cream equivalent).  Kick back.  Start thinking about the next big project I have to complete.  I don't know what it will be, but I'm sure that it will present itself in the next day or so.  My guess is that it will be my plans for a poetry workshop that I'm running next Thursday.

In the mean time, the Polar Vortex is moving off, and the temperatures are going to be rising.  We are supposed to hit a balmy 38 degrees by Sunday.  That's about a 60-degree shift from this morning.  I'm sure it's going to feel like summer.  I think there's even a prediction of some rain.

For tonight, however, it's warm socks, a hoodie, and spiked hot chocolate for Saint Marty.

Vote for Marty Achatz for 2019/2020 Poet Laureate of the U. P.

January 31: Ekphrasis, "Vase with Irises, 1890," Vote

A little poem tonight.  An exercise in ekphrasis.  It's inspired by the van Gogh painting "Vase with Irises, 1890."

I once went to a van Gogh exhibit at the Met in New York City.  I can't remember if "Vase with Irises" was one of the paintings hanging on the wall.  I like to think it was, and that's the reason I'm drawn to it.

Saint Marty is thinking of flowers and sun and spring after a week of Antarctica.

Vase with Irises, 1890

by:  Martin Achatz

The blossoms, a swarm
of wrecked hummingbirds, blue,
crumpled, try to escape
the gold fist of the vase.
The static of wings beats
the saffron sunlight to a froth.
Needle beaks stab and stab
the fronds curving away like green fire.

How long did this arrangement last?
How long did the universe spin
above this hungry star?  Imagine
van Gogh trying to contain
this unruly host, already rebelling,
questioning the power of brush and pain.
Imagine his white hot mind
holding the scene together,
flinging these blue angels, one-by-one,
into the eternity of his canvas.

Vote for Marty Achatz for 2019/2020 Poet Laureate of the U. P.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

January 30: The World's Going to End, Armageddon, Dumbledore

The huge yellow machines are still advancing to destroy the Earth.  Ford Prefect is still drinking beer in the pub.  And Arthur Dent is freaking out because bulldozers have just demolished his house . . .

"Stop, you vandals!  You home wreckers!" bawled Arthur.  "You half-crazed Visigoths, stop, will you!"

Ford would have to go after him.  Turning quickly to the barman he asked for four packets of peanuts.

"There you are, sir," said the barman, slapping the packets on the bar, "twenty-eight pence if you'd be so kind."

Ford was very kind--he gave the barman another five-pound note and told him to keep the change.  The barman looked at it and then looked at Ford.  He suddenly shivered:  he experienced a momentary sensation that he didn't understand because no one on Earth had ever experienced it before.  In moments of great stress, every life form that exists gives out a tiny subliminal signal.  This signal simply communicates an exact and almost pathetic sense of how far that being is from the place of his birth.  On Earth it is never possible to be farther than sixteen thousand miles from your birthplace, which really isn't very far, so such signals are too minute to be noticed.  Ford Prefect was at this moment under great stress, and he was born six hundred light-years away in the near vicinity of Betelgeuse.  

The barman reeled for a moment, hit by a shocking incomprehensible sense of distance.  He didn't know what it meant, but he looked at Ford Prefect with a new sense of respect, almost awe.

"Are you serious, sir?" he said in a small whisper which had the effect of silencing the pub.  "You think the world's going to end?"

"Yes," said Ford.

"But, this afternoon."

Ford had recovered himself.  He was at his flippest.

"Yes," he said gaily," in less than two minutes I would estimate."

The barman couldn't believe this conversation he was having, but he couldn't believe the sensation he had just had either.

"Isn't there anything we can do about it then?" he said.

"No, nothing," said Ford, stuffing the peanuts into his picket.

Someone in the hushed bar suddenly laughed raucously at how stupid everyone had become.  

It is sort of like Armageddon outside right now.  Like my little part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is being wiped out by spaceships from the ice planet Hoth (that's for all the Star Wars geeks reading this post).  All the schools are closed.  The U. S. Post Office didn't deliver mail.  The governor declared a state of emergency for the ENTIRE state.  I didn't have to teach today, so now I'm blogging.  Then, it's on to my annual evaluation narrative for the English Department.  That will take me right up to bedtime, I'd bet, with a side trip for dinner.

Tomorrow is supposed to get better in the afternoon.  Tonight, however, is supposed to have -45 degree wind chills.  That's colder than last night.  Schools have already started to announce closures for tomorrow.  My kids have not started thinking about another day off.  Yet.  I'm sure that will start at around 7:00 or 7:30 this evening.

Of course, the excitement of snow days is different for them than it was for me.  When I was their ages, I would have to get up in the morning, turn on the radio, and wait for the announcer to go through the entire list of school closings, praying, hoping, despairing, then celebrating when I heard the name of my school.  When I was younger, it was my mom coming into the bedroom in the morning, saying, "No school today," like Professor Dumbledore waving his wand and changing me into a unicorn.

These days, the news is delivered directly to their cell phones.  Or on Facebook.  My daughter knew school was cancelled last night before I did, thereby stealing one of the pleasures of being a parent:  delivering the news of a snow day to your child and seeing the pleasure spread across his/her face like a ray of sunshine.  Another thing that technology has ruined.

My goal this evening is to be first.  To make my kids' night by telling them that they can sleep in tomorrow (not that my son will sleep in--he was up at 6:45 this morning).  To beat Facebook and Google and Apple.

Saint Marty wants to be Dumbledore.  Or at least Dobby the house elf:  "Master has a snow day tomorrow!"  (Apologies to non-Harry Potter fans.)

ADDENDUM:  School is cancelled.  My daughter just texted me with the news.  For those keeping score:  Technology 1-Daddy 0.

January 30: Wind Chills, "Evolution," Vote

So, my kids didn't have school today due to dangerous wind chills.  They don't have school again tomorrow for the same reason. 

In honor of another snow day (okay, I know it's not technically a snow day, but close enough), I'm giving you a poem tonight about school and evolution and prayer.


by:  Martin Achatz

Miss Hale was an experiment for Assumption Grotto School.
In her not-quite-miniskirts and thigh-high boots,
She was Technicolor while the nuns were black-and-white.
Marching into my sixth grade, Miss Hale's heels
Sparked lightning from the tile.  Her hair was black
As a confessional; eyes, brown as Saint Francis.
I swallowed every word she spoke,
Felt them living inside me so that at night,
She was my prayer I lifted to God:
Hale Mary, full of grace and
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hale be thy name.

One day, Miss Hale told us,
"I'm going to teach you where we all come from."
I hunkered down, expecting her to say
Words that burned my tongue.
She produced maps of Africa,
Spoke of origins and Darwin and Galapagos,
Described Louis Leakey and missing links and ancestor apes.
As her last piece of evidence, she turned her back to us,
Pressed her hand at the base of her spine, and said,
"Here's where our tails used to be."

That night, I dreamed I had a tail, thick and wild.
I cracked coconuts with my teeth, sucked the milk,
Let it spill white down my arms, chest, thighs.
Miss Hale, hair blinding black in the jungle sun,
Sat high in a tree, her tail snaking the air,
Inviting me to climb.  I climbed,
And our chimpanzee screams shook the vines like rain.

Please vote for Saint Marty (Marty Achatz) for 2019/2020 Poet Laureate at the link below.  You can vote every day from now until February 9:

Vote for 2019/2020 Poet Laureate of the Upper Peninsula

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

January 29: Have Their Fun, Local Versus Global, Big Hairy Boyfriend

Time to rejoin Ford Prefect, who is still waiting for the world to end with Arthur Dent, plus some more towel talk:

"You got a towel with you?" said Ford Prefect suddenly to Arthur.

Arthur, struggling through his third pint, looked round at him.

"Why?  What, no . . . should I have?"  He had given up being surprised, there didn't seem to be any point any longer.

Ford clicked his tongue in irritation.

"Drink up," he urged.

At that moment the dull sound of a rumbling crash outside filtered through the low murmur of the pub, through the sound of the jukebox, through the sound of the man next to Ford hiccupping over the whisky Ford had eventually bought him.

Arthur choked on his beer, leaped to his feet.

"What's that?" he yelped.

"Don't worry," said Ford, "they haven't started yet."

"Thank God for that," said Arthur and relaxed.

"It's probably just your house being knocked down," said Ford, downing his last pint.

"What?" shouted Arthur.  Suddenly Ford's spell was broken.  Arthur looked wildly around him and ran to the window.

"My God, they are!  They're knocking my house down.  What the hell am I doing in the pub, Ford?"

"It hardly makes any difference at this stage," said Ford, "let them have their fun."

"Fun?" yelped Arthur.  "Fun!"  He quickly checked out of the window again that they were talking about the same thing.

"Damn their fun!" he hooted and ran out of the pub furiously waving a nearly empty beer glass.  He made no friend at all in the pub that lunchtime.

Arthur thinks that his life is collapsing.  Ford knows that the world is going to end.  Disaster is a matter of relativity.  A house being demolished versus a planet being demolished.  Small picture versus large picture.  Local versus global.  Trump versus Obama.  You get the idea.

I know that I tend to have a very Arthur Dent view of the world at times.  For example, this afternoon, I just realized that my annual teaching evaluation narrative is due this Friday.  I don't know why I suddenly began thinking about it.  Call it intuition.  So I sent an e-mail to the English Department Head to double check.  She confirmed my suspicion.

This has changed the entire trajectory of my week.  I will now be focused on creating this document, which will be used to determine whether I teach for the rest of the academic year.  It's kind of a big deal.

Of course, in reality, it is simply a hoop that I have to jump through.  I've been teaching at the university for close to 25 years.  I believe that I've proven my mettle as an instructor.  There just has to be a paper trail (metaphorically--all the documents are submitted electronically nowadays).  I guess it's to insure that I'm doing what I'm supposed to do.  I shouldn't really be worried.

Yet, I can't help it.  It's a big deal.  If I don't submit this document, I don't teach, lose my ranking/seniority, can't pay my bills, lose my car and house, get fired at my other job, become addicted to meth, and eventually end up in prison with a big hairy boyfriend.

That's it.  I have to believe in myself, to get through the next few days.  I have to avoid being Arthur Dent.

Saint Marty just has to put one foot in front of another.  (Yes, that's a Santa Claus is Coming to Town allusion.)

January 29: Old Poems, "Simeon's Promise," Vote

I have been revisiting some old poems, ones that I don't even remember that much.  It's a strange experience, reading a poem that seems like it was written by a stranger.

Saint Marty thinks this one holds up.

Simeon's Promise

by:  Martin Achatz

The Virgin saw the face of God
Daily, took it in her hands,
Saw Eden's requiem in His eyes.
For 33 years, she hoarded the mysteries
Of Him in her breast,
Like black pearls.
When He died, she rubbed her fingers
Raw on those dark stones, felt
The bite of His birth,
The salt of His scourging.
Did she pray on those dim gems
For the day when she would see
His face again, unfolding
Like a lightning storm,
A bright gout of love,
In the oyster of her heart?

Please consider voting for my for 2019/2020 Poet Laureate of the Upper Peninsula at the link below:

Voting for 2019/2020 Poet Laureate of U. P.

Monday, January 28, 2019

January 28: Nomination, Vote, Teaching

Sorry I've been away a couple days.  There's been shows and book clubs and work that got in the way.  I'm in my university office right now, getting ready to teach.  So, I don't have much time to blog this evening, but I just wanted to share some good news.

I am a finalist for 2019/2020 Poet Laureate of the Upper Peninsula.  I found out this afternoon through a flurry of texts and Facebook shares.  So, I'm going to shamelessly plug myself, which is not something I'm very comfortable doing.

Please vote for Saint Marty.  He promises to build a wall around the Upper Peninsula if he wins!…/gallery.

You can vote once a day!  

For Matthew James

Born February 15, 1995

by:  Martin Achatz

He’s celebrating his zero birthday in an incubator, not moving, trying to give himself the present of a breath.  From the moment I found out he existed, I called him tadpole.   That was before I knew his sex, when all I pictured was the collision of egg and sperm, the wild instant of beginning.  For nine months, I imagined some amphibian man, a creature from the womb-lagoon, able to breathe fluid.  This morning, when the doctor split his heaven open with a scalpel and reached down to deliver him, he gulped one last liquid breath.  “It happens all the time,” the pediatrician tells his father and mother, “nothing to worry about.”  In this world of air, he is a netted fish, a mer-baby threatened by the foam in his lungs.  We stand by the nursery window, watch a nurse come in a touch him.  He quivers, his leg bent in a birth plie.  His chest rises, falls, stops.  Rises.  Stops.  Falls.  Stops.  The nurse withdraws her hands.  He begins to remember his lungs again, remembers the measured bites of air, the occupation of breathing, his life-long inheritance.

Friday, January 25, 2019

January 25: Relaxing Cup of Tea, Hotel Room in Calumet, Hot Tubbers

A little bit more about towels, in case you weren't sick of hearing about them . . .

Nestling quietly on top of the towel if Ford Prefect's satchel, the Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic began to wink more quickly.  Miles above the surface of the planet the huge yellow somethings began to fan out.  At Jodrell Bank, someone decided it was time for a nice relaxing cup of tea.

Well, here I sit in a hotel room in Calumet after a very long drive, through sometimes whiteout conditions, along Lake Superior into the Keweenaw Peninsula.  Just got back from the sauna, hot tub, and pool, and (wait for it--here's the connection to the above passage from Hitchhiker's) there are towels littering the bathroom floor, sans a Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic.

As I said, it was a stressful drive up, which I was expecting,  I'm kind of addicted to weather apps and the Weather Channel, so, before I travel anywhere, I'm monitoring the meteorological conditions for days.  I knew there was a winter storm warning and wind chill advisory, and I knew that I would be following the coastline of Lake Superior for a good portion of the trip.  Hence, driving blindly through billows of fine, white snow.

However, we made it safely.  My son got to swim.  My daughter and I got to hot tub and sauna.  My wife got to talk to a group of complete strangers in the hot tub (something she does frequently when we are in hotels and resorts).  The conclusion of the night was quite relaxing.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day of rehearsing and performing, since the rehearsal this evening was cancelled due to the weather.  The producer of the show had to drive up from the lower peninsula of Michigan, and she encountered the same issues that I did--blowing snow, whiteouts, icy roads, and -25 wind chills.  I think she arrived in Calumet just a little while ago (and it's 10:30 p.m. as I'm typing this).

I'm always excited to perform in front of a live audience, whether I'm acting, singing, or reading poetry.  There's nothing like the adrenaline rush it gives me.  Of course, many people would rather have three root canals than stand up in front of a crowd of strangers and speak.  Not me.  Or my wife (as evidenced by her befriending of the hot tubbers from downstate this evening).  My kids are kind of hams, as well.  They come by it naturally.

If you have nothing to do tomorrow evening, and you feel like taking a road trip (the weather is supposed to improve by tomorrow), stop by the Calumet Theatre at 7 p.m. for a little song, a little dance, a little poetry in your pants.  (Okay, that image is a little perverted, but I'm fresh out of seltzer.)

Saint Marty is thankful for a safe drive this evening.  And the hot tub and sauna.

January 25: Poetry Workshop, Really Alive, "First Snow Draft"

So, I don't do this very often.  Last night, I led a poetry workshop at the Joy Center, an artist/yoga/writer's retreat center in my home town.  The workshop was focused on nature and animals.  We talked quite a bit about John Muir as the wind and snow battered the windows.

What I'm going to do is share something I wrote last night.  I'm not sure if it's a poem.  It's rough, but I think there's something really alive in it.

You tell Saint Marty whether it's poetry or crap.

First Snow Draft

by:  Martin Achatz

It was always chimerical.  Rain into sleet into fat flakes.  Saffron and pumpkin into clean white sheets.  The change, for me, sudden, unexpected even, as if I thought October would go on forever with its crabapples and corn squash.  Yet, the moment would come, sitting in a classroom lined with windows, learning about adverbs or Pythagoras or Dick and Jane.  There would be a shout from someone in the back whose last name began with "V" or "W."  Paul or Dominic, maybe.  One word that hung like a foghorn with its low, round vowel:  "Snooooooow!"  And everyone would rush to the windows.  The glass would fog and sweat with our excitement.  Outside, a riot of oblivion specks, falling up and down and north and south and left and right and sideways.  Rearranging the street.  Editing the cars.  Revising the trees.  Amending and correcting and erasing all the mistakes of spring and summer. Writing something necessary and beautiful and new.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

January 24: Hoopy Frood, Poetry Workshop, Christmas Eve Tonight

Back to towels . . .

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value.  For some reason, if a strag (strag:  non-hitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc.  Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have "lost."  What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the Galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through and still know where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase which has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in, "Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect?  There's a frood who really knows where his towel is."  (Sass:  know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy:  really together guy; frood:  really amazingly together guy."

I have spent a good portion of the afternoon planning for my poetry workshop this evening.  So, at the moment, I'm feeling like a hoopy frood.  I've got my books together, my thoughts gathered, my book bag packed.  In about half an hour, I'll be heading out the door.

The snow has begun to fall, and the temperature is dropping.  By tomorrow morning, the polar vortex will be sitting on the shoulder of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan like a vulture, glaring down with frozen eyes.  Not looking forward to the change in weather.  I've been enjoying the fairly snowless, warm patch that we've been experiencing.  But, all good things must come to an end.

Because of this switch in weather, I'm not sure who is going to show up for my workshop tonight.  It may be only three or four people.  (It's not just the weather.  There's a ballet, as well, that's competing with poetry.)  I don't mind smaller, more intimate groups.  It brings a whole other dynamic to a workshop.  In my experience, participants are more willing to open up and share.

Poetry has a way of energizing me.  When I'm talking about it, reading it, writing it, I feel more alive.  Everything seems present and sparking.  Those non-poets out there might not understand what I'm saying.  If you're a runner, it's like going out for a five- or ten-mile jog.  If you fish, it's like casting your line into a lake.  If you're an actor, it's like standing in front of an audience.

So, tonight, even though I'm a little tired at the moment, I will feel like it's Christmas Eve when the workshop begins.

Saint Marty is lucky to know his passion.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

January 23: Useful Thing, Taking a Nap, Cold Temperatures

A little information from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels.

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.  Partly it has a practical value.  You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy River Moth; set it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it around your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you--daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

You'll have to forgive me if I stop there with the towel passage.  There's more to come tomorrow.  However, I find myself quite tired tonight.  I just got back from a liturgy-planning meeting at church.  It was important stuff, but, after working and teaching and coming home to clean the bathroom, I did not have attention to spare.  The only thing that kept me going at the meeting were the snacks and wine.  That's right.  There was alcohol.  (Well, it was a Catholic gathering.)  So, I sat eating cheese and crackers and Chex mix and drinking red wine.

That passage from Hitchhiker's is all about the uses of the towel, focusing on its versatility.  I, on the other hand, do not feel very useful at the moment.  In fact, I'm barely awake right now.  All I can think about is taking a nap.  My wife and son and daughter aren't home, so the house is completely silent.  I could do it.

. . .

I'm back.  Took about a 45-minute snooze.  And now it's almost 10 p.m.  Just checked my weather app.  There's a huge storm blowing in.  And then, for the next week or so, temperatures that aren't going to climb much above a single degree.  In fact, some days the high temps aren't going to get above -6.  I have a feeling my kids are going to have a few days off school next week.

This weekend, in the midst of this arctic freeze, I head west to Calumet for a couple days.  I don't think I'll be packing any towels, just a couple sweaters and a bathing suit.  I'll be performing in a radio show on Saturday evening.  Lots of rehearsal time on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.  I simply hope that my voice will hold out, and that I won't have a coughing fit during the recording.

That's what's on my mind tonight.  Towels.  Naps.  Cold temperatures.  Coughing.  I know it's not exciting.

Tomorrow night, it's poetry.  A workshop that I'm conducting, come high water or snowstorm.  Poetry doesn't take a day off.

And neither does Saint Marty.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

January 22: Sub Meson Electronic Component, iPhone, Mediated Reality

Several dozen huge yellow chunky slablike somethings are about to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting Earth . . .

The only place they [the yellow chunky slablike somethings] registered at all was on a small black device called a Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic which winked away quietly to itself.  It nestled in the darkness inside a leather satchel which Ford Prefect wore habitually around his neck.  The contents of Ford Prefect's satchel were quite interesting in fact and would have made any Earth physicist's eyes pop out of his head, which is why he always concealed them by keeping a couple of dog-eared scripts for plays he pretended he was auditioning for stuffed in the top.  Besides the Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic and the scripts he had an Electronic Thumb--a short squat black rod, smooth and matt with a couple of the switches and dials at one end; he also had a device which looked rather like a largish electronic calculator.  This had about a hundred tiny flat press buttons and a screen about four inches square on which any one of a million "pages" could be summoned at a moment's notice.  It looked insanely complicated, and this was one of the reasons why the snug plastic cover it fitted into had the words DON'T PANIC printed on it in large friendly letters.  The other reason was that this device was in fact that most remarkable of all books ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor--The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  The reason why it was published in the form of a micro sub meson electronic component is that if it were printed in normal book form, an interstellar hitchhiker would require several inconveniently large buildings to carry it around in.

Beneath that in Ford Prefect's satchel were a few ballpoints, a notepad and a largish bath towel from Marks and Spencer.

It may be just me, but the micro sub meson electronic component of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy sounds a little like an iPhone, which can access millions of pages, buildings and buildings of information and books.  Walking across a college campus, down a crowded street, you will encounter very few faces, because most people are staring down at their phones, texting or scrolling or listening or downloading.  The world has become a mediated reality.

I'm just as guilty as the next.  My phone is always with me, in my pocket or hand.  At home, it sits beside me on the couch, in case I receive a text or call.  As I type this blog post, I used a PDF of Hitchhiker's on my phone to transcribe the passage above.  As I read a book, I use my phone to look up words or facts with which I'm unfamiliar.  The iPhone is my Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I just checked my e-mail on my iPhone and found out that my daughter doesn't have to play in the pep band tonight.  I called my daughter, who already knew about the cancellation, presumably because she received a text from one of her band mates.  She's at her dance studio.  I could have found that out by checking her location on my phone, as well.

This little device has revolutionized the way we live, in good and bad ways.  Of course, there are some things an iPhone cannot do.  It can't clean your house, which I just spent about two hours doing.  It can't make you healthy.  You need a doctor for that.  I am feeling about 65% better today, thanks to my physician.  It is 6 p.m., and I'm NOT ready to collapse today.  That is a vast improvement.  (Of course, I did say in my Sunday post that, according to my schedule, I was going to get better by Tuesday.)  And an iPhone can't correct quizzes or make lesson plans.  I will have to do that myself tonight, as well.

But my house is clean.  My daughter is dancing.  My son and wife are shoe shopping.  My cough is still with me, but my head is clearer.  And my iPhone is dormant.  No texts.  No e-mails.  No calls.  I have The Man Who Invented Christmas on my DVD player, and Charles Dickens has just published A Christmas Carol.

Saint Marty is so thankful for some quiet moments of unmediated peace.

January 22: Not Exhausted, Older Poem, "Sleeping with Grief"

I am tired this evening, but not exhausted.  At the moment, my house is quiet.  I'm sitting in my living room, enjoying the solitude before my ten-year-old cyclone of a son returns, demanding that I turn on Impractical Jokers.

I have another older poem for tonight.  One that is very close to my heart.

Saint Marty wishes everyone a peaceful evening.

Sleeping with Grief

by:  Martin Achatz

I don't know what to do with my wife's grief,
How she clutches my shirt,
Weeps the way Eve wept for Abel,
Sorrow wild, thick as locusts.

She says grief sits in her stomach,
Fills her up like Thanksgiving dinner.
I imagine carving grief, serving it
With stuffing, black and full of onion.

I'm trying to understand
How despair works, how being alone
Is like burying her mother again.

I'm not alone, she says.
When you leave, grief crawls
Into bed with me.  I can't say no.
I can't close my eyes, turn my back.

At night, in the dark, I lie
Next to my wife, put my arm across
Her sleeping body, feel her chest
Rise and fall, slow as a funeral.

If I press my ear to her breast,
I will hear the sound Eve made
When God introduced her to death.

Monday, January 21, 2019

January 21: Huge Yellow Somethings, Raging Sinus Infection, Almost Human

So, the world is about to end . . .

On this particular Thursday, something was moving quietly through the ionosphere many miles above the surface of the planet; several somethings in fact, several dozen huge yellow chunky slablike somethings, huge as office buildings, silent as birds.  They soared with ease, basking in electromagnetic rays from the star Sol, biding their time, grouping, preparing.

The planet beneath them was almost perfectly oblivious of their presence, which was just how they wanted it for the moment.  The huge yellow somethings went unnoticed at Goonhilly, they passed over Cape Canaveral without a blip, Woomera and Jodrell Bank looked straight through them, which was a pity because it was exactly the sort of thing they'd been looking for all these years.

So, like Cape Canaveral and Woomera and Jodrell Bank, I missed something big in the sky early this morning--the full lunar eclipse of the Super Blood Wolf Moon.  While it was going on, I was in bed, dosed with NyQuil, ibuprofen, cough medicine, and Trazodone.  Anything happening outside of my pillows and blankets meant nothing.

I saw a doctor today, and she diagnosed me with a raging sinus infection.  I am now on a strong antibiotic.  In addition, the doctor told be to take Claritin, to clear up my congestion.  I picked up my prescriptions, went home, took a Claritin, and went to bed for about an hour.

When I woke up, my head felt clearer, and I could breathe.  That's quite an improvement over the last six days.  I'm still coughing like crazy, but at least I can think.  Last night, I felt like my whole body was in a full lunar eclipse.

I like to think that I'm on the mend.  My goal is to have a voice by Friday when I head up to Calumet for the recording of a radio show.  Right now, I think that actually might happen.  I'm feeling somewhat human at the moment.

Saint Marty even noticed the sunset this evening (it wasn't a Super Blood Wolf Sunset, but it was pretty stunning).

January 21: Old Poems, Wonder and Awe, "In the Garden"

So, I've been going through some old poems, and I came across one that I wrote quite a while ago.  It's about wonder and awe.

It's strange reading something I wrote close to 20 years ago.  It's like looking at a snapshot, trying to find myself in the picture.

Saint Marty still believes in miracles.

In the Garden

by:  Martin Achatz 

I can put my fist in the hole
in my sister’s flank, see rib
white against slick muscle.
When she sleeps, her body cries
for healthy blood and skin and scar.
I sit beside her hospital bed, listen
to her breaths, wonder if she dreams
of dog bites, sharp glass,
the thick kiss of a dead love.
The man down the hall moans
“Clara” in the dark,
a two-syllable prayer
for deep winter, pine cones,
cool fingers on his naked back.
My sister’s hand flutters on the sheet.
I touch her wrist, trace the blue veins
under the skin.  Her face smooths
like a snowdrift, and I see
the pulse leap in her temple,
nostrils black with air,
eyes vagrant beneath their lids.

Her wound has not healed for two years,
and I joke she has stigmata like Padre Pio,
beg her touch my head, bless me.
She laughs, crosses the air.
When the priest visits her, my sister says,
“I feel like someone forgot to bury me.”
He anoints her forehead, hands, and feet.
During her next dressing change,
my sister grips the rails of the bed,
bites her lip until it bruises, splits.
The nurse examines the discharge,
smells the wound for infection, then leaves.
My sister cradles her stomach, as if afraid
her heart may spill onto the floor.

Pio’s wounds smelled of violets,
the petals of his fingers raising
full-moon hosts to heaven
during mass, roses blooming
on the snow of his bandages.
He bled all day, enough to fill
a chalice to its golden lip.
For five decades, he nursed
the stigmata like fragile orchids
rooted in his body’s soil.
At night, in his cell, he stripped
his dressings, allowed his suffering
to breathe the dark air, nerve endings
sparking in his ragged skin
like fireflies in tall grass.
In the few hours he slept,
his body opened, unfurled
the deep ovule of his pain
until the floor, walls, ceiling
blossomed with his bruised fragrance.

Tonight, my sister rests.
The IV fills her, the way rain fills
a summer garden.  She holds
her side, blooms in her bed,
a fresh and open miracle.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

January 20: The Hang of Thursdays, Sundays, 15 More Hours

Ford Prefect is about to explain that the planet Earth is about to be demolished at the Horse and Groom pub.  Arthur is wondering if he's somehow done "anything wrong today" to warrant this craziness . . .

"All right," said Ford, "I'll try to explain.  How long have we known each other?"

"How long?"  Arthur thought.  "Er, about five years, maybe six," he said.  "Most of it seemed to make some sense at the time."

"All right," said Ford.  "How would you react if I said that I'm not from Guildford after all, but from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse?"

Arthur shrugged in a so-so sort of way.

"I don't know," he said, taking a pull of beer.  "Why--do you think it's the sort of thing you're likely to say?"

Ford gave up.  It really wasn't worth bothering at the moment, what with the world being about to end.  He just said, "Drink up."

He added perfectly factually, "The world's about to end."

Arthur gave the rest of the pub another wan smile.  The rest of the pub frowned at him.  A man waved at him to stop smiling at them and mind his own business.

"This must be Thursday," said Arthur, musing to himself, sinking low over his beer.  "I never could get the hang of Thursdays."

There you have Arthur's explanation for the events of the day--it's Thursday.  That's why bulldozers are sitting outside his house, waiting to demolish it.  And why Ford Prefect somehow convinced Mr. Prosser, the man in charge of demolishing Arthur's house, to lie down in the mud for Arthur.  And why Ford is telling him that the world is about to end.  It's Thursday.

I've never had a problem with Thursdays.  For some reason, the day that's always bothered me is Sunday.  I've never gotten the hang of them.  They've always made me a little sad.  Maybe it's the sound of church bells tolling.  They've always struck me as a little mournful.  Maybe it's the end of the weekend, start of a new week--work, school, late nights, early mornings, never enough time to get everything done.  Or maybe something happened to me as a kid, some weird Sunday trauma that I'm still repressing.

Whatever the reason, Sundays fill me with angst.

This Sunday, I'm still battling the Florida cold/bronchitis/cough.  My chest hurts,  My eyes water.  My DayQuil has worn off.  I want to take a nap.  Woke up this morning with my right eye crusted over with some kind of snot.  (My eye isn't pink, and, once I washed off the crust, I haven't had any other problems with it today.)  I've decided to go to my doctor tomorrow.  I've got work and teaching.  On Thursday, I'm conducting a poetry workshop.  Next Saturday, I've got a show in Calumet.  I have to get better.  Soon.

Yes, I know I sound a little like I'm from a planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse.  That's what Sundays do to me.  They make me think and obsess over everything I have to do in the coming week.  Monday, work and go to the doctor.  Tuesday, work and meet with a friend and get better.  Wednesday, work and teach.  Thursday, work and run poetry workshop.  Friday, work and travel to Calumet for rehearsal at 5 p.m..  Saturday, rehearse and perform in show.  Sunday, return home and host my book club and start freaking out about the following week.

Now, I've just come back from a ten-day vacation in Florida, which was wonderful and full of joy.  So, I'm not going to say that I need a vacation.  I'm simply going to say that I'd like about 15 more hours in every day.  Then I could get everything done that I need to do, take a nap, and go see a movie or something.

Marty is one tired saint.  Don't pray to him.  His prayer answering machine is full.

January 20: Frozen Sunday, Hot Chocolate, "In Praise of Silence"

A poem about silence for this frozen Sunday evening.

Saint Marty is ready for some hot chocolate and Bailey's.

In Praise of Silence

by:  Martin Achatz

Praise the Lord for the silence of dusk
As it shifts the air from winter sun
To winter moon, the melt of snow
To something hard as onyx or bone.
Praise the ring of eardrum in quiet,
How it vibrates, hums with the memory
Of the day, news of tsunami in Japan,
The lives of thousands swept away
Like crumbs from Friday dinner
Of lentils, crackers, apple juice,
The tablecloth taken outside, shaken,
The way my grandmother taught me,
For lost souls who roam the night,
Tap on black window glass, hungry
For light, warmth, or prayer.
Praise the tide of heart in my chest,
Calm waves of blood, in, out, in, out,
Reminding me this night that I am safe.  Alive.
That my tongue doesn’t taste ocean mud.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

January 19: Too Wrapped Up in Myself, Self-Absorption, Honors Band

Ford Prefect has just announced to the customers of the Horse and Groom that the world is about to end in ten minutes . . .

"Ford," said Arthur, "would you please tell me what the hell is going on?"

"Drink up," said Ford, "you've got three pints to get through."

"Three pints?" said Arthur.  "At lunchtime?"

The man next to Ford grinned and nodded happily.  Ford ignored him.  He said, "Time is an illusion.  Lunchtime doubly so."

"Very deep," said Arthur, "you should send that in to the Reader's Digest.  They've got a place for people like you."

"Drink up."

"Why three pints all of a sudden?"

"Muscle relaxant, you'll need it."

"Muscle relaxant?"

"Muscle relaxant."

Arthur stared into his beer.

"Did I do anything wrong today," he said, "or has the world always been like this and I've been too wrapped up in myself to notice?"

I often feel like Arthur does here.  Ask myself the same question:  Have I been too wrapped up in myself to notice things going on in the world?

For example, I've been talking a lot about my trip to Disney World.  Posting pictures.  Writing blog posts.  Whining about how cold it is in the Upper Peninsula versus Orlando, how tired I am at work, how I've been coughing interestingly-colored things up from my lungs.  (For those of you that just ate, I apologize for that last one.)  In short, I've been pretty pretty self-absorbed.

Meanwhile, terrible things are going on in my country.  Mr. Trump has shut down the government, furloughed thousands of people without pay, and is holding the American people hostage because of his ego.  If it goes on much longer, these federal employees are going to start losing their cars and homes and medical insurance.  Meanwhile, all the politicians are collecting their paychecks, going out to restaurants, driving their nice cars, flying home for the weekend.

There are people who are homeless, hungry, without hope.  In other countries, there are refugees living in tents in the middle of winter, not sure where their next meal is coming from.  People living under ruthless dictators (take note, citizens of the United States) who take away civil rights, hold "elections," bully and conspire to stay in power, disenfranchise entire populations of people because of skin color or religion or nationality or gender or sexual orientation.

The planet is dying.  Polar ice is melting at an alarming rate.  Temperatures are rising.  And we are not doing enough to slow down, halt, or reverse this process.  We still rely too much on fossil fuels.  Drill for oil.  Decimate coastline and forests for profit.  Deny empirical, scientific facts because they are inconvenient and require us to change the way we live.

I could go on, but you get the idea.  I don't think I'm alone in my self-absorption.  It's easy to walk around with a kind of tunnel vision, especially if you're struggling to pay bills or stay healthy or remain employed.  Injustices abound, but, unless those injustices are directed against myself or someone I care about, I worry more about the next season of American Horror Story.

Today is the third annual Women's March in the United States.  Men and women all across the country are rallying together for women's rights, gender equality. It's a day not to be self-absorbed.  To think about the bigger picture.  To stand up against social and political injustices.  There's a Women's March in a city close to me.  Hundreds of people gathering in solidarity.

And what am I doing?  I'm driving a couple hours to see my daughter play her last Honors Band concert.  (At least, that's the plan.  She's been throwing up all morning long during rehearsals, but she's determined to stay and perform.)  I'm not sure if that counts as being self-absorbed.  I like to think that I'm supporting my daughter become a confident, accomplished young woman.  That counts, I hope.

Saint Marty is trying to make the world a better place, in his own whiny, self-absorbed way.

January 19: Adrienne Rich, "What Kind of Times Are These," Women's March 2019

What Kind of Times Are These

by:  Adrienne Rich

There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.


In a few hours, people will be gathering all around the United States for the third annual Women's March.  The initial march, three years ago, was sparked by the election of Donald Trump.  It has grown and continues to unite and inspire citizens of the world to be the best they can be.

Treat each other kindly.  Recognize human dignity.  Fight for justice and equality.

Saint Marty believes we can all do better.

Friday, January 18, 2019

January 18: Six Pints, Tomorrow Be Monday, Simple Pleasures

Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent have arrived at the Horse and Groom for a drink, and for Ford to share some information with Arthur . . .

"Six pints of bitter," said Ford Prefect to the barman of the Horse and Groom.  "And quickly please, the world's about to end."

The barman of the Horse and Groom didn't deserve this sort of treatment; he was a dignified old man.  He pushed his glasses up his nose and blinked at Ford Prefect.  Ford ignored him and stared out of the window, so the barman looked instead at Arthur, who shrugged helplessly and said nothing.

So the barman said, "Oh yes, sir?"  Nice weather for it," and started pulling pints.

He tried again.

"Going to watch the match this afternoon then?"

Ford glanced round at him.

"No, no point," he said, and looked back out of the window.

"What's that, foregone conclusion then you reckon, sir?" said the barman.  "Arsenal without a chance?"

"No, no," said Ford, "it's just that the world's about to end."

"Oh yes, sir, so you said," said the barman, looking over his glasses this time at Arthur.  "Lucky escape for Arsenal if it did."

Ford looked back at him, genuinely surprised.

The barman breathed in heavily.  "There you are, sir, six pints," he said.

Arthur smiled at him wanly and shrugged again.  He turned and smiled wanly at the rest of the pub just in case any of them had heard what was going on.  None of them had, and none of them could understand what he was smiling at them for.

A man sitting next to Ford at the bar looked at the two men, looked at the six pints, did a swift burst of mental arithmetic, arrived at an answer he liked and grinned a stupid hopeful grin at them.

"Get off," said Ford.  "They're ours," giving him a look that would have made an Algolian Suntiger get on with what it was doing.

Ford slapped a five pound note on the bar.  He said, "Keep the change."

"What, from a fiver?  Thank you, sir."

"You've got ten minutes left to spend it."

The barman simply decided to walk away for a bit.

Ford obviously knows something that no one else in the Horse and Groom knows.  The world IS about to end.  Arthur doesn't know this, just like he doesn't know that his friend, Ford, is from Betelgeuse.  For Arthur, it's just Thursday.  For Ford, it's the apocalypse.

It's Friday.  End of the first week of a new semester.  End of my first week back at work after my vacation.  End of a week of sickness.  I'm still sick.  My mind is still at Walt Disney World.  And, every once in a while, I check the Disney app on my phone to see what the wait times are at EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom.  (In case you're interested, there's a 70-minute wait at The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.)

This week has seemed very long.  I've allowed myself to get swallowed in day-to-day struggles, just like Arthur.  I'm worried that my cough will develop into pneumonia, and Arthur is worried about the bulldozers waiting to demolish his house.  In the mean time, neither of us have any idea whether the world will be here tomorrow (or in the next ten minutes).  It's a matter of living in the present (enjoying a pint at the pub) or living in the possibilities of the future (serious illness, loss of house/home).

I'm sitting in the living room of my family's house, watching my sister eat dinner.  She's 53-years-old and has Down syndrome.  Like most people with Down syndrome her age, my sister's memory is failing.  She gets up from her chair about ten or 15 times during dinner, wanders out into the kitchen, and then sometimes forgets why she's gone out to the kitchen.  I see her stop, look back at the dining room table with a confused look on her face.

Food is important to my sister.  So is Diet Coke.  And her latch hook rug.  These are my sister's present.  The only things she thinks about.  She tries to keep track of the days of the week, but she can't.  She just got up from her dinner, walked over to the calendar on the refrigerator, and said, "Tomorrow be Monday."  As I said, she really has no concept of anything but right here, right now.

Perhaps this is a blessing.  She doesn't think every minute about things she's lost.  About my sister who died four years ago.  My father who died a year ago.  She doesn't think every minute about things she could lose.  My mother, who wanders back and forth through the living room, looking for something that she's can't remember she's misplaced.  None of these things enter her mind daily.

Her pleasures are pretty simple.  Her grilled cheese sandwich.  The Diet Coke sweating on the table in front of her.  The yarn for her latch hook lined up in a row.

Saint Marty's pleasures tonight are going to be simple, too:  NyQuil, a cool pillow, warm blankets.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

January 17: Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, Mary Oliver, Ducks and Blue Irises

A new chapter from Hitchhiker's, as Ford and Arthur make their way to the pub . . .

Here's what the Encyclopedia Galactica has to say about alcohol.  It says that alcohol is a colorless volatile liquid formed by the fermentation of sugars and also notes its intoxicating effect on certain carbon-based life forms.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy also mentions alcohol.  It says that the best drink in existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

It says that the effect of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.

The Guide also tells you on which planets the best Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters are mixed, how much you can expect to pay for one and what voluntary organizations exist to help you rehabilitate afterward.  

The Guide even tells you how you can mix one yourself.

Take the juice from one bottle of that Ol' Janx Spirit, it says.

Pour into it one measure of water from the sea of Santraginus V--Oh, that Santraginean sea water, it says.  Oh, those Santraginean fish!

Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzine is lost).

Allow four liters of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it, in memory of all those happy hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of Fallia.

Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qualactin Hypermint extract, redolent of all the heady odors of the dark Qualactin Zones, subtle, sweet and mystic.

Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger.  Watch it dissolve, spreading the fires of the Algolian Suns deep into the heart of the drink.

Sprinkle Zamphuor.

Add an olive.

Drink . . but . . . very carefully . . .

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy sells rather better than the Encyclopedia Galactica.

Sounds like an amazing drink to forget all your troubles.  Or to commit suicide with.

One of the issues that I'm having with the choice of Hitchhiker's as the book of the year is that there really isn't any serious moments in it.  I would call it sci-fi farce.  It revels in the ridiculous.  So, when I want to discuss something a little more somber, I struggle.

I just learned a little while ago that one of my favorite poets died today.  Mary Oliver.  She'd been battling lymphoma since 2015.  I knew that.  However, I never really thought that Mary Oliver would disappear from this planet.

Granted, that sounds ridiculous.  But her books are so full of life--snakes and sea water and geese and deer and otters.  Her pages are like poetic National Geographic specials.  I didn't think anything could stop Mary Oliver.  Of course, I thought the same thing about my sister, who also died of lymphoma.

I'm deeply saddened by this news, as I am when any positive force in the world vanishes.  Yet, as a poet, she lives and will continue to live.  Through her words and images and ideas.  Through striped sparrows and diving cormorants.  Black ducks and blue irises.

Saint Marty raises a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster in honor of the life of Mary Oliver tonight.

January 17: Mary Oliver, "The Uses of Sorrow," Let the Perpetual Light Shine Upon Her

In the Catholic Church, there is a prayer that is said for a person who has recently died.

Tonight, Saint Marty says it for poet Mary Oliver:

Eternal rest grant to her, O Lord; and let the perpetual light shine upon her.  May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

The Uses of Sorrow

by:  Mary Oliver

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

January 16: I Need a Drink, Poet Laureate, Northern Lights

Ford Prefect is on his way to the pub with Arthur Dent:

He saw the bulldozer driver's union representative approaching and let his head sink back and closed his eyes.  He was trying to marshal his arguments for proving that he did not now constitute a mental health hazard himself.  He was far from certain about this--his mind seemed to be full of noise, horses, smoke, and the stench of blood.  This always happened when he felt miserable and put upon, and he had never been able to explain it to himself.  In a high discussion of which we know nothing  the mighty  Khan bellowed with rage, but Mr. Prosser only trembled slightly and whimpered.  He began to feel little pricks of water behind the eyelids.  Bureaucratic cock-ups, angry men lying in the mud, indecipherable strangers handing out inexplicable humiliations and an unidentified army of horsemen laughing at him in his head--what a day.

What a day.  Ford Prefect knew that it didn't matter a pair of dingo's kidneys whether Arthur's house got knocked down or not now.  

Arthur remained very worried.

"But can we trust him?" he said.

"Myself I'd trust him to the end of the Earth," said Ford.

"Oh yes," said Arthur, "and how far's that?"

"About twelve minutes away," said Ford, "come on, I need a drink."

Mr. Prosser has had quite a day.  Arthur Dent has had quite a day.  Ford Prefect is having quite a day.  I've had an eventful day.  Work.  Teaching.  Getting my laptop fixed.  Finding out that I'm one of the top ten finalists for 2019/2020 Poet Laureate of the Upper Peninsula.  Not sure if I'm going to be in the top five finalists, which would put it to a public vote, but the news was pretty cool.

Now, I'm sitting on my couch, typing this VERY short post.  My daughter just texted me a little while ago:  "Northern lights outside right now."  So I went outside.

It was -4 degrees outside.  The sky was filled with streaks of green light.  Amazing.  An end to quite a day.  

I'm still feeling like crap.  Bad cough.  Tired.  Sore throat.  Sandwiched in all of that, though, are moments of wonder.

Saint Marty is feeling blessed tonight, by friends and family.