Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection

PAGES ALONG THE WAY

One question a publisher asks an author is what other works are like the one that’s being offered. That is, competing works and how yours differs.

When it came to Subway Hitchhikers’ original appearance in 1990, here’s the tack:

~*~

I know of no other work quite like Subway Hitchhikers. Perhaps Trout Fishing in America comes closest, even though that work is a generation earlier, has dated badly over the years, and is both rural and West Coast in its orientation. As I noted earlier, most of the presentations dealing with the hitchhikers’ period in history tend to focus on events that I relegate to the background. (Indeed, how often is hitchhiking even mentioned, much less discussed?)

As for the subject of subways, fictional accounts usually place them as a brief scene of terror, rather than treating them as a fascinating entity in their own right (The Taking of the Pelham Express or Frank King’s new Take the D Train are two examples); non-fiction tends either toward the technical or else toward reports on the important layers beneath the city streets – the sewers, cables, steam pipes, and so on.

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The closest work in terms of subject matter appears to be the just-published Notes on the Underground: An Essay on Technology, Society, and the Imagination by Rosalind Williams (MIT Press, 265 pages, $19.95, illustrated). Judging from a review in the Boston Globe, her work is a scholarly examination of both fiction and technology: “As the natural environment dwindles, the constructed or artificial environment assumes further importance.” Her work, however informative, is clearly not intended to amuse, delight, or humor. I see her volume as an academic (and more expensive) adjunct giving increased credibility to the mission of Subway Hitchhikers.

A big question mark involves the volume that Jim Dyer is preparing. As the subway columnist three times a week for New York Newsday since its inception (four years ago?), he has a lode of insider’s information on the workings and bizarre inhabitants of New York’s system. His leave and acting replacement were announced in the weekly Editor & Publisher magazine in early February, so we should have time to beat him to the gate. Perhaps his opus, whatever its form, will add to an overall interest in subways as such, and in the end benefit sales of our Hitchhikers.

~*~

To learn more about my novel, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

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PACKERS FALLS NEIGHBOR

The siding and shutters of a large Colonial house on the quaintly named Wednesday Hill Road are a classic New England scene.

The siding and shutters of a large Colonial house on the quaintly named Wednesday Hill Road are a classic New England scene. I love the little porch that seems to lead almost secretly from one room to another.

GREEN REPOSE: WITHIN A PERSONAL CANAAN

With its title inspired by John Muir – “There is no repose like that of the deep green woods. … Sleep in forgetfulness of all ills” – the series of poems I call “Green Repose” originates as a celebration of a particular intersection of fields, woods, hills, hollows, and waters just beyond a small city in southern Indiana. Here, ecology does not require vast, uninterrupted virgin forest to yield deep green repose, but integrates layers of human dependence in groves and thickets that sometimes, but do not always, touch other woodlands. In timberland such as this, expanding into marginal farmlands deemed unfit for agribusiness, comes opportunities for rediscovery and awakening potential.

In these woods, also, green embodies not only deciduous leaves, which linger unseen through winter before unfurling, but also roots in the soil and bedrock – elements that shape the particular character of a place. Green, too, befits a newly married adult coming into fullness, yet still close to adolescent stirring. Add to this the green tint of ponds and rivers, and all that occurs unobserved beneath their surface, and the green glass of accumulating years.

Over the decades, a few other works – similar in tone and experience – have been added to the repose that ultimately becomes a quest and a centering – a spiritual condition that Quakers call centering or the author of the Book of Hebrews repeatedly terms rest.

OF GOLDFINCHES AND BLUEBIRDS

Signs proclaim NO TRESPASSING/
NO FISHING, but he eyeballs
his line and waves anyway.

Quarry derricks web sparkling cable.
Sparrows circus. A beer-swollen
T-shirt carries rod and reel across blue asphalt.

He stares where car-sized limestone
is heaped like junk beside green water
as if it means something.

*   *   *

By ten o’clock Saturday
the neighboring farmers are off
to town, excepting Orlando Hollers
whose horse team and sickle bar
circle in on his field
on our singular cool day of the month.
He comes to the fence line and speaks.

*   *   *

In front of their collapsing two rooms
six children, a mother, & two dogs
gawk under the coal stove’s contrails.
They hope I can’t afford that much.
I know to keep walking.

*   *   *

A blue neon WELCOME
indicates these church
doors are locked.

August is dying.

Please don’t love me so much
you put plastic flowers on my grave
where goldfinches and bluebirds cavort.

poem copyright 2014 by Jnana Hodson

JUST A ROLLING STONE

Lately, thanks in part to a great yard-sale find, I’ve been revisiting a lot of Bob Dylan and realizing how many phrases that pass through my head originate in his lyrics. Or at least the ones that also have a musical line. I came to him in late ’62 or early ’63 and was a loyal fan until he went electrified and left the activist and folk scenes. Count me among the contingent that felt betrayed.

OK, I’ve come to recognize and even admire a lot of significant material he wrote in the years since. The man could turn a phrase, for certain, even when he was drawing heavily from others.

The line, “Like a Rolling Stone,” had me wondering about its relationship to the naming of the band and the rock magazine, all three products of the ’60s. Did the song prompt the other two?

Turns out the band was formed in ’62; the song, ’65; and the magazine, then a tabloid newspaper, November 9, ’67. But, in another twist, the band took its name from Muddy Waters’ 1950 “Rollin’ Stone.”

As for the popular phrase, “A rolling stone gathers no moss,” the line points to John Heywood’s 1546 translation of the Roman-era Pubilius Syrus. So it’s been rolling around for some time.

~*~

Also from the ’60s was my discovery of the common Pennsylvania road sign, “Beware of Rolling Rock,” along with the brew. I suppose looking at the connection between those two would be like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. Or even why the chicken crossed the road before or after.

 

BACK TO THE SCENE

The groundhog story continues. Not to be content with the early raids on our garden, the attacks on our beds resumed. Lush Brussels sprouts plants that had been three feet tall were now mere spikes, and in the latest round we lost some kale and squash plants. Neighbors are relating their own losses, including peppers.

I did notice a small entryway had been dug out under our firewood stacks and eventually saw a pointy nose and beady eyes regard me. Not once or even twice but enough to make me suspect the worst. So I moved the trap from the garden and placed it near the entrance.

To my relief, I did find that the trap my wife bought at a yard sale a few years ago does indeed work, and that cubes of cantaloupe prove irresistible to the critters, but even that is taking its own turns. The first time the device was triggered, a bit of Brussels sprouts stem included as bait kept the shutter from locking … allowing an escape. Would the villain learn to avoid my means of entrapment?

I reset the trap and by lunchtime returned to check it out. Although both shutters had been triggered, a ‘chuck was propped up OUTSIDE, one foot on the top as it peered in, likely wondering how to get back to the bait, as if adding insult to my intentions. It seemed I’d been conned again. But, just in case, I circled around and closer examination revealed another was couched inside. One down, at least one more to go.

The short version of what followed includes a trip to Maine, just over the river. Released from confinement, that one bolted through the forest … straight toward New Hampshire.

For my part, back home, hoping they’re slow learners driven more by their guts than their brains, I reset the trap in pursuit of the other. Two hours later, I was back in Maine and evicted that critter, which dashed straight into the river and started swimming toward New Hampshire before rounding back to shore. I was grateful it was still high tide but dismayed to see what confident swimmers they can be. So much for that barrier.

Back home again, seeing new diggings around the firewood, we face the reality of having at least one more living under that neatly stacked firewood. If this keeps up, I’ll have to buy another melon today. At least I’m grateful we didn’t try growing our own; they would have cleaned ‘em out, meaning I’d still have to buy one to use as bait.

All that's left of the once thriving Brussels sprouts.

All that’s left of the once thriving Brussels sprouts.

 

PUBLIC MAGAZINE SWAP

One of the most popular services at our local library is a small cart in the hallway where patrons leave magazines they subscribe to. The periodicals become free for the taking.

Considering the cutbacks in the library’s own subscriptions (accompanying the cuts in the hours the building’s staffed and open), it’s a major service.

We feel good leaving our now-read copies, and feel grateful when we pick up others for perusal.

It’s quite an impressive array still coming in the mail. Hip, hip, hooray!

YOUR HONOR

an enactor of laws still finds the moon more lucid than laughter

Johnny_Badge~*~

The complete Johnny Badge series is available at my page on Amazon.com.

SUMMER CRAFT

Boats are tied up in a row along one dock in Newburyport, Massachusetts. The harbor opens into the Atlantic.

Boats are tied up in a row along one dock in Newburyport, Massachusetts. The harbor opens into the Atlantic.

It's a great place to take off on a whale watch.

It’s a great place to take off on a whale watch.

It's a working harbor with treacherous currents, yet mooring comes at a premium.

The working harbor has treacherous currents, yet mooring comes at a premium. The mouth of the Merrimack River is on the horizon.

FURROW

Like the American bison that dominated the prairie, the continuous ocean of tall grasses, which for so long spread from a corner of Ohio into Montana and Colorado, has been decimated. Homesteaders – seized by a fever to possess farmland of their own – sowed apprehension in their furrows. Inhabitants and land itself now lay open to chronic infection. After each harvest, the Breadbasket of the World, the Interior States of the American Soul, is left vacant, a stubble desert awaiting rebirth. Descendants of those who made this band agriculturally productive bear both its blessing, in economic output, and curse, as if no one can entirely escape the desperation that prompted settlement in the first place. In the recesses of the psyche, inheritors of these spaces must likewise sense themselves to be buffalo-people, and then fear they, too, may be heir to this fate. Pushed to the fringes, the intrinsic beauty and spiritual potential of the heartland are easily overlooked, both by the remnant population and the world’s policy-makers. Today’s farmers are mechanics, first and foremost. Cry, then, for harmony and healing – a proper reentry into Canaan, a taste of balm in manna. Look, ultimately, to the surviving bison and tall grasses with their underlying lavender shadings. Respect the faint drumming, growing louder.

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