Friday Reads: The “It’s What Goats Do” Edition

From the “Fabrication and Impermanence” chapter of What Makes You Not a Buddhist by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse:

Consider cooking a hen’s egg. Without constant change, the cooking of an egg cannot occur. The cooked-egg result requires some fundamental causes and conditions. Obviously you need an egg, a pot of water, and some sort of heating element. And then there are some not-so-essential causes and conditions, such as a kitchen, lights, an egg timer, a hand to put the egg into the pot. Another important condition is absence of interruption, such as a power outage or a goat walking in and overturning the pot.

I love that last line. Freakin’ goats….

Wasn’t That Just Like Bill?

From the essay “The Short List” in A Fly Rod of Your Own, the new book from Fly Fishing Hall of Famer John Gierach:

Forty-eight hours later there was two feet of immaculate snow on the ground at the lower elevations and more than twice that amount in the high country to the west. And it was that dense, heavy, spring-like stuff that turns shrubs into moguls, builds precarious white hats on fence posts, and makes a snow shovel heavier than you care to lift too many times in a row. In Minnesota, where I grew up, they called this “heart-attack snow” because every winter it would spell the end for any number of elderly midwesterners. They’d trek out to shovel their driveways at age eighty-nine to avoid paying the neighbor kid a dollar and come back feetfirst. At the funerals people would say, “Wasn’t that just like Bill?”

Reviewing this one for the Indy next week. I’m halfway through, and I love it. Gierach is proof that the best fly fishing writing is barely even about fly fishing.

Another quote of his I love: “Fly-fishing is solitary, contemplative, misanthropic, scientific in some hands, poetic in others, and laced with conflicting aesthetic considerations. It’s not even clear if catching fish is actually the point.”

I took last year off from fishing. If I find my way back stream-side this year, Gierach’s book will be a big reason why.

Birthday, Decay, Love

This is a screenshot of one of the chapters that comprises my friend Barry Graham’s new book, Nothing Extra: Notes On the Zen Life (Zen for Real Life) (Volume 3). It might be one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read.

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Maybe it hits me extra hard because I just turned another year older myself a couple days ago, and have thought long and hard about my own decay, what is acceptable because of age, and what is unacceptable because of my own behavior. In the midst of that, it’s always good to be reminded of the beauty in life as well.

Graham is a noir author, journalist and Zen Buddhist monk, and a fine companion to tip a beer or two with. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything of his I’ve read, and Nothing Extra in particular is bringing me much to reflect on lately. I highly recommend it.

 

Like a Cow Chewing the Same Cud for Six Months or More

With the arrival of March, a timely excerpt from Farmer by Jim Harrison:

 

51a86If2faL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Everyone got disgusted with winter by March and usually before, and a major April storm could bring on a fit of sheer spite in anyone. Carl used to say that winter was like a cow chewing the same cud for six months or more. And despite all the church activities, school, the dances and card parties at the Grange Hall, everyone grew morbid and nervous toward spring, about ten degrees out of kilter in fact. There were more fights at the tavern than at any other time of year and the simplest family quarrels extended into days of silence with the snow and wind outside roaring louder than the wood fire in the stove. Spring, whether false or not, brought on laughter and a kind of useful drowsiness, a time of general good feeling when people yawned and smelled the air with a few weeks’ respite before the fields would be dry enough to plow. Joseph thought it a grand time; it was simply that they had all lived through another winter and that under its heavy lid of snow and ice and frozen ground the earth was actually alive.

 

Baby Claves, $15

From the previously published story, “Goats,” appearing in For a Little While: New and Selected Stories by Rick Bass:

25677598BABY CLAVES, $15, read the sign, each letter painted a different color, as if by a child. We parked in his muddy driveway, the low-slung station wagon dragging its belly over the corrugated troughs of countless such turnings-around, wallowing and slithering and splashing up to the front porch of a collapsing clapboard shed-house that seemed to be held up by nothing more than the thick braids and ghost vines of dead ivy.

Attached to the outside of the hovel was a jerry-built assemblage of corrals and stables, ramshackle slats of mixed-dimension scrap lumber, from behind which came an anguished cacophony of bleats and bawls and whinnies and outright bloodcurdling screams, as we got out of the car and sought to make our way dry-footed from one mud hummock to the next, up toward the sagging porch, to inquire about the baby claves, hoping very much that they were indeed calves, and not some odd bivalve oyster we’d never heard of.