Archive for February, 2012

Scarecrow, I take the blame. Not for creating you, because that was a happy event, a collaboration with my children. But I am at fault for thinking you could last the winter. My mistake, bag man.

I should have foreseen what would happen when I screwed your improvised scrap-lumber frame into a fallen tree trunk. The arrangement worked well through most of the autumn and early winter, but a couple of weeks before Christmas somebody (a senior member of our extended family) got bored and decided to saw the tree trunk into pieces.

His chainsaw had been sitting in our basement because I’d borrowed it a month or so prior. He was itching to do something, anything, to escape the kid-driven chaos of our household, and he was also just plumb offended by the tree trunk, which had been reclining in the same location for years, a trophy of sloth and decay. The saw offered him deliverance from these oppressions. After all, it was his.

Surprised, I hustled out after him and started unscrewing the base of your frame, scrambling to relocate you. It was rough going with the saw vibrating the trunk. Then, a change of plans. Our hasty visitor couldn’t get the saw to work properly—to his amazement, my warning that the blade wasn’t long enough turned out to be true—and he gave up on the job. As I reattached your frame, some of the screw-heads broke off and I left you hanging there with far less security, far less stability, than you had become accustomed to.

A few days later, somewhere in the deep frigid hours of the morning, you collapsed on your belly. To be honest I think you could have battled the winds with a little more vigor, but the fact remains that it wasn’t your fault; it’s your nature to stand there and I went against your nature. I didn’t equip you properly.

No one noticed your sad condition until afternoon—more insensitivity. And then came what might be seen as the ultimate insult. When I realized what had happened, I let you continue lying prone on the cryogenically frozen lawn.

It wasn’t laziness on my part, exactly. It was triage. Since the weekend of the botched chainsaw job we had become a different household, a hub of strange foreboding, a stress factory. And I’m not talking about the ongoing holiday visits from other family members. I’m talking about the bizarre news we’d received in mid-December. It was something we couldn’t even talk about with most of our guests, all of whom were beloved but none of whom, we feared, would ever quite grasp the scope of the dilemma.

So you slept in the winter weeds for I don’t remember how long, a week, maybe two. Meanwhile we struggled with questions about the cogs and cables of fate’s machinery. The questions went something like this: Is the machine operated, cosmically speaking? Is there a heart of gold at work, or a head of straw? These were, for us, life and death topics—immensely difficult to tackle and inevitably paralyzing to an already passive figure such as myself.

After all, I’m as domestic as you are, sir. We mirror each other. That was my realization when I finally shambled out to lift you up and brush you off.












Good god, man. Look at yourself. Are you that oppressed? To be ignored is not the same as to be oppressed, although the two can certainly overlap.

I don’t think it was neglect, per se, that wounded you. My utmost disservice was creating you with no special abilities, no self-sustaining gear, no weapons. Again, that makes you my brother as well as my creature. And here is our most distinctive family trait: that we defend our gardens solidly enough, standing vigilant against thieves and scavengers, but when it comes to attacking our problems, our poll numbers plunge. We have trouble venturing beyond the garden.

Well, if it’s self-reliance you want, I’ll step back. I’ll let you stand on two feet.









No? It’s a lost cause? So be it, the shed awaits.

But during your hibernation, consider this. Even the adventurers, the swashbucklers, the hunters—even they stumble once in a while. You don’t have to be one of their species to understand that. All you need to do is observe, which is something you’re particularly adept at. Use your bird-watcher’s eye.

Already we have an instructive case study (see below). When this soldierly fellow wanders into the southern hemisphere, he falls flat on his face.

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