The “Go Home” Button

I’m now doing a commute by car to Long Island, an hour or more each way depending on traffic.  There are a number of alternate routes, some more obscure than others.  I was aware of a few of them but I’ve learned a great deal in the past few months from the Traffic

Chico and me on the farm
Chico and me on the farm

Alert function on my GPS.  It’s nothing fancy, a refurbished Garmin Nuvi, but I’ve learned to listen when it yells, “Severe traffic ahead!  Recalculating!”

It has taken me on scenic tours of parts of the Bronx to avoid traffic jams, some a lovely surprise like Pelham Bay Park or the Moshulu Parkway, which winds around in back of the Bronx Zoo, and others where I wished I had an armed guard riding shotgun with me.  It sent me through Queens in a snowstorm, winding through a few ethnic neighborhoods and then ending on the LIE (Long Island Expressway, for my non-New-York readers.)  I found out later it avoided  a car fire on the Cross Island Expressway.

All in all, it’s a learning experience, if an exhausing one sometimes.  My favorite function of all is the button on screen labeled “Go Home.”  Wherever I may be, I can touch Go Home and the satellite will guide me, around traffic and obstacles, the fastest way home that it sees.

On these long drives I get into a contemplative mood (unless someone cuts me off) and I have started wishing for a “Go Home” button in my life.  Sort of like Dorothy clicking her heels in the “Wizard of Oz,” but I’d like to be able to go through time and space to places, times and sometimes people when I felt safe and loved, or pleased and happy, or just content, and revisit them again.

I guess that’s a function memory serves.  But I would like to see Mother frying chicken, walk with Daddy to the tobacco barn, my dog trailing behind and startling birds or rabbits, or listen to my uncle Jesse (known as Fatty because he was so thin as a boy) playing guitar and singing old songs.  I’d like to eat my first meal in Paris, in a faded bistro with a fat old German shepherd eyeing my dessert.  I’d like to be back at Bear Lake in the summer on the pontoon boat with the cooling breeze of the boat’s motion.  I’d like to be there.

Until someone invents a time machine I’ll have to keep working with memory, and trying to add more to that vault of good feelings, and trying to forget the bad ones.  Peace out, and have a good week.

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The Mystery of Owls

Growing up on a farm, I was familiar with the sound of owls calling at night.  Most owls really don’t hoot, in my experience.  Screech owls were the most frightening–they sounded332px-171_Barn_Owl[1] like a woman screaming in the woods.  Many a night I heard them shrieking to one another in the distance.

We had a tobacco barn that was about two stories high, at least.  It was used for firing dark tobacco.  There were beams running across from one side wall to the opposite wall, spaced so racks of tobacco could be hung to dry.  When it had dried enough, Daddy would build a smouldering fire with sawdust and keep it going for days, firing the tobacco.  Climbing up in the barn was perilous work but had to be done.  Usually the younger and stronger ones did that and hung the tobacco.

In the spring and summer the tobacco barn was empty, and that’s when the barn owl came to hunt mice, and sometimes just to perch.  One day Daddy called me to come with him and “see something special.”  We trudged down the rocky dirt road to the tobacco barn, trailed by my dog, Dusty.  I named him that because he was the exact color of that dirt road.

Daddy opened the smaller door within the big doors so we could go in, letting a little daylight in to the shady, cool interior.  “Look up in that corner,” he said.  There was a huge barn owl.  It slowly turned its head and stared down at us with yellow eyes.  Dusty was nosing around the dirt floor of the barn, and the owl watched him intently.  Then it spread its wings and flew out through an open hatch on the side wall.  It seemed to fly in slow motion, as if you could see every feather moving precisely.

When I saw this Audubon print it reminded me of that owl.  I can see why owls were Athena’s bird and associated with wisdom.  That level stare implies knowledge and intuition beyond what we know.