At Random

Friday was a sunny treat, so much so that Spring actually seemed possible. On our regular walk around the neighborhood we encountered vivid western bluebirds and noted the newest daffodils blooming in yards and woods, and stopped briefly to chat about our unexpected good fortune with an older gentleman making his afternoon rounds.

But that was yesterday—today’s looking appropriately grim and rainy—and we have a ways to go before we can quit looking back over our shoulders for winter. The ground’s too mushy for any serious chores, so the wheelbarrow is parked next to the garage until…April? Likewise, the lawnmower sits dormant—it may be June before it belches two-cycle smoke into the valley. Aside from sweeping debris from the deck and filling the bird feeders we’re spending more time thinking about all we need to do than doing anything about it. That, too, is a sure sign of Spring.

When I opened the blinds of my office window I peered out at a stockpile of poplar rounds my wife had recently gathered and assembled into one well-balanced row. The utility company had long wanted to remove those trees, and after earlier reprieves we finally relented—they weren’t growing, and were starting to lean over the line in several places. The largest, at the corner of the garden, did have its sentence commuted as it was on the opposite side of the utility pole. Recognizing the artistry of my wife’s creation, I went outside to take a closer look, and a picture.

Stacking wood might seem a mindless chore, one best attacked quickly—hurry up and git ‘er done!—especially large piles of a cord or more. But I can tell you, after heating with wood for twenty-five years, that is the least of your worries. I’ll gladly stack all day if I can be excused from cutting, hoisting, hauling, unloading, and splitting—I want to be the relief pitcher who comes in to get the final out in the ninth inning and then goes off to have a beer with his teammates.

It’s important to note that when I say stack I don’t mean toss—the former is contemplative, the latter quick n’ dirty. The more I considered our little poplar pile, the more I saw a word to describe it—Zen-like. Zen and The Art of Stacking Wood. But wouldn’t you know it: Clay Springmeyer had beaten me to that title. I’d never heard of Clay until I Googled the title and read his post on MakeItMissoula. He wrote it last January, but it’s a good story anytime, and now I don’t have to write anything about that since he’s already done a bang-up job.

I didn’t expect to bump into Missoula like that, and for the second time in two days at that. A college town surrounded by beautiful landscapes, just like the one I live in, Missoula is the only other place I’ve called home outside of Eugene, and thirty-two years on I can still get homesick for that Big Sky country. When I sold a compact flash card online yesterday the young photographer who bought it was from You-Guessed-It (I gave her a five-dollar discount for old times’ sake, although I’m pretty certain she was born after that). And then there was Clay and his Zen wood.

Has this happened to you, where a particular city appears and reappears in your life, seemingly at random? I returned to Google to find a name or definition for this phenomenon and came back empty-handed, so I’m going to give it its name: Coincidental City-Centric Convergence. For a long time last year Chicago kept turning up in my life—it began with a photographer I know who lives there—and thereafter if I turned over a stone, there it was. I haven’t visited that city and have no explanation for its frequent appearances in my attention, but hope to have an answer by the time the Cubs reach the World Series again.


2 thoughts on “At Random”

  1. Enjoyed reading this, Bill. Maybe the Coincidental City-Centric Convergence of Missoula in your life is the Universe's way of telling you to come back?

    Currently trying to find the Zen of semester finals here at the U and failing miserably.

    Clay Springmeyer
    Missoula, MT

  2. Clay, although I feel the tug of “home” whenever I get near the Montana borders, the reality of winter kills any romantic notions of living there again. Blame it on older bones.

    Good and continued luck with your studies! Then on to the uber-Grad School of Hard Knocks!

    Your writing was enjoyable, let me know when (and where) you do more.

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