Monday, November 16, 2015

Skunk in A Well

One cheerful New England summer morn, when I was about fifteen, my mom commanded me and my brother to go "sort rocks out of the pile of topsoil from the driveway". Now the driveway is 900' long through a bit of swampy land abundant in friendly little demons aka deer flys. They attack anything that moves, even cars, smacking into the Windows like hundreds of tiny zombies. The dirt mound to be sorted, by hand lest we forget, was directly adjacent to the main nest of insurgent activity. We brethren immediately looked at each other and telepathically decided that we had to sell our parole officer on something that would appear almost as equally hellacious but with some added benefit to counteract the diminished suffering. Rather quickly "hey what if we hand dug a spring for you?" popped out. In our long careers of living, me at 16 and my brother at 14, neither of us had had the occasion to craft a well by any means; however, we had heard of a hand dug spring up the street of only 10' in depth. This we surely could accomplish with our rudimentary tools of bones, muscle and steel. (Authors note: we didn't have tools made out of bones, just to be clear). There was even a flicker of a fanciful notion that if we were successful, and saved our parents the money they had budgeted for the well they were going to have pounded into the earth - maybe, just maybe,they would give some of it to us. Or at least not be so stressed out about money themselves and chill out. The dreams of kids....

To our surprise Mother accepted the offer, though later I would discover that both our mother and sister openly discussed how we would give up. Women be damned, we started hacking at the topsoil densely bound together by thick wild grass roots. In northwestern Connecticut, the soil below the tangled web of topsoil and roots is hard packed clay peppered with even harder rocks. Rocks twice the size of my head weren't uncommon and truth be told, I thought about giving up in the first few hours but it was better than anything involving swarms of pestilence reminiscent of the Book of Revelation. 

At the end of the first night we had dug down about 15" or so in a 4.5'x5' square. The womenfolk were impressed with our progress admitting their previous dearth of confidence, and not that we would let on, it made us just want to do even more. It's like a back door some woman installed in men's genetic code. It's quite unfair. 

Digging a hole to China can be oddly addicting and it wasn't many days later that we needed a ladder to pass up five gallon buckets of dirt. The morning after we had hit the 11.5' mark, we showed up to work, I mean school to find a skunk in the well. The little bastard slipped past the few inches not covered by the 4x8 sheet of plywood. He said he was stumbling home from a night of boinking a lady friend at the other end of the field. My mother told him was quite enough of that type of conversation and said that we would get him out. I remember feeling uncomfortable - like "my mom thinks I don't know what boinking is". Goddamn. I wanted him out. The son of a bitch was out boinking things and now he was stinking up my well. 

Back when we dug down past head height, I noticed it started getting cooler, quieter, darker - all three increasing the further we dug. I suppose this a barometer for how demented my life was, but I enjoyed being down there. I mean not like I probably would have enjoyed boinking, but you gotta work with what you have. If your kid starts digging deep holes willingly(ish), you may want to consider some things. Anyway, we managed to get James out of the hole with a cage on a rope. At first he didn't want to get in side it because he said it "looked fretfully dangerous" but after I put some peanut butter inside, he agreed that "it looked quite adamantine" and stepped inside. Fucking skunks using big words and shit. Once back on top, James trotted off without a thank you or goodbye leaving behind a chasm of musk impregnated walls. A temporary mausoleum to his devil-may-care parade through my back yard. 

Several days passed as we waited for the hole to air out, something holes aren't wont to do. Then the rain storms hit and we spent several more days working on "character building exercises" inside while the well filled up for its first and last time. When it finally quit raining, the bottom 8' of well were filled with water. I suppose we could have bailed it out, I'm actually not sure why we didn't. Probably because it was just a slick muddy mess around the shaft. Perennially paranoid of being sued, my father deemed the project a hazard. "Someone might walk through here, fall in and drown" he said and then started up the tractor. As he filled in, in minutes what took several weeks to dig, I learned a valuable lesson - even though I never got to take a picture of this unusual accomplishment, I proved I could use my mind and determination to make a better situation for myself even if it was only temporary.

I assert that all of this is true as I experienced it. James was never seen again but occasionally someone ding ding ditches the house in the middle of the night. I swear, if you check the door there is a whiff of eau de skunk floating in the air. 

Friday, November 6, 2015


Scrolling through Facebook this morning, I discovered a video that caught my attention. 6 different photographers were asked to capture the same subject. That might sound quite dull except that each one of the image creators was told one fact about the man they were about to meet that defined him: millionaire, ex-con, fisherman, etc. Amazingly each picture captured the essence of the mental lens they chose to shoot their subject through. Here is the link if you want to check it out yourself.

I found the video oddly moving and apropos to much of what I've been contemplating recently. Our perceptions that are hardwired about life cause us to see everything through the eyepiece of our core truth. Most important though, is the way we see ourselves. There are some people who see past our "truth" reaching down to draw out the real truth in others but it has little effect until the real truth is believed. We are pushing towards the banishing of labels in our world because people are fed up with the box society has placed around them. That's what I AM that I AM is all about. It's a declaration of abandoning labels, embracing that you don't have to be anything other than the best version of you.

If you looked up from your screen right now to take a photograph of whatever you saw, what word comes to mind? How is that informed by that label you hold over yourself? Do you know what that word is? Allowing for the idea that reality is largely, if not entirely, a product of how we see ourselves is the first step to recognizing that there may be other lenses that offer a more pleasing perspective. Determining the properties of your life's lens allows you to then look over the other available lenses now that you've accepted their existence and choose the one that reveals the best version of you.

What are you seeing and why do you see it that way?