Tom Stock

Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

Yale

Six museums over a two night stay in New Haven, Connecticut. The Port Jefferson Ferry and a short drive along the Connecticut coast and we entered New Haven.

The city has several buildings with great architecture. This might be expected in the vicinity of an ivy league University.The Yale campus and spires are limestone and sandstone. Handsome is the word that comes to my mind. No cookie cutter design here. Four story dorms, blocks of secret societies. A town square open to the sky.   Skyscrapers in down town New Haven may reach 25 floors.

The ferry swayed as we crossed the Long Island Sound. Strong westerly winds rocked the boat enough to warrant an announcement. “Attention.  Please stay seated or accompanied by someone”. I watched the horizon rise above the window sill, then dip below. A March Madness basketball game kept my attention.

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Long Island Natural History Conference: 2017

Sixteen power point presentations, each 40 minutes long, in the semi-dark auditorium of Berkner Hall on the campus of Brookhaven National Laboratory. Presentations were made by well-qualified presenters who have done scientific research on Natural History subjects that focus on Long Island subjects.

After two talks, the morning break buzzed with conversation in the display area. There was networking, reconnecting, and not much doom and gloom from like-minded people who have strong connections to the out doors.

A new crop of young enthusiasts manned many of the displays. They were anxious to engage visitors in their particular organization. Eric Powers, long-time naturalist, showed off a new “startup” called Center for Environmental Education and Discovery. The group is raising funds to restore a house in Brookhaven to conduct environmental education programs.

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Kookabarra

KOOKABARRA

Spinach comes in several varieties. I discovered Kookabarra in a Johnny’s seed catalog and liked the characteristics. One is savoyed leaves which are bumpy rather than flat.

I planted the round, white seeds according to instructions. A week later I saw small leaves in the shape of propellers. I dropped the seeds in furrows by hand. It is difficult to space them evenly. Some of them were too close together. I transplanted these rather than thin. Thinning is another name for killing. Upoon germination, Kookabarra starts sending down a tap root to insure a good supply of water.

It took over a month to see savoy pattern in the leaves. Soon after, the harvest was enough for two small portions. I harvested all summer long. We may have had 15 spinach side dishes with our main courses.

I watered frequently because Suffolk County was in a drought. This drought is going on two years. It has been called a severe drought by meteorologists. Some marshes have dried up. A shallow lake is only dry mud cracks. Some creeks have shortened due to the dropping water table.

I harvested kookabarra all winter long. I pulled a plant and discovered one reason the plants did not respond to drought. The root was an extremely long tap root able to draw water from up as much as ten inches deep.

I covered many plants with clear plastic caps. Those plants grew larger leaves than the ones with no caps. I have yet to see this variety bolt.

In the meantime, I ordered more Kookabarra seeds. “We are out of stock”. W woman on the phone said. No wonder. Lots of other people besides me know about Kookabarra. I decided that the only way I can get kookaburra seeds was to let the old spinach plants flower and go to seed.

I have never had such success growing leafy plant as with Kookabarra. I don’t know how this name arose, but that’s some reader whose curious will find out. Please tell me.

Vape Me

Lay your cloud on me

Let your cloud ascend

Like the smoke from

A peace pipe

A Native American tradition

A lot less primitive

Their cloud is spiritual

Yours not so much

Allow your cloud, vapid one

To join with real clouds

Up there is the sky

Where all clouds belong

Let them pass overhead

As those with their heads down

With their faces illuminated

By glowing hand-held screens

While fabulous big, bulbous

Snow-white cumulus clouds

Glorify the day

Bringing us alternate patches of blue

Fair weather clouds they are

Yours not so much

From your vape sticks

Artificial clouds

Right there in your vape lounges

Add your cloud to the

Great mother of all digital clouds

Where data lives

 

Point Blank

A finger at the ready

On an ak-47 gun stock

A tad reach to the trigger

Only takes a second to fire

To kill, to injure, change everything

Pull, press, boom,

Or turn a toaster knob

To choose your darkness level

Or press the darken/lighten button

At the Staples Xerox department

To select the level of darkness

Like on an antique TV set with its dial

To change the brightness of the image

It all boils down to us

Who can lighten up or darken down

The mood, the circumstances

A finger to swipe, a click, a touch

Turn a page, or to kill

It only takes a finger

To point to ourselves and choose

 

Accelerate: The Poem

Faster internet?

That’s so 2000

Fast isn’t fast enough

Keep accelerating

Like how else will we reach

Trappist – #1 star to check out

Only 476 million light years from Earth

An earth-like planet

If we don’t go 100 times

Faster than the speed of light

We’ll never get there in our lifetime

Which lasts about ten seconds

Like a runner nearing the finish line

The sprint, the pour it on, pump it up

Fast enough to win a mile race in 4 seconds

Talk faster so you

Can talk about the next fast thing

No more calm, no more slow dance

Music performances so quick, you don’t even hear them

Work faster

Play faster

Do everything faster

There’s no time left

Time is running out

Rush rush rush

No more fast lane

Time for blur lane

Cars aren’t passing any more

They’re flying, like meteor streaks

Texting so fast

Fingers are sore

Finger tips hurt

A split second takes a nanosecond

e-mail so fast, the message gets there

Before it’s sent

Earth is rotating faster

We have to keep up

Time has been redefined

An hour only a second

Days weeks months, years

Much shorter as we wiz through lifetimes

Five minutes old – that’s like birthday number 7,900

The odometer on the dashboard

Starts at 220 MPH

The speed of light – way too slow

Birthdays so fast you’re and can’ blow out candles

Run on sentences the size of 1000 page book

Gotta go, gotta accelerate

Speed is everything

No time to stop and smell the roses.

What happened to the time? You ask

Daylight savings, forget that

Century savings is more like it

World trade center elevators – 3 seconds up and down

Two hour movie – one second, better pay attention

Heartbeat – 200 beats per minute

Breathing rate – no time for that

Go go go – phases of the moon

It’s full all the time

Can’t slow down

Gotta keep up

LIRR to Penn Station from Montauk – seat belts required

Cross country flight – there only jiffy flight

Clocks are having a problem

My nap is over before it even starts

Lets Talk About Art

Whether you do art or appreciate looking at art, to really get into it you have to work at it. The impact of art may be immediate, and hanging with it will bring thoughts that are triggered by that art no matter what art form you choose.

If you are an aspiring artist, your unique, individual expression will start consciously, and slowly morph into the unconscious. It takes a long-term commitment and determination to “emerge” Emerge means that you’ve found your path and you are following your voice. As you do so, your voice will slowly change as you mature, perfect your skills, and try new approaches.

It is important to have a work place, a studio, with no interruptions where you can leave your stuff and come back to it. It is essential that you “inhabit” your studio even if you don’t feel creative. Your surroundings will convince you. You may start with doubt, but that will quickly change once you start.

Thomas Merton, a monk, says it best…”Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” As we work at our craft, the world shrinks as we fully inhabit our creativity. There is no better place to be. Once you mindset kicks in, your awareness changes and things start to happen. You are onto something, a theme emerges and you go with it. “happy accidents begin to occur” which you recognize and incorporate.

Don’t rush, pause, stand back, make midcourse corrections. There’s nothing wrong with walking away with an unfinished piece. Something tells you to stop and refuel. I am a collage artist and when I’m stuck, I leave the project and let it sit. It calls me back when I’m ready to proceed. When I have an idea, I walk about my daily business brainstorming that idea until I HAVE to return to my studio and follow the idea. Don’t be afraid to be impulsive and don’t call yourself an artist because saying that holds you back. Better to say “I’m not an artist yet, I’m still in the starting gate.”

 

Ball

March madness brings together 64 of the best college basketball teams in the nation. The competition starts with a bracket plan of team match ups and ends with a national champion.

I love ball. I love the the players; how they defend, shoot, twist, fowl, fly off the court into the seats, look weird and shrug their shoulders in disbelief when the ref calls a foul on them. I love the instant replays; the cheerleaders, the bands, the refs, the coaches. With no cable TV and four games to watch on a Saturday, I get saturated after two games. But what games they are. These are superb athletes at the peak of top of their game. Bow outs, no; close games, yes; and I always root for the underdog. The desperation last second fling of a 3/4 length floor length shot with the hope for a miracle. I even like those absurd interviews with players and coaches, (“we’re gonna get in there, play our game, and see what happens”). I appreciate the camera men for their  close-ups of a spectator biting their nails on and on and on. You never know what is going to happen.

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Henry’s Hollow

Where is Henry? Who is he? Why is a topographic feature in the middle of the Quogue 1959 USGS Quadrangle labeled Henry’s Hollow?  Friend John Burnley and I decided to find out. Both of us visited the area 20years ago.  This was an opportunity to visit a new open space area. That map showed Henry Hollow south of Sunrise Highway, North of Montauk Highway, east of Spinny Road, and west of Bellows Road. March 8th started out cloudy and ended sunny. It was a warm day, perfect for a hike.

We met at the Sunrise Highway overpass on Bellows Road. The trail head was across the street. The Pine Barrens in this area is hilly and part of the much larger Ronkonkoma Moraine; these hills are less steep compared to Manorville Hills. The trail led parallel to Sunrise Highway. ATV’s have built annoying sine waves. Hikers find that they are constantly going up and down. When the tires spin, sand rooster tails behind, piles up and with repetitive passes, little hills and troughs develop. I felt a rhythm of balance and unbalance which slowed me down.

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Baker Tom

Nancy bought an Oster bread maker at a yard sale for $3.00. She downloaded a 50 page instruction booklet so we can make our own bread. Translate we to me.

The machine gathered dust for more than 2 years. “When are you going to make bread? That was my prompt to try the automatic break maker and read the instructions first. “Today” I responded. This should be easy. Load the ingredients and press start.

The machine was brand spanking new.  I read ten pages of the instructions. The rest of it were recipes. I picked the first recipe on the list – white bread. If I followed the instructions, all I had to do to make bread was to press one red button and wait 3 and ½ hours.

I found a recipe for white bread.I needed yeast and powdered milk which I didn’t have. I went shopping. After not finding powdered milk at three super markets, I finally found powdered goats milk. Close enough. So far I’ve spent an hour and no bread yet. I read the instructions again after assembling all the ingredients. The recipe called for Gold Metal (better for machine bread) flour. We only had King Arthur flour.  I drove back to the super market to visit the baking isle. The baking isle had four brands of flour. Finally I found Heckers unbleached flour “perfect for bread machines because of its higher gluten” content. I liked Heckers for two other reasons…the picture on the front is of a little boy with a huge knife carving a huge loaf of bread. the fact that their company started way back in 1853 suggesting to me that this was the flour the bread machine.  Now it was bread making time. My mouth started to water just looking at the little boy with the huge knife.

There were a few warnings in the instruction book. Don’t let the yeast get wet. All ingredients must be measured accurately.  The ingredients called for water first followed by the flower, sugar, salt, goats milk, soft butter, and finally yeast on top as far away from the water as possible. I measured everything very carefully. So far I’d vested in 2 hours time and 20 dollars and I had to made an expensive loaf of bread.

I closed the top and pressed start. There is a small window on top. I looked in with a small flashlight and the mixture turned into a white wad slowly turning. The kneading process was taking place. The machine does everything. I’ve measured and loaded and now the wait begins 3 1/3hours.

The house slowly smelled like a bakery. I checked after two hours, then three hours, then hung out in the kitchen waiting for the “ding” sound the machine made. By this time, the machine and I had become friends.

The busied myself in the kitchen, washing dishes, putting away the left over ingredients, arranging things in the refrigerator. Another peek…ten seconds to go. The countdown, a drum roll. Ding! Ah, now let’s see my very first loaf of bread with the help of technology. I raised the lid and saw a loaf of bread. I lifted the pan and slid it out onto the counter. It had a nice brown crust, spongy interior, and smelled like BREAD! The loaf looked like a block a big square block, not like a store bought loaf of Wonder bread.

I let the bread cool, then cut two slices that were equal to a slice and a half of a regular   bread slice. I made two open faced sandwiches with turkey, cheese, mayo, and lettuce.

That loaf of bread cost $20 and took two hours of my time and my friend, the automatic bread maker 3 ½ hours. I now have a new respect for supermarket bread. While passing pushing my shopping cart, I grab a loaf and keep going. Total time? One second. Total cost? $3.50.  But the taste, the crust, a freshness… this is far superior bread. I approached the bread machine, patted it and said “Thank you.”

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