Tom Stock

Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

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The Leaves Against the Leaf Blower – a children’s story

`                         This is a fable about the conflict between a leaf blower who works for a landscaping company, and a tree.

The setting is fall in Syracuse, New York. A perfectly-shaped red maple tree that grew in the middle of a lawn was shedding its leaves. There was no wind so leaf fall was straight down. A beautiful pattern of red encircled the tree. Set against a bright green lawn, Bright autumn sunshine gave the neighborhood a picture post card scene. The tree still had some attached leaves.

Along came Hector’s Landscape Service truck. Moments after Hector parked at the curb next to the house, Jose strapped a motorized leaf blower onto his back and started walking toward the perfect circle of red fallen red maple leaves beneath the attractive framework set against a dark blue sky.

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Last Sailing Experience of the Season: October 31, 2017

My two month sailing window of September and October came to an end with one final outing. It was not world cup class. In fact It was the worst sailing experience I’ve ever had.

I boarded the boat and bailed the bilges. I untied bow and stern lines and readied the sail. I pushed off into the middle of the creek and raised the sail. There was a strong south wind. I coasted backwards. I lowered the sail and paddled. The main sheet got tangled in my life jacket. I removed it and recovered control. The boom was too low and I had to duck. Usually I can raise the sail to have the boom high enough above my head so I don’t have to duck. Meanwhile I was blown to the shore. Lowered the sail for the second time to try to get into a position where I could make forward progress. The centerboard caught the bottom and stopped progress. I raised the board and still made no progress. When I raised the sail, it wouldn’t rise…I had my foot on the Halyard.

My friend Darrel Ford took up a position at the dock at Robins Ave. He intended to take photos. Meanwhile I drifted into bayberry bushes hanging over an old bulkhead. I had to push off with the paddle. I could not make any headway. I drifted into a canal on the West Islip side. I lowered the sail for the third time. I never had control of the boat. The deck on the bow was covered with dead bayberry branches. Finally, out in the middle of the creek, with sail up, the boat turned in a complete circle. I had traveled ¼ mile. At this point, I declared retreat. The wind pushed my back into the slip in about a minute.

.Darrel told me that he saw a sail rise and fall several times. I never made it to the dock. I limped back to the dock totally disappointed. I called Roger and arranged to have the boat hauled out as soon as possible. Next season, I will have a small outboard motor and I hope this will never happen again! I don’t have to check the weather report for wind any more.

Tom Stock                                                  November 9, 2017

Looking For Small

I was struck by the motto of the E.L. Schumacher Society, SIMPLE IS BEAUTIFUL.  A three word sentence that in itself is simple. I subconsciously adopted this concept decades ago.  Since then, I have found ways to practice it. I try to disregard complicated things. I struggle with computer programs, even the simplest ones. Microsoft Word has hundreds of “windows” I click on a few and quickly become discouraged when I call up websites whose first page offers way too many avenues to travel.


I own only one time piece, my wrist watch. I only have to turn the hour hand one hour ahead or back. My cell phone does it automatically. Not having several clocks I don’t have to spend the time adjusting. This is an example of how simplifying gives me more leeway to economize and create more efficiency.

I do have a clock in my Honda Civic which my wife Nancy helps me change. My car is small and simple. It does have automatic windows. I have a stick shift transmission, air conditioning, a radio, and interior lights. Owning a car is not simple. The fees, the maintenance, the fuel, parking, dangerous drivers all complicate my life. You might ask, “How can you say you simplify when you own and drive a car?” I contradict myself as Walt Whitman said. I respond by using the car as efficiently as possible. Short trips are walking or bicycle trips.


Tiny is very “small.” My dictionary devotes 25 lines to the word “small” and only two for “tiny.” Tiny must be smaller because the dictionary says so. I saw a cartoon in The New Yorker Magazine in which a cat who has broken a precious Tang Dynasty vase talked of a dog and convinces it to leave the country. The artist has drawn small quotation-size marks on both sides of the dog’s tail. These four small lines confirm that indeed, “small is beautiful.” To be beautiful, a thing need not be big. Small is a lifestyle. It flies in the face of the grandiose. A clever politician knows how to make a small comment loom large. Small is reasonable. It is not a credit card dept. Small is not about humility. It is about moderation.  Box stores encourage big. Big is not beautiful. Six Flags Recreation Resort in New Jersey is for those who want large entertainment thrills. Small are about board games at home, raising vegetables in a garden, taking nature walks, or having a picnic.  It is not about physical beauty. It is about balance, sustainability, and right relationship. McMansons with oceans of square footage are not beautiful. A house that fits with its environment and doesn’t use up a lot of space fits this idea.


Small is Earth friendly. People who practice small produce less garbage, eat healthier, don’t waste resources, use water carefully, use public transportation,

Use less electricity at home. They strive to be in right relationship with the planet.

People who try to live “small” are not consuming so as to have leftovers they don’t want, bring to the curb, and are carted away to a landfill ( garbage dump). Small is a point of view, tiny is about physical size. If I see a famous person like Obama far off in the distance, he looks small. But I know, this man is not small by any means.


Is This Real Time?

A mushroom in my hand

Cool to the touch

White and fresh

From the forest floor with

Dead leaves and wood pieces

I can photograph it

Collect it

Identify it

Sketch it

It’s right here in front of me

I walked a mile before I found it.

I hold it up to look at the gills

Very delicate

This is real time


Tom Stock

Irish Whiskey – An Unhurried Journey


A couple from Dublin, Ireland stayed with us for three days.

As a thank your gift, they gave us a bottle of Irish Whiskey in a beautiful red box.

I’ve only had a few brief occasions when I tasted Ireland in a shot glass.

The bottle stood in a corner of the kitchen counter for almost a week. Finally, I cracked the cap, poured a small amount into a well-chosen glass, and took a sniff. Then, I lifted the glass to my lips, tilted my head, tilted the glass and sipped. I didn’t swallow. I let the stimulation linger. The first impression was not only the taste, it is the atmosphere of those tiny aerosol Irish droplets flowing to every part of my mouth. When I inhaled, I felt the full effect as liquid whisky evaporated to a gas. This enhanced the whole experience. I was back in Ireland.

I don’t swig liquid like this. I take very small sips to make it last. I want just enough to wet the tongue. The first contact with the whole tongue, front, middle sides, and back, the whole experience. The taste lasted ten seconds, my cheeks flush slightly, and I feel warmth. Then my brain kicked in. in a single word…euphoria!

It is temptation to have a second shot, a third, and finish the whole bottle. I had to use all my will power to refrain from a second helping.

Here’s what the label says:

Triple distilled; aged in hand-selected sherry butts; rich ruby read hue; 46% ABV; non chill filtered; seasoned with the finest Oloroso sherry;

TASTE: nutty Oloroso, spicy raisins and creamy oak. FINISH: long and wonderfully complex with a flourish of orange. An unhurried  journey. Produced by Walsh Whisky Distillery Ltd. Carlow, Ireland

I cried with Irish happiness.


Tom Stock                                                       November 7, 2017

“Stillness Against the Backdrop of Steady, Intensifying Change”

BY Verlyn Klinkenborg – More Scenes from the Rural Life

Main Street in Babylon Village is on the direct route to Good Samaritan Hospital. I live on the eastern side of the Village in a house on Willow Street. A century ago, this was a quiet place. Horse drawn carriages, no motorcycles, trucks, AND cars yet.

Things certainly have changed. While horses produce manure, today it’s exhaust in the form of carbon dioxide and engine fumes. Combustion is the name of the game and at the root of much of the “”intensifying change.” It is EMS trucks howling, sirens and high pitched horns carrying emergency patients to the emergency ward. Main Street is a conduit for noise. People in need of immediate aid from as far as ten miles west of here are carried right through  the business district with two story buildings that reflect and amplify this noise. Walking on Main Street when an EMS truck passes without ear protection is to invite  hearing damage. This is the backdrop of a modern village stuck smack dab in the path of health emergencies.

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A Tricycle Built For One


I volunteered to put together his tricycle. He ordered it on the internet. It came in a big, heavy cardboard box. I opened the box and removed the parts. There were no instructions. Lucky for me I know a few things about bikes. I spread all 5- parts on the patio table and began.

It looked challenging, and that’s the way it turned out. I spent five hours swearing, dropping tools, getting charley horse in my fingers holding tiny screws, having to go to my tool chest to get more tools. I figured things out by making a lot of mistakes. High on the list was installing the derailleur. The bolt was small, slippery and round. I was in an awkward position. Both my hands were in odd positions. The bolt slipped and bounced away. I had attached it backwards and had to undo the bolt – 20 minutes, and another half hour to install it again.

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Small Craft Warning

The weather report
In the New York Times
Says it’s not a good sailing day
Wind too strong – she’ll remain
Tied the dock
She is a little wood vintage boat
This is my third year
I’m still learning
Haven’t figured how to furl the sail
With no outboard

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My Favorite Shirts

Many unworn shirts hang in my closet. This is because I have two favorite shirts that hog the show. These two shirts are the go to ones. I am wearing them out because I wear them almost all the time.

Shirt #1:

A long sleeved, buttoned, gray, very strong material, some elbow wear, IT was made in Sri Lanka, size large, Craft & Barrow label. The shirt is warm and it fits. Nancy, wife #2, bought it at a garage sale for .50. As soon as I tried it on, I knew I might as well discard the shirts in the closet. It is an excellent travel shirt because it’s all I need.

Shirt #2:

A forest green sweat shirt. It was a gift from Ted as a thank you for helping him. It is warm and comfortable. I wear it inside out. Recently I discovered  a picture and words on the front:


Look both ways before you cross the road.

Be a good listener.

Know when to lay low.

Tread lightly on the earth.

Take time out to browse.

Leap over obstacles.

Don’t pass the buck!

I resonate with “Know when to lay low.” Deer are not the type animal that thrives on the paparazzi. Their fur blends in so that they seem to dissolve before your eyes when they leap into the woods. The fawns have white botches to match dapple’s light in the forest. Deer spend the day resting and chewing the night’s worth of vegetation. They speak to me saying: “Tom, chill out, lay low once in a while. You’re too high profile. Take a back seat once in a while. Don’t hog the spotlight.”

”Leap over obstacles’ also gets my attention. Go at them head on. Don’t let them stop you.  Be proactive. The high arc of leaping deer is a sight to behold. For a brief moment, the animal seems suspended in air. This ability allows them to bypass heavy brush.

All animals are teachers. When I’m in Ms. Deer’s class, I sit in the front. I don’t to miss a single thing. She tells us how deer signal danger. Lift your tail. How simple is that? I don’t have a tail. How shall apply this to my life. Ah ha. I have it. I’ll shout at the top of my lungs. HELP DANGER WATCH OUT, DUCK. Deer as so much smarter than us.



Tom Stock                                               October 30, 2017

Let’s Take a Big Gulp of America

Sandwiched between Mexico and Canada
America, our country in the heartland of North America
Take a big swig, gulp it down
Keep on drinking
Swallow and do it again
There’s plenty big to choose from
Corn fields in Iowa stretch to the horizon
Soybeans, cotton reaching infinity
Huge chunks of open land in the southwest
Sod farms for instant lawns and chemicals
Homeowners can look like the most wealthy people in the neighborhood
Farms with big ass tractors that take bites that are county-sized chunks
Trucks with tires 12 feet high

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