Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   Fisher in the forest
Friday, March 19 2004
In bed this morning, Gretchen and I were watching yet more snow falling from the sky. "It's God's dandruff," one of us declared. This got me to thinking - how many hokey "That's God [doing something]" explanations are there for meteorological phenomena? Is rain God pissing? Or is He crying? Is a shit storm what happens when God consumes too much Taco Bell and Mad Dog?
In my family, the only person likely to use expressions like these was my mother. I tried to remember what God metaphor she'd thrown around in the atheist household of my childhood. Then it occurred to me. "Thunder," my mother use to say, "is God falling down the stairs." She always passed the buck of attribution for this expression to her own mother, who (in her own time) likely gave credit to an even older generation. Nobody wants to claim to have coined a phrase so laden with embarrassing folksiness.
While I pondered these things, I suddenly recalled a particularly hokey thing my mother used to say. Instead of saying "Hell," sometimes she'd spell it out this way, "H, E, Double Hockey Stick." I'm absolutely serious! Obviously she wasn't the one to invent such a needlessly disinfected expression; its origins can probably be found in the uptight Puritan roots on that side of my family. Gretchen, by the way, found this spelling of Hell a hilarious extreme of language sanitization.

This morning I was walking the dogs in the woods to the west of the road that goes to our uphill neighbor's farmhouse when I heard a strange cursing in the distance. It sounded like a huge angry squirrel. I stopped in my tracks to listen, as did Sally. And then Sally charged off. When she started barking, I knew she'd treed something interesting, so I ran over the hillcrest and down into a shallow valley to look. I was in a region of scattered large White Pines set in an oak forest above a swampy network of puddles, the headwaters for one of the branches of the Chamomile River. I looked up in the canopy above and saw the treed creature cowering on a limb in one of the pines, looking down alternately at me, Sally, and Eleanor. The dogs were running back and forth at top speed, extremely excited but unsure of where their quarry had gone. I sat down in the snow and waited patiently for the creature to move so I could see what it was. It was nearly black and about the size of Eleanor. At first I thought it might be a Black Bear cub, but then I saw that its tail was too long. Eventually I got a good look at the thing's face and profile and I recognized it from Peterson's Field Guide to the Mammals of North America. It was a Fisher, a large (and mostly nocturnal) member of the Weasel Family. Later back at the house I read that Fishers are one of the few creatures that can attack and kill a porcupine. (Their technique is to focus entirely on frontal attacks to the head.) This made me wonder if maybe we also have porcupines. I'd hate for our dogs to ever encounter a porcupine, but it's possible they'd know enough to keep their distance. I've seen dogs, Sally in particular, who were very wary of approaching a strange creature unless it was fleeing at high speed.

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