Hairy bad things in the woods

When I open the book I was reading last night, the lifeless corpse of a deer fly falls out. It was pretty dark when I closed the book. Perhaps she had intended to spend the night on a nice, clean sheet of paper, but was instead crushed between two poems.


Temporarily deaf in my right ear during a course of treatment for excessive earwax buildup—a huge impediment to being able to enjoy the day. Or so I thought, until I realized I only hear mosquitoes in one ear now, which feels like almost half the problem solved. Which is not to joke about hearing loss (and thereby tempt Fate) but I can see it might have a few upsides.


Howard Stern thinking he could run for president is hardly surprising. Every comedian in the world is probably looking at Zelenskiy in Ukraine and thinking, you know, having half your population driven into exile and being locked in brutal internecine conflict for years may seem less than ideal, but 90% approval rating from his people! Who does that?! He is KILLING it!

I am fearful of what comes next. New NATO bases in Poland and Romania at the same time that Turkey drops its objections to admitting Finland and Sweden will be seen as provocations—potentially intolerable ones. It’s scary the way the hegemonic war machine now seems to have a mind of its own.

The problem with Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” is that it wasn’t nearly bleak enough. But it’s a very Christian song, and Christians tend to be optimists—unlike, say, the Vikings or the Aztecs. They make war into something grand if terrible—something with a potentially righteous purpose. That’s true even for many liberal Christians, I think, let alone those who actively pray for the world to end and Christ return in glory. It’s just very American to believe that violence can solve problems. It’s part of our cultural DNA and quite likely more pagan in origin.

It may seem hard to believe, for anyone who hasn’t studied anthropology, that not all religions are obsessed with life after death and with meting out punishments and rewards. Which is to say, not all religions are death cults. And those that are: let’s look at the role of early state oppression in that. The need to give an utterly ground-down people some reason to live.

But nationalism remains the biggest death cult of all. It is literally just the worship of power, of idols—the very thing that the Abrahamic religions all say God is opposed to. It destroys other ideologies like a cancer, from within. It’s no accident that the most powerless people are often the most patriotic: it gives them access to a simulacrum of power, that warm and fuzzy feeling that we’re part of something bigger. Also, the military is one of the last more or less responsible large employers. Sure, you may die on the job or come back severely injured and with PTSD, but the benefits and pay are still pretty good.

And so the myth of the righteous war of liberation staggers on like the undead. Which is how I think of so many of us now anyway: undead. Voracious but somehow hardly able to savor anything. Not in good shape and rarely seeming to sleep.

Well, of course I’d think that. Both “Night of the Living Dead” and “Dawn of the Dead” were filmed in western Pennsylvania…


Kept hearing a weird squeaking noise while I was typing that last bit. Turned my good ear fully toward it and realized it’s the juvenile barred owls again.

This is good to know, because I’m about to walk a half mile back through the darkness without a flashlight—because the fireflies are spectacular right now—and that’s one fewer spooky noise I need to worry about.

Though part of me does long for a simpler time when monsters too were more basic: hairy toothy bad things in the woods.

Which, I mean, yes, I am rather hairy and toothy…


Coyote chorus. Can’t really tell in what direction. I fear I might become tonight’s hairy bad thing for some impressionable pups.

A large animal in the field moves off more slowly than I might’ve expected. Another example of how much even a little hearing loss can disrupt one’s ability to gather basic information: I know almost every sound a white-tailed deer makes—but I know them with two ears, not with one.

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