The Hermit’s Life

During the long week between Christmas and New Year’s, I found myself struggling against some manner of illness (not The Virus, it seems, thank goodness).  I ran a low-grade fever for a couple of days, then suffered with a sore throat and some fatigue for a few days afterwards.  Fortunately, with the week off, I was able to hole up in Port Manor in Lamar, and regular reader and neighbor Bernard Fife brought me some homemade Christmas treats (and an at-home COVID-19 test, which came back negative).

I typically spend the holidays with my parents, or at least surrounded by family.  That was the case leading up to Christmas, but my mystery malady thwarted my plans to return to my childhood home.  Instead, from Tuesday (when the symptoms started coming on) through Sunday, I largely stayed home, with some occasional outings for groceries and the like as my condition began to improve (and once I realized I’d avoided the scourge of The Virus).

Needless to say, that is a lot of time at home.  I am very much a homebody, and like being there, but the demands of work, lessons, family, friends, and all the other social and professional obligations I get myself into mean I rarely get days alone at home.

Be careful what you wish for:  I had six days at home thanks to illness.  Had it not been for being sick, though, it would have been glorious.  Even so, it was pretty great.

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Frogtopian Failure

As I breathlessly reported two weeks ago, I attempted to build a small frog pond in one of my rear flower beds using Tupperware containers, dirt, rocks, old planters, and mulch.  I dubbed the watery domain “Frogtopia,” hoping it would attract neighborhood toads and frogs to his muddy environs.

After two weeks—and a new addition, using a large and deep IHOP to-go container—I must concede that Frogtopia is, at least so far, a failure.  While the WikiHow article I used as a reference guide suggests that it can take a year or two for frogs to show up to a frog pond, I can already see a major structural problem with my attempted design.

The problem, in one word:  evaporation.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Homeownership

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I love home.  Being at home is one of the simple joys in life, especially for a homebody like me.  Even before I owned my own home—when I was a lowly renter—I cherished time in my little pre-deluge bungalow.

Owning my home has made that appreciation even deeper.  As I am sure I have written before, I can understand why the Framers of the Constitution required property ownership as a requirement to vote.  Sure, I understood it in the abstract before I owned my house, but the wisdom of that prerequisite became real once I became a homeowner.  There is an immense pride that comes with owning a home, and with it, a protectiveness:  a desire to guard that investment, and to nurture it.

Few people with that sense of protective pride would squander their rights easily.  I understand why that is better than ever.

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Lazy Sunday CXX: Animals, Part II

For some reason that even I can’t even explain, I have suddenly become a big squish when it comes to animals.  For years I just didn’t care about them all that much:  sure, they’re sometimes good companions, but they’re kind of annoying and expensive—like kids, but they can’t grow up to take care of you when you’re inching towards the grave in a senile fog.

Now—inexplicably!—I’ve been torturing myself by looking at animals online at my county’s animal shelter (my lizard hindbrain wants to adopt this guy, but my pragmatic rationality forbids it).  Am I becoming the male equivalent of a thirty-three-year old single white female, trying to fill the void of a childless existent with a canine substitute?

I don’t think so.  I suspect this sudden onset of Francis of Assisi-esque animal loving is because I’ve blessed to spend the last year around really good dogs.  Who wouldn’t want a buddy to loaf around with, and to take on long walks?

That has apparently translated to caring for our slimier friends of the more aquatic variety, too.  I did, after all, make an attempt at building a makeshift frog pond for all the croakers hanging around my house.

That said, this 120th edition of Lazy Sunday is going to the dogs—and whales, pigeons, and frogs:

  • Hard to Swallow” – The story of man spit from the mouth of a humpback whale, which I then relate (predictably) to the remarkable—and, seriously weird—story of Jonah.
  • Release the Pigeons” – 5000—maybe more!—British racing pigeons disappeared during a recent race.  I’m not sure what is the bigger mystery:  how the pigeons disappeared, or how racing pigeons become a niche sport in Great Britain.
  • Adventures in Gardening: Building a Frog Pond” – This post details how I played around in the mud in my garden, and built my first attempt at Frogtopia.  It includes lots of pictures, and even a picture of a German shepherd and me playing with a toad.

That’s it for this extra-fluffy edition of Lazy SundayFind yourself a shelter pet!

Oh—and Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Sunday!


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Adventures in Gardening: Building a Frog Pond

With the unlimited free time of summer, I can finally get some work done in the yard.  I’ve finally transplanted my potted tomatoes and peppers into my flower beds—probably way too late—after getting up weeds this weekend.  I need to get out with the weed trimmer soon to get the edges of the house and around the grapevines and fig tree, but the beds are looking good, if a bit bare.

While pulling weeds Saturday, my girlfriend’s dog started nosing at a little frog—possibly a toad—hopping around in one of the rocky beds along the side of the house (I thought it might be a gopher frog, but now I think it’s more likely a Southern toad; if anyone can tell from the video, please leave a comment):

I get quite a few of our amphibian friends around the house, often hiding out in planters and shady spots in the yard.  After the Spooktacular in October, I found quite a few hunkering down inside of the ceramic and red clay Jack O’Lanterns and votives I had on the porch.

Indeed, one morning I found one chilling on my toilet seat!  I sucked him into my vacuum’s canister and emptied him safely outside.

I have always loved frogs (just not when they’re hanging out in my bathroom), and I’m delighted that so many of them live around my house.  In doing some research on frogs and toads in South Carolina, I stumbled upon a WikiHow article entitled “How to Make a Frog Home in a Garden.”

Given my free time and desire to spruce up the yard, I jumped at the opportunity to put together a small frog pond of my own, which I installed Wednesday.

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Restoring Order

Friday night I hosted my Spring Jam, the second front porch concert I’ve staged (the first was the Spooktacular, which will be back again this October).  I’ll be writing a detailed review of Friday’s concert this weekend, and will catch up this week on some of the details of preparing for it (apologies, subscribers, for the delayed post).

The evening was a great deal of fun, with around forty attendees at any given moment (some folks stuck around for the whole thing, while others came and went).  We sold t-shirts, hot dogs, baked goods, and drinks, and took in tips and donations to pay our musicians.  I even managed to sell one of my pieces of artwork (!!!; the other one is still available).  One of my musician buddies and fellow bloggers, fridrix, showed up unexpectedly, and treated us to a surprise, three-song set, including his open mic song about open mics, “Fish Bowl.”

Of course, with all those people on the front lawn—and my niece and nephews running around with other kids inside the house—there was a good bit of cleaning up to do afterwards.  We knocked out the outdoor teardown fairly quickly, which meant throwing everything inside.  As such, my house was a wreck.

With my senior students graduating Saturday morning—and Memorial Day Weekend fun looming large—I had to put off the long task of restoring order to my home until Monday.

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Lazy Sunday CXII: Responsibility

It’s another Lazy Sunday, a day of rest and reflection, a day to forget—albeit briefly—about life’s responsibilities.  And yet, here we are, reading a Lazy Sunday about responsibility.

I’ve been meditating on this topic more lately, and how difficult and important it is to be responsible.  One very sobering realization is that, as a public figure (albeit a very, very minor one), my words and actions have an impact on my community, and must be considered carefully.

That’s also true of teaching.  The Bible says that teachers who mislead the young are bound for hellfire.  Yikes!  That’s a massive responsibility.

So, on this day when we’re all desperately forestalling the start of another workweek by cramming in leisure (or putting in work to make the rest of the week easier), here is a trio of pieces about responsibility:

  • Monday Morning Update: Back to Work” – This post featured some general updates to kick off the year, as I was returning to work after a glorious Christmas Break.  I didn’t follow through with my lukewarm resolution to walk more this year (at least not yet), but I did publish a book!
  • The King of One’s Castle” – This piece explores the lighter side of responsibility, chiefly the joys of home ownership and the pleasure that comes with improving one’s little plot.
  • Heavy is the Head” – Alternatively, this little essay examines the heavier burdens of responsibility, and how draining it can be to be the one to whom much is given and, therefore, required.  Ultimately, though, it is a blessing to serve others.

Well, that’s it!  Here’s hoping these posts about responsibility didn’t bog down your Sunday with weighty thoughts of the troubles of the world, but rather offered a sense of the joys that responsibility brings.

Happy Sunday!


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Heavy is the Head

Last Wednesday I wrote a piece, “The King of One’s Castle,” in which I wrote about the joys of home ownership, and the sense of import that goes with that responsibility.  Putting time in working on and around the house gives me a sense of accomplishment, and deepens the pleasure of ownership.

As a corollary to that post, I’d love to offer up this slight counter:  to whom much is given, much is required.  I’ve been hearing that bit of Biblical wisdom from Luke 12:48 my entire life, often when I resisted doing something with my musical or oral talents (I possess a deep, rich, chocolate-y radio voice, and am often called upon to announce).

I am blessed to have been given much by way of talents, though I quickly temper that proud statement with sincere humility—there are many others far more gifted and talented than I am.  Nevertheless, I do think I possess some attributes that increase my responsibilities to those around me.

That burden is not always easily borne, but it must be, whether easily or not.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Bric-a-Brac

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This week I’ve been thinking and writing about home, as well as the idea of self-sufficiency.  Home is certainly a space that serves a utilitarian purpose:  a place to sleep, a shelter from the elements, a piece of land for growing food.

But the concept of “home” encompasses far more than the practical.  There is a distinct difference, both aesthetically and spiritually, between a cookie-cutter, white-washed apartment complex flophouse and a home.  Anyone who has moved out of such a space, only to move back into one, realizes how depressing such places are.

Naturally, many enterprising and decorative sorts have turned divorced dad domiciles into homey spaces.  For many people, especially young people, such complexes are necessary, and I don’t mean to demean anyone living in one (I lived in such a place, once, and it suited my needs at twenty-two; it would be a nightmare for me now).  But it’s those little decorative touches that really help bring a home to life.

I’m not much for decorating myself, but while washing my dishes, I was contemplating some of the odds and ends I have over the sink.  My kitchen sink has a window over it, facing into my mudroom, which ages ago was a screened-in back porch.  Now the mudroom is closed in, but the window remains.  On the sill I keep a number of little figurines—bric-a-brac:  some unpainted plastic Chaos Marine miniatures from Warhammer 40K; an Energizer Bunny sticker dispenser; a pewter figurine of an Imperial Ordinator from The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind; a folk-art figurine made from nuts, bolts, and washers, holding a sign that reads, “Visit Stone Mountain”; a little Jack O’Lantern stress ball; and an icon of St. Thomas Aquinas, a gift from an aggressively Catholic colleague.

What I realized is that these little figurines aren’t just the nerdy detritus of my youth, accumulated on my kitchen windowsill; they’re fun little expressions of home—and of liberty.

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