Saturday, December 15

Let It Be Peace

Let it snow
Since we've no place but
earth to go and
Let it snow
sitting by the fire's still
Let it snow.
Let it be
Let it be
Let it be
Now that I've
found you
Let it be me.
Let it snow
Let it be
Snow and
Words of
Let it be

Sunday, December 9

Christmas Bells Are Ringing

Home Again Jig

One two three
Homes in one year: Rock,
Brick, and now this:
Water. One two three homes
Because I still say
That home is where the
Heart is, without reservation; home
Is where the love is, without
Conservation, and I am here
Now with all my heart, my old
Four chambered dwelling place.
I don't care who or what your
Love is, or mine. Now comes the
Water. Rain and dew and sleet and
Snow and what they call
Humidity, as if it's not
Just a deficit of oxygen or hyperbole
of hydrogen, and fog and early
Morning mist and the lakes them-
Selves big, loaded breasts full and heavy
And heaving, resplendant and tremulous. Oh,
There's water water everywhere, and
I, parched Dragon thirsty Sage, gulp deep
Draughts until milk runs in the ancient channels,
The creases of my aged chin. One two
Three homes in which the heart has been pounding
Some faltering beats, some steady, some
African rhythms, a little mambo, could
That be, yes, Aleutian, or just one
Single somber note pulsed by a muffled
Drumstick at intervals through the prolonged
Darkness. Can you Tango Maureen
Or just dance with me slowly now,
Now that I've come home, will you
Dance with me and let my head, my
Graying head, rest for just this one mo-
Ment on your chest, your breast, rest,
While our feet inch this way and
That but do not go any distance for
We are done moving; now that I am home? Oh a
One and a two and a three, oh a
Year. The rock did not allow my feet to
Set down roots nor to leave a set of
Footprints. The bricks did not let my de-
Flated veins gain purchase on dingy
Window ledges. Here, where prevailing
Northern damp makes my dry wit leary
And I am afraid of fungus and ap-
Prehensive of mold and my old dog
Dismays me with his delight in the smell of
Rot all around, my toes, once bound by
Brick once bound by granite, be-
Gin to uncurl in the loose, black loam, to
Stretch like the arteries of ivy that
Clung to the walls of my
Grandmother's house, here
I can be stronger than ever I knew
To be, stronger and with my
Blood roaring like a lava stream
Down the green avenues.

December 7, 2007

Thursday, December 6

And It's Beginning to Snow!

The first of December brought the first big snow; now it is winter. Now we understand the blue barrels standing sentinel, the wavering lines of feeble fence posts strung across lakeshore parks like the first battalion dispatched to hostile territory. Now we understand a little more about why so many people here are fat; I haven't gone on a run all week, and shivering is the only way besides shovelling I've burned significant calories. I now know why so many Northerners drink too much hard liquor; it burns on the way down, all the way down through one's core. We even understand a little about the Vikings and unpopular fashions in fur. I'm not kidding.

The storm started out in veils, lovely, gauzy veils. Walking down Willy Street on a cold Saturday morning with a bag of groceries hung from one mittened hand, a clutch of 8-foot metal strips draped more awkwardly from the other, I can't help but sing oh so softly "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow," for the snow falling in big soft flakes is as pure and joy-evocative as a puppy slathering kisses on my cheeks. My neighbor is out scattering sand from Guardsman Blue Barrel over his sidewalk. "I have a theory that an underlayer of sand makes it easier to shovel when the ice comes," he explains. "Of course, I'm a Floridian. What do I know about snow?"

Indeed. No one knows much about how to cope with the snow we find ourselves facing when the gauzy veils and glittery raiments of this storm are ripped off later that day. It is a mean storm, a menacing storm, and one from which we are still doing our best to recover three days later as the next storm takes aim. By the time I come out of a matinee of "Rent" Saturday afternoon, it's sleeting, and every weather forecaster in the area is busy explaining the critical nuances of difference and pain between "sleet" and "freezing rain," both of which enter every forecast. I cancel my plans to stroll up and down State Street in the afterglow of the show and duck instead into the nearest inadequate bus shelter. Arriving home, I do one quick pass with the snow shovel down my small stretch of sidewalk. The earlier sanding, done under the approving eye of the Floridian, does absolutely nothing to mitigate the weight of the snow, now packed heavily with the wet weight of the continuing sleet. My plastic shovel, so perfect for the dry, powdery snow of Colorado, is barely adequate. By the next day, it will be useless.

Here, you need ice choppers and heavy metal shovels. Sand and salt, in abundance. Where I spurned and lamented salt last week for being unecological and bad for my dog's paws when well meaning neighbors sprinkled it on my porch steps, now I lust for it. I attack with a ski pole, the sharpest tool I have available. After clearing one narrow walkway of ice and snow, I retreat. Perhaps we are meant to stay indoors all winter. Eat, drink and grow fat. Read thick novels with a satisfying romanticism. Look up new recipes for beef stew on the internet. Call your mother. Call your children. "It's your mother. Where ARE you?"

The Ice Queen haunting our streets so early this year is a steely and forbidding spectre, outright nasty and downright vengeful at times, but so lovely one does succumb to her allures ; we go outside even in the most frigid temperatures just to gawk at her beauty. When back indoors in the warmth that's going to cost so much this year, still she calls and irresistibly one takes up a position just on the other side of the big front windows now encased in nearly invisible plastic sheeting, just to gaze upon her wintry wonderland. Her cape snaps behind her in a stiff wind off the lake, and the shoreline ices over in the roughness of waves halted in mid-breaking. There is a giggle and a glitter, and she's gone. It's quiet out there. The silence of a new snowfall is the only silence on earth that holds its own next to the silence of a military graveyard. Silence, I fully believe, comes only in white. Until the next enormous plow, the Queen's ungainly companion and loval mastiff, lumbers down the street, sparks flying. Give your dog a bone.


Monday, November 5

Somewhere My Love the Ice Cometh

Once every week, my daily run follows the bike path from the lake behind my house to the lake on the other side of the isthmus. It's a very nice run of approximately 5 miles which I break into two with a few minutes of yoga out on a skinny spit of land extruding into Lake Mendota, a curled finger of a spit undoubtedly built for some purpose of marine navigation but suiting my terrestrial ends just fine. Living on the isthmus between the city's two bigger lakes, almost every one of my running routes is at least partially along lakeshore, but this is the only run that ends with me, solo, nearly surrounded by water.

On the way out here to my restoration point, I run down the leaf-strewn sidewalks of my residential neighborhood, where the great painted ladies of the Victorian age strut their intensely modern colors among the smaller, humbler clapboard houses that grew up in their shade in successive decades. Autumn has claimed its toll slowly this year, and many of the tallest trees are still boasting their summer head of foliage. Like old men with thinning hair, though, they are doomed to loss and exposure; tonight's wind is careening mercilessly down the dark, post-Halloweerie streets. The painted ladies giggle behind their fans and bat their eyelashes.

I run along the canal that connects the two lakes, where the new bike path sees few travellers at this hour, where the canoes and rowboats have all been hauled out of the water and berthed for the season. Dipping smoothly under the eight lanes of East Washington, the bike path on one side of the canal accommodates the purposeful, travellers with a sense of time and direction, while the clean, flat surface of the cement on the other side affords the homeless or simply directionless a shelter and a stopping place of sorts, at least a roof overhead. Sitting on a picnic table in the cold morning, a young man rocks back and forth, back and forth, gripping his knees tight to his chest. I've seen him on other runs, on other routes, doing the same rocking to the same unheard beat from perches on other picnic tables.

I run through Tenney Park, where I know ice skaters, would-be Olympians of pint sized dimension but gigantic determination will dominate in a couple more months, their blades flashing, clacking. "Lara's Theme" rises unbidden in my brain as I lope on by the inlet from the lake, the only tune that ever succeeeded in seducing me around more than one lap of any ice rink. It is not such a good tune for running; I soon discard it, send it skittering over the inlet's surface like a stone over water. To my surprised imagination it seems to clatter, though, as if water, upon the song's contact, turned immediately to ice on this November morning. I glance over my shoulder feeling like some Ice Queen's tapped me with her long nailed forefinger. "You hoo," she whispers. "I'm right behind you." I pick up my pace another notch.

And then there's the big lake in front of me. The beach is empty, the bathhouse boarded. The lifeguard's chair has been pulled to one side and its sign: "No Salvavida Presente" leans unnecessarily against its legs. Two weeks ago, I still saw the occasional pair of arms plying the calm and measured strokes of a strong and regular swimmer through the lake waters. No longer. Today the water is rough, tough, their darkness articulated by the sneering curl of white froth at their crashing crests. I am the only one out here today, and out on the spit it feels even colder and lonelier than on shore.

We are bracing now for winter. The blue sand barrels and the snow fences are standing, silent but connotative. Nature herself is less subtle. The waves today are roaring, like lions cornered and knowing capture is imminent, inescapable, the ferocity of freedom about to be broken. Winter is not a casual event here, not like it is in Colorado. Here, it rides in on the back of the ruthless North Wind. Here, one learns early about hunkering down. About the thickening of the blood. About why the squirrels have been so frantically, obsessively busy while you sat lazily in the sunshine on your front porch laughing at their antics with your neighbors. I have seen these lake waves frozen in their breaking crescendoes along these selfsame shorelines, violent as any tectonic shiftings of the American West.

But today out on the spit, the sky is deep dark blue, the wind clean and cold and knifelike, and my Sun Salutation evokes a poem one of my children learned in kindergarten and then brought home to share with me, by Byrd Baylor:

The way to start a day is this--
Go outside and face the east and greet the sun
with some sort of blessing or chant or song that
you made yourself and keep for early morning.
The way to make the song is this--
Don't try to think what words to use until you're
standing there alone.
When you feel the sun, you'll feel the song, too.
Just sing it.

But don't think you're the only one who ever
worked that magic.
Your caveman brothers knew what to do.
Your cavewoman sisters knew, too.
They sang to help the sun come up, and
lifted their hands to its power.
A morning needs to be sung to.

I will sing my song, the Earth fantastic. I will sing it shivering and trembling, but I will sing it loud and proud, too, to be heard over the crashing of these waves

Thursday, October 25

Being and Smelliness

I moved back here with my old, old dog. Verifiably fifteen years old, possibly, says the vet, as much as two years older. Translated by the popular equation to Human Years, he's 105 years old or maybe 119. When he pants heavily and his breath lunges my way, the foulness of the smell convinces me 119 is probably assessing his age on the young side. Doggie breath. There is absoutely no way on earth I'll subject him to the canine version of periodontics at this point in his life nor any way on earth I could possibly afford to pay for it.

My old, old dog seems quite content here in our new home, except for the fact, lamentable to me as well, that there are no young people living here with us. He can't make it up the stairs to the second story, but he does well enough with the six porch steps if he takes them slowly. His interests have dwindled a lot of late, but we still make it outside for two walks every day. Some mornings he just looks up at me as if to plead, "Do we really need to do this again?" but once he's out the door the smells of a Midwestern autumn are so ripe and rife they afford generous compensation for any ardors of four-legged walking. He barely makes it around the block some days, but that's only partially due to his arthritic limbs and weakening cardiovasculars; the smells here distract and detain him prodigiously. All around, the rich dank earth exudes olafactory evidence of decomposition. It's a medley of smells my old doggie finds utterly irresistible, possibly heavenly. It's probably the same smell other dogs pick up from him when they come up to sniff salutations. It's the smell of death, reborn, death, as alive and well among us every fall as birth is in spring. It's a smell with which I feel uncomfortably and increasingly familiar since moving back here.

Somehow I find it funny that people here in Madison have composting systems in their backyards. The whole of southcentral Wisconsin feels like an enormous compost bin to me, arrived from the dessicated soil and air of the Southwest. There, you practically needed to send out engraved invitations to lure out an earthworm; here, you just turn over any stone. My skin is softer than it was when I moved to Colorado back in my thirties. My hair feels more abundant and full of body. And my body smells like a whole new creature. A creature, I might add, I'm not so sure I actually like. This creature perspires, and sometimes reeks of effulgents we called as youth and completely without affection: BO. I sweat, therefore I am. Am a Wisconsinite. I find this very unsavory. It, this BO, this Body Odor, is nearly sufficient in itself to compel me back to Colorado. It makes my own body feel alien to me.

I suppose I always perspired, but truthfully, I didn't realize it . I lack any scientific knowledge of the process, but I imagine, when I ponder this now, that it must have evaporated immediately upon meeting the dry air during my prior existence as an arid dweller. I do know for a fact that the transevaporation rate approaches the incredulous in the southwest, that snow more often evaporates than melts. Soon after I moved to Colorado, we had a typical fall snowstorm. You know, a foot of snow in one day in October, similar to what they had just last week. The next day was sunny and dry and the children complaining that I made them wear sweaters to school. Once they were at school, I set about some fall gardening: digging holes for trees bought at the fall clearance sale. I thought the ground, after such a snow, would be dampened and softened for my shovel. And it was, for nearly two inches of depth. The moisture never went deeper because it evaporated into the air, explained my new neighbors, instead of melting into the ground. Ditto, apparently, for perspiration and its uncomely companion, Miss Malodor. Here in Wisconsin I am face to face and nostril to nostril with the unavoidable and unpleasant truth: I am damp and human and sometimes I smell as badly as my 119 year old dog. I am, it seems undeniable, every day mortal. Nuances of fecundity and rankness waft around me as though my familiars. My dog, deaf and nearly blind, recognizes me by scent, and I wonder if my friends do, too, now that I feel like something out of the compost bin.

I'm adjusting. I rummaged around in all the old toiletries I brought with me across the country and found a stick of antiperspirant, never used. I tried using it, but it seems antiperspirant not only turns hard and yellowy when aged, it also turns gluey, and my armpits not only perspired all day but stuck to my clothing. I have since gone organic, and it seems to be better. I may still be mortal, but unlike my dog, at least I don't smell like it any more.

The smell of dry leaves is a sweet part of fall, like pumpkin pie and hot cider. That is what I choose to remember, and the banks of brilliant foliage as I drive from Madison to Minnesota on a sunlit afternoon in October. I am not dwelling upon the layers of wet leaves compacting underfoot, relinquishing their scarlets and ochres and bronzes to the blackness of rich dirt beneath cloudier skies. But I'm fully aware of them, oh yes.

Today, I noticed the city has set up long lines of snow fences across the parks which border the major arterials. I shivered as I hurried by them in my running shorts and tee shirt.

Sunday, October 14

Unbearable Niceness of Being

My favorite card of this past year was a pale green birthday greeting with a small nosegay of daisies its only illustration, neatly drawn and pleasingly simple. "On your birthday," reads the cover, "remember: Smile and the world smiles with you." Opening, the admonition concludes, "Unless you smile too much. Then it's just creepy." I bought at least four copies of this card when I discovered it, knowing it would bring a laugh to several of my friends, young and old, mostly female.

I have a single card left, and I'm keeping it. Or maybe I'll be able to send it on its way after I expunge a few related thoughts from my system today. You see, I've been living here in Wisconsin for two months now, and I just have to say something about the way everyone is so invasively and instantaneously intimate. It's related to the card. It's related to phoniness. It's related to excess. And it has something to do with the fact that I've actually been hugged here by people to whom I was introduced with the basic and impersonal manly handshake just a brief half hour before. It's too much. There's an element of restraint amiss around here and a subsequent lack of respect. You don't invade other countries, and you don't invade other persons. You wait for an invitation or a (substantial and subtantiated) provocation.

I just started a new job, adding another fresh batch of strangers to the cookie dough of my life. On Day One, within minutes of our mutual supervisor leaving our presence, a seemingly reserved coworker told me all about a scandal that had forced him from his last job. Until then, he'd seemed relatively normal and I reasonably clear of any prejudice toward or against him. Another coworker, the next day, within mere hours of shaking my hand for the first time not only shaved my name to a diminutive as if we'd known each other since childhood but was fluently progressing from a detailed enumeration of his wife's ailments and health conditions to his own when I politely pleaded work on the other side of the building. Quite frankly, I was starting to fear I was soon going to be hearing about the size and consistency of their respective bowel movements, a little bit of personal knowledge I rather like to keep for a little later in a relationship, like right before divorce or death and also to reserve for those with whom I share either blood or bed.

Over familiarity seems incredibly pervasive here. On the many and labyrinthine bike paths of Madison, people routinely smile and wave as they pedal by in the opposite direction. At first I thought the difference was due to the fact that bicyclists here seem to favor upright handlebars to racing drops and hence came face to face more often. After a few more weeks' experience, I concluded that the upright pedaling was actually favored just to facilitate the inexorable smiling and greeting while riding! It may even be that it's one of the reasons bicycling is such a popular means of transportation here. It's a lot harder to interact personally with automotive passers-by. During running, too, it's fairly normal to greet people as you pass them: I've even seen it done in races. As for hugging, well, while it seems to be slightly out of control everywhere I've been in the last several years, here in the American Midwest, our ever-emulating children are hugging so much at the end of recess that a nice suburban school just banned it, as the "hug lines" were holding up classes!

Perhaps it's partly the fault of our language. Civilized languages have both a personal pronoun and a more formal and respectful pronoun, both connoting "you." It's nice. You acknowledge age, respect, relationships, prominence, intimacy or the desire for intimacy all in the pronoun and verb conjugations you use. You don't use the personal pronoun for "you" unless "you" agree or you are a child, basically. This allows relationships to grow and change and, what I like best, it allows us to keep a little distance until we no longer require it. Cold as it may be, I just don't really want to hug you until I like you, and I don't want you to smile and wave at me with good old Midwestern warmth as you pass me in the last tenth of a kilometer of a race. Especially not in the last tenth-kilometer.

Here in nice, friendly Madison, I'm acquiring the habit of locking my doors even during daylight hours, although I'm something of a fresh air fiend. I think I'm becoming more diligent about locking doors here than I was in Denver, where my neighborhood was actually vaguely dangerous, gangs and gunfire not totally unknown. Why lock my doors here? Because people have been entering my house uninvited! Not thieves, not salesmen, not even religious proselytizers: people I know. They knock. If there's no answer, do they go away? No. They try the door. If the front door is locked, they go around to the back door. There is no privacy here. They walk in. "Oh, there you are! I was knocking!" These are not my real friends. My real friends respect me enough to call before they come over. Stopovers are for family and next door neighbors, categories full of innocent people who are pretty much doomed to see you and your house sooner or later without your hair swept into a clip or your hairballs swept into a dustbin.

Yes. You've been knocking and hugging and smiling way too much, and I'm sorry, but it's creepy. Some day I would like to be awakened by you, maybe. Someday, it might bring a slow, soft smile to hear your footsteps entering the front hall while I'm tucked away writing upstairs. But these days would all be when we're close, when we matter to each other, when I've offered you the key to my house because I want you to walk in freely and without notice and to call me pet names like my family does. Right now, it all just pretty much freaks me out and makes me jumpy.

It may be true that we're all more interconnected that it seems and have more in common than we have differences, as most of the Presidential candidates seem intent on demonstrating as they all seek to consolidate one unanimous, indistinguishable, and meaningless position on everything, hence nothing. But does this really mean we have to instantly share the same interpersonal space? Even weak-kneed Democrats managed to sound distinct from the Republicans for a couple of months after last year's elections, when Pelosi first took the podium. But you, whom I just met, do you really automatically get to call me the same name my beloved grandfather did? Are you born with the right and desire to pull me to your ample chest and hold me there, just because we encountered each other in the checkout line? When I answer the door and say, waving my brush, "Oh, I'm busy painting," is it really altogether normal that you breeze on in, clamoring, "Let's see what colors you're using?" and charge up the staircase to the bedrooms?

The card's right. Remember. Smile and the world will smile with you. Be a friend to find a friend. But don't be an instantly intimate friend. It's sort of like coffee. What would you rather have? A cup brewed from boiling water drained slowly through aromatic and freshly ground beans, maybe with a little splash of half and half? Or a cup of microwaved instant, with Cremora? Intimacy is not meant to be instant, anymore than milk is meant to be made of coconut and palm oils and artificial scents and flavorings.

Saturday, October 6

Post Season Play Offs

The first week of October in my renewed home state in my renewed hometown. Safely past the unprecedented monsoons of late summer, we are, by and large, enjoying what used to be called Indian Summer. Temps in the eighties, abundant sunshine, old men with fragile bowed legs so white they look porcelain still tiptoeing out of the lake behind my house from their daily morning dip. I'm not sure what happened to the term Indian Summer; it seems to have been banished from the lexicon of weather forecasts. Perhaps it is somehow insulting, like tribal names for baseball teams. I mean, I really do understand why some of those team logos are insulting, but I am, you must know, a childhood Braves fan. Milwaukee Braves, that is. Hank and Tommy Aaron Braves, Warren Spahn Braves, Joe Torre and that ultimate heart-throb of heart-throbs among 8 year old girls in 1960's Milwaukee suburbs: Eddie Matthews. Ah, yes. Hank is still up there in my personal pantheon; Barry Bonds, meanwhile, is relegated to janitorial duty, sweeping up dustballs in the most remote corners of baseball history, with those preternatural muscles of his.
But back to Indian Summer, as it was. It is, of course, the MLB play-offs. Back in my recently relinquished home of Colorado, the Rockies are more astonishing than even Mr. Bonds' neck. They are, in short, behaving like champions. They are winning, and they're filling the end days of summer with champagne filtered sunshine out there at the foot of the Rockies where sunshine knows how to be its most resplendent self. Coloradans have waited long for this post season sunshine, fourteen years. When the Rockies first arrived back in 1993, we enjoyed a couple of years of full seating in the impeccable new stadium with the tainted name Coors Field, stands and hearts full of hope. My son, at 5 already an inveterate Yankee fan, occasionally experienced enough misgiving to don, for a day, a Rockies cap.

Here in Wisconsin, I feel the furthest echoes of the tumult of joy emanating from Coors Field, like the last visible rings from a rock dropped into water. My friends are ebullient. It makes me wish to be back there. There is nothing better than the end of summer in a pretty baseball field, the green grass so painstakingly mowed, the white lines, the brick and the iron and the lusty, swaying crowds. Even the hot dogs. I could be a vegetarian and still lust after ballfield hotdogs. Only hardware store hotdogs come close, another ancient American ritual, and one that makes home improvement projects nearly worthwhile.

This week I used what I feared might be the last absolutely dry and sunny day of the year to wash and wax my car. I have been here about six weeks, and a few days ago I was alarmed to notice the first speck of rust on my eight year old Civic. I cleaned that speck with diligence this week and dabbed on a spot of clear nail polish. It is not an advertised use of nail polish, but I have hopes of patenting the process if it works. Once I find a new mechanic who can switch the antifreeze from its presently wimpy freeze level to the subzero version recommended here, my little car will be as ready for a Wisconsin winter as I can make it. I wish I could do more. I wish I could do more for my drafty and thin skinned old house. I wish I could do more for me.

This week, big blue barrels appeared silently on the street corners, as if someone had pushed a button to make them rise from the cement. They are the sand barrels. For those of you who fail to comprehend, they are there so when your car is spinning its tires on sheets of slick ice or packed snow, you can use city-supplied sand to throw on the ice and provide some traction. The sight of these big blue barrels on the street corners makes me gulp and wonder what I've done here. In the distance, I hear the cheers of my friends from Coors Field.

Meanwhile, it's Indian Summer here, though, and I think I'll walk down to the beach now and wade out into the water of Lake Monona one more time today before the tall orange pennants are inserted into the tops of the fire hydrants. Yep. You guessed it. Marking the location of the hydrants in case the snow mounds hide them from the fire fighters this winter.

My local friends assure me winters here have become milder with indisputable global warming. They no longer count on cross country skiing on the city's golf courses in January. "We hardly get snow any more," they assure me. Still, there are the big blue barrels standing sentinel on the street corners and soon I anticipate the waving pennants on their thin and flexible sticks. At my neighborhood hardware store which doesn't sell hotdogs, I gather up armloads from the prominent display of plastic sheeting used to weatherproof windows. But once home, I fling open all the windows wide, because it is sunny and eighty today.

If it's insensitive or just plain wrong to call this Indian Summer, maybe we could just call it the Play-Off Season. The Rockies versus the Phillies, eventually (or maybe not!) the Yanks against the Sox, the Cubs disappearing again, as is their wont. The blue skies playing off against the blue barrels. The pennants of the teams waving with just a little more snappiness than those of the fire hydrants. It's the play-offs; it's the best, the moment of enhanced awareness of what we have enjoyed in summer and what we expect from the winter. On the fulcrum, waving wildly.

Saturday, September 29

Homecoming 2007

Whenever a person moves, especially when it's a largish move involving a very large truck with a even larger gas tank costing a phenomenally large amount to move one's dismally large collection of three rooms of furniture and nine rooms of absolute junk, one goes through "stuff." In my recent case, I went through the nine rooms of junk assiduously and managed to get rid of the equivalent of four of the monstrous new garbage cans currently dominating Madison streetscapes, mostly full of old papers. I also got rid of my charcoal grill and several CD racks. I have since regretted the CD racks. Oh. I also tossed out my bright red Badger sweatshirt.

You see, I was moving back here, to Badgerland. Living in Colorado, it was kind of nice to have a shockingly red Badger shirt or two, not to mention a discreet Bucky decal on the windshield of my car and a GO BADGERS license plate frame, too. On the highways, friendly blonde tourists would pass me, smiling and waving as only Midwesterners do, pointing to their own Bucky decals, shirts and hats and oh yes, also to the huge Packer flag streaming out from their Explorer's antenna. On the street, fellow alumni would invite me over for brats and beer just for wearing a sweatshirt. Being a Wisconsinite is seriously happy business.

And apparently very good business. I relinquished my own Bucky sweatshirt before returning here because it seems so unnecessary, here in Madison, to announce one's a Badger. I'm here, after all, and my Badgerdom seems self-evident. But apparently I'm missing something. Everyone here wears either the bright, screaming scarlet of the Wisconsin team or the deep, serious green of the Packers. Everyone. Even the radicals. Even the artists. There is more Badger paraphernalia in the University Book Store than books.

Now don't get me wrong. I am not just questioning Wisconsinites' choice of apparel. In Colorado, it was pretty much the same, only it was the blue and orange of the Broncos (I know: Boo, Broncos!) or the black and gold of the Buffaloes. Less of the black and gold lately, since the whole team's pretty much still under a black umbrella of suspicion from all the claims of sexual assault, abuse and discrimination. Maybe the red of the Badgers is just more salient. Or maybe it's actually, in fact, more prevalent.

Why is it we feel such an urge to affiliate ourselves with a team on which we will never, ever play? Wouldn't it be just a little more interesting if we wore sweatshirts saying something of interest, like "Atheist" or "Swimmer" or, my personal favorite, "Single?" I mean, what does one gain by advertising, here in Badgerland, that one's a Badger? Does one really feel more pride? Do we really need more pride? And even if we do need more pride, is it pride in a football team we really need? How about pride in clean water or in our willingness to shelter and feed those who need it? How about pride in the fact that Madison's public schools are crossing the majority minority line with test scores staying high? Is there a sweatshirt proclaiming pride in our school district?

Or perhaps it's all more fundamental than any of this. Maybe we just have no fashion sense or hate ironing or don't want to figure out what shirt really complements the pants we're wearing. A Badger goes so well with everything, such a highly attractive and friendly animal. I lied, you know. I tossed my red sweatshirt but then retrieved it. I was, after all, going home. On, Wisconsin!