First Monday Woollies

Samhain                                   Full Dark Moon

When I left for the first Monday Woolly dinner, the moon hung just above the tree line, silver and luminous.  As I returned, it had retreated to a high point, moving away from the horizon toward the open sky.  There are so many nights when the moon outdoes the best human artists can do, so many nights when the moon joins with planets, other solar system neighbors, to create a scene of light against the darkness of space, and we stand feet on the ground, looking up from our home into the vastness from which Earth came and to which it shall return.

Mark Odegard has a job with the river.  He came into Christos tonight wearing a sweatshirt with the US Army Corps of Engineers logo, the mark of his employer at Lock and Dam #1, a spot from which he watches the economy swing through barge traffic, for example regular 2 a.m. barges loaded with steel filings from a company upriver in Fridley have begun to pass through his lock headed for the smelters in St. Louis and New Orleans.  The Great Recession had suppressed steel sales so the filings had piled up in Fridley, the filings came in but none went out, finally though, just in the last couple of weeks the price of steel has begun to go up and now the rush is on to move the filings before the river freezes and the locks become unusable until spring.

This is shift work and Mark rotates through days, evenings and nights every 9 days, 7 days on and 2 off, his body clock taking a beating, so much of one that he has come to know the pleasures of the couch, his creative urge quieted by the shifting hormones his body deploys in the interest of managing his unusual sleep cycles.

Stefan comes with news of children’s woes.  Taylor in Hollywood.  Melina in frat houses at the University of Minnesota.  Frank says Mary has eased into her retirement and spoke of his grandson who has continued to attend school, caddy and play hockey while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation for sarcoma.  Warren tells the unbelievable story about which he will write more of the dairy farmer in Clearwater County who was arrested and charged with false imprisonment for using a chain to restrain his wife, a victim of Alzheimers.  Scott’s daughter is about to give birth, perhaps not only to a baby, but to a new life as a parent, a changed life from her recent past.

On my account the tale was of Kate, of her recovery, the toughness of this Norwegian I love and the gradual return to a daily routine, walker and cane at at the ready, but moving unaided with surprising agility.

When we meet, we Woolly Mammoths, a dense net of past and present walks into the room and sits down, the lives of not only ourselves, but of our families and our friends, their troubles and their delights, our worries and our loves, these times together transform us from solitary males, culled out from the herd, into members of a hardy clan able to stand shoulder to shoulder, backs to the north wind, protecting the little tusks from the cold.

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