Where I read, and why I might wear a helmet

Maybe this is not the expected answer, but I don’t do most of my reading in some deep-burnished law-library-looking place that screams “weighty matters.” I do have a library, but the space is more about a vista of historical and world travel books on Ikea-designed shelves, and a large leather recliner containing several heated massage devices. I can turn it up so high I can’t read even large print.

It’s beautiful there, but I find it inspires me less than do the great outdoors. Most of my reading is done in a cast-off Adirondack chair under two of fourteen lodgepole pines. I watch towhees forage, squirrels re-enact the Looney Tunes gophers, and chickadees dart about. I listen to the sounds of ravens, crows, and falling pine cones. And if I am fortunate, those cones do not hit me. (If it begins to rain, or there are excessive pine cones, I move to a plastic chair mostly sheltered by the eave.)

My back patio is about 10′ x 30′ of poured concrete, just outside the library window, looking at a back yard that is sort of like Chile. It slopes up a lot, has tall pines, and has one short and one very long dimension. I’d say my back fence is about 120′, but from my Adirondack, I could hit a badminton birdie off it. Except: if I wanted a shuttlecock, I’d probably just pick up a pine cone and use a tennis racket.

Every couple of minutes, the lodgepoles shed a cone. At that stage of their lives, the fertile cones are heavy, sappy, and probably weigh as much as a cell phone. I am tempted to counsel my patio guests to wear headgear. They may choose from an old US Army steel pot (with liner), my old lumber mill hard hat from back when I was a burly young cog in the workforce (supports pulled out for the suitable jaunty angle, crudely taped US flag image on the front), or if they ask correctly, my Russian Army chapka (which I can’t even wear unless it’s -5° F). I got rid of my hockey helmet a couple years back. They can have the steel pot or the hard hat.

Deb and I quit our most dangerous tobacco vices last Christmas, but I still enjoy cigars (not constantly, and never inhaled). It is not as safe as no tobacco ever, but if you asked your doctor whether it would be better to have a cigar now and then, or to chew daily, you can guess how she would answer. Same for huffing chem-laced mass-market cigarettes vs. a daily cigar: no one’s going to endorse tobacco, but less is better, and very little means less risk. So I get a big glass of iced tea, gather up my current book, pick out a robusto, and spend forty minutes of quality time with the towhees, re-enacting squirrels, ravens, and plummeting projectiles that would surely draw blood from my shiny pate. As I do it, I get a dandy read.

You should have seen it one time, cone hit the shed roof, bounced, landed straight in an empty aluminum bucket. Right next to Leo, the miniature Schnauzer, who does not handle sudden bonks well. Couldn’t call and make that shot in a hundred years.

Nothing against reading in the library, and in rainy Aloverton, Oregon, I treasure a comfortable place to commune with literature. But when weather permits, I find, I do some of my most thoughtful reading with ravens rawking, squirrels squirreling, towhees poking, and lodgepole pine cones passing through the branch bagatelle.

One of them will have to draw my blood before I’ll yield to the steel pot.

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