Anger issues?

There’s feral furniture, and then there’s smashed furniture: the innocent, castoff victim of some anonymous party’s uncontrolled anger issues. I snapped this photo in Cambridge on my way home from the Zen Center on Sunday. I’d stopped in the bitter cold to photograph something else then was struck by the poignancy of someone else’s smashed chair. There but for the fruit of Zen practice go I.

Blogging has taken a temporary backseat to other demands: today is the first day of classes at Keene State, I’m getting ready to go to a west coast wedding this weekend, and my online classes are solidly settling into the stride of their eight-week term. Life is busy, but busy is good. Being busy pays the bills, being busy keeps me out of trouble, and being busy leaves me no time for unnecessary crack-ups.

Snow on fence

No sooner do I get home from Ohio, it seems, but it’s nearly time for me to go back to school: another example of time slipping out of my fingertips.

In one sense, I’ve already been back to school for more than a week. My new online term started last Monday, so two classes of students and I are well into the second of our eight weeks together. But for me, “back to school” refers to face-to-face classes, and those resume next week. In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out where half of December and January have already gone. What happened to the long winter break I’d looked forward to during a busier-than-usual fall semester?

Feral in the snow

Time has a way of slipping away regardless of the traps and snares I set in its path. Yesterday I sat down with my Book of Lists–the notebook I use to organize teaching and other mundane tasks one to-do list at a time–and made the first set of lists for the new semester. For each day, a page; on each page, a list. Today, tomorrow, and the day after: here are the tasks, chores, and errands I have to do between now and then.

I have almost an entire book filled with such lists, and time slips away still. Do you know how many times I’ve lamented in occasional scribbled journal entries (some kept in the Book of Lists, and others elsewhere) about how I need to “tame time” through more efficient list-making, scheduling, and other time-management techniques? Despite all my organizational tips and tools, time refuses to slow for me. No matter how many times I make my lists and check them twice, time still continues to fly.

Tangle with tracks

Time, I’ve decided, is a wily creature that delights in wriggling from our grasp, creeping away into any tangle or thicket where we with our calendars, to-do lists, and time-lines cannot follow. Yesterday as I made yet another set of lists and noticed how my current Book of Lists is nearly full, I wondered whether I should keep it once I’ve moved onto its successor. I keep my journals–I have a portion of my bookshelf where they stand numbered and dated as they keep the time written within their leaves. How much more indicative of my days, I thought, is each day’s to-do list with its assortment of tasks Done and Still Undone?

They say Saint Peter stands at heaven’s gate with the Book of Life, a list he checks for the souls of the saved, their names appearing like a entries in a maitre d’s reservation book. Isn’t Saint Peter’s book merely a mythic version of my own Book of Lists, a whole lot of lives chronicled in his while mine keeps track of merely one? Time can’t be tamed, but it can be tracked, noted with each line-item like a snow-stamped footstep. Where have my days gone, and what (if anything) did I accomplish with them? Only the Book of Lists knows, if I dare page back and double-check the checked.

The second photo in this entry is intended as a visual reminder that even in the snowy wintertime, furniture sometimes chooses to go wild.

One sure sign of spring here in Keene, NH are the large trash piles left in the wake of departing college students. The house next to mine contains several rental units where countless students have moved in, out, and on during the half-dozen years I’ve lived here. When one batch of students moves in, they bring an assorted pile of stuff that largely stays within their overcrowded apartments…but when that same batch of students leaves, suddenly there’s a proliferation of stuff left over: some of it in dumpsters, some of it in yards, and some of it simply cast off into any available spot.

Feral couch, Keene, NH

It is this latter category of cast-off furniture that runs the risk of becoming feral, inching into empty parking lots and hunkering down on the sides of roads, immovable for the long haul. What use does anyone (apart from one furniture-obsessed blogger) have for an abandoned couch? It’s not likely that a middle-aged married couple will happen upon a badly shredded sofa with several missing seat cushions and say, “Honey, that would look great in our den!” Dens of the middle-aged and married (i.e. dens of the parents of college kids) are where college apartment furniture comes from; it’s not where this furniture goes to die after it’s been spilled, puked, and made-out upon. Salvaging used furniture is one thing; salvaging really used (and abused) furniture is another. Who wants to claim a slightly soggy, seriously shredded sofa from a spot where it almost inevitably smells like trash? Perhaps you’d prefer to sit on the floor.

Abandoned couch, Keene, NH

And yet, there always seems to be someone who claims even the most adventurous feral furniture, and not only when that furniture is in excellent condition like this sofa from last November. The Zen temple where I used to sit in Ann Arbor, MI had a locally famous annual rummage sale which consisted in large part of cast-off furniture from each year’s departing students. At the end of each month, semester, and school year, diligent Zennies would cruise student neighborhoods in a truck, retrieving and then storing in a garage all the wobbly desks, three-legged chairs, scuffed tables, and shredded sofas they could find.

Over the course of the summer, those diligent (and religiously frugal) Zennies would fix the furniture they found in time to hold a huge back-to-school yard sale where returning students would buy recycled, refurbished versions of the same goods they’d trashed months before. In a perfect illustration of the incessant cycle of samsara, the same Zennies would sometimes find themselves fixing, re-fixing, and re-fixing again the same desks, chairs, tables, and sofas, each time garnering a temple “donation” from the students (and students’ parents) who were willing to re-buy the same recycled furniture every year.

Furniture, especially sofas, wanted, Keene, NH

Given the recent abundance of abandoned furniture here in Keene, it’s curious to note that one downtown thrift shop is virtually begging folks to sell their old furniture on consignment, with used sofas being in particular demand. I guess Good Fortune isn’t in the market for the really ragged wares found on the sides of roads and abandoned in the middle of parking lots these days: if you’re choosy, a good sofa is much harder to find than the rough-around-the-edges feral kind.

As for me, my approximately ten-year-old, dog-fur-upholstered sofa is perfectly suitable for my somewhat post-college, somewhat pre-middled-aged lifestyle. So I suspect you won’t find any of my furniture At Large in the big, bad, outside world anytime soon.

This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, Large.

Feral sofa

Here’s the latest installment in my apparently ongoing series of abandoned couch images. Yes, this is the same couch that appeared outside a neighbor’s house at the beginning of the month, only to be covered in frost several days later. When I’d seen two college girls carrying the couch around a corner several days later, I assumed they’d “adopted” it for a nearby apartment, but recently it’s re-appeared on a dead-end roadside near a local factory, having acquired a dead bouquet of flowers in a jar of vile yellow liquid.

This morning, the couch had collected a lounging house cat as well.

Feral sofa with cat

I’m eagerly awaiting the spontaneous arrival of more roadside couch accoutrements such as a beer-chugging guy with a television set or a bathrobe-swaddled woman in curlers and bunny slippers.


By this morning’s first light, I discovered everything outside had been covered with a crisp layer of frost…both newly fallen, light-as-air leaves and a heavy, recently rain-sodden couch.

Frosted and feral

This is my submission for today’s Photo Friday theme, Light. This morning after snapping these first-light pencam shots, I found outside my front door a package that had been delivered last night: my Lumix digicam, back from the shop after its recent gravitational mishap. Here’s hoping for a mostly sunny day to test out its newly repaired features.

Al fresco

…is another person’s blog-fodder!

I first noticed this couch–set out, presumably, for rubbish collection, unless the tenants of this house want a comfy place to read their mail–when I let Reggie out this morning. On Monday, I’d chatted with my landlord about leaf collection: each neighborhood has a scheduled day when city crews collect leaves piled along residential streets, but you have to make sure those leaves don’t blow onto the street lest you get slapped with a fine. “Ah, that makes sense,” I remarked. “Over the weekend during the windstorm, I saw some neighbors frantically raking leaves out of the street, which seemed to be a losing battle.”


I don’t know if those furious rakers are the (previous) owners of this abandoned furniture, but personally I think it looks downright homey to have a russet couch nestled among road-raked leaves. When I let Reggie out this morning, it was still too dark for pictures, so I make a mental note to snap an image or two once the sun was out. Later in the morning, I saw the sun shining brightly, and I relished the thought of well-lit photos of out-of-place upholstery. Before I could finish the online work I was doing at my front-facing office window, though, a pickup truck pulled up and parked in front of the couch, blocking the photo I’d already envisioned as being “mine.” “Oh, just leave already,” I found myself fretting. “And whatever you do, don’t touch that couch!

After about a half hour, I heard the sound of ignition: yes! The pickup pulled away, and the couch remained untouched. Taking advantage of a well-lit opportunity, I dashed outside to snap, snap, snap. Roadside furniture isn’t a rarity in a college town where students habitually toss items they can’t afford to move, but this couch looks cleaner than most. Now that I’ve collected my requisite photos, this couch is free again for the taking: just make sure you don’t kick any leaves into the street when you come to carry it away.

It’s November 1st: do you know where your novel-to-be is? This morning I kicked off National Novel Writing Month and duly recorded my Day One progress on my writing blog, where you can get your vicarious NaNoWriMo kicks. Enjoy!