Unknown Ohio raptor

I’m having a serendipitous week for birding! Six days ago, a trio of buzzards converged around my house; today, a medium-sized hawk perched on the roof of my garage. Once again, I was within reach of my camera, and snapped 14 pictures, the best five of which are posted below. (There’s #nofilter on the last two images; they appear blurry because they were shot through a window screen, before I was able to step outside and take the rest of the photos.)
I looked through some guides to Ohio birds; I couldn’t definitively identify it, but I think it might be a red-shouldered hawk. If any of my readers can confirm or correct me on this, I’d greatly appreciate it.

Update: Two readers have told me that this is a red-shouldered hawk. One suggested it is probably a juvenile.

Raptor_5 Raptor_6 Raptor_8 Raptor_9 Raptor_10


Turkey vultures in the suburbs

Today, a little after 6 p.m. at my parents’ house in Rocky River, OH, a trio of turkey vultures converged on a squirrel killed in the street. I grabbed my camera and watched the raptors putter around the carcass, eating or waiting their turn, and taking to the air after cars scattered them. I observed them for  ten or fifteen minutes, and took maybe seventy pictures. Below are the best photos I was able to snap (click to enlarge): DSCN0447 DSCN0444 DSCN0505 DSCN0463 DSCN0477

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Happily Ever; or, How to Have an Existential Crisis at the Movies

“Happily Ever” by Liz Maugans, via CAN Journal Winter 2014 edition.

In 2014, I was honored by the artist Liz Maugans through an invitation to participate in her exhibition “Screen Plays” at 1point618 Gallery. For the project, 19 other Northeast Ohio writers and I were shown one of 20 screen print collages, each of which contained a different short phrase. The most legible words in my collage were “HAPPILY EVER.”  We were then instructed to compose a single-page fiction or nonfiction narrative based on the text, to be displayed alongside the print which inspired it. I elected to write fiction.

Producing such a short piece on deadline was a less difficult task than most people I’ve told about it assume. Nuns fret not their convent’s narrow room, and my own writing thrives when I am given boundaries. My earlier efforts at short stories are closer to novellas in length, and every paragraph and page was subject to endless tweaking and rewriting. I can tinker with a single page of text for a long time, but given the narrowness of that project’s scope, it’s easier to exhaust the possible edits and arrive at a satisfactory end-point.

Below is the most recent version of the story I wrote for Liz; it is only a few revisions removed from the version which hung at 1poing618 Gallery.On the surface, it reads like a little domestic drama, but I consider it a horror story. The central idea—Parfit’s reductionist account of selfhood—I do not consider horrific in-itself; but then again nothing is frightening in-itself, but only relative to our fears and hopes. Some people feel liberated in finding metaphysical reasons to disassociate from their past and future selves; other people are gripped by the fear of dying day-by-day, minute-by-minute. My protagonist Matthew happens to be a person of the latter sort. He responds to his (re)discovery of anattā with inauthenticity; by the end of the narrative, he is trying to deny the fleetingness of his character, and live as if he were not insubstantial.

Happily Ever

Matthew Dillard stood over the running sink, wondering how he could clean his mouth without a toothbrush or toothpaste. When he realized he couldn’t, he turned the tap off, thought about what Sheila had said about The Princess Bride.

“It’s my favorite,” she had said over rice noodles and red sauce at her apartment. Matthew had brought over a bottle of Yellowtail and three cardboard boxes stuffed with his toiletries. The latter he’d left with Sheila an hour ago, which was why he could not brush his teeth now.

“Have you not seen it?”

“When I was like nine, I think.”

“And do you like it? You have to have. Otherwise some commitments may need…reconsidering,” she said, then pursed her lips to suppress a smile, as she did whenever she tried to deadpan.

“I can’t say.”

“Do you not remember it?”

“I do. But I was nine,” Matthew had said.

That had seemed like the only sensible answer. Matthew couldn’t understand how he was beholden to the cinematic tastes of nine-year-old Matt. He could not think of anything he had in common with the boy, who had gotten answers for multiplication quizzes from Brad Sajak, and who would have eaten Jif and white bread for every meal if he had been allowed to. The man Matthew Dillard had his associate degree in accounting, and had been mostly weaned off of gluten by Sheila.

The hard lump hit Matthew in the stomach before he finished articulating his thought: If at some time he had stopped being Matt, could Matthew one day be replaced by someone elder and other? That new, old man might share as few preferences with his predecessor as Matthew and Matt had. What of him would remain then? Could his interests count any more than those of the child he had dismissed earlier that night?

Matthew leaned over the sink and tried very hard to remember the boy’s opinion of The Princess Bride, so that he could hold it as his own.