Thursday, January 31, 2013


People are always asking me: Hey, Jon Spruce, when you gonna settle down?

Yo, baby, it’s not your fault.  It’s not from lack of trying. 

But I got to do it my way…settling down without settling at all.

To be honest, I’m not even sure what settling down even means.

I guess I was absent the day they handed out the long list of society’s benchmarks.

Does it mean just coming home to a list of errands?  Does it mean spinning the chore wheel?

Does it mean just staying at home and saving the money and saving the gas and fidgeting with the thermostat while, out there beyond the front door, the snow is melting or the acorns are falling or the rivers are rising or the magnolia is budding?

I mean, you don’t want to give up a good parking spot, do you?

A few weeks ago, I got a good taste of settling down and I ended up stuck in a snuggie, addicted to bad TV, moss growing under my rump, asleep at the wheel.

But now I was on the outside, looking in.  You can’t say I didn’t try.

A lot of times, I think settling down means staying put.  It means people can make a good guess where you are, at any given moment, and usually be right. 

On the grid.  At the desk.  On hold.  Inside.

It means being home…which means choosing a house...buying roots, building equity and nurturing moss.

Buying a house?  It can’t be as hard as I think and it can’t be as monumental as they want me to believe.

I’m smart.  I can do things.  I can make an appointment with some paper-pushing banker.  I can fill out the forms, let some lending company go through my personal purchasing history, sign on the dotted line and then spend the next thirty years paying for my own front door.

That’s a walk in the park.

It’s knowing what I want, forevermore.  It’s settling.  That’s the killer.


Because, just like the trees, new ideas and new flowers blossom with every season…there’s always new branching to be done…there’s always new fruit to taste and there’s always old fruit dropping by the curbside…the colors are always changing.

What if…what if I buy that old ramshackle of a house?  What then?   I move my stuff in.  I change my address.  I fix her up.  I learn about water heaters and garbage disposals and septic tanks, if applicable.

I lay me some roots.

I hang up my hat.

But what if…what if I change my mind?  What if my mood swings?  What if my weather changes?

It’s bound to happen.

I mean, you can always leave.  You can always give up the interior occupation, sell the house and then go back to the reckless, heedless lifestyle of a tree-hunter. 

But not really.

You can always come back…sure…but you can’t come back all the way.

Trust me.  I know me better than myself.

There will come a night…an inevitable evening…when I am warm and settled in the confines of my own house…gently drowsing to the rhythms of some old adventure novel…and I will rise from my Lay-Z-Boy, startled by the sound of someone tapping, of someone gently rapping, at my city door.

I will swing the door open wide and there he’ll be…my old younger self…hat in hand…asking if Jon Spruce can come out and play.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Walking up and down the rows of Gina's farm, I saw baby turnips left to winter in the fields.


I saw broken carrots turning themselves out through the mud…


…mustard greens, paused in full flourish, and garlic shoots bending in the bitter breeze.


In the woods, under the thick layer of rusty leaves, I found cracked hickory nuts and empty black walnut shells.


I found acorns caps and peeling river birch bark.


Walking down the trail, the greeny underbrush was gone…just gone…and my eyes kept catching the quartz, glowing through the thick gloom, splitting through the damp dirt…


…its snow-colored facets bright as a moonscape.

These are the totems of winter.

Season of the home, season of the hearth?  That’s what I was running away from.

It almost done me in…the interior of my urban cabin felt more and more like a trap.

I was lucky to escape.  A shutter no more, I was out the house, out the gate, out in the January wilds.

I’d left the house just after sunrise and drove north through the misty dawn…

…watching the spruce trees tower over the scattered homes, breaching through the hanging fog.

I parked my car next to the fence-row of hawthorns.

These woods and this trail were very familiar to me but I’d never seen them like this before.

Where was I?

Monday, January 14, 2013


The wintertime is coming, the windows are filled with frost…Bob Dylan

Batten the hatches, citybillies, and hunker down.  It’s time for winter and, here in winter, it’s all about conserving energy and staying alive.  The Wheel has spoken and now the Wheel is silent.  Set in motion with the spring flowers, the Wheel is slowing to a crawl.

And that’s all right.

It’s the season of dormancy, the season of hibernation.

The Earth Renewal Moon, then the Rest and Cleansing Moon, followed by the Big Winds Moon…it’s the season of Waboose the White Buffalo, the Spirit Keeper of the dark, the guardian of the freeze, the defender of the thaw.

His position on the Medicine Wheel?  If it was a clock of standardized time, then he would take his throne at true north…the midnight.

And his native habitat?  The open field, the long prairie, the great plains…where you measure distance in days, not miles.  Children born under this moon are patient and prudent, slaves to their seasonal totems.

Like the birch…the tree whose roots are used to make drinks, whose sap is used to make medicine, whose bark is used to make paper…the children of Waboose are giving, productive and imaginative.  Like the quartz, they have an inner clock.  Like the snow goose, they are a bit of a nitpicker.

And this is their season and this is their place.  Season of the home, season of the hearth.

It’s also the season of the flu and, so far, it’s a doozy. 

Currently, a certain strain of flu is taking on fierce and aggressive characteristics.  This happens, sometimes, with living things.

Health officials have identified this species of influenza as the H3N2 strain, the very same strain that devastated the world over 40 years ago, when it was known as the Hong Kong Flu.

And it’s back in full force now.  The H3N2 flu is currently sweeping across Turtle Island.  As of this writing, this species of flu has spread to 80% of the country.  Over 2,000 people have been hospitalized.  Twenty confirmed deaths.

Time to stay away from people.  Time for selective society.  Time to nest.

Time to enjoy the comforts of home.  Time to catch the colors and fruits of the interior world, my own urban igloo.

One minor problem.

During the busy tree-hunting season, well, I’ve kind of let the cabin go to seed.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


New year…new coat of paint.

About two weeks ago, just before the 2013 New Year’s weekend, on day six of the Earth Renewal Moon, Philadelphia got snow.

A lovely, bright, roaring burst of driving snow, just the perfect way to begin the new calendar and to mark the season of the Earth Renewal Moon.

The Medicine Wheel totems for this moon?  You got the quartz, the birch and the snow goose…three totems with one thing in common…the color white.

And, right on schedule, snow Just before the New Year’s parade?  It’s a sign.


Yesterday’s news.

Snow is nature’s fresh start…the open page…the blank canvas…turning every landscape into a playground…

…in the words of Thoreau, the great revealer…no escape…all tracks in plain sight…the palimpsest of the previous seasons finally, ultimately, complete for the year…the last chapter writ…

…and, I ask, is there any other scene that better evokes the wild wonder of youth than a snowy morning through a frosted window?

Thanks to snow, the old becomes new…the old becomes young again.