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Archive for the ‘Observations from the soft chair’ Category

To Hell And Back

Flames and thick, acrid smoke. Putrid stench, fear, agony and death. A desolate place, inhospitable to life.

No, it’s not Hell. It is the Cuyahoga River in the middle of the United States, in Cleveland, Ohio.

It’s a hundred and one years after the first fire on the river was reported in The Plain Dealer, in 1868.

We think of Pittsburgh and Detroit when we think of our Industrial Revolution cities, but Cleveland ranks right up there with a healthy population of steel mills.

Rivers had been natural sewers as long as humankind has lived in densely populated communities. Ancient Rome is praised for its advanced civil engineering and the first public sewer system. (Perhaps premonition of humankind’s future, they also had indoor plumbing and running water. Unfortunately, the public water supply was delivered through lead pipes.)

As time marched on, the numbers of people using the waterways for waste increased a million fold. Add now the poisonous elements of our burgeoning “Chemical Revolution”; DDT, PCBs, waste oil, asbestos, mercury, household cleaners and industrial ones.

In 1969, TIME magazine featured the story of the June 22nd fire on the river that “oozes rather than flows”. River Of Fire.

That’s what it takes to convince people that things are really bad.

This is not far from the publication date of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”, where numbers and facts were needed to convince people that all the dead fish are really dead and you won’t be seeing any bald eagles anymore.

If I was an adult writing this in 1969 (I was 10), I would be declaring the end of the world as we know it. Actually, that statement would not have been far from the truth. When finally we had trashed the planet so badly that the water burned, folks began to wake up.

Maybe they didn’t care about the bald eagle, the official emblem of our country. Maybe they were unconcerned that no fish or water bird existed or could exist in that canal of contaminants. Maybe no one cared that the same things killing eagles and fish, waterfowl and mussels would do the same for us. Maybe they just wanted the fires on the river to stop.

We can fix these things, given time, effort and commitment to them, a concept I have often doubted.

We are unlikely to see again the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker or the Carrier Pigeon. We can, however, now see bald eagles. And ospreys, who were right behind the eagles heading for extinction. We have returned Trumpeter Swans and the native Yellowstone Trout to that preserve for which it is named.

And that filthy river in Cleveland, Ohio?

In 2019, the ban was lifted on consumption of fish taken from the Cuyahoga. One hundred fifty one years from the first reported fire. Fifty years since “Silent Spring”.

So don’t give up on our hopes for our planet’s future and that of its living occupants. Patience will be required.

I don’t have another fifty years ahead of me. I won’t know what progress we’ll have made by then.

With habitat loss. With carbon emissions. With lead and plastics.

But my hopes and dreams for my grandchildren and theirs are renewed and reinvigorated with the reclamation of the Cuyahoga River.

Humans have proven they can do many amazing things; learn to fly, wipe out polio, split the atom, land people on the moon.

With some perseverance, some devoted labor, given another hundred years, perhaps we can add one more amazing achievement:

Earth restored.

Max at West Creek

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Hurrah

I’m not a Buddhist, but read about it quite a bit.

There are terms used in Buddhism such as darma and samsara. I invented my own term, “Hurrah”.

There are the tiniest things in this world that warm my heart and to which I cleave. Every cloud and every leaf, every bird and dog and drop of rain has inherent beauty in it. I see these things glowing, leaping out from the background, and I am thrilled by them. This is my “hurrah”.
Any time I am down, distracted, off my mark, feeling directionless, I tell myself “Your hurrah will find you.”
And it does. No matter where, no matter what, if I am patient for the tiniest slice of time, something beautiful in this world will find me, speak to me, get me back on track.

The Path

Hurrah can exist anywhere, even inside one’s mind.

I am practicing and preparing for the days ahead, as my physical being wears out.
I’ll paint until arthritis locks up my hands. I’ll play the guitar until my muscles can no longer press the strings to the fretboard. I’ll read until my eyes can no longer see, then I will listen to audiobooks until my ears can no longer hear.
I will walk through this beautiful world until my legs can no longer carry me.
And I will carefully place these experiences in the gallery of my mind’s eye.

Someday, when I lie in a bed with no visible signs of life, in my mind I will be walking and painting and writing and singing, and enjoying all the other things my Hurrah will bring me.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Brief History Of Humanity And Thanksgiving Of The Future

Careening through our techno-modern society, it becomes easier with each passing day to imagine life in the Jetsons Age. Futuristic societies, such as the Space Federation that governs the U.S.S. Enterprise in Star Trek, or the United States from which the Robinsons launched before they were Lost In Space appear to have homogenized their days. No one different from the next.

Captain Kirk and his crew, Captain John Robinson and even George Jetson live in worlds where all the most basic needs are met by machines of technology. Environment, the very air we breathe, the food served, transportation to and fro are accomplished without a second thought, without a first thought, by these inhabitants of the future.

George Orwell painted a grim scene in his view of the future, 1984.

Aldous Huxley took us out to the twenty-sixth century in Brave New World.

While the former works are adventurous looks at futures living with space travel, or a comic strip depicting lives in the Space Age, the latter two present more sober views.

Orwell and Huxley don’t simply tell tales of Buck Rogers lifestyles, but present us with questions. With options. With choices.

How will our future world develop? How will we choose the paths to take? Who will decide? How will we select those things to be left behind, cast aside, and which we will carry with us into future generations? If everything comes with a price, what will be the costs?

Humankind has run several circles around itself with its concepts of truths. Origins. Our very existence. The purpose and value and duty of human beings. In a brief ten thousand years, not even a tick on the Earth’s four billion-year-old clock, we have gone from savages to gods.

On the Salisbury Plain of England and across the Yucatan, humans built great stone clocks. Humans were linked to the stars. Things that were solid, consistent, predictable, reliable. Surely a conscious mind must have designed and fashioned these elements. In Egypt, pyramidal stone spires also reflected the constellations. The Pharaohs themselves Earthbound deities awaiting their return to space and the afterlife.

In a few thousand years, separated in a time without cell phones and CNN, belief systems developed. We followed these as our paths to higher callings. Things that would help us to understand –or at least endure- the harsh world as infant mortality topped fifty percent, children were buried before their tenth birthdays. Mongol hoards pillaged our villages, volcanoes buried Pompeii, the Black Death and the Yellow Fever felled people like trees before the woodsman’s ringing ax.

Christians, Jews and Muslims alike recognized and observed festivals and feasts related to their religions. Holidays to mark the creation of the world, miracles granted to ancient brethren, the crucifixion of a martyr or a savior. A day to mourn and pray for the dead, a day to celebrate resurrection.

They say ancient Rome was almost a constant party at one point. The term “Roman Holiday” refers to any given day turned into one. Every third day, on average, there would be revelry, Gladiators, Christians fed to the lions and other fun stuff. As humankind advanced through the centuries, we began to settle into more workmanlike schedules. Fishermen needed to sail on the sea, farmers needed to work their fields. Eventually, children would be sent to schoolhouses, at least ‘til the age of ten, and the teacher’s job would be full time. Elsewhere, the burden of building a modern society took up much of what once was idle time.

Science and technology make their grand entrance to the story with Galileo. The future clashing like a warrior with the past. We can see the planets. We can demonstrate scientifically that we are not at the center of anything. We all know how well that went.

Time marched on, and after seeing the undeniability of Galileo’s observations, we slowly allowed our brains to begin to trust in the truths of science. Stone temples made of 100-ton boulders were no longer needed to keep time when pocket watches and calendars took their place.

Heathenish practices like human sacrifices and the worship of stars and other deities were shown to be superstitious. Enlightened people of the world began to seek peace, engage one another with respect, courtesy and tolerance. Persecutions were recognized as an offense against mankind itself, and a new and democratic world began to emerge. Where one was free to believe and pray and celebrate the rites of one’s belief without interference.

We’re far now from the 180 Roman Holidays per year that sought to recognize every festival of every belief and season. Our industrial society has forced even the most zealous to contain their beliefs to their personal time. On Saturday or Sunday. Or maybe you could have just one big holiday so it would be easier for everyone. We have schools and State workers now, and we embrace everyone’s right to pursue one’s own religion, but there needs to be a limit. We can’t close the schools, the banks and the government every third day like Rome.

A country founded by Christians and being predominantly so is likely to recognize the holiday for the birth of their savior. Jewish holy days, older than Christianity itself, were given the respect due. (Though it seems only in recent years will schools close for some Holy Days)

Galileo and his science was a chip in the mortar of many belief systems, and for other reasons that perhaps remain unknown, many religions are now shrinking. Churches and temples closing, consolidating. Maybe there’s just too much competition for time and money. Maybe modern science and medicine has caused people to turn from faith. While many traditions remain for the sake of tradition, some aspects are seen as superstition, or exaggerations of ancient storytellers seeking to add power and impact to their words.

There is little mentioned in 1984, in Brave New World, on Star Trek or Lost In Space about religion. Belief. Practice. Holy Days (the origin of the word holi-day) No Hanukkah, no Christmas, no Ramadan. If this is an accurate look into our homogenized future, I can only hope Thanksgiving is spared.

It may be based on mythology, or perhaps it’s factual. It may have first been celebrated by the Christians that invaded this continent, but in historical tellings it is celebrated equally by the natives, who were not labeled Christians. It brings people together, not to celebrate a religious rite, or to observe an occurrence in ancient times. It is not a gathering seeking absolution, nor to testify to the power of gods.

It is the simplest affair, really. Just a feast. A meal with persons we are most thankful to have. A day and time to stop, to pause and reflect on the good and glorious in our lives.

Our American Thanksgiving Holiday is not a religious observance. If it makes sense as part of your belief system, you can give thanks to whatever powers you choose to. If you prefer, you can simply observe your thankfulness in your heart for those things in your life that are appreciated. It is the very name of the holiday, and its intent is to inspire folks to be thankful, yet also it is a gathering. It is a get-together without a solemn religious purpose. It is a feast with family and friends. A holiday that has not yet been thoroughly smothered and overtaken by the greeting card industry and other hawkers of goods. There is no perfect tree or obligatory gift, no case upon case of lights and garlands to display.

One of the wisest prophets of our time, Dr. Theodore Seuss Geisel, known to most as “Dr. Seuss”, delivers the message eloquently, quoting How The Grinch Stole Christmas. After the Grinch steals every last speck of the Whos’ holiday-the trees, the decorations, the wrapped gifts, even the feast itself, the Whos of Whoville emerge at dawn to hold hands in a circle, and sing gleefully. Mesmerized, the Grinch ponders this.

“It came without ribbons.

It came without tags.

It came without packages,

Boxes or bags.”

 

Though I call it homogenization, I embrace the welcoming of our new world. We are at the brink. We are moving from tolerance through acceptance and on to welcoming. Tolerating something implies opposition to its premise, and a tenuous acceptance. We are beginning to welcome all. All colors. All religions. All belief systems and self-orientations.

These are fine achievements for which humankind should give itself a pat on the back.

It is not difficult to foresee the Space Age and its all-inclusive spirit. If trends continue in the shrinking of religions and the following of science, one can envision a time when an observance from one tiny sect of an ancient religion might no longer be a broad tradition, celebrated by a holiday for much of the populace.

Still, in our most-distant futures, our 2540 A.D., won’t there still be love and beauty, caring and comforts? If our offspring leap from tubes at the age of three or our parents are from two different galaxies, won’t we still love one another?

At the Robinsons’ camp on an unidentified planet, aren’t they still glad they have each other? Parents, a son, a daughter, a son-in-law. Won’t they be thankful their food machine still works or they are able to grow odd science-fiction plants to feed themselves?

In the cold expanse of space, light years from home, isn’t Captain Kirk glad to have First Officer Spock, “Bones”, the ship’s doctor? Lieutenant Uhura and Mr. Chekov, loyal friends as well as shipmates? Won’t there still be beautiful worlds and possibilities to embrace?

Even in the Spacely Sprocket world of The Jetsons, they are family. “Meet George Jetson”, the theme song sings, “His boy Elroy. Daughter Judy. Jane, his wife.” And they have a dog. There may be no churches or temples or trees or birds, but they still have one another.

 

I can only hope, (and dare I say- pray) that the high-tech, homogenized, all-inclusive, automated future will hang onto this vestige of the nineteenth century. That they will park their hovercars and shut down The Transporter for just one day.

One day that was never foreseen by Orwell and Huxley.

A day to take stock of the good in our lives.

The Thanksgiving of the future.

 

 

Gathering

 

When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.

Give thanks for your food and the joy of living.

If you see no reason to give thanks,

The fault lies in yourself.

 

  • Tecumseh

 

Seek peace, and Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Paz

Land Of The Free

 

 

Gunfire all around and

My hands are shaking and my heart is pounding.

 

 

He said “Forget about your law and order.

You left that at the American border.”

 

 

A silent boat to a floating plane.

One blacked-out treetop flight away.

One blacked-out treetop flight away…

 

 

Stars light the river as we trace its courses

Rolls-Royce putting out all its horses.

 

 

We climb above the deep, dark sea

Could it be?

Could it really be?

 

 

Thirty-eight hundred and we’re really flying.

Everyone on board is crying.

 

 

Bullets flying, windows breaking

Our little plane is shaking, shaking.

 

 

Shudder-bang. Prayers are spoken.

Hope lies broken, broken.

 

 

A subtle peace washes over me

As she augers down into the sea.

Finally free.

 

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Happy Halloween!

Bone White Moon


Little stir has the air,

Yet a great noise it makes

As it rattles – like  bones –

The dry leaves on skeleton trees.

A veil of vapor rises

From a bog not far away,

Like a specter drifting skyward,

Aloft on nightly haunts.

Underfoot the leaves crunch,

Arid and bleached,

Like the dry, taut skin

Of rigor mortis.

 

Alone in the sky flies a

Bone White Moon,

Peering out from behind

Passing shrouds.

Silent, and steadfast,

As The Reaper.

———————–

photo-supervisor

Photo Supervisor

Happy Halloween!

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

October Piece

As an October tradition here at ACZ, the annual posting of “October Piece”

– Paz

 

(Click any image to begin slide carousels)

 

October Piece-

 

O! To be that Canada Goose, and see through those geese eyes,

That patchwork carpet below arrayed,

All Nature’s vainglorious color displayed,

As I fly through blue-gray October skies.

Ah! To be that white-tailed deer,

Browsing ‘mongst the elms and pines,

Walking the tumbled-down rock fence lines,

As I bid the first snowflake “Appear!”.

 

 

Oh! To be that fox of the glen,

Who seeks all manner of food and forage,

To fatten his flanks with winter storage,

When drifting snows will surround my den.

 

 

Alas! To be that little one,

Raking leaf piles, carving pumpkins,

Stuffing a scarecrow country bumpkin,

Breathlessly awaiting Halloween fun!

 

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Somedays

Over The Rainbow

 

“Someday” is an essential part of a long, healthy life that ends peacefully.

Always working, the mind must always have a dream. It’s not natural to live only in the “now”, but also in the “next” at every waking moment. Where to take the next step. Where to find the next meal. What comes next after the shadow passes overhead, or the footfalls rapidly approach?

Who says delusion and denial are anything but good for you?

Fantasy, imagination, fiction, dreams, books, the stage and screen, pretend and play.

Every amazing invention we know of (including this written language) began as an unseen image inside a mind.

How could we choose at what point we stop thinking of, imagining, dreaming our “somedays”?

After my last child is born? After they are grown? After I achieve “success”?

When I reach XX age? When I retire? When I check off the bucket list?

 

I myself have many irons in the fire as I cross the crest of 60 years of age.

I imagine for myself a billion someday things I want to do; finishing this novel and starting the next, publishing something. There are a dozen ideas for oil paintings, a hundred ideas for poems to be written, a thousand ideas for blog posts, a million opportunities to shoot that contest-winning photo.

There are grandchildren that need to be shown how to properly tie an improved cinch knot in monofilament line, how to Texas-rig a rubber worm, how to fillet a bass. How to tie off to a cleat, how not to trailer a boat. There are holes that need to be drilled through the ice to set tip-ups. Hot chocolate to be poured from the green thermos. Stands to occupy during dear season, streams to wade for trout in the spring.

There are a thousand miles of trails to be walked, billions and billions of autumn leaves to view in awe, wet dog kisses to be received.

There are philosophies to be shared, great books to be read, a whole planet to save…

Thirteen billion prayers to be said.

There are grown children that need to witness lifelong commitment, unwavering loyalty, unconditional love, unbreakable will.

I must always be filling my heart to overflowing, and seeking out vessels to fill with the excess.

 

 

The last thing I want is for a single day to be boring and unfulfilled.

I’m glad to know my list of someday things will not run out before I do.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

 

Inspired by a reply to “Someday Is A Disease” on TheEnlightenedMind622 – http://www.theenlightenedmind622.wordpress.com

Mother’s Mercy

Mother’s Kisses

 

 

Sometimes the world appears to be a bumbling behemoth,

a bull in a china shop, an unleashed Baby Huey, crushing the furniture.

Yet always she comes with the gentlest of hands, and the most tender heart.

I can’t help but love the sweet giant, even as she suffocates me in her embrace.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

 

Inspired by The Rabbit Patch Diaries – http://www.rabbitpatchdiary.com

One World

I had a vision within a dream.

 

All the people of the world were gathered and placed on a giant, flat disk. It is incomprehensibly large, perfectly round, and entirely devoid of features.

Like a huge Frisbee, the disk floated in space, filled with the population of Earth.

The disk faced away from the sun, and like the dark side of the moon, we were all in total darkness.

In the vacuum of space, no sound carried. There was no speech. There were no languages. No language barriers. We could not know if the one beside us was from our own homeland, or some place entirely foreign to us.

We were naked in the silent darkness. There were no well-earned three-piece suits strolling past an undeserved and unearned raiment of rags, uniform of the destitute. We could not know if the one beside us was rich or poor.

There were no features on the disk. There was no higher ground. There was no Knob Hill. There were no gutters. We were all on even ground. There was no hill to take or line to hold, and no armies to do so.

Without an inch of room, there could be no separation, no segregation. No slums or ghettos or prisons.

We stood, shoulder to shoulder, beside one another. And all we could know was that some were shorter and some taller. Some seemed younger, and others seemed older. Some were quite plump, and some skinny as rails. In the darkness, there was no white or brown or yellow or red. Just people.

Looking outward, from darkness into darkness, we were stricken with fear. Our fears could not be shared. No voices to cry out. No light to see the anguish in faces. Bit by bit, we began to feel it. We could feel the trembling of all the world, shaking in terror.

Then we could feel a shift, as some fell to their knees and began to pray. Others prostrated themselves, and others stood and nodded as they prayed. Others stretched their arms outward and looked into the unknown as they sought peace with the universe.

From distant space, a meteor struck the disk and rocked it. The violent collision turned the disk ever-so-slightly, just enough to illuminate a single child, just a baby, wrapped in swaddling, as it fell from the edge of the disk. Out into the vastness of the Cosmos. Alone.

Without hesitation, all the world shifted to move the disk back into place. The strongest worked the hardest, and the weakest expended their last ounce of strength. Clasping hands, a human chain formed. Without regard for their own safety, the chain stretched and reached for the drifting lost child. In a single, silent thrust the chain grasped the child and held mightily, and with the greatest of efforts the child was drawn in, back to the fold, and the population of the world was one again.

And then a hand grasped a hand. Then that grasped another. Then another and another and another until all the world was hand in hand.

Then, like magic, we all knew. We knew we were all of different colors and languages and religions and walks of life. Yet in the silent darkness we were all the same. In the fear-filled void, we were all equal.

There were no lands to fight for. No fields to farm or factories to fill. There was absolutely nothing else to be done.

And so, we held one another.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Galleries

If I could teach you anything, if I could wish for you to grasp one concept, it would be this:

During those fleeting and routine moments that occupy our every day, as our subconscious drives us to keep moving like a moth around the flame, take time to notice. To notice just this. This now. These seemingly innocuous surroundings. These most common and ordinary things.

Spirit

You must expend no effort for the greatest memories of your lifetime to be retained in your mind’s eye.

Graduation.

Weddings.

The birth of your children.

The passing of dear ones.

These events shine like diamonds on the beach. You could not forget them if you tried.

Add now, to that gallery.

Trail Time

 

A moment on a trail as the rain falls on Chuy and me.

A silent night on an isolated island, as peace fell on the moon and me.

The Harrier hanging suspended over the hay field on a summer breeze.

 

Moonrise

 

You must stop and look and record these snapshot memories.

 

Daughter’s face in the rear view mirror, which I mistook for her mother.

That quiet summer morning, coffee in the cabana with my dearest friend, waiting for the sun.

The dark, sacred night, lovers locked in embrace.

 

Mists of morning

 

These pictures will be meaningless to others, so I shan’t go on.

They are not major events, accomplishments, achievements, setbacks or tragedies.

All can relate to those.

 

These are just for me (as yours will be just for you).

I am filling the walls of the gallery of my mind, so as to be surrounded by the simple beauty of my life.

 

The patter of rain on my slicker.

The sting of wind-driven snow.

This warm sun on my face.

 

Sumac Sunrise

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

 

 

 

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