Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Give Thanks

Forked Lake Morning

 

When you wake in the morning, give thanks for the light.

Give thanks for your strength, for your food, for your life.

If you see nothing to be thankful for,

The fault lies

In yourself.

 

-Tecumseh

 

“Give thanks for the healthy children in your life, and give to those who are not.”

-Marlo Thomas, St.Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital

http://www.stjude.org

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

No Time for Time

 

Geese at Bowmaker’s

I will no longer be fooled by

Time.

Lulled into mistaking

Linearity for longevity,

Feigning limitlessness.

I move in circles.

Seek peace,

Paz

22 Suicides Every Day

As a proud American, this post is dedicated to Veterans’ Day. It is addressed mainly to my fellow Americans, currently enjoying the liberty purchased with the lives of Veterans. We cannot thank them enough. This one, humble and grateful American wishes to thank all those who serve and have served. As a member of The Wounded Warrior Project Advance Guard, I’m doing what I can to support Veterans returning from duty. I hope you’ll sign up, too. If I can get just one person to join me, it will be a small achievement. For our Wounded Warriors, many say their goal is to stop one fellow Veteran from committing suicide. Wounded Warrior Project can help. Please join, give, or visit http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org to read the stories of these Veterans, and how this organization is saving the lives of real heroes. In my book, EVERY VETERAN IS A HERO.

-Paz

US Navy Veteran Jessica Coulter

That’s not a dramatic, sensationalized title of this post. It is a sad fact.

On average, twenty-two United States Veterans commit suicide each day. 22 per day.

All Veterans do not look like “big, strong men”, nor do they all bear physical signs of disability following their service.

This post is about the Wounded Warrior Project. Jessica, above, and 100,000 other Veterans of U.S. Service now benefit from this organization.

Sadly, there are 22 Veterans on any given day that can’t fight “the brave fight” any longer, and feel their only way out is suicide.

US Marines Veteran Eric Delion

Not all Veterans returning from combat have scars or missing limbs. Many suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and many suffer from Traumatic Brain Injuries, physical damage to the brain caused by continued exposure to concussive explosions or direct contact with explosive devices. Many Veterans suffer from “survivor’s guilt”. They feel guilty they are still alive, and in many cases physically unharmed, while the brothers and sisters they serve with are killed and injured on a daily basis.

US Army Veteran Bill Geiger

While these are some nice photos of whole people, many Veterans seeking the assistance of The Wounded Warrior Project are not so. Many men and women return from battle with serious injuries. Missing limbs, scars, burns. Some face long recoveries, repeated surgeries, painful recuperations. Some would rather have died on the battlefield. Some wish to die now.

US Air Force AND Army Veteran Keith Sekora

The Wounded Warrior Project is comprised of Veterans that have connected with others that can truly understand what they have experienced and continue to experience after service. Many members are directly involved with outreach, seeking out those that can benefit from WWP’s programs and people. In so many stories, you’ll read how Veterans feel they are alone and adrift until they find fellow Veterans that have gone through much of the same things.

US Army Veteran Josh Sommers-and mom, Lisa Hopkins

It’s not only Veterans, but their families too that are affected by the trauma of battle, injuries and recovery. Spouses, children and parents are caught up in this nearly as much as the Veteran. It can be a very difficult transition back to civilian life, even without serious injuries or handicaps. Many Veterans speak of flashbacks, nightmares, sleep disorders, rage, guilt and depression. The Wounded Warrior Project supports the whole family.

US Veteran Anthony Villareal

This excerpt is from Mr. Villareal’s bio at Wounded Warrior project.org.

On June 20, 2008, in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, Anthony Villarreal’s life changed in an instant when a roadside bomb blew up the truck he was driving, setting off a secondary explosion from his vehicle’s ammunition.

“More than 30 percent of my body surface was burned. My right hand had to be amputated and my left fingers as well. I had third-degree burns everywhere. I was in a coma for three months, and it was like I was having an out-of-body experience – like watching yourself sleep. I didn’t think I had lived through it. In a way, I didn’t.”

Anthony’s journey back to life started with two grueling years at Brooke Army Medical Center and more than 70 surgeries.

“Before I discovered Wounded Warrior Project, I was shy and timid about my looks and appearance. I withdrew from people and was always cautious about my surroundings, never doing much. Now, it’s like I’m carefree. I’m more outspoken and outgoing than ever before.” 

Anthony credits his emotional breakthrough to the self-confidence he’s received from the support of his fellow injured veterans.

“We can relate to each other. We don’t judge each other, and it makes me feel pretty awesome that my experiences can help others deal with their experiences. I understand unbearable human suffering. When you can shoulder that burden for someone else, the good feeling you get is like walking on water.”

However, Anthony is quick to point out that the bad days can still overwhelm the best of warriors.

Please visit http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org to meet many of these heroic people and read their stories in their own words. Join or give if you can.

As the motto of The Wounded Warrior Project says,

The greatest casualty is being forgotten.

On this day, perhaps more than others, seek peace,

 

Paz

Fabric

Ellie and the Pinata

 

Life is a delicate fabric, 

Held together with fragile threads

Of heartstrings.

Love is the gusset.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

A Thousand Words

They say “a picture is worth a thousand words”, and most days I have a camera practically attached to my hand. This fall I’ve worked on a project, daily photos of a hillside covered with sugar maples. It’s on my ride to and from work, and it’s at its greatest glory in the fall. Stretching a quarter mile or so, I call it “The Wall of Flame” when the foliage turns deep orange. Each day through September and into October, I shot a few frames of the trees, looking to track their changes day-by-day. An idea for a post.

This day, I decided to put the camera down and actually see the beauty before me. Just to ride home like a regular Joe, enjoying the fall scenery. The day turned out to be one of those amazing golden days as I drove home into the sunset. Before I knew it, the words and phrases describing the view were spilling onto paper, writing on the tiny memo pad while driving. Some of the scribbling is tough to read, but herein I try to capture the essence of this glorious season, this beautiful world, without pictures.

The Ride Home-

SEEING it. The Wall of Flame and no camera. I feel as if I’ve missed it. Missed the slow turn from green to pale to yellow-ish to orange. Too much time with a camera stuck in front of my face. Thinking the peak has past, thinking it was a slightly duller year for leaf colors. I realize it’s as beautiful as any year, any season, as it is every day. In the clouds I see a bird-shaped formation. A body and two broad wings spread and soaring. A wingspan of a hundred miles, flying five miles high.

A brilliant pink-orange sunset, backlighting the big ridges, all the way to my own Victory Mountain. Truly purple and majestic. Worthy of an anthem. Gray undulatus stretching hundreds of miles across our blue blanket, to the opposite horizon, a deep indigo.

Leaves fall like snowflakes across our path, construction-paper colors and looking like decorations made by the kindergarten. Copper and red, umber and orange are reflected in the farm ponds. Vast cornfields have been shaved, leaving only the stubble standing, like grandfather’s beard, geese notwithstanding.

The globe progresses rapidly as the Big Red Ball drops past nautical twilight, cotton-candy cumulus are bathed in salmon and blue. Clouds in the shadow of the Earth now deepen, lavender wisps and smoky vermilion. The hilltops are now slow burning embers, and tangerine spires of light shoot beyond my field of view. Giant fingers of the gods giving the tiny fragile sphere the gentlest caress.

Trees are now flattened, backlit, and drawn out in india ink as the last Starlings dance and twirl in the umbrageous sky. Now lights must illuminate the road, and watch must be kept for deer.

Before I know, I am standing at my door, watching the last of the deepest colors fade from the sky. As if on cue, a flock of Canada Geese transits the glens of Engleville on a southwest course, silhouetted against the last light of the day. They call to us as they fade into the distance.

I turn, to see the evening star rising.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Dear readers: I live in “Upstate” New York, about 50 miles west of the state capital of Albany. New York City is about 170 miles away. Still, we are all New Yorkers. New York City, New York country, all of the United States, the western hemisphere, the rest of the world…we are all citizens of this planet. We all share in the pain. As Governor Cuomo put it, “…we know that ultimately, terror will not change New York. We will not be deterred. New Yorkers continue to be New Yorkers, and we will not change our lives and let terror win.”

-Paz 

Fellow New Yorker, 

In the aftermath of yesterday’s cowardly act of terror in lower Manhattan, I speak on behalf of all New Yorkers in saying that our thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives were lost, their families, and those who are still recovering.

Our first responders did an extraordinary job. We have the finest emergency personnel on the globe. They work with skill, speed and discipline to keep New York safe yesterday and every day, and we are thankful to them.

New York is an international symbol of freedom and democracy. This can make us a target for those who oppose these values. But we have lived through this pain before, and we know that ultimately, terror cannot change New York. We will not be deterred.

We go forward together and we go forward stronger than ever. New Yorkers will continue to be New Yorkers, and we will not change our lives and let terror win. We are smarter, stronger, and better than those who seek to harm us.

Ever Upward,

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Bone White Moon

 

Little stir has the air,

Yet a great noise it makes

as it rattles – like  bones –

The leaves on dry 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

This Is Not A Post

This is where you would have found a post, if I wasn’t busy outdoors, drinking in every precious moment of the season.

Typically, there would be an article here about the beautiful trail, the crisp air, the smell of dried leaves, the colors of the foliage, all accompanied by brightly-lit photographs.

I would have written (and shared photos) of my drive to Syracuse. The geese in the corn stubble. The rolling hills painted in lovely-sounding colors like crimson and persimmon and peach and burnt umber.

If I had the time, I’d write about the shortening days, the cooling of the northern hemisphere. The natural clocks I follow: birds migrating, the tilt of the Big Dipper in the night sky, the sunrises growing later with each passing day.

I would have regaled you with tales of the Wonder Woods, walks with my Sassy June, preparations for the seasons that lie ahead: hunting season, a Leaf Pile Party, closing of storm windows and the putting-away of lawn chairs and garden hoses.

There lies in the journal notes for many posts: watching the “Wall of Flame” grow bright, then dim to embers, for the twentieth year, this hillside covered with Sugar Maples. The attempts to photograph it each day, to observe the subtle and not-so-subtle changes over the course of an autumn. The tale of the deer caught in the urban environment, trapped and surrounded by highways.

If not otherwise occupied, you might have read the musings of an old armchair philosopher. About putting the camera down and opening the window. About really seeing that which is before me. About the tiny circles we inhabit and the great circles our globe makes around the sun, wobbling through summers and winters. About the grandest circles, cycles of the cosmos, reminding us that “the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

You may have read about how much I love this life and this world and everything it holds, animate and inanimate. About the way I worry about tiny helpless animal friends and other living things facing a challenging future. About the way I fervently believe someone will come along after me that loves these things, this blue ball, and will care for them as I have.

There would have been a few paragraphs about how beautiful our world is, not just in this superlative season, but every day, in every season and the seasons-between-seasons.

And I would have once again related how joyful I feel when I am immersed in our world. How I feel I am never alone. How being a tiny insignificant speck on a rock on an arm of a galaxy in a universe filthy with galaxies makes me feel as though I am part of it all. As if this entire Great Cosmos is all mine to enjoy and revere.

Oh, yeah. It is.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

October Piece

(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 boy,

Raking leaf piles, carving pumpkins,

Stuffing a scarecrow country bumpkin,

Awaiting Halloween with joy.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Sasha In The Wonder Woods

The Wonder Woods beckoned on this perfect September day, and Sasha and I agreed we should be in them.

A lovely walk ensued, up Nishan’s Road, through the Avenue of The Pines, east past the hilltop camp site, past Chuy’s Trail, and down to The Wonder Woods. Heading west on the home leg, I turned onto Thursday Trail, camera in hand, ready to try to capture the soul of this place. To try in vain to produce a two-dimensional image that will in some measure do justice to the overwhelming peacefulness and beauty of Nature’s World.

 

Not ten steps down Thursday Trail, I spotted a chipmunk, motionless, in the center of the footpath. If you spend much time outdoors, particularly wild places, it’s not unusual to approach an animal so quickly and silently that the napping or distracted creature is suddenly aware of your presence. I watched a squirrel a good long time one day afield, twenty feet in the air, napping. His head rested on folded forelegs, back legs dangling from the branch the way children hang their feet in a pool. I watched a long while wondering if the squirrel was not in fact dead. Never did know. An hour later, the animal hadn’t moved. Next day, of course, was gone. Did he awaken and return to his life, or did his corpse fall to the ground?

More than once I’ve found a dead mouse or mole, lying dead in the grass along a trail. I’ve wondered how they died, and why here? Things need to die on a daily basis, and must fall somewhere. I usually presumed it was a matter of time before a scavenger would come along. A recycling in Nature’s Way.

I returned my focus to the still chipmunk. Rustling and movement did not disturb it. It was not asleep. I pondered about that which may have befallen him. I mindlessly nudged the tiny animal with the toe of a shoe. The chipmunk rolled over a bit, and that’s when I discovered the cause of death. I’ve seen (and smelled) a lot of dead things in my time, but this was a first. The chipmunk’s abdomen was unusually distorted, and enlarged several times normal size.

The Still Chipmunk

At its softest underside, below the intestines, parasitic worms could be seen, their heads emerging from the white fur-covered flesh. This parasite grows to larval stage inside the host, then bores its way through the wall of flesh and to the outside world, to begin the cycle anew. This was a bit shocking and grotesque. The sudden, unexpected discovery, a phenomenon hitherto unwitnessed, and taking place at the expense of this adorable little rodent, whose species I like and admire.

Then the animal moved. Just a short stroke of two paws, barely a movement, followed again by stillness. Knowing what I do of these things and having an appreciation for the natural order, I understood that this must have been a painful course for this little mammal. The parasites literally eating the host alive as they grow and break out. Life and death in the same stroke.

I then entered into a dilemma, a personal conflict. I was almost immediately compelled to kill the chipmunk, to “euthanize” it, to end its suffering. As half of my mind raced through potential actions to dispatch the animal, the other half of my brain was arguing that I must not interfere. There were a number of tenets to prevent me from interfering with this natural occurrence.

First, there is the Armchair Zen Universalism, which regards all things in the universe to be natural and of equal significance. These things don’t always align with the over-thought and over-emotional human animals. The parasite worms have as much right to their natural course as anything else. Secondly, as a naturalist, photographer and sportsman, it’s a big no-no to interfere with whatever you are witnessing. I’m certain I don’t have the mettle or the stomach of the best wildlife photographers and cinematographers, who can cleave to this rule. Even as they watch a fox snatch a gosling from terrified parents, or see a baby gazelle grabbed by a crocodile, bleating and flailing as its mother watches helplessly, silence falling as the gazelle is dragged to its drowning.

The gazelles and geese of this world are cute and soft and sweet in those Disney-reinforced human perceptions. Still the fox and the crocodile and flesh-eating parasites have the same place in the cosmos as geese and gazelles, chipmunks, and me.

“Killing the chipmunk is judgement” I say to myself. “That would be deciding the chipmunk is more worthy than the worm.” What I feel is “Save the warm fuzzy mammal from suffering!”. What I can read is the rule: “DO NOT INTERFERE”.

I walk away conflicted, nearly sick to my stomach over the dichotomy of emotions. After the walk, I could not stop thinking of the chipmunk, in pain and dying, alone in the grass. As I started mowing I reassured myself that it is the natural order of things, and a scavenger has probably made a meal of the rodent, worms included. I could not let go of the obsession, the compulsion. As I mowed the Wonder Woods Trail, I turned into Thursday Trail, sure the animal would be gone.

It was not.

Surely its suffering must be over, surely it must be dead by now.

It was not.

I spent quite a few minutes determining it was not. At first I thought what I’d mistaken for respiration was simply the undulating worms moving beneath and with the animal. As I watched, hopes were dashed as I discerned a rhythm of shallow breaths.

“That’s enough!” my human brain said. This thing doesn’t need to remain alive. The parasites have matured and odds are they would not be harmed. I thought, even looked around a bit, for a rock and a sturdy limb to crush its skull. Another thought, perhaps drive over it with the mower. But that wouldn’t guarantee a kill and would also destroy the worms. I thought of returning to the house and fetching a twenty-two rifle to dispatch the thing.

I stopped and took a deep breath of zen. “Let the cosmos handle it.” I said aloud. I can’t understand everything that goes on in the cosmos. I left the tiny microcosm, that finite piece of the universe where this natural order will be left to itself. I could not shake the scenario from my head or heart, and it’s three days hence now.

The Circle

The same day, I talked to my neighbor, Betsy. Last week, the Cosmos and natural order came to call on her. As she reached down into some vegetation in her landscaping, a mink leaped up and bit her, sinking its teeth into the soft web of flesh between the thumb and forefinger. Panicked, the animal would not let go. Betsy ran next door to Tom & Lynn’s, banging on the door, bloody, yelling “Help! Help!”.

A minor chaos ensued, Tom donned gloves and grabbed tools. Nothing would get the mink to release its grip, and in fact it adjusted and re-sank its teeth for a firmer hold. Finally, Tom wedged its jaws apart with a screwdriver, and ultimately dispatched the animal with a hammer blow. Now, a week later, Betsy shows me the teeth marks in her hand, relates to me the news that the animal was tested, and was not rabid. We speculated as to why, then, the mink would not loose its hold and run away.

Betsy brought my cosmic dilemma full circle. After being attacked by a wild animal, bitten, in pain, bearing fear of rabies. After a chaotic story of noisy panic, trying to pry the animal off of her.

“It had to be tested for rabies,” Betsy concluded. “Still, I felt bad that we had to kill it.”

Southbound

Seek peace,

And balance of life and death and pain and compassion, here in this wondrous cosmos.

 

Paz

 

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