Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Something For Myself

My Beautiful Boy

 

I don’t remember exactly how long ago it happened, but I remember the moment quite clearly. I was opening the cupboard door, probably browsing for a snack, and Chuy sat down and looked up at me. His snacks come from the same cupboard.

Likely I had reasons for my intention to skip the dog snack. We go through plenty, as they are given generously. There is a regular wholesome meal at supper time, so there’s that appetite thing. Also, we can just get carried away sometimes and overdo it.

Then my imagination leaped ahead 12 seconds, to the moment I would retrieve something for myself and close the door. Chuy’s dog voice said, to himself or perhaps the cat beside him, “Oh.” a disappointed frown, “He’s only getting something for himself.

You go ahead and call it guilt, or call it spoiling or call it Shirley or call it awakening. Call it what you will, it made my stomach sink and my heart skipped a beat to imagine being seen this way. To imagine being a creature without the means to get up there and open the door and grab a snack, as I can do without second thought.

In an instant I was changed. If I have no intention of giving the dog a snack, I will not have one for myself in front of her. If she skips it, so do I. (Yes, you are reading that correctly, above was the past, and Chuy was a he, but it’s she-girl Sassy now).

That was just the dog and the pantry. Sure enough, didn’t I come to see shortly how this applied to a thousand places in my life and my day.

It has helped me develop a total immunity to marketing of goods. That $20 for a shiny gadget will pay for half a corrective surgery on a Mercy Ship. The $35 for the other thing I really don’t need will go to my kids in Memphis. Maybe research or maybe treatment or maybe Band-Aids with colorful characters on them for children fighting cancer at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Even the half of a peanut butter sandwich on the console of the FunBus, saved for later. How do I explain “later” or “mine” to these sparrows and starlings that alight before me, and look up at me the same way Chuy did?

Sparrow Boy

I went to lunch and drove past the old guy who is always walking on the sidewalk, winter and summer, and looking homeless and about 70 years old. It was cold and windy that day. I got a hot meatball sandwich and a cup of hot chocolate and I stopped and gave it to him. I could have wasted my time wondering if he liked meatball sandwiches, or if he was diabetic and couldn’t drink hot chocolate. I don’t know if he has a perfectly nice apartment and Meals On Wheels brings him lunch every day. What difference would that make anyway?

The Great Cosmos smiled on me. He looked at me with the sweetest face, with blue eyes as beautiful as my daughter’s. He spoke softly and kindly and smiled, and then he uttered the very words I’d heard my sainted mother say, so many times, to so many people.

“God bless you.”, he said.

In retrospect, perhaps I have failed in my Armchair zen Mission. Perhaps I am still studying Chuy’s lesson.

For after all was said and done, in the end, didn’t I end up getting something for myself anyway.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

 

Fledgling

Evan Defies Gravity

 

When you were just a wee thing, I tossed you into the sky.

You smiled, you laughed, you squealed.

You were never afraid, never doubted that I would catch you.

Grown now, with your own wee ones, you are too big for me to throw in the air.

Fear not, however, for as long as there is breath in this body

I will always catch you.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Pardon Me

Barn at sunrise

 

 

I beg your pardon, and I mean just that.
I’m sorry we won’t have time to chat.
I haven’t a moment to spare, you see,
Just now Mother is calling me.

It’s not entirely my fault,
This unavoidable delay.
But you know the world is bigger than me
And overwhelms my day.

It’s not only me, it’s also the birds
‘Cause they’re Tweeting me with their tweeting bird words.
And the trees are waving to catch my eye,
Passing clouds call out “Hello and goodbye.”

Am I to blame for marveling
At this air that smells of snow?
It surrounds me and embraces me,
And follows everywhere I go.

You wouldn’t hold it against a guy
Whose eyes automatically rise to the sky,
For breathing deep and lingering long,
To sing along with Nature’s song.

So hasten, must I,
To truncate this rhyme.
You and I can visit
Some other time.

 

Mother Beckons

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Replenishment

Into The Fray

 

The world of man takes from me

Takes from me

T a k e s   f r o m   me

Until I am depleted.

 

Chuy’s Trail

 

The world of Nature

Gives to me

Gives  to  me

G i v es   t o   m e

And I am whole again.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Accountant

Sky Sailors

 

 

I stopped my compulsive counting of the geese in the flocks that fly above me,

and instead admired their beauty.

I stopped foretelling the weather in these clouds that pass over me,

and instead enjoyed watching them sail.

I stopped thinking of those places where we don’t meet eye-to-eye,

and instead embraced those where we do.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

All The World A Stage

Color Of Winter

 

“How can we enact our Devine Comedy without the proverbial Village Idiot?

Who will play The Fool?”

“I will! I will!” I heard myself exclaim without hesitation. I jumped for joy to be working again.

To have a clearly defined roll within this cast of characters that is my life.

This grandiose and grand production.

This particularly ponderous performance.

This perfect play.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

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

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

Here I Linger

Chuy’s Trail

 

There is something sacred in the deep, quiet wood.

There is an escape from this modern world.

Here, time is allowed to lapse at its own, unhurried pace.

“Act Now!” Order Today” “Don’t Miss Out!” ”While Supplies Last” “Limited Quantities Available”

 

The Open Wonder Woods

 

Here are the same things that have been here for a thousand years, five thousand, who knows, a hundred thousand? Bedrock and stone. Moving waters. The same trees grow each hundred years, and the same nuts fall every autumn. The inchworm climbs over the moss the same way he has since the last glacial recession opened new inchworm territory.

“New!” “Improved” “The Latest!” “Just Released” “Grand Opening” “Coming Soon”

 

Fungus Season

 

Looking down I see earth and dirt and sticks and humus and lichens and bugs and mushrooms.

The track of the White-tailed Deer, giant comic prints of the Wild Turkey, tiny footprints left by the passing field mice. Tracings of wings in the snow where a Barred Owl invited the mouse to lunch.

There is no concrete, no blacktop, no glass, no stainless steel, no copper wiring, no asphalt shingles.

“Whole-house Vinyl Siding Sale!” “Road Closed For Paving” “Custom Replacement Windows”

 

 

Morning Frost

 

There is a ringing in the trees. It is the four billion year old wind, transiting my wood for the four billionth time, each passing as sweet as the last. There is a ringing in the air. It is the caw of the crow, the screech of the jay, the honking of Canada Geese waving goodbye for the ten thousandth year in a row. There is a ringing in my spirit, giving birth to the song in my heart.

Four Lines Just $100” “New I-phone Model X Available Now!” “Download The App” ‘Unlimited Data”

 

Glorious Blue

 

 

A dog chases a squirrel. An autumn leaf falls to the forest floor. A Catbird calls.

A man walks.

 

South Loop, January

 

 

And we are timeless in our serenity. We have loosed the bonds of modernity, however briefly.

Here, I linger.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

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