continue to echo,
to circle back,
time and again.
multiplexing on a vector
with the present season.
Like practicing a song
you know by rote,
until you know it
continue to echo,
to circle back,
time and again.
multiplexing on a vector
with the present season.
Like practicing a song
you know by rote,
until you know it
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?
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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”
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”
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”
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”
A dog chases a squirrel. An autumn leaf falls to the forest floor. A Catbird calls.
A man walks.
And we are timeless in our serenity. We have loosed the bonds of modernity, however briefly.
Here, I linger.
Every morning when I step out the door, I speak aloud a greeting to my dearest departed friend, my faithful canine companion of over 15 years.
It is a warm moment of remembrance, our bond as strong- or stronger- since parting.
As Chuy says, “The Circle must close. It is true for us all. It is simply so.”
This reminds me that every moment of every wonderous day is a gift to be opened and shared with the world.
That even after passing, the meaningful things in our earthbound life can remain meaningful.
It is not my inner light that illuminates my path.
It is the light I see in each and every individual and creature on this planet.
It is bright as the sun.
May peace find you always,
Inspired by posts at Thriving Under Pressure – www. drandreadinardo.com
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.
Inspired by The Rabbit Patch Diaries – http://www.rabbitpatchdiary.com
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.
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.
You must expend no effort for the greatest memories of your lifetime to be retained in your mind’s eye.
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.
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.
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.
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.