Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘Choices’

A Conspicuous Absence

 

Crocuses are blooming now, and Canada geese migrate northward. The air each day hints more of spring. The song of the red-winged blackbird fills the yard. Sunsets are lavender then orange. Mornings sport foggy patches, and the deer have come down out of their winter yards.

The beautiful world has been busy being beautiful for a long, long time. Make that a very, very, very long time. Nothing to date has affected her all that much. The sky is still aquamarine blue, and clouds in the sun will reveal rainbow colors if you look closely.

The grass is greening as green as any year, and dandelions have wasted no time getting started. The trail greets Sassy and me with the same joyous embrace we have come to know, and the air smells as sweet as any spring I can remember.

Mankind has always sought out and marveled at beauty. Nature and the arts. Throughout recorded history we have breathlessly described new frontiers. We have written ballets devoted to the seasons, composed and choreographed the essences of life’s beauty to be displayed upon the stage. We have written books of adventure, love, poetry. Songs that embrace light and love, devotion and bravery. We have painted and drawn and sculpted masterpieces attempting to convey our overwhelming joy to be witnesses to this marvelous world.

These things have never tired, never faded: the world’s beauty and humankind’s appreciation of it.

Humans have observed and recorded beauty at all times. All times throughout history.

During bountiful years and seasons of drought.

During times of enlightenment and growth as well as times of darkness and evil.

During plentiful times, and times of starvation and death.

We can hope and dream with all our might, yet we must bow to the unwavering truth that there will be some dark days for most of us during the courses of our lifetimes. That there will be dark times for our world.

Humankind has harnessed the power of light. It began long ago with a fire in a cave. It continued as gaslights recorded in the stories of O. Henry and Charles Dickens. It entered modern times with Mr. Edison’s curious invention. It has followed us into the future with lasers carrying our telecommunications, and solar farms gathering the power of the sun for our use.

And so it is the power of beauty and light that I will embrace now.

There will be lilacs in May.

There will be peonies in June.

There will be raspberries in July.

There will be morning glories in August.

You have plenty of places elsewhere to read about the darkness.

 

Sure As Spring

 

Let’s keep our eye on the lighthouse, and keep the lamp lit.

Let’s marvel at the sweep of the beacon through the fog.

Until the storm has passed.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

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

 

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

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

Courtesies

Liberty is at the core, the very founding of this nation.

We failed, as a species, for many years in this area.

Enslaving humans, treating women as second-class citizens that could not own property or vote.

Segregating children by the color of their skin, not seeing the content of their character, as Dr. King admonished.

Mistreating and abusing people because of their religious affiliation or gender orientation.

 

Times changed. No more slavery. No more second-class genders. Free to be me.

Somewhere in the fight for “me”, it seems we forgot about “you”.

In our quests to be our best and truest selves, focus turned inward. I can do this, and no one can stop me. I can believe this. I can say that.

Hip-hooray for all this embracing liberty, but can’t we bring civility along?

 

There was a time when people took pride in their appearance. They didn’t come to work looking like they are ready to go to the rodeo, the gym, or the beach. We dress down, “because I can”. But how about dressing nicely just ’cause it’s…well, nice?

There was a time when people kept their opinions to themselves sometimes. To avoid offense. To show respect. I will be the first in line to defend your right to free speech. But can’t we sometimes exercise our right to be quiet?

There was a time when rudeness was considered rude. When apologies were in vogue. There was a time when an apology was so serious it took on the words “I beg your pardon.“.

There was a time when people could see beyond their own skin. When people realized we are all cut from the same cloth. We are kindred. We are the same inside. We all feel and wish and dream the same. We can all be hurt and insulted. We all wish for happiness and comfort.

 

“Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.”

 

Let the other guy go ahead of you in the checkout or on the on ramp.

Hold the door for someone.

How about “May I have a cheeseburger, please?” instead of “Gimme a cheeseburger and a super-sized Coke.”

How about waiting patiently, like your mother taught you, when the person in line counts change or buys lottery tickets or does whatever else they do while we wait in line behind them?

Suppose young people treated adults with respect? Suppose adults showed the same respect for young people?

Suppose, instead of tolerance, we could teach the generations to come to move beyond that?

Beyond “mainstreaming” and “inclusion”. Beyond mandates that command us to treat one another with respect.

 

A long time ago, a wise man gave us this entire lesson wrapped in a single sentence.

“So as you do unto these, the least of my brethren, you do unto me.”

 

So here’s to liberty. Here’s to freedom. Here’s to celebrating your own uniqueness in the world. You celebrate you, and I will celebrate you.

I ask only that you don’t forget about him and her and the other one and me. We’re out here. Outside your skin.

Wouldn’t you love to celebrate being the most courteous person you know? I sure would!

One last thing. There are instructions for this respect and consideration stuff. Write it down if you need to.

 

Love one another.”.

Evan Defies Gravity

Seek peace (and manners),

 

Paz

The Ghost of Osceola

 

“Ever since the days of old

Men would search for wealth untold.

They’d dig for silver, and for gold,

And leave the empty holes.

 

And way down south in The Everglades,

Where the black water rolls and the sawgrass waves,

the eagles fly and the otters play

In the land of The Seminole.”

 

John Anderson’s song ran through my head constantly as we traveled the roads outside of Ocala, Florida.

Off to our right, pastures of green. Grazing dairy cows, playful galloping horses. Ancient Live Oak trees spread their limbs and shade all below, adorned and festooned with Spanish Moss. Orange trees and Crepe Myrtle.

Bisecting the Ocala National forest, one can see what this land once looked like. Sand and pines, low-growing palms, the ground dotted with piles made by Gopher Tortoises, making their nests in the warm earth.

In the rear view mirror, “The Villages”. Vast, expansive new communities developing as quickly as houses can be built. Replete with shopping centers, medical arts buildings, recreation centers. Concrete and asphalt, steel and glass, power lines, signs, lights and traffic spewing forth clouds of carbon monoxide.

“Don’t they look so nice and new?” my companions cackle. I purse my lips and swallow hard and keep my thoughts to myself out of some misshapen sense of civility.

 

“Progress came, and took its toll,

And in the name of flood control

They made their plans and they drained the land.

Now the ‘glades are going dry.”

 

The River of Grass. The Everglades. The largest freshwater delta in the world. The porous limestone aquifer, barely a few feet above the level of the sea, filters water beneath the ground, and it spews forth by the billions of gallons. At Silver Springs State Park we see the inverted Niagara. A vent pouring out millions of gallons of crystal clear water. “The volume produced,” said Captain Christopher, piloting our silent, electric glass-bottom boat, “could fill four Olympic swimming pools per minute.” Water so pure you can see the ancient river bottom thirty feet below without distortion or darkness. A Gar passes beneath, four feet long and a quarter of it the snout. An Anhinga swims by below, chasing after lunch.

A sign warns us not to feed or approach the Rhesus Monkeys. If scratched or bitten we’re required to call the CDC immediately. Some well-meaning naturalist, or showman, or perhaps a little of both, brought the monkeys to the park for the viewing pleasure of the public. Released on an island, they were thought to be contained. Little did they know, monkeys are agile and fearless swimmers. Now they roam throughout the park and the adjacent lands beyond. They’ve done well establishing themselves on a foreign continent, as well as the Burmese Python, inadvertently introduced as released pets.

The Florida Panther, a sleek cat occupying the swamp for millennia, is now a threatened species due to human encroachment and over-hunting of the past. Less than 200 individuals left in the wild, and losing habitat daily.

 

“And the last time I walked in the swamp

I stood up on a Cypress stump.

I listened close and I heard the ghost

Of Osceola cry.”

 

I looked at the beauty and diversity of nature here in this one-of-a-kind place, and looked out the other window at the world of humans. Chasing money. Everything has a price. I imagined what this place must have looked like only a few hundred years ago.

 

“So blow, blow Seminole wind.

Blow like you’re never gonna blow again.

I’m calling to you like a long-lost friend,

But I know who you are.

 

Blow, blow from the Okeechobee

All the way up to Micanopy.

Blow across the home of the Seminole,

the alligator and the gar.”

 

I thought of the Seminole and all the other original inhabitants as they watched the destruction of their Eden.

I hung my head in sorrow. I apologized to Osceola and his people. To the panther. To the world at large. On behalf of all those short-sighted and misguided beings that have come before me. Again, ashamed to be human, who now can do nothing but cry.

If ever you enter the swamps and ‘glades, find a quiet place, you may hear the cries of two men mourning for those things that can never be reversed, returned or replaced.

It is Osceola and I.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Cowlture Clash

They say that a gallon of milk costs $15 US in Alaska.

People decry the cost of living so far north.

 

Inuits lived here for 25,000 years without ever seeing a dairy cow.

 

Use your head for something more than a hat rack.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Delusional

Who’s to say denial and delusion are anything but good for you?

Dreams, fantasy, fiction, acting, pretend, hope, “all the world but a stage”.

Consider the alternatives.

Of which course to follow,

Really, who is the fool?

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

%d bloggers like this: