Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘Choices’

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

Power

Sunset & Starlings

 

You do have the power.

You can prevent this

Beautiful World

From finding you.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Life and Death and Pain and Compassion in My Cosmos

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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