August 18, 2014
The middle of August, 2014
An ongoing string of clear skies, warm days, and cool nights.
with a few days of welcome showers to cleanse the air.
HARD TO IGNORE
Monday morning perspective:
While I don’t do political or social blogging or comment on the daily bad news of the world, sometimes what happens in public close by me is so significant that I can’t really ignore it.
Hemp Fest opened three blocks away in the waterfront park last Friday, for a three-day run.
This is the festival’s 23rd year.
As you may know by now, Washington State voters legalized the sale of cannabis. Hemp Fest has been the mainspring of the energy behind that new law (http://www.hempfest.org/about/history/)
About 25,000 people at a time were allowed into a very well organized venue focused on marijuana and personal freedom.
The event featured non-stop music, countless shops and vendors, impassioned speeches, and political dignitaries.
That same evening, at the other end of the waterfront, the Seattle Seahawks played their first home game since winning the Super-Bowl. 70,000 fans went to the game – and the TV screens in all the sports bars in my neighborhood were jammed full of more fans, who spilled out onto the sidewalks to cheer an exciting win.
Not a few people combined the two events into one – peacefully migrating from the Hemp Fest to the game at the stadium.
As far as I have been able to tell, there were no incidents of criminal behavior – no fights, no shootings, no fires, no looting, no violence in the streets.
A policeman I talked to this morning said it was a very mellow evening downtown – nothing out of the ordinary.
The Hemp Fest went on through the weekend and closed last night at eight – and the waterfront venue was being scrupulously cleaned and tidied this morning by industrious volunteers.
I try to write about what I know, and try to notice what’s nearby.
So, then, for what it’s worth, that’s what happened in my neighborhood over the weekend.
However one judges it, it was what it was,
Hard to ignore . . .
* * *
The masked fiddler was back busking in Ballard on Sunday morning.
A little girl disguised as the Lone Ranger – playing her violin.
Many of the photos on my Facebook page have been taken at Seattle’s Ballard Farmer’s Market this summer.
I go every Sunday morning.
To shop for fruit and vegetables and flowers.
To eat breakfast with friends.
To enjoy the sounds and courage of street musicians.
And most of all to stand still and notice the graceful ways of the merchants and customers as they interact with one another over the abundance of the summer’s harvest.
It’s like watching a slow-motion dance form.
Nothing extraordinary or dramatic about this.
But I always leave in an upbeat mood - feeling I have been in touch with something decent and good and elemental in human affairs.
It’s my private spiritual response to a public secular event.
On my way home I sometimes detour through a cemetery and walk a little ways through the final resting place of those who have gone on before me.
Just to keep my existence in perspective.
When I do, I go away thinking thoughts like these:
The good of the world rests in the lives of ordinary people going about their daily-ness in a spirit of social decency – doing unto others the right thing in the right way because civil society depends on that.
I desire that I be counted among their number. . .
They live a life faithful to the common good, not realizing how heroic their contribution to the human enterprise is.
Some smoked weed - some did not.
Some watched football – some did not.
Most practiced a live-and-let-live approach to the human race.
No monuments are raised over their quiet graves – but they are the noble majority who make this world livable.
Hard to ignore . . .
I suppose that’s a naive position in light of the news of the world this morning – all the trauma and disease and bloodshed and violence.
The good news and the bad news exist side by side – always.
One cannot turn away from any of it.
I understand that one must go on without being stymied by what seems to be so contradictory – that the world is a horrible place and a lovely place at the same time.
Hard to ignore . . .
link to this story
August 10, 2014
The second week of August, 2014
An ongoing string of clear skies, warm days, and cool nights
Full moon tonight – August 10th.
First, a sheepish apology:
A photo recently posted on my Facebook page offended some people.
It showed my hand, palm toward the viewer, middle finger held up to display its worn and crooked state, as referred to in the journal essay.
I only intended to say, “Look at this.”
As I would in conversation.
It was not intended to be an obscene gesture meaning “Up Yours.”
In that case, the hand would be shown in the reverse position.
Subtle difference, I know, but important.
Forgive me for being naive.
Here’s a continuation of my thinking when considering my hands –
focusing down on my opposable thumbs:
RULES OF THUMB
In the same morning semi-stupor-before-caffeine, I rummaged around
in the drawers of odds and ends in my mental clutter for thumb stuff.
Here, in no particular order, was what I found:
The song, “Where is thumbkin, where is thumbkin?”
The story of “Thumbelina” by Hans Christian Anderson.
The ability to thumb my nose in disdain.
The idea of having a green thumb
The memory of sucking my thumb as a child.
(In the spirit of open-mindedness, I tried it again – BLECH!)
The idea that the opposable thumb is the mother of technology.
I twiddle my thumbs when bored.
Thumb gestures are emphatic.
Thumbs up is an affirmation – meaning yes, good, excellent.
Thumbs down means no, bad, reject.
Thumb out at an angle means I want a ride or “You’re out!” in a sporting event like baseball.
Thumb and finger in a circle means OK or perfect.
The nursery rhyme of Little Jack Horner, who stuck in his thumb. . .
Thumb at a 90 degree angle means move it over.
(By the way, thumbs up in Greece is an obscene gesture, as is the thumb-to-index finger circle – sorry to bring this up, but there are Greeks who read this journal and I didn’t want to leave them out.)
And then there’s the notion of a Rule of Thumb.
Wikipedia puts the definition succinctly:
“A rule of thumb is a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. It is an easily learned and easily applied procedure for approximately calculating or recalling some value, or for making some determination.”
For example, my thumb at the first knuckle is about one inch wide.
And I often use that rule when rough-cutting wood.
From the tip of my nose to my outstretched arm at fingertip is a yard.
With my shoe on, my foot is twelve inches long.
My usual walking stride is 3 feet.
I can’t put my foot in my mouth . . . not literally.
(At this point in the meditation I got up and found a tape measure to see what other parts of my body might be a reference. My wife caught me doing this, and she didn’t say it, but I could read it in her eyes that maybe I should measure around my stomach while I was into research.)
Beyond the actual thumb, there are other general references I often use in an active way:
There are about six glasses in a standard wine bottle.
For the best buy in tasty wines, choose blends.
If your feet are cold, put on your hat.
If you don’t like waiting for a doctor or dentist, make the first appointment in the morning.
Coats: If you don’t take it with you, you can’t put it on, but if you do bring it, you can always take it off.
An acre is about the same as the size of a football field minus the two end zones.
If you are out on any kind of tightrope, keep moving, don’t look down.
If the black dog of depression assaults you, don’t feed it or pet it.
If you want to know what the weather is, go outside and look at it.
When taking a long trip, take half the clothes and twice the money.
One hour nap equals two hours of night sleep.
Everything looks better at a distance.
Most things are not as good or as bad as they first seem.
Two’s company, three’s either a crowd - or a small party.
Measure twice, cut once.
Dogs that bark, don’t bite – dogs that growl, will.
Look both ways when crossing streets.
Now I realize I’m getting into aphorisms, maxims and life directions – bordering on all I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.
In a more alert state after coffee, I consulted the web.
There is a site called rulesofthumb.com.
With 5,537 entries. http://rulesofthumb.org/
I read up to 2,160 of them and began to go mind-numb.
They can be viewed by categories, if you want specific rules.
While it was fascinating to have a glance into the workings of lives so different from mine, many don’t apply to me – I don’t own cows or run a dairy, fly a plane, or do complex calculations involving math.
There were a few rules of thumb I filed away under the category of “good to know just in case . . .”
Run in a zig-zag pattern when fleeing from a crocodile.
Run downhill when fleeing from a bear.
Veer right when running from a polar bear – they are left-pawed.
link to this story
That’s enough, don’t you think?
Add your rules of thumb to my Facebook page.
Onward . . .
August 05, 2014
The beginning of August, 2014
Clear skies, warm days, cool nights
August 5, 2014
Walking out on my deck at dawn, I noticed heavy fog on Elliot Bay.
Nice. Fog makes for a welcome soft beginning to a summer day.
Walking back inside, I realized my mind was befogged, as well.
But that’s the normal situation for most early mornings for me.
Slumping into my favorite easy chair in a pleasant state of stupor, I waited for First Aid in the form of First Cup of Coffee provided by my wifely nurse, who is adept at assisted living.
Since there was nothing I must do this morning, stupor and coffee were a compatible combination.
In this condition, my mind is free to roam as it will, or rummage around in the mental drawers where odds and ends are dumped.
With my chin resting on my chest, my eyes focused on my own hands.
Hands . . . I seldom notice them or consider them . . . .
So I did that.
In random order, here’s what came to mind:
If it is true that all the cells in one’s body are replaced every seven years, then these are not the same identical hands I had in 2007 or before that.
Why is it, then, that the big scar on my left index finger keeps reappearing in exactly the same place and form?
How do the outgoing cells pass on the instruction to the incoming cells?
Is my body keeping the scar as a reminder that accidents happen?
Am I being reminded that stupid use of sharp tools is trouble?
Are these dumb questions?
When I consider my right hand I note that my middle finger is peculiarly crooked – evidence of injuries acquired from amateur bull riding when I aspired to be a rodeo cowboy – back when I was young and even more of an idiot than I am sometimes now.
Good to have an ongoing reminder of that.
Hands . . . bear history.
Mine now are splotched with big brown patches – the sign of sun exposure – plus wear and tear and use – the marks of aging.
Memory: A summer street Fair in Copenhagen once upon a time.
A tent with a sign with a big illustration of an open palm with lines and numbers on it.
A gypsy fortune teller – a reader of palms?
Never been to see a gypsy.
Out of curiosity, I went inside.
Just a matronly blond Danish lady sitting at a table covered with a dark green cloth. Without speaking she held out her open hands to me.
Without speaking, I sat down and placed both my hands in hers.
For the longest time she gently and carefully examined them, top and bottom – tracing lines, touching scars and studying my nails.
Then she spoke to me thoughtfully as if creating poetry.
I have no idea what she said.
She spoke in Danish.
I do not speak or understand Danish.
Nevertheless, my memory of the event is strong.
The image of her considering my hands is vivid.
I had never done what she was doing.
I remember thinking that if I had to help identify my own body in a morgue by describing my hands, I might not have been able to do it.
But now, thanks to the Danish palmist, I could - and still can.
Hands . . .
The first big Beatles hit song was “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”
It might have been, but wasn’t: “I Want To Kiss Your Lips.”
– or even “I Want To Suck Your Toes”?
(Try singing the song using one of those phrases instead of the original.)
The Beatles had it right.
What’s the most intimate and serious first gesture in a love affair?
The first kiss or the first time you hold hands?
If you keep holding hands even after they get sweaty, that’s love.
Hands. . . .
Why do I have five fingers on each hand?
Wouldn’t three fingers and a thumb do as well?
Before you read on: With your right hand, point at something across the room as if you were calling someone else’s attention to it.
Hold that position and look at the shape of your hand.
Index finger extended straight out, the rest folded into your palm.
No other creature makes that gesture.
Apes and monkeys and lemurs don’t point.
And humans don’t do that when alone.
Because pointing implies the presence of another person and the existence of language.
Though most of us don’t know American Sign Language as used by the hearing-impaired, all of us can talk with our hands in an eloquent way.
Think about the game of Charades.
Think about the performances of professional Mimes.
Think about how much you can convey across a noisy, crowded room to a companion. “Me. You. Finish your drink. Let’s split this scene. Yes.” All done with hand signals.
Watch other people talking when you cannot hear their words.
Look how vividly they use their hands to communicate.
Or, just for fun, have a conversation with your child or spouse without using any words – notice how much you can convey.
The Vocabulary of the Hands is not only eloquent, but almost infinite.
I can stand on my hands, even walk on them – not far, not long.
But I can still do it . . . I think . . . but now’s not the time to check.
Sitting up is my strongest move at the moment.
Wish I could use my feet like I can use my hands – as apes do.
Even more I wish I had a prehensile tale I could use to swing from trees.
When I see people holding hands it always gives me a good feeling.
Friends, lovers, old and young, little kids and parents – in touch.
Basic rule taught to us from the first day of school:
“When you go out into the world, hold hands, and stick together.”
There are either 27 or 29 bones in each hand.
Hair does not grow on the skin of the palm.
The fingerprints of each person are unique, but some people are born without fingerprints – born anonymous, in a way.
Hands . . .
I am right-handed. Why?
One of my sons is left-handed.
And a grandchild.
How and why did that happen?
Handed-ness has been studied in depth, but it’s still unclear why some of us are left-handed.
I remember checking the web once and finding out that there was an on-line store for Everything Left Handed, an international Left Handers Club, and an International Left-Handers Day – sometime in August, I think.
(Yes, I checked again – the web sites intrigued me – take a look – http://goo.gl/E8nEEt – the date is August 13 – celebrate a lefty or yourself if you are one.)
One of the problems that occurs when all left-handers get together is the awkwardness that comes from having accommodated to living in a right-handed world. Consciously shaking left hand to left hand still doesn’t feel quite right.
Hands . . . focus in closer . . .
Thumbs – the unique mark of our species.
Rules of Thumb come to mind.
That’s a whole other topic for another time.
Hands . . .
The only joke I know involving hands:
A man says to another man,
“So I hear you had a fight with your wife.”
“Yes, but I won – she came crawling to me on her hands and knees.”
“What did she say?”
“Come out from under the bed, you coward.”
* * *
Wait, I know one more:
A ship is passing a small island.
A man is seen alone on the shore, frantically waving his hands and jumping up and down.
“Who is that,” asked a passenger.
The Captain replied, “I don’t know, but every time we pass he waves like crazy.”
As, in a way, I am doing now, to you.
* * *
The fog is lifting on a sunny day.
And the fog is clearing in my mind.
Coffee has come, the antidote to stupor.
I leave this topic in your hands . . .
link to this story
July 31, 2014
The end of July, 2014
Clear skies, warm, mild – sliver of a new moon at sunset
It’s Seafair Week in Seattle – parades, community celebrations, an air show with Blue Angels roaring overhead, hydroplanes on Lake Washington, concerts in parks, and the U.S. Navy arrived with an aircraft carrier and escort ships – adding several thousand sailors to the summer tourist tsunami.
If one likes cultural hoo-ha and whoopee at an intense level – and I do – this is it.
But it’s hard to settle down and write much.
My web-shaman is back on the job, so here’s what’s been happening:
EIGHT PIECES OF THE PUZZLE OF THE WEEK JUST PAST
“To date, over one million species of insects have been described worldwide.
It is estimated that there are ten quintillion insects alive on the planet right now,
which means that for each one of us, there are two hundred million of them.
If you arranged all living creatures on earth into a pyramid, almost all of it would be made up of insects, spiders, and the like. Other animals – including people – would form only the smallest section in one corner of the pyramid.
We are seriously outnumbered.” (from WICKED BUGS by Amy Stewart)
When I read something like that while drinking coffee first thing in the morning, I’m not eager to get up and rush out into the day.
They are out there . . . and even some in here with me as I write . . .
Makes one feel cautious.
* * *
The spirit of the Greek philosopher, Epictetus, was in town this week, visiting from the 4th century B.C.
It’s always educational to see my life and times through his eyes and mind.
“How are you my 21st century friend?”
“Frazzled – it’s hot - traffic is a nightmare – people have been letting me down - everywhere I need to go and everything I need to do is screwed up one way or another. I’m flailing around in a smog of frustration.”
“But you ignore the wisdom of all the signs by the side of the road.”
“How can you miss them? – their messages are spelled out in flashing lights or in bright orange and black signs.”
“OK, tell me what existential advice I’ve not noticed, oh wise man.”
“EXPECT DELAYS is one.
Everything happens in time, but rarely on time – and that’s OK.”
“Oh . . .”
“LOOK BOTH WAYS and DETOUR are good advice, as well.
One suggests having more than one view, and the other suggest staying out of life’s ruts and boring habits when given the chance.
SLOW is also a useful admonition – what’s the big hurry?”
“Oh . . .”
“Try not to be so literal-minded – consider the signs - think wide.”
* * *
While walking in a park I noticed a black MG TC in premium condition.
(In case you don’t know, this is a small English touring car – two-seater – wire wheels – red leather upholstery – with a leather strap over the hood.)
With an older-but-still-sporty gentlemen standing by.
“I envy you your car – this is a classic.”
“Got it when I got married.”
He picked up a framed photograph from the front seat to show me.
“Here we were. And we’re still here.
I’ve had the same car and same wife for fifty years.”
“What’s your secret?” I asked.
“Keep it waxed and polished, service it regularly, take it out for a fun-run from
time to time – otherwise keep it covered and inside – and never, ever let anybody else fool around with it.”
I wasn’t sure whether he was referring to the car, the wife, or both.
I was afraid to ask.
But . . . I did.
He was a player – picked up on the double-entendre the way a good shortstop fields a bouncing baseball.
With a slight smile he said, “Both.”
* * *
I’m still alert for people to add to the passenger list for my Ark when the next flood comes. Early this morning I saw a severely disabled man in a high-tech electric wheel chair – moving at speed down the sidewalk near my apartment.
His equipment included a bright orange aerial, from which a small flag flew:
LIVE FREE OR DIE declared the flag.
On the back of his chair was a bumper sticker that said:
Never knock on death’s door – ring the bell and run.
I’ll add him to those I want with me onboard the Ark.
* * *
Summer is the season for sidewalk chalk art.
Little girls draw out hop-scotch patterns all over the neighborhood.
Two middle-aged gentlemen just coming out of a barbershop were standing looking at one of the little girl’s sidewalk games in process.
“Want to give it a go?” asked one.
“Absolutely, but let’s wait until the girls go home.”
Two more passengers for the Ark.
Not far away someone had written on the sidewalk:
“I wonder what they are doing in heaven tonight?”
Bumper sticker on the rear of a convertible driven by a very, very large lady.
“Fat People Are Harder To Kidnap.”
Another Ark passenger – we’ll need her attitude.
At this high point on the arc of summer, the operative color is green.
Everything that can grow and be green is doing its job.
In response to my essay about my small Museum of the Green,
my friend, Gerard Van der Leun, sent me his thoughts on the subject.
I particularly like this part:
“If not for the tyranny of the color wheel, green would be a “primary” color.
There is nothing “secondary” about green.
Green seen holds good and ill, death and life, upon one tether.
Green is growth in stalks, shelter in boughs, splendor in the grass.
Seen around the gills green is the sign of sickness, the promise of decay and death. In the realm of the mammal, green bodes ill.
In the realm of the vegetable, green foreshadows or announces the edible.
In the realm of the mineral, green gleams shows the emerald, glows from the jade, and as patina on copper’s conductivity delivers transmitted, transmutable energy with the sting and the speed of light from sun to socket.”
* * *
That’s it for this week:
link to this story
Stay in the green.
July 18, 2014
The third week of July, 2014
Weather shift from clear and hot to foggy and cool, with promise of showers.
Note: This is the last journal posting for a couple of weeks – my website shaman is going on vacation, and that’s a good plan for me, as well.
Meanwhile, I expect I’ll put some photos and small items on my Facebook page
from time to time to stay in touch.
THE MUSEUM OF SMALL WONDERS
What comes to mind when you read the word museum?
The great treasure-filled bank vault collections of art and history found in cities like Paris or New York or London or Vienna or Athens?
That’s where all the big-deal good-stuff is kept on view.
The long past becomes the immediate present in those museums.
The lesser museums of the world are also worthy attractions.
Especially ones in small towns – collections based on local pride and history.
The Mining and Railroad Museum of Helper, Utah is a favorite of mine.
As is the Rodeo Cowboy Museum in Pendleton, Oregon.
I’m partial to the little private roadside museums – accumulations of human squirrely-ness and single-minded eccentricity.
One guy with focused imagination or an obsession to share with the world.
“Yep, that’s the biggest hairball ever cut out of a cat . . .”
“This really is the largest collection of two-headed lizards in the world. . .”
“This whole house is made of glass bottles and hockey pucks.”
In that spirit I have created several personal museums in recent years.
For example, there was The Museum of the Pleasures of the Hand.
An assortment of small objects I like to hold and touch and feel.
The criteria for each item:
- it must have a small-scale tactile pleasure – finger friendly
- either be hand-made or a natural item
- must be from my own random selection of stuff
- no more than 10 objects - must fit together into a wooden cigar box.
I gave the box to my wife, said “close your eyes and feel around.”
She was pleased.
The museum was only open for an hour one evening.
You’ve probably got the makings of a museum like that.
Once there was The Museum of Shades of Green.
A spring collection of small samples of green things in as wide a range of colors I could find on an hour’s walk.
Tiny green buds from plants, several chunks of moss, spears of grass, first leaves of trees – so many unique shades of green that I filled my hands and pockets and was home in half an hour, the green spread out on the kitchen table.
This museum closed in a few days.
It had quickly become The Museum of Shades of Brown . . .
There was The Museum of the Sidewalk’s Edge – that was a collection of small objects picked from either side of a sidewalk in Seattle on an hour’s walk.
And the Museum of the End of Fall – containing a collection of the last colored leaves from trees and plants and flowers before they went bare for winter.
That was open only for a day because the leaves quickly became
The Museum Of Dried and Shriveled Remains of Beauty.
There was the Museum of the Dry Wash – small sticks and stones and bones picked from a nearby creek bed in Utah where they had been tumbled down and shaped smooth by flood waters from rainstorms.
One of the best was the Smell Museum – items collected near my house in the high desert Canyon-lands country of Utah.
Placed in a paper bag – things that smell good – juniper bark, sage leaves, a sliver off a broken incense cedar branch, a chunk of pinon pine resin, and two distinctly different samples of fresh, damp dirt scooped up after a rain.
The rule was not to look inside the bag but only to use your sense of smell, which so often gets overcome by what we see.
It was a pot-pouri of nose music.
I’ve another museum, but it’s invisible.
One’s mind is a museum, is it not?
With an ever-changing exhibition.
The Museum of My Mind and Imagination – is a collection of items that cannot be seen or touched or picked up or smelled.
Most of the items never existed in the real world outside my brain.
On a quick walk through one of the rooms just now, I noticed recent acquisitions such as these:
A slice of the bread of life .
The sound of the sigh of relief after knowing that throwing up is over with.
A round trip ticket to ride on a train of thought.
Dame Fortune’s forwarding address..
An echo of the sound of silence.
A sample of the color of grass on the other side of the fence.
The ribbon around a fresh, unopened box of August.
You can imagine.
And consider the museum in your mind.
This summer I’ve been collecting pieces for an exhibition in
The Museum of Small Wonders.
It opens today.
These are small items I’ve noticed in my morning walks, picked up, and wondered: What is that?
How did it get here?
What unknown person or creature does it connect me to?
I wonder . . .
I’ve posted photographs on my Facebook page for you to see the exhibit.
There’s also a picture of another Museum of the Green in progress.
Admittedly this is small-scale wonder.
Not on the level of Wonder and Awe –( almost one word: wonderandawe)
Not deep and wide or in the realm of amazement, astonishment or the works of Almighty God or The Everlasting What’s-It’s-Name.
Small-scale wonder is a product of simple-minded questioning:
What the hell is that?
If it fits into my pocket, it goes in the exhibition.
The number of possible small-scale museums is infinite.
It’s a matter of how you look at your accumulated stuff.
All you have to do is look – pay attention – and wonder will come to you.
Our homes, dresser tops, bathrooms, kitchen pantries, photo albums - and the collections of used wrapping paper and ribbon, old Christmas cards, the drawers of mysterious odds and ends, as well as the vast accumulations in our memory bank.
All small-scale museums.
In a big-deal big-city museum a solemn serious atmosphere prevails – not unlike visiting a mausoleum or a cemetery. Shh…..please. . .
Never have I heard laughter in such a museum – the guards would ask you to calm down or leave.
But in the smaller museums of the daily life, comedy abounds.
Check your own closet, your own shoe collection, your underwear drawer, your purse or wallet, or your kid’s backpacks, the trunk of your car . . .
Or shake out and collect the contents of your children’s pockets for a week.
Maybe you won’t laugh, but the rest of us probably would.
Granted, there’s not a lot of awe here.
link to this story
But there’s enough to wonder about.
Enough for a Museum of Small Wonders.
And the admission is free.