Tag Archives: Fun

Blade

They used to make fun of him.  Said he was always afraid.  He would flinch if you stomped your foot or waved your hand in his face.

He steered clear of crowds in the hallways.  Always alone.

Some said he was abused by his parents.  Others believed it was because of a girl.  A broken heart.  Some internal embarrassment.

As time passed, he couldn’t escape it.  The taunting.  The name-calling.  The notes he found in his locker telling him he might as well just kill himself.

He was beaten in the gym’s locker room.  Repeatedly thrown to the floor by a grab of his hair.

But he never fought back.  Never spoke a word in protest.

But the day the knife came out, something changed.  A glaze covered his eyes.  Peering into the distance.  Like he was in a trance.

Being held from behind, the shiny blade pressed against his throat.

He didn’t flinch.  He didn’t bat an eye.  He scarcely breathed.

“So what is it then,” he asked?  “Scared of your own shadow.”

It was a hunting knife.  Called a “skinner.”

Bone handle, slightly curved blade, guthook at the tip.  The heel and choil were serrated. The guard in a decorative “S” shape.  The pommel had a lanyard hole, where a short leather lace was attached.  It had dressed down many a deer for its wielder’s age.

A small crowd had gathered.  Waiting.

“You afraid of knives, then?  Afraid of me?”

It happened so fast that no one could exactly describe it.  Somehow, he had pushed the arm holding the knife up and out, and then down and inward.  A deep thrust through fascia, tendon and bone.  Left center chest.  Then an “L” shape cut with surgical precision.  A flap of tissue pealed back.  A grasp and a pull.

Before his assailant’s body could drop, he had handed him back his still beating heart.

“I’m not afraid of you!” he yelled.  Now facing the horrified crowd.  “Not afraid of any of you!” “Or what you might think and say and do.”

“I’m afraid of myself.  What I might do.  And you should be too.”

***

So today I took a stab at Victoria Ray’s writing challenge – Fear the Fear.  Yes, I know, bad pun. 🙂

The Rules Are:

  1. Choose a fear from the list: HERE
  2. Pick the title of any movie, OR book OR song (non obligatory).
  3. Write the post/or real story, based on the chosen fear and the title of the book (or movie or song) in any literary style.
  4. Pingback to Victoria Ray’s Post (not to the page!) F/K/A Raynotbradbury.
  5. Spread the word around, if you like – up to 3 – 5 blogs.  Have fun!  Be creative.

So I chose the fear Autophobia, which is the fear of being alone or the fear of oneself.  And I chose the song title, you guessed it, “Cut Out My Heart” by the band White Town.  If I’d started off by telling you my choices I would have given the whole story away.   I’m not a big fan of the song, and truth be told, I chose the phobia, wrote the story in my head, and then found the song that fit 🙂

I won’t nominate specific blogs for the challenge, but invite all my blogging friends to give this one, or any other writing challenge, a try.  It’s a good way to stretch your writing skills.

I don’t know that I’ll routinely write works of fiction, but it is fun to explore.  And I didn’t pull this theme solely from my fantasy mind.  When I was in high school, there was this guy, I’m not sure I should call him a friend, but he would frequently come up to me from behind and hold this gigantic hunting knife to my throat.  He told me, while laughing, that I as the only person he could do this to, because he knew I’d remain calm and not move – if you moved, you’d get cut.

I had also been thrown to the floor by someone grabbing my ponytail.  You see, my brother and myself were the first guys to grow their hair long in this redneck town and we were frequently harassed, thrown out of businesses, illegally search by police, had bugs put in the food we ordered at restaurants, etc., etc., etc.  . . .

Ah, such a pleasant memories – LOL !

I hope you’re all having a wonderful, and blade-free, Friday 🙂

***

Photo: I found this image on the Internet in the public domain.  It tracked back to the website for Fort Henry Custom Knives.  I as unable to find an image of a knife with all of the features I described, but this one had a nice bone handle and that “S” shaped guard 🙂

 

If My Memory Serves Me

“White Crane Spreads Its Wings.”  “Repulsing the Monkey.”  “Grasping the Bird’s Tale.”

These phrases, in isolation, might give you a laugh, but if you’re familiar with Tai Chi, you’ll recognize these names right off as they refer to particular forms or moments that can be part of several different Tai Chi routines.  The words help construct an image of the movement that is not only descriptive but that helps you to memorize the parts of the form for practice.

In a multi-form routine, these word images help my poor brain remember what it’s supposed to do, and after a while, since this memory involves movement it can be incorporated into what’s called “non-declarative memory,” which requires no conscious awareness.

And thus, we have moving meditation 🙂

***

So, I’m back to studying about how our brains work and this time I’m reading about short-term memory.  Memory is kind of important for without it we might have died off as a species.

We learned that fire was great for preventing us from freezing to death and wonderful for cooking our food, but not so great if directly applied to our bodies.  We learned which berries were and weren’t poisonous, and how to hunt bison and mammoths without getting killed – probably by watching someone else die.  But then we remembered, passed the information on, and managed to propagate the species.

Although we might wonder a bit about the new wave of “flat-earthers.”

And I know the scientific community goes a little overboard with dissecting and labeling everything but here goes.

It seems we have two types of short-term memory, declarative, like being able to regurgitate specific facts like “sharks swim in the ocean,” and non-declarative, which is like the motor skills we use to ride a bike.  Declarative memory involves “effortful processing” or a lot of repetition.  Non-declarative memory does not require conscious awareness and is sort of automatic.  If we were asked, we probably wouldn’t list out every detailed step that goes along with riding a bike.   We just go through those motions once the brain locks on and our feet are on the pedals, and we use a simple phrase to embody all of those movements.

There are four steps involved in short term memory.  Encoding, storage, retrieval, and forgetting.  Encoding is defined as the conversion of external sources of energy into electrical patterns the brain can understand.  There are three types of encoding:

Semantic encoding – definitions,

Phonemic encoding – comparison of sounds – rhyming, and

Structural encoding – visual inspection of shapes.

The myriad of signals we receive from different sensory sources are registered in separate brain areas.  It’s a fragmented experience, called the “blender effect.”  There is no central storage or hard drive.  Parts of a single event are scattered and stored all over the cerebral cortex.  And a memory trace will lead you to the same parts of the brain where we originally processed the information.

The total number of brain changes to record an event or information is called an engram, and then comes the “binding problem” – how do we bring all of that sensory data back together from the various spots on the cerebral cortex where they were stashed to compose a complete memory?

While it’s counter-intuitive, it turns out, the more elaborately we encode, the more details and complexity surrounding the event, the better our retrieval of that memory.

Retrieval is also enhanced if we replicate the conditions where we experienced the event or came upon the data.  So, if I learned that sharks swim in the ocean while I’m swimming in the ocean, I will remember this bit of information best when I’m back swimming in the ocean.  How convenient.

It also seems that regardless of the setting where we encounter information, the majority of our forgetting will occur within the fist couple of hours that follows.  People usually forget 90% of what they’ve learned within 30 days of the learning experience.  Apparently, we discard what we don’t use quite quickly.

I know, I’ve forgotten much more over the years than I know right now 🙂

Spaced learning is more effective than massed learning and the more repetition cycles we have, the greater chance we’ll convert something to long-term memory.   Tai Chi again provides a great example because we are taught each form separately and then add that to the entire routine, which we then repeat and continually refine.

And something I mentioned before in the post Boring, teaching is more effective if it includes meaningful examples and experiences and emotion.  Real world situations familiar to the learner.  The more personal the example, the better the encoding because we are adapted to “pattern matching” the new information with what we’ve learned before.

So why am I writing about this today?  Because of the fascinating way we’re able to communicate and tell stories, of course.  When I tell a story I want to transmit my memory to you, the reader.  I use as many descriptive terms as I can think of to relay an experience – what I saw and heard, how something smelled, felt and tasted.  How objects sat in space in relation to where I stood or traveled.

We’re able to communicate because of that pattern matching principle.  I relate an experience to you and hope you’ve had enough similar experiences and gathered enough sensory data to “get it.”

Such is the challenge and art of writing.  If we can paint an image that others can see, detail the scent of a flower that the reader can smell, have someone salivating over a recipe or bracing for an explosive sound, or transmit the feel of the smooth, silky skin of another as we describe caressing their face, then we’ve succeeded.

A lofty goal.

And hopefully the experiences we relate will be as memorable to our readers as they were to us.

***

Photo: This is one of my daughter’s dogs, Harper.  He was over for a visit when I snapped this pic.  I etched out the bare patterns with the photo editor creating what I call the “Ghost Dog.”  Its an image descriptive of short-term memories.  We can hold onto basic concepts and sensations, but over time they may fade into the less distinct and more nebulous 🙂

Source: I used the book Brain Rules by John Medina as my source for this post.  Other posts of mine discussing the workings of our brains include:

Move Your Body, Move Your Mind

Writing to Survive

Wired

Boring

and,

Bailer’s Point

 

Like

I have to say, I really appreciate the WordPress community.  I learned about WordPress when I was looking at job postings for writers and started noticing that a number of them required WordPress experience.  So, I Googled it to find out what it was.

Then I met Laleh Chini on Twitter and was introduced to her blog, “A Voice from Iran.”

After checking out a few more blogs and seeing their beautiful formats, I decided to take the plunge.

One of the things that really amazes me it that we can meet people from all over the world.  And even if their blogs are written in different languages, it’s not much trouble to copy and paste something into Google Translate and read it.

I like looking at other languages and seeing how others compose their ideas.  I think the text is beautiful and I am awed about the whole concept of learning a language.  How do we master such a thing?  Other languages look so foreign to me, it’s hard for me to imagine how children in those countries grow up learning them.  And multilingual people fascinate me even more.

It is such a human trait.  Language.  It’s taken for granted.  And just look how much communication has evolved and the technology that we use now to share our stories all over the world.

I know we all love it when others in our community like our posts.  So here are a few examples of beautiful language from around the world from some of my blogging friends just using the word “like.”

Indonesian                           DisuKai

Turkish                                  Begendi

Italian                                     Mi piace

Norwegian                           Liker

Romanian                             Apreciaza

German                                Gefällt mir

Spanish                                 Me Gusta

Russian                                  нравится

Hindi                                       पसंद

Swedish                                Tycka om

French                                   J’aime

Irish                                        Cosúil

Japanese                               好き

Pakistan (Urdu)                  کی طرح

Nigeria (Yoruba)                 Bi

Phillipines (Filipino)         Katulad

Finnish                                     Kuten

Azerbaijani                            Bəyən

Portuguese                            Curtir

I’m sure you can all add to this list.

Another reason I like it when my blogging friends like my posts is that it reminds me to go check out their pages.  It’s hard to keep up with all of the good writing out there so that serves as a nice prompt.

Looking forward to liking more of your posts 🙂

***

Photo: A closeup of a cactus in bloom at a botanical garden in the southwest.  The feature image zooming-in is sort of other-worldly.  A friend described it as looking like an underwater organism – a sea creature.  An it does sort of look like a Sea Anemone.  The full view is below.  Amazing to see that flower with such exploding beauty thriving in desert conditions.  This is my analogy to the beauty of language in all it’s forms, unexpectedly breathtaking 🙂

Tohono Chul with Heather 4+C2

200th !!!

Back in June, I hit my 100th post.  And yesterday, with the posting of “Deployment Day,” I’ve made my 200th!  I think I’ll make a tradition of marking these milestones.  It’s good to take a few moments to reflect.

I enjoy writing about multiple topics but probably enjoy storytelling the most – telling stories of life.  And I’m happy to be getting some of these down on paper, well digitally.  You know what I mean.  Although they might seem rather random or scattered because they will involve both current and past experiences.  My mind constantly bounces around.   Nothing chronologically sequenced here.

I hope my daughter will be reading them and learning more about me too.  That was one of my regrets when my father passed away.  I would have liked to have heard more of his stories.  The ones he did share were quite amazing and I learned so much from him.

As you can see, on my Home page, I have a number of “pinned” articles at the top.  I rotate these periodically, usually highlighting articles that are the most popular.  Ones that received the most hits or most likes.  But that becomes sort of self-fulfilling.  By having them pinned to the opening page, they continue to get more reads.  So, I think I’ll start rotating other articles more frequently.  After all, we keep picking up followers and new followers might not have seen our earlier posts.

Writing is always fun and a challenge.  It’s kind of like a mental workout.  Like going to the gym.  The more you write, the stronger your writing becomes.  And over time, you start learning what your audience likes too.  It’s an experimental process.

I also find it challenging to pick photos for my stories.  I try to choose images that relate to the story itself.  A story within the story.  A symbolic representation.

There are things I’ve written that I think are ok, and others that I’m really happy with.  I’ll highlight some of my own favs  🙂

A big thank you to all of my followers.  I appreciate your visits and your insights.  I also appreciate your writing and continually enjoy discovering your wonderful posts.

I hope you all have a wonderful and peaceful day.

***

Photo: So I was struggling today to come up with an image representative of “200.”  Have to say I was at a bit of a loss.  Must be having a low creative energy day.  I settled on this crazy pic of a wine bottle label that I took at a rather unique shop in Oregon.  Sort of goes with the idea of something “vintage” or “aged.”  I didn’t sample the “Wild Squirrel Wine” while I was there, though 🙂

Squirrel Wine Label

Updates:  I do update articles occasionally, but I don’t think that necessarily pops them up in the WordPress Reader again so that anyone would know about them.  I last updated the article Balance on August 19th, but I just added an update to A Return to Tribalism today 🙂

 

 

 

 

Not-Doing

I had just finished putting the finishing touches to an article I was writing.  Word choice, tempo, spacing.  It all felt good.  I glanced over at the clock and it was a little past noon.  Noon!!  Holy crap!  How did it get to be noon?  The last time I looked at the clock it was around 8:30. What had happened to the time?

I had been totally immersed in my writing.  So much so that I don’t even have a memory of the words being formulated in my brain.  They had just flowed onto the paper.  More like being channeled from an exterior source.  Me just being the conduit.

At that moment, I knew that whatever I had gotten down on paper was going to be good.  And when I go back and re-read pieces like this, it feels like I’m reading them for the first time.

I call that frame of mind “being in the zone.”

That place where the task is pure task.  It’s taken on a life of its own.  Independent from my rational machinations.  It’s sort of like highway hypnosis.  Where you find yourself arriving at your destination but you have no recall of driving the last 20 miles.  Somehow you got there.  And you managed not to get in an accident.  Autopilot.

Being in the zone is something that can’t be forced.  I can’t sit down and consciously tell my mind to get into that space in order to produce.  It just seems to happen spontaneously.  Especially when I don’t try to make it happen.

Another example might be when we consciously try to remember something.  Whatever the event or person or detail it is that has momentarily escaped our grasp, if we actively try to recall it, force it into our consciousness, we can’t.  But once we stop that forced effort, or have moved onto somethings else, the detail immediately pops into mind.*

I actually used to enjoy my commute to and from work when I was practicing law.  Why?  Because I let my mind drift during this time.  Tuned out.  Disengaged from my work.  And it was when I disengaged that my mind worked best.  Suddenly that legal theory or a key element of what I was needing to complete some analysis just magically appeared.  I used to carry a pen and paper, and then later a voice recorder, so I could be sure and get it down.  Because if I kept on drifting, that momentary flash would be gone and difficult to recall, once again.

Just what’s going on here?  What is this phenomena of the mind?  Or is it a state of being?

I remember, without effort :-), when I was a teenager and I first encountered the works of Carlos Castaneda.   Castaneda became pretty famous for writing a series of books about time he had supposedly spent in the Sonoran Desert with a Yaqui Indian sorcerer.  Castaneda, an anthropologist, had met this gentleman while he was working on his PH.D. and exploring the cultural uses of hallucinogenic plants.  He found himself an apprentice to this mystical realm.

Throughout his writings, Castaneda talks about various ways or techniques to “see” the world as it really is.  His books were considered pretty controversial and there is some criticism, that may be valid, as to whether Castaneda just made the whole thing up.

Or, it could be arguable that the Yaqui Indian was used as the face or metaphor for presenting Far Eastern philosophy.  Whether you want to call this mysticism, or nagualism,  or brujoism or anything else, I think there are still some valuable lessons to be learned from these writings.

One of those concepts was that of “not-doing.”  As explained by the sorcerer, “doing” is the way we construct the world.   So a rock is a rock because of how we apply our knowledge of a rock to the rock – doing.  To really see what a rock is, to see its essence, we must observe it without “doing” or by “not-doing.”  This may sound a bit obscure or esoteric.  And I think the way Castaneda presented it was designed to keep it as such.  To retain a mystical quality.

In another way, this is a form of meditation.  Of clearing the mind.  Ceasing the internal dialog, which has now been coined “self-talk.”  And “stopping the World.”  You have to see the rock, or more importantly the whole Universe, without all of the blinders and descriptors that have been programed into our heads.   And once we learn to stop the World, everything flows and reveals its true nature.

And it’s not just a manner of observing the Universe, it is a way of acting, without intention, as we navigate the Universe.

It was later in my life that I came upon the Tao Te Ching.  And again, arguably, Castaneda may very well have stolen this concept from the Tao.  Except that the translation of the Tao better describes it.

In the Tao, the term is “Wei Wu Wei” or “doing not-doing.”  Other interpretations are “without action” or “without control” or “without effort” or “action without action” or “effortless doing.”  Another is “diminishing will.”  And the notion is that non-action, or unwillful action, is the purest form of action because the doer has vanished completely into the deed.  “. . . the fuel has been completely transformed into flame.”

If one surrenders to the Tao (the Way) they will align in perfect harmony with Nature, with the way things really are.  They will have mastered Nature, not conquered it, by becoming one with it.

One of the underlying concepts here is trust.  We must trust the intelligence of the Universe, continually acting effortlessly and without conscious will, knowing it will be the right action.  “The game plays the game; the poem writes the poem; we can’t tell the dancer from the dance.”

In my case, the story wrote the story.

And when that happens is when I discover that the words truly resonate with other readers.  I, or maybe better said, the Universe by channeling though me, has stuck a universal cord.  I’d call that magic 🙂 And I know, because I feel it, that many of you experience this same phenomenon and we share a common bond.

To all my blogging friends out there that don’t always know where the words come from, but we feel them in our hearts, I’ll leave you with some more words from the Tao:

Therefore, the Master

acts without doing anything

and teaches without saying anything.

Things arise and she lets them come;

things disappear and she lets them go.

She has but doesn’t possess,

acts but doesn’t expect.

When her work is done, she forgets it.

That is why it lasts forever.

***

* I’ve read that functional MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) and PET (positron emission tomography) scanning have confirmed that different parts of our brain light up when we try to force memories to the surface.  And they’re not the regions in the brain where we store information.  We can’t force memories, they just rise on their own 🙂

Photo: The dragonfly represents the power of light.  They inhabit two realms of the Universe, water and air, and the stages of their lives are just as dramatic of a transition as that of the butterfly.  From a water-dwelling nymph to airborne dragon.

As light strikes their wings at various times of the sun’s circle, they can refract vast differences in color and hue.  So like life, things may never quite be the way they appear, but it is still full of beautiful color and light.  The dragonfly as a totem is said to help one see through illusions and provide new vision – a good symbol for the concept of not-doing so that one may see the true essence of the Universe.

I took this shot along a lake in Az.  I shot different pictures of these same dragonflies throughout the day, and indeed they all look different.  I enhanced the color of the feature pic a bit and faded out the background revealing an incredibly vibrant transformation.  And here is another shot – same type of Dragonfly, but different angle in the sun.  What a difference.  Can we see their true essence?

Dragon Fly 1+SPFx2+c1+MC52

Write What You Know

This is an old expression and it has a lot of merit.  The words flow much easier and you can fill in the details of your own personal experiences.  That’s one of the reasons I give fiction writers a lot of credit – they not only create characters, they create new worlds.

For me, I’ve pretty much been writing non-fiction.  I might have to give fiction a try sometime 🙂

You may have noticed that I’ve hit on certain themes.  Travel, nature, a touch of wisdom earned, and a few life and death stories.  At times, I think I might be over-killing that theme.  And at times I think, why not, that’s what it’s all about – living and appreciating it.

So, you’ll have to tell me if I’m overdoing it, or straying into the land of the mundane.

Sometimes we have such intimate knowledge of an event that it seems trite.  Or if we try to communicate how great we thought a moment was, we forget to put in all the details.  It’s like we assume everyone will know what we’re talking about.

I’m posting a short piece today about one of my many experiences in the hospital when I was a kid.  I’m not sure if those stories hold real interest for people or just how big of a dose of that I should dispense.  But it does fit the season.  It’s Thanksgiving time, and I have a lot to be thankful for.  Living and breathing and my daughter are at the top of the list, as well as having a bit of excitement along this winding road.

I appreciate your feedback.  It helps to keep me on track.  So feel free to critique away.

I hope you have a wonderful time with your families the next few days.  Hold tight.  Nothing is permanent.

***

Photo:  One thing that we all know well is change.  Transition.  And the butterfly amply serves as a symbol of this transformation.  Changes can be big and small.  I’ve come out of cocoons at least three times in this lifetime.  Completely shedding all of the past and reinventing myself.  Not always planned either.  I’m sure if you think back, you can recall the many revisions to the chapters of your own book of life.

Sirdom

Me: “Hi, how’s it going”

Hiker: “Just great.  Beautiful day.”

Me: “It sure is, absolutely gorgeous.”

Hiker: “Well you have a good day Sir.”

Me: “Thanks, you too.”

A brief interlude as I was passing a fellow hiker on the trail.

“Sir”?

It seems I’ve been hearing this word a lot more lately.  “Excuse me Sir.”  “Hello, how are you doing Sir.”

I kind of want to look behind me to see who is standing there.

And it’s not that it’s bad.  It’s very respectful.  I’m just not used to hearing it, and why now?

This all seemed to start a couple of years ago, right after I turned 60.  Even saying that sounds weird to me, because I sure don’t feel old, or older.  In fact, I don’t think 60 is considered old anymore.  But suddenly people are calling me Sir.

When I think of the word “Sir,” I think of my father.  The Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force.  I think of esteemed people having earned that title by some trial by fire.  More akin to the titles of professor or doctor or judge.

I find it a bit ironic because it seems like when I was younger, I as always sounding like Rodney Dangerfield – “I don’t get no respect.”  I was working hard to try to earn it.  Still didn’t always get it.  My work was sometimes plagiarized too, so I didn’t get the credit for it.

But now, apparently, just by virtue of having aged, people are very respectful.

I guess I’ve reached “Sirdom.”

It was almost magical.  Happening overnight.  I’m not sure what exactly changed.  I’m retired now so no one is looking up to me for being a professional.  Perhaps it’s the gray in my beard?  That same beard that earns me the extra security checks at the airport 🙂

Of course, somehow, I also ended up on the senior mailing lists so I get offers all the time for some type of age-related service.  Long-term care insurance.  Reverse mortgages.  My favorite was the funeral insurance.  Their tag line being, “This will be the last insurance policy you’ll ever buy.”  Nice.

I think it’s great that we respect our elders.  They have so much offer in the form of wisdom.  And in some ways, it is amazing to see so many circles of the sun.  I just don’t feel like I’m an elder at the council fire.  And I’m not sure I have any wisdom to offer. Yet.

Whether you’re a “Sir,” or a “Mam,” or any variation thereof, I salute the divinity that is within you, and respectfully wish you a wonderful day.

***

Photo:  That’s Sir Me, somewhere in Wyoming.  Jesse, the border collie, belonged to the person whose home I was visiting.  I miss my old buddy, Taz, and I’ll probably get another dog someday myself.  Maybe I’ll name him “Sir.” 🙂

Wavelengths

Have you ever noticed how you might be thinking about something, maybe even putting pen to paper to memorialize those thoughts, and then suddenly someone else says something that is exactly what was in your mind?  As if they had reached inside your head and grabbed it.

Or maybe, you had just read something that really intrigued you and suddenly material on that same topic starts popping up everywhere?  A friend recommends a book – same subject.  You see an advertisement for a TV documentary – same subject.  A billboard along the highway – same subject.  A blog post from a friend mirrors that same subject.

Affirmations from the world around us.  We’re on the same wavelength.

And none of this is related to some mainstream news cycle.  Maybe it’s about showing gratitude.  Or demonstrating generosity.  Or learning to smile at the beauty that surrounds us.

This seems to happen all the time, if we’re paying attention, and it happened again just the other day when my blogging friend Searching for Grady posted to her blog.  It’s a piece she calls, “Migratory Spirits” about the twelve virtues.

And it just so happens, I’m reading a book about the twelve virtues called, “The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living.”  The author, Joseph M. Marshall III, dedicates a chapter to each virtue.  Providing the Sioux word and pronunciation, and then telling some traditional stories to illustrate the concepts.

So we have:

Humility – Unsiiciyapi  (un-shee-ee-cee-yah-pee) to be humble, modest, unpretentious;

Perseverance – Wowacintanka (wo-wah-chin-tan-gah) to persist, strive in spite of difficulties;

Respect – Wawoohola (wah-wo-o-ho-lah) to be considerate, to hold in high esteem;

Honor – Wayuonihan (wah-you-v-knee-han) to have integrity, an honest and upright character;

Love – Cantognake (chan-doe-gnan-key) to place and hold in one’s heart;

Sacrifice – Icicupi (ee-chee-chu-pee) to give of oneself, an offering;

Truth – Wowicake (wo-wee-jah-keh) that which is real, the way the world is;

Compassion – Waunsilapi (wah-un-shee-lah-pee) to care, to sympathize;

Bravery – Woohitike (wo-oh-hee-tee-keh) having or showing courage;

Fortitude – Cantewasake (can-te-wah-sha-keh) strength of heart and mind;

Generosity – Canteyuke (chan-te-you-keh) to give, to share, to have heart;

and,

Wisdom – Woksape (wo-ksa-peh) to understand what is right and true, to use knowledge wisely.

Isn’t it amazing how these ideas seem to travel.  I don’t think it’s solely because of the Internet or modern communications either.  While we might look at these systems as being more dendrites in the collective nervous system, ideas seem to travel with or without exterior electronics.  We are all connected.  We may have just not realized how widespread collective thoughts manifest.

There are no coincidences.

I find it encouraging that at a time when there seems to be more division and hatred spreading like a cancer, that the twelve virtues have emerged.  Perhaps as the antibodies to defeat such infections.

May the thoughts and the actions from the virtues gain lightspeed 🙂

***

Photo: The sun rises over a rock formation in the Badlands.  A universal symbol.  The sun rising, a new day, new beginnings, a fresh start, we’ve embarked on a new journey.  These thoughts arise in everyone’s minds, synchronously, without the need to speak.  Perhaps a look into another’s eyes, the nod of a head.  Just knowing.

Who Will Remember?

Personal history.  We have it, or do we?  And for how long?  Or do we want it?  Or is it selectively cataloged in the recesses of our minds . . .

When I fired up the desktop today I was presented with a new crash.  Oddly, the computer would not recognize my profile password, and since no one else uses this computer there was no other profile to try opening.  No way to get inside the machine.

Fortunately, I was able to use my laptop to find a fix.  And with one computer sitting next to the other, I walked through the steps of changing some mysterious line in the registry.  Problem fixed.  Except, I also read that many people had problems with lost data and files after “fixing” the problem.

Mine appear to be intact so I am now backing up files, photos, etc. to an external hard drive.  Everything I can think of.  It looks like this will take all day.

So here I am on the laptop.  Thankful I have it.

What if all the data had been lost?  Bits and pieces are saved on flash drives, SD cards, and that external hard drive.  But for how long?  How long do these devices last before they decay?  And even if intact, if I wasn’t here to access them, who would be able to find my files?  Look at all those digital pics?  Piece together the puzzle that is me?  We store our lives digitally now.

Memories.

We go through life similarly.  We are one in billions, and while I do believe we are all connected, just who can access us?  And what do we want people to know?

Personal history.  It’s baggage we carry.  Some of it might be shiny objects, other bits, dark clouds.  But it is all us.  Who we are.

And how much do we share?  How much is forgotten?  And how much is spun into webs that never existed?  Always prettier than the original version.  Everything symmetrical.  Ordered.  Explained.

Did you ever notice how when you start a new job people want to know about you?  All your details.  Did you ever try and remain secretive?  It drives people crazy.  It’s like they want the goods on you.  Someway to think they have control.  Oh yeah, they know that new guy.  Know what makes her or him tick.  Know how to push their buttons.  Know their strengths and weaknesses.  Where they’ve come from and where they’re going.

Or can they possibly know anything?

Can you really “know” someone else?  Sure we share parts of ourselves.  But not all of our pasts.  All of our thoughts.  All of our feelings.  How could we?

And do we want to be remembered when we’re gone?  If so how?

She was a “good person.”  One line to sum up a lifetime.

I’d like the people I’ve loved to remember me.  But when they’re gone, there will be no record.  Just like the computer was wiped clean.  No data.  We were never here.

Or will we leave some lasting effect?  A ripple through time and space?  Perhaps a few words floating in cyberspace?

I guess we should experience all we can.  Share as much as we dare.  Hope we are loved. And love ferociously.  Because one day, all the data, all that personal history will be gone.  No profile password to magically access it . . .

***

Photo: An old ranch in the middle of a remote spot in the southwest.  The family long deceased.  Given to the state for perpetuity to preserve as a landmark.  A moment in history that loses significance with each passing day.  How long before it returns to dust?  There is no permanence.

 

Fire and Air – Part 1

We had Earth and Water yesterday, so it’s on to Fire and Air – Yellowstone’s geyser basins.  Or at least a couple of them.  Today I’m posting pics from the Norris Geyser Basin, which has, to my understanding, just recently fired back up to full power.  It’s divided into two areas and the boardwalks will keep you moving.

It’s amazing when geothermal energy collides with water and minerals 🙂

Porcelain Basin

Black Basin

***

Contrasts – 第5章 – Wild Spaces

Lodgepole pine forests, alpine meadows, sagebrush steppe, rolling grasslands, massive watersheds and wetlands, 2500 miles of rivers and streams, 600 lakes and ponds, majestic canyons and waterfalls, geyser basins scattered about a giant volcanic caldera, the Continental Divide, and home to a wide diversity of wildlife including endangered species.  Ready?

I’m finally getting to the contrast that inspired this series of blog posts.  Yellowstone.

Why?  The San Diego Zoo, at the start of the series, represented the epitome of a zoo’s potential.  Beautiful grounds.  Botanical paradise.  Humane habitats constructed to be as natural as they could be, considering they are still prisons for the wildlife residing there.

Asphalt pathways.  Directional signs.  Herds of people grazing on hot dogs, candy, and sodas.  The animals scarcely move, except to pace the perimeter of their enclosures.  The mammals lose the luster to their fur.  The color fades from the birds’ plumage.

Depressed.  Spirits broken.  Many lose the ability to reproduce.  Many die early deaths.

Contrast Yellowstone.  It is zoo-like in the number and diversity of wild species, but there are no cages.  People and animals can mingle with no bars, no fences, no nets, no plexiglass, no moats, no enclosure of any type between them.  Nature trails through the middle of it all if you want to hike.

And there is no urban jungle surrounding this pristine landscape.  No smog, no freeways, no towering buildings, no two million human residents.  Although archeological evidence shows people have inhabited this area as long as 11,000 years ago and 26 Native American Tribes have connections with the park.  And there are those four million tourists of modernity that can come and go in a year.

What behavior could we observe there?

I have to tell you it’s a bit strange.  For one, I understand the dilemma that park rangers face.  A lot of people just don’t get it.  These are wild animals.  Beautiful and magnificent.  In the wild.  And the people are in their territory and seem to be unconscious to the fact that they are in the wilderness, the real world.  It’s not a human-made park, and you just can’t walk up to a Grizzly Bear and expect not to be killed.

The animals, having become accustomed to large groups of people who are prohibited from killing them, are not fearful, do not take refuge, do not hide.  Of course, some, like the bear, never would have anyway.  This is their land.

They’re alive, vibrant, free.

They roam where they want.  Raise families.  And balance.  Yes balance.  If you’d like a good vision of that balance check out my post “Of Wolves and Hominids.”

The situation is bound to result in some collisions.  Bumbling people long removed from living in nature, believing food comes from grocery stores, now surrounded by nature. The source of all life.

You can get close, but not that close.

So, bring a camera where you don’t have to get too personal.  Your cell phone camera ain’t going to cut it, except for some landscape shots.   You’re not going to get a selfie with a Bull Elk or a Bison.  Because by the time you’re close enough with your phone to get that great profile shot, you’ll be on your way to the hospital or to your burial.

Next, slow the fuck down.  Please pardon my language.

This isn’t New York City, or any city for that matter.  You’re not driving to work.  There’s no trophy waiting for you when you reach your destination somewhere in the park.  You are surrounded by your destination.  You’re already there 🙂

If you try to hurry, you’re going to miss what’s around you.  And you’ll miss a lot.

If you try to hurry, you’ll find yourself stuck and angry, and you’re not going to enjoy the experience.

The park is huge – 2.2 million acres!  The speed limit is 45 mph at the fastest.  There is a lot of road construction as they try to upgrade to accommodate the crowds.  Tour buses drive 32 mph.  Bison, Bears, Elk and Pronghorns will cause traffic jams.

Chill.  Open your eyes.  Enjoy the beauty.

A great deal of what I witnessed it terms of human behavior was people trying to drive insanely fast just to get to the next pull out.  Then they would pop out of their cars – clown car images :-), snap a few pics, mostly selfies, although admittedly there was a great backdrop, and then pile back into their vehicles and speed to the next pull out and repeat.

Pull in.  Pull out.  Pedal to the floor.  Document.  Record.  But fail to actually see and experience.

Rather, one should breathe in, breathe out.  Stop and appreciate the beauty.  My god, it’s incredible.

Walk around a little and feel the earth beneath your feet.  Touch the tress and lichens.  Listen to the Ravens.  Smell the rivers and streams.  Taste a wild Thimbleberry.

A crowd of stopped vehicles could tip you off to a good wildlife spotting.  But remember the proximity rule.  I saw a crowd of fifty people surround a Grizzly Bear.  One step too close, or too much crowding could have provoked it.  And they can move fast.  I took a couple of shots from a safe distance and moved on.

The day after I left, a man was gored by a Bull Elk.  That’s not a good way to enjoy nature.

Plan enough days to see the many attractions.  I planned a week and I used every minute of it.  I had no idea just how many hydrothermal features there were to see – some 10,000 of them, including 500 geysers.  It would take months to see them all.

In addition to the familiar hot springs and geysers, there are mudpots (springs acidic enough to dissolve the surrounding rock), travertine terraces (hot springs boiling through limestone and depositing the calcite in layers), and fumaroles (steam vents).

Many of these features are rainbow colored by microorganisms called thermophiles.  Microscopic in size, trillions of them amass and produce the varying colors.  The temperature determines what organisms grow and those determine the pigments released.

One of the most spectacular features is the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin.  I did a separate post just on that one because of its intense beauty.

There are some great trails and day-hikes and you should check a couple of them out.  At least hike by the Falls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  But also realize you can cover quite a distance just traversing the boardwalks weaving through the geyser basins.  I got in seven miles on one of those days.

And don’t stray off the boardwalk thinking you can sneak a little closer to that hot spring for a better shot.  There have been fatalities where that fragile crust of land gives way and swallows a person in 200 degree, plus or minus, earth, steam, and boiling acidic mud.

If you can, stay in a lodge in the park.  I was 30 miles outside the park and once getting to the entrance, there was another 25 to get to the center loop that links you all of the park’s quadrants.  I averaged driving 200 miles round trip each day I was there.  But it was worth it for all that I took in.

Get out early if you want to see Grizzlies and Elk.  That’s when they’re on the move, and with less people stirring, you have a better chance at getting that once-in-a-lifetime photo.

Accept the fact that you’re not always going to get a pic.  Yes, I saw wolves in the Lamar Valley – with the help of another visitor’s high-power spotting scope.  He was generous. Not everyone will be.

The wolves were way out of range for my 400 mm lens to capture more than a smudge of an imprint.  A few pixels in that high-resolution frame.  But I was thrilled to see them and that image will always remain in my mind.

Well, now I may be getting too touristy in my descriptions and tips, and be wheeling away from the theme of contrasts, but I think you get the idea.

This isn’t the city.  You can’t behave like it is.  This is the real world with a few paved roads running through it.  It’s spectacularly beautiful.  It can kill you if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Enjoy 🙂

***

Prior Chapters of Contrasts:

Contrasts – Kapitel 1

Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

Contrasts – Chapitre 4 – Two Museums

As I’ve been going through my pics, I realized I have so many that I’ve decided to post a couple of different galleries.  Today, we’ll have a look at some of the wildlife.  Even an amateur like me can get some great shots at Yellowstone 🙂

 

A Few Seconds of Peace

I am currently working on a gallery for an upcoming post, and I didn’t realize just how many pictures I need to sort though.  Yes, one of the pitfalls of digital cameras, I push the button too often 🙂

So while I’m working on that, here are a few of short videos for peaceful reflection.

Something about water  . . .

 

 

 

Feature Photo:  Horseback riding in the Great Northwest.

Sans Forgetica

As I was waking up with my morning coffee, I stumbled upon an article about a new, scientifically designed font.  The font intentionally makes reading the text a little more difficult.  And the reason it does this so is so you won’t forget the content.

“Sans Forgetica” means, you guessed it, “Without Forgetting.”

The principle behind the design is called “Desirable Difficultly.”  I guess I haven’t been keeping up with the educational research, or I’ve forgotten it, but this concept was credited to Robert Bjork back in 1994.  The basic idea is this: introducing difficulties into the learning process can significantly improve long-term retention of the materials learned.

Some examples of employing this technique in the classroom include: (1) spacing learning sessions apart – I guess that makes one review the material sequentially before the next lesson is given so you’ll know what the teacher is talking about; (2) more testing – although that seems old school; (3) generating – having learners produce the target material through an active process like making a puzzle; (4) varying – switching up learning environments; (5) disorganization – scrambling the material; and (6) fonts – making the material slightly harder to read.  Thus, San Forgetica.

I guess disorganization was part of the secret when I was in law school.  The instructors intentionally played “hide-the-ball” to force us to search out the answers.

Apparently deeper processing of material is better for us, and the long-standing approach to education of reducing material to its simplest form and spoon-feeding it to us has really been to our detriment.  The theorists supporting the theory of desirable difficulty go into a lengthy explanation of the differences between learning versus performance and retrieval strength versus storage strength.

I won’t go into all of that scientific analysis, but if you wish to read more, you can read this short article in Psychology Today – Desirable Difficulties in the Classroom.  And, here is link to a chapter of a book about learning authored by Elizabeth and Robert Bjork – Making Things Hard on Yourself, But in a Good Way: Creating Desirable Difficulties to Enhance Learning.

I guess this theory gives new meaning to the old adage of having to “learn things the hard way.”

And if you would like to download the font, you can find that here: Sans Forgetica.    I downloaded it, but apparently WordPress doesn’t support it so I can’t write this text in that font, but I was able to add it to my photo to give you this example.

Firework - Sans Forgetica

More fun for the world of writing 🙂

***

Photo: This pic is a one-second timed exposure during a fireworks display.  I just kept taking shots with the camera locked on a tripod and I eventually got some goods ones that froze that blink-of-an-eye flare of burning gunpowder 🙂