Tag Archives: Love

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 🙂

 

 

 

 

Deployment Day

“Sorry Dad, I’ve got to go.  The alarms are going off again.”

All of our few chat sessions had ended the same way.  Since we were instant messaging, she couldn’t see my tears.  Have to stay strong.

“Love you, Kiddo.”

“Love you too, Dad.”

***

Time was passing slowly since that day back in January.  When hopes and dreams seemed to fade into darkness.  Way too slowly.

My daughter was seventeen when she joined the army.  I gave my consent.  That seemed to be the best decision at the time.  She was headstrong like me and had made up her mind.  I could sign the papers now or she could just wait a few more months and my approval wouldn’t have been necessary.

This would represent the fourth generation of the family to have served.*

At the time, it seemed there were few worries.  She sailed through boot camp at Fort Jackson and was off for advanced infantry training at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

My little girl was becoming a diesel mechanic.  Working on the big stuff.  Heavy wheeled vehicles – HMMWVs, MRAPs, RTCHs, HETs, HEMTTs, LMTVs, fork lifts and cranes too – basically anything that would be transporting troops or supplies or be used in construction.*  Drive shafts and transmissions were her specialty.

Her duty assignment came later than some of her fellow soldiers and she was wondering what was up.  But when it turned out to be Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, we thought WOW!  Hawaii!  I remember telling her that maybe they rewarded the best with the best places.  The azure blue waters of the Pacific.  Endless sand beaches.  Palm trees and tropical fruit.  Sunsets over the water.

25th Infantry Division, “Tropic Lightning”; 84th Engineer Battalion, “Never Daunted”; 45th Corps Support; Alpha Company.

It didn’t sink in that Hawaii was where the major Asian-Pacific theater operations were staged.  And it should have.  My Dad was stationed at Hickam Field and was set for deployment to fight in Japan in WWII, but the A-Bomb interceded and bought that war to an earlier end.

So when her orders came for her to deploy to Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom, I was stunned silent.  All I could see was my little girl.  Playing.  Flying kites with her.  Taking her to the water park.  She used to hook her hands together behind my neck and I would stand up and let her hang there – called her my little necklace.

And now she was going to a war zone.

The date was set and I flew in for a two-week stay so I could spend some time with her.  But the day I arrived, they advanced her ship-out date and we were only going to have two days.  And time would be limited as she had duties to perform.

That time evaporated and for being in such a sunny place, it sure felt dark and heavy.  Before I knew it, I found myself at her deployment ceremony.

The ceremony wasn’t held on an elaborate parade ground.  There were no podiums for speakers.  No gaggle of offices.  No dress uniforms.  This was much less formal and only for her company.  I image similar ceremonies were happening all over the base.

The sun set early, around 6:30 pm, after the various family members had gathered on a basketball court.

I remember seeing children.  A lot of children.  Running, playing, and laughing, for the moment, and being picked up and held by their parents.  Parents who were mere children themselves.  Children dressed in desert camo.  Gear assembled. M-16s and SAW Rifles issued.  Serial numbers recorded.  Three MREs passed out to each soldier.

My daughter, all 100 pounds of her, had a 110-pound rucksack on her back, a second pack around her shoulders, backwards, so it rested on her chest balancing out the weight.  A separate carry-on, and the MREs stuffed in the pockets of her camo pants.  I couldn’t have carried so much weight.  Not even close.  Plus, a rifle that looked bigger than she was.

The Captain gave a brief speech and buses began arriving to take her company to the airfield.  I held my daughter tight.  Other children clung on to their fathers or mothers crying don’t go, don’t go . . .

At the last moment possible all of us visitors released our grips and watched them board the buses.  Once they were out of sight, and as we turned to walk away, it began to rain.  The heavens opened and the sky was crying with us.

Rain drops mixing with our tears.  Disappearing into porous volcanic soil . . .

***

My daughter completed her year’s tour over there on an airbase located near the center of the country.  A base that received some 20 rocket attacks daily.  One was even launched from inside the base.  The locals had planned for their insurgency and had buried weapons before the invasion.

Their food was poisoned by Iraqi civilian workers in the mess hall.  Bombs were set inside living quarters for the many foreign workers that were imported.  An outdoor movie theater was rarely attended.  It was too easy a target.  The Base Exchange hit, as soldiers were exiting – having bought packaged food to avoid the mess hall.

While my daughter was on-base most of the time, they all had to “volunteer” for at least two convoys.  Two of her platoon members died on one of those.

News was sketchy, but I found the BBC to have more honest and timely coverage.  The generals didn’t want the public to know that they couldn’t secure their own base perimeters.

She sent me pictures of the graveyard for vehicles destroyed by IEDs.  The remains of which they stripped to place armor on the vehicles that were lacking it.

Probably the most disturbing image came from her staging area in Kuwait.  There she was in her desert camos with a bright swath of olive-green around her chest.  They had run out of desert camo flak jackets and given them woodland green.  And if that wasn’t making them stand out as a target enough, they had also run out of the protective plates that slide into and reinforce those jackets, so she had limited body armor covering her back.

Yes, I’m grateful she made it back without any physical injuries.  But I don’t know what she still has to experience in her mind from those days.

I hold her tight whenever I see her.

***

*Sorry for all of the abbreviations, but that was better than slowing the readers down with this list 🙂

Mine Resistance Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicle series; High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) series; Rough Terrain Container Handler (RTCH); 6K Variable Reach Fork Lift; Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET) series with semi-trailers; Heavy Expandable Mobile Tactical Truck (HEMTT) series; Truck Cargo 5Ton series; Light Medium Tactical Vehicle (LMTV);  and 10 Ton Cranes.

Thanks: I wish to extend my sincere thanks to all of those who serve, and have served, and to their parents, spouses and other family members for having known what they endure with their loved ones are deployed.

*And I must add a footnote: For clarity, in my generation, it was not I who served in the military.  One of my brothers was in the Marines – Vietnam era vet.  I tried to join but was unable due to having asthma.  We do have an interesting family history.  My Great, Great, Great Paternal Grandfather, and his two brothers, fled Germany in 1852 to escape being drafted into the German military.  They were farmers.  They immigrated to America, and the generations that followed began the tradition of serving in the US military.  Ironically, we may have had family members shooting at each other in both World Wars.

Photo: My daughter, with her fellow company members, listen to the send-off speech from their Captain.

Night of Deployment #6

Journey

Who knew what a journey a chance meeting would spur.  And perhaps it’s still only beginning.

It wasn’t long ago that I was forced into early retirement.  So I gave myself a couple of years to find a new home.  I wanted a fresh start.  A clean slate.  A new beginning where I had no personal history.  No evil employers.  No ex-wives.  No pain of remembrance.

I was very methodical.  I searched locations, climates, recreation, proximity to my bucket list of national parks, housing markets, and state and federal tax implications.  Yes, believe it or not, if you move to a state other than the one paying your pension, you can be double taxed on your same income.

It was a lot to consider.

And I finally hit upon an area where I thought could pull all of those factors together.  So, I contacted various realtors, complied a list of properties on the market, jumped on a plane and spent a week touring homes and the surrounding area.

It was an area sort of familiar to me.  I had been there 40 years earlier when I was a young pup bumming around the country and living in my car and out in the wilderness.  Of course, the once sleepy little city had grown.  And I discovered I didn’t like the housing prospects.  It didn’t feel like home.

But while I was there, I would make a connection.  A beautiful soul that burned bright.  A golden flame.

A chance meeting in a chance location.  A moment in time, but at that moment it was time to fly that 1400 miles back home.

Conversations ensued, and she told me of an amazing world not that far from those first explorations.  I traveled again and found that magical oasis.  But I couldn’t stay.  At least not at this juncture in time.

This has been the beginning of a new chapter in life.  That meeting brought me out from behind the barriers I had surrounded myself with.  Broken down the walls of despair.  Set me on a new path.

A journey to recapture the heart and spirit of life.  Who knows where it may lead?

***

Photo: I took this photo of these lonely railroad tracks out in a remote area in the Southwest.  I was playing with it in the photo editor and suddenly it came to life.  What made this image possible was dust.  There were high winds that day sweeping dust across the desert floor and scattering into the atmosphere.  That added a blur factor you can see at the base of the distant mountains.  It also added a medium to refract light adding varying hues to the sky and clouds.  A slight enhancement turned a drab photo into art.  A friend described it as looking like an Albert Bierstadt painting.

And that photo’s story parallels my journey.  A chance number of elements came together to produce a never-seen-before beauty.  And the image itself is one of travel across great distances.  Who knows where these tracks may lead?  Where that train might take us?

 

Frog Pond Magic

A while back, while hiking, I stumbled upon a small frog pond.  It was early afternoon and the angle of the sun, lighting, and nature itself came together in a very magical way.

There was an electric green moss growing in that crystal clear pond and the surface of the water reflected the surrounding trees.  The sky was a magnificent deep hue of blue.  As you can see, I captured several shots with my cell phone camera.

I visited this pond several times thereafter and the conditions for these images never repeated themselves.  Amazing, even the same places, events, and times can never be experienced twice the same 🙂

 

 

Frog Pond Magic 1

***

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.” 🙂

Brain Fog

Brain Fog

I had but seconds to make a decision.  Hold the present course, slow down, and hope.  Maybe pray.  Uncertainty.  Or ditch it and destroy the car and face certain injury.  I held tight to the wheel and figured if this guy was going to take me out, well . . .

*****

I was on my way to an early morning college course.  Zoology.  Great professor at this small community college.  That place seemed to attract them.  Ph.D.’s who were tired of playing the game of publish or perish.  Who just wanted to teach.  And teach smaller numbers of students so they actually had access to them.  Real office hours.  Real time to sit down and answer questions.  Discuss life.  Academic dreams.

One professor, noted for addressing controversial issues head-on and not putting up with bureaucratic BS put it this way, “I taught at the Mecca, the University of —-, until they found out I was there.”  His classes were always full.  Semesters backlogged with lists of eager students.  History taught from a world-view, not the ethnocentric versions taught where institutional and community pressures dictated thought.

I was just trying to get there on this sleepy November morning.  Making the eighteen-mile drive down the back roads.

A country setting had been picked for the construction of this junior college.  A prominent family had donated the land, and their adjoining thoroughbred ranch wrapped around three sides of the campus.  A bucolic scene.  Majestic horses dotting the pastures.  A turn-of-the-century mansion.  Separate quarters, once for slaves, now served as bunkhouses for the farmhands.

Later, a nearby river would be dammed and water recreation would be added to the list of two-year degrees you could earn here.  Seemed odd being so close to the city, but this is the Midwest and cities, even big cities, only spread so far.  Only consumed so much earth before the industrialization bordered open fields.

All I was doing was trying to get there.  No hurry.  No worries.

Those back-country roads traversed rolling hills.  Peak and valley.  Peak and valley.  Traveling west took you to a minor spur of the “big city.”  A transportation hub.  Trucking companies and railroad junctions.  A centralized shipping center to support the major businesses downtown.

Going east, the direction I was driving, was sort of no-man’s land.  Corn fields, soybeans, sorghum, a Christmas Tree farm, road-side vegetable stands.  All skirting the southeastern quadrant, with capillaries of roads leading into the pumping heart of the megalopolis.

It was a common pathway for a lot of us.  Hit the country campus in the morning, left turn into the city for work in the afternoon.  Loop back south for the drive home.

The temperatures had been steadily dropping and precipitation was coming down in its various frozen forms.  Frost blanketing the low-lying fields one morning.  Freezing rain the next – clear coating the barb-wired fences and trees, but still melting on the roads under the pressure of passing cars and trucks.  For now.  Snow was just a week or two away.

But a slight warmup the day before supersaturated the air, and the nightly cool-down had stretched out through the early hours.  The day’s high temperature occurred around 2:00 a.m. and it had slowly been dropping since.  The result – fog.

Thick, dense fog.

It filled those valleys between the hills.  Steady, cloying, impenetrable.  If you were standing on one of those hilltops, you might get the notion that you could simply walk across to the next.  Solid terra firma.  Not.

The distance between these hilltops varied, and I had just crested one, the distance to the next being the shortest in the chain, spanned by this two-lane, undivided highway.  And like eyes penetrating the night and the milky-haze before me, there they were.  Headlights.

But not two — four.

It seems that someone westbound, in their haste, decided to pass the vehicle in front of them and made their break to the opposite lane, my lane, at the top of the hill opposite the one I had just surmounted.  All I could see in the fog were four headlights, two cars nearly side-by-side, racing straight towards me.

I already had one impatient driver tailgating me, unsatisfied with driving the speed limit even in these dangerous conditions, so hitting the brakes was not an option.  There were no shoulders on these roads.  No budget for that, and the surrounding farmers felt they’d already had enough land consumed by imminent domain to lay down these ribbons of gray.

There was no way the person speeding towards me had enough road to clear the distance between the car he was attempting to pass and my car coming from the opposite direction.  And now, my seventeen-year-old, not fully developed brain, had to make a decision or two.

Of course, I immediately slowed, but not so fast as to be rear-ended by the person traveling too close behind me.  And the driver being passed was alert enough to also slow down to try to widen the gap between us.  The idiot trying to pass floored it, engine whining, so now his or her headlights were propelled even faster toward my front bumper.

What to do?

A hard stop equaled a collision from behind, and I still might not avoid the head-on crash.  Swerving left meant a skid in front of two vehicles clogging both lanes, with a third barreling in from behind.  Swerving right, in any degree, meant plunging into a deep ditch.  Certain to destroy my already beat-up Olds, and send me to the hospital or ziploc me in a body bag.  And why?  Because some fool in a hurry didn’t care about anyone else’s safety that’s why.

No, I wasn’t going to ditch it for this guy.  Take the hit so he or she had no consequences.  And even if I ditched it, the other three cars might still merge into a mangled heap.  I kept slowing down, even though the person behind didn’t seem to notice the burning eyes of the car before me bearing down upon us.  The gap ever closing.  The impending explosion of steel against steel.  The shattering of windshields.   I could hear it all in my mind.  Could visualize it.

I waited for it.  Oddly calmly.

It’s a funny thing about time.  How it seems to stretch out in moments like these.  It was like an entire discussion played out in my head figuring out what to do.  A corporate board meeting.  As if I sat down with all of the department heads.  They all gave me their feedback.  Pointed to the graphs and charts.  Drew it out with colored markers on the white board.

I hoped my decision wouldn’t jeopardize anyone else as I laid on the horn.  Everyone involved was surely awake now, as my mind drifted back over this short lifetime of mine.  What had it been worth?

But this heavy situation suddenly became ethereal.  Time slowed to a standstill.  Outside forces seemed to intervene.  As if protective bubbles inflated around all four cars.  The fool somehow threaded the eye of the needle left open by myself and the other oncoming car.  Barely.

A split second.  A flash in time.  Brains in a fog – literally and figuratively.  Preoccupied by frenzied thoughts of work deadlines.  “Got to get there!”  “Got to get the job done!”  A moment where lives could have ended.  Needlessly.  But they didn’t.

Did I make the right decision?  Was there time to do anything else?  I assume we all went our separate directions.  As if nothing had happened.

Ironically, in Zoology, we were studying life cycles.  Eat, sleep, mate and defend.  Predictable unless outside forces act.  Of course, there is more to life than that.  Much more.  Philosophical aspirations.  Collective consciousness.  Spiritual evolution.

Maybe the power of four minds came together to alter the inevitable.  Bending time and physical objects.  A collective manifestation of a new pathway exceeding the laws of physics.

Who can say?

*****

Strange how the mind works.  I remembered this little flash from the past today because I’ve been experiencing “brain fog.”  Transforming figurative fog into physical fog 🙂  That’s why my mind couldn’t get it together to compose a post for the past few days.  It’s a symptom of a syndrome I’m fighting.  Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.  I will undoubtedly write a piece on it someday.  Imagine it this way.  You find yourself exposed to insecticide and you’re dizzy, with a crushing headache, brain clouded, nauseated and with abdominal pain, you lose the ability to reason and your short-term memory vanishes, fatigue bears down on you.  But you come back to normal once the neurotoxin wears off – your body disarms it through its normal processes, chemical, mechanical, liver, kidneys, etc.  Now imagine that your normal detoxification process is overwhelmed and your body can’t detoxify from the poisons anymore.  And the environment you live in is full of an increasing amount of poisons . . .

Photo: No, I didn’t have a picture of headlights approaching on a foggy morning, but I did have this one of a car approaching at dawn driving through the mountains.  Don’t worry, I was safe.  There was no one else on the road and I actually stopped the car to take this pic.  Although, I have at times been guilty of the one-handed, over-the-shoulder, while driving, cell-phone pics 🙂

“Ws” – If you happen to notice any missing Ws in my posts, please feel free to let me know.  I recently picked up a new keyboard and it seems that I am just not striking it hard enough in the left-hand corner.  Missing letters in my writings include Ws, As, Rs, and Es, but Ws seem to be the worst.  I try to catch them when editing, but sometimes I miss a few – thanks 🙂

 

 

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.

Fire and Air – Part 3

This will be the final part of my Yellowstone travelog.  The Upper Geyser Basin.

I think the most popular image of Yellowstone that comes to mind is that of Old Faithful.  Because of this, I know I was quite astounded to see all of the other features of the park, each with their own unique beauty.  Some of the other hydrothermal features are so much more colorful.  Just check out the pics of Morning Glory Pond.

I’ll start with a small gallery covering Old Faithful and then have a bit larger one of the remaining features of the Upper Geyser Basin.  Old Faithful is so popular they have built bleachers around it that are packed with people from all over the world for those intervals of 90 to 120 minutes to watch it go off.  Apparently, the geyser’s eruption-timing has become less predictable over the years and the boiling water spout is not as high as it once was – still spectacular nonetheless.

Old Faithful is apparently a juvenile.  It takes a 100 years for a cinder cone to grow by an inch, so some of the geysers are thousands of years older than Old Faithful.

I didn’t record the name of every hot spring, chromatic pool, and geyser, but I did for some of the main ones.  And I included some pics of the Firehole River that runs right through the middle of this geyser basin.  The combination of water, geothermal heat, minerals, sunlight, and bacteria is amazing 🙂

Old Faithful

Remainder of the Upper Geyser Basin

There were other parts of the park that I visited that I didn’t include in this travelog and other parts I still haven’t seen.  Just hitting the main features was a lot.  I’ll have to go back again 🙂

I still have at least one more chapter to write in the “Contrasts” series, but we’ll be in a different location for Chapter 6.

***