Photo: I took this photo in the Hayden Valley of Yellowstone National Park. It was absolutely amazing there.
Photo: I took this photo in the Hayden Valley of Yellowstone National Park. It was absolutely amazing there.
I love fire. Always have.
A Passionate Embrace.
Cozy snowy days by the woodstove.
Well, not quite a Haiku’s traditional 5-7-5, but fire is still poetic. Fire is symbolic of so many things. Transformation, purification, life force, power, strength, destruction, rebirth, transcendence, inspiration, enlightenment.
Truth and Knowledge. Light and Heat. The Intellect and the Emotions.
“Baptism by Fire” restores primordial purity. An intermediary between the Source and all of us tiny Particles of Awareness.
Fire is a good visual representation of our emotions. Anger, I believe, is the most destructive – a raging inferno. Passion, the most inspirational, a slow intense burn. Love, a steady light. Life, the precious spark.
The blaze in the feature photo above represents that out-of-control burst of anger. Hatred. The stare of death.
While this image . . .
the steady, passionate burn of the heart. That electric heat, tingle of fire, with the brush of a lover’s hand. A slow, deep delicious kiss.
And there’s another image I truly love, from my background of being a health care provider – The Keeper of the Flame. I found this pin at a military surplus store. I was told it was a German medic’s pin. The hands delicately cradling that life force.
And here’s one, a story for another day, perhaps, of a long ago camping trip in the mountains of Colorado. The howling winds channeling through the mountain pass. Filling our eyes with smoke and ash as we reached for those life-giving flames.
But anger. Yes anger is the most destructive. A fire that can consume us. Destroy us physically and mentally. We might think it’s directed outward, but the amount of negative energy that burns within can kill. An insidious suicide.
As for that spiritual burn in all of us – don’t let that fire go out.
A few days ago, I posted a piece about attention spans and when people will “bail” from reading additional text. As a writer, it’s helpful to know what’s happening in the reader’s mind so we can craft ways to capture their attention. And that Bailer’s Point actually ties in nicely with the fourth “Brain Rule” discussed by John Medina. *
People won’t pay attention to boring things.
It seems that when we encounter any stimulus our brains go through a number of discrete phases to process that information.
Intrinsic Alertness – our ability to detect something.
Phasic Alertness – our ability to focus on that something.
Executive Network – our ability to decide what to do about that something.
And despite what people may think, the brain’s attention spotlight can only focus on one thing at a time. We process concepts sequentially. Task shifting, or multi-tasking, delays accomplishment time by 50% and increases errors by 50%. We’re just not wired well to do multiple things at the same time. We are also much better at detecting patterns and then extrapolating the meaning of events than we are at registering and remembering the details of those events.
We saw before how readers can check out within seconds if their attention is not corralled, and listeners, it turns out, can only hold on for about 10 minutes before tuning out.
So what enhances or extends attention spans? How can we reach into the readers’ or listeners’ brains and shake their frontal lobes around without screaming PAY ATTENTION?! !
We can add emotion!
It seems emotion coupled with information not only captures attention, but it significantly improves retention. People remember personal stories bathing in feelings better than they will rote recitations of facts, no matter how intriguing we might think those facts are.
As writers, we need to try to engage all of our reader’s senses. So they can taste it, hear it, smell it, feel it, breathe it in.
But it also turns out that we need to give people frequent breaks. As a lecturer, that may mean switching topics or keeping the presentation short. As a writer, it means we need to effectively use punctuation. Let the reader come up for air once and a while.
That’s one reason I like to use sentence fragments. Even though were not supposed to 🙂
And on that note, I’ll call it quits today. Except if I can hold your attention a little longer, there are a few more fun pics at the bottom of this virtual page.
Feature Photo: An old hotel in an 1800’s mining town has a character all of its own, but by bending the light and showering it with color, we add emotion. Fire! It draws in the eye and holds the attention. With blogging, I’ve found that a great pic can really draw in the reader. Of course, what I think is great others might find boring.
Past Posts on Brain Rules by John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist.
I hope you all have a day of excitement filled with brain candy. Here are a few more pics I played with, turning the ordinary into a little something more.
The Framers of the Constitution wanted to avoid the problems of the governments they were all running away from in Europe, so while they wanted a centralized government for certain functions, like taxation, printing a common currency and conducting wars, they also wanted less power in that centralized government to prevent abuses and more power vested in the individual states who theoretically would better be able to determine their specific jurisdictional policies and priorities.
They also wanted to form a Union, and concessions were required to get all of the states on board.
Of course, terminology in law is often stood on its head and “Federalism” has become one of those terms. Federalism, generically speaks to the relationships between the federal and state governments and the original “Federalists” wanted some form of centralized government as opposed to those who did not. But the term does not mean more “Federalization” of government, it means less.
The philosophy of the Federalist Society today advocates for a very limited federal government, for a strict constructionist view of the Constitution, and for strong adherence to the separation of powers doctrine. That doesn’t sound so bad.
Except, “strict construction” and “strong adherence” are just as susceptible to legislative and executive manipulation and to judicial activism as is applying the “spirit” of the Constitution. And laws and social policy are shaped and changed just the same by “textualists” as they are by “living documentalists.”
It is all a fight over words, definitions, and semantics, and it’s all highly partisan and politicized regardless of any faction claiming otherwise.
And, the reason I bring this up is because how this all intertwines with what has become the modern “Administrative State,” and the massive amount of power being wielded by federal and state agencies that weren’t created in the Constitution. This seems not to have been contemplated by the Founders and certainly seems opposed to what modern-day Federalists all talk about. So how did this come to be?
And again, standing language on its head we have the “Non-Delegation” doctrine flowing from Article I and the Separation of Powers doctrine. So we have three branches of government that are supposed to stay put in their respective arenas, provide checks and balances, and not run around giving their authority away to the other branches or interfering with the authority of the other branches.
For example, Congress can’t pass a law that would allow the executive branch to pass legislation – they can’t delegate that authority away. But the Non-Delegation doctrine has been stood on its head and has become a means of defining the opposite. It is used to define just what authority Congress can delegate away and who gets to control that authority.
And while Congress largely gives away authority to the executive branch, it will at times, muck around with the authority of the courts by tinkering with structure and jurisdiction, and by dangling the power of the purse over the heads of the judiciary when they get upset over an unconstitutional law being struck down.
Turns out, the Constitution, over time, probably to the chagrin of the Federalists, has been interpreted to allow Congress to create executive branch level agencies. They create agencies with what we refer to as “Organic” or “Enabling” statutes and while the agencies’ powers are limited by these statutes, Congress gave agencies a little boost by allowing them to promulgate “rules.” And, gee whiz, rules, if properly promulgated, have the same force and effect as statutes. Lawmaking.
When you think about it, Congress expanded the executive branch big time. They created much more of it than the Constitution originally did and much more of it than people probably like. And, then they delegated away some of their legislative power to the executive branch (rule-making), but we call this quasi-legislative authority. And what the Legislature (Big “L”) giveth, it can taketh away. Although changes may be slow.
This is true at both the Federal and State level and we have Administrative Procedures Acts at both levels to give agencies some guidance and fill in the gaps in the agency-specific Organic statutes. And these procedures allow agencies to intrude into the Judicial branch too! They give agencies quasi-judicial powers to hear and decide contested cases, subject to judicial review of course.
And guess what, since the executive branch enforces the law and agencies are by nature regulatory bodies, we naturally have executive prosecutorial functions as well. So agencies can make the law, prosecute under that law, and convict you (so to speak) under that law, all under one roof.
Agencies do a little more than licensing and maintaining files of annual reports.
Of course, the legislature generally did not delegate any authority to agencies to run around imprisoning people as punishment for any types of violations, so once the agency “convicts” you, the only penalties agencies can implement have to be found in the statutes themselves or you have to go to court for yet another judicial proceeding. The Sixth Amendment is still alive, for the moment.
Federal and State legislatures can’t be experts in everything and there is so, so much to regulate that we have evolved into a “Administrative State” that has multiple layers of regulation that come from authority delegated out to the Executive Branch by Congress or by State Legislatures. And the executive agencies’ regulations and decisions are given considerable deference by the Courts because the agencies are the “experts” in their respective fields.
So while many people focus on the acts of the legislature, which is a good thing to do, they should also pay close attention to what’s happening at the state and federal agencies, because there is much more law and social policy setting going on there that has a much more immediate impact on the populous. You can look at current environmental policies for example.
There, I just kind of laid out the framework for how agencies evolved. I’m not trying to address how different administrations have used the agencies to implement particular agendas or the merits of specific agendas. At least not today 🙂
Photo: My pocket Constitution. These things are good little tools to have and it might be wise to read the Document once and a while. The Constitution is actually pretty short. And pretty amazingly well done. The development of the Administrative State has shifted major powers to the executive branch, and that is partly why administrations do receive so much attention – because of the dramatic effect they can have on people’s day-to-day lives.
BTW: On a personal note. Federal and state agencies have administrative law judges to preside over the quasi-judicial functions and trials at the agencies. For part of my legal career I was a state Regulatory Law Judge.
About a year and a half ago, I applied to make the registry of qualified applicants for Federal Administrative Law Judges. My understanding is they get 12,000 applicants when they open the registry, which is only opened about once every five years. And they whittle that number down to 200 with an objective examination process.
They have been doing this since 1920 to ensure they get qualified applicants and to minimize the politicization of the process.
The competitive application process consisted of a series of examinations conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). I made the list, scoring in that top 1.67% of the applicants 🙂 !! This didn’t guarantee me a position, but I could have been selected when there was a vacancy, subject to another interview process.
I recently received an email from the OPM informing me that our president, by executive order, terminated the competitive application process and eliminated the list of qualified applicants, thus doing what no other president has done since the registry’s creation and injecting politics into the selection process. Selection by one, with no standard for qualifications.
Kind of sad, because the checks and balances set up by the Framers, and even those originally put in place by the independent branches, have been slowly getting whittled away, bit by bit . . .
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo set sail some 50 years after Columbus, leaving Mexico to discover a route to Asia and the Spice Islands. On September 28, 1542 he sailed into what is now the harbor of San Diego. He called the area San Miguel.
He would be dead some three months later, allegedly the result of infection from wounds sustained fighting with the Chumash Indians on Isla de la Posesion. His mission unfulfilled. He was considered to be the first European to set foot on the West Coast of the United States and this monument honors him.
Included in the monument is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse; World War II defense bunkers and gun batteries, and the Point Loma Tide Pools, which are host to an amazing ecosystem. Point Loma is also passed by migrating gray whales every year, a round trip of 12,000 miles beginning in their Arctic feeding grounds for their return to the Baja California Sur Bays, their breeding coast.
While I was there, I hiked the Bayside Trail giving me a nice look over the Bay and many vessels navigating it. I also headed down to the tidal pools, but the waters were too rough to really be able to see the marine wildlife.
The major contrast I saw between this area and the city life I’ve described in my prior two posts was that of calm.
The level of self and technological absorption really was significantly less. Actual human interaction was up. People were in awe of one thing.
Yes, the ocean has that power over people. It can slow their brains and sooth their souls.
Everyone just found a spot, had a seat, and it took it all in. It really was quite amazing seeing the transition.
The Power of Mother Earth.
Title: I’m sure you noticed I’m using different languages for the word “Chapter.” I was just having a bit of fun since I am coming across blogs of people speaking different languages. I find the text to be beautiful even if I can’t read it. I simply plug it in to Google Translator. I wonder how the human mind internalizes a given language as we grow up. Fascinating.
Prior Chapters: Contrasts – Kapitel 1 & Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?
Galleries: And now a few photos from the day.
Nature is by far my most favorite place to be. It is there I feel like I belong. Like I am myself.
But there is beauty in everything if we choose to see it. This photo is of the city-scape of San Diego from when I visited. And it is mesmerizing in its own way.
I awoke for my usual start to the day, at sunrise. But the sun doesn’t exactly rise in San Diego. It’s a bit disorienting. That thick haze. You think it might rain, but it burns off around ten in the morning. That mix of smog and humidity. Then you can see the sun.
By the time I could see the sun, I had been at the zoo for almost two hours.
I have always loved going to the Zoo. And the San Diego Zoo has been on my bucket list for a while. It’s definitely worth the visit.
It’s really more than a zoo – it’s multiple zoos and it’s a botanical garden in its own right.
You have to admit there is a bit of irony in the concept of a zoo. People, who are animals, are placing other animals into captivity to view them, enjoy them, and protect them from annihilation by the human animals that put them there. There are some animals that are extinct in the world now and only exist in zoos being run by other animals. Us animals.
Humans seem to want to divorce themselves from the rest of the animal kingdom. Without truly understanding the animals they put in cages, humans may pass judgment believing their relatives are inferior, have limited brain capacity, and have no spirits.
I, and obviously many others, would disagree with those presumptions. Most of us are probably happy that we’ve recognized our destructive abilities and are at least trying to preserve these beautiful spirits.
I have never seen a child fail to smile at some point during a visit to see the wondrous animals at the zoo.
Our society has been changing though. When I was growing up, we were taught a sense of community first. Then we were encouraged to develop our individuality. Today that’s reversed and the concept of community may not be emphasized at all.
So I witnessed a big transition at this visit to the Zoo. What were people taking pictures of – themselves. Oh yeah, they might put an animal or two in the background, but the central idea appears to be wanting to document the humans’ existence at a particular place or time. It is not “Look at the beautiful Giraffe!” It is “Hey, look at me! See what I’m doing. I’m at the zoo. The Giraffe proves it.”
Sorry if that sounds a bit cynical, but that seems to be a lot of what I witnessed in terms of the human animal at the zoo. I could challenge many of the animals with cameras to show me a picture of just the animals. Many would meet that challenge. Others, perhaps not.
I saw an incredible amount of self-absorption and technological absorption out there. It’s not healthy. Many didn’t know how to react when a friendly stranger would say hi, or agree with a comment they made admiring the rhino. They would stare at me in shock because they had actually been spoken too. Maybe if I had texted 🙂
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying these folks are bad. I just may have a few different priorities or a different orientation, and I think it would help pull people together to have a broad concept of community – including all of the animal community.
To have a community bond, we must communicate. Look each other in the eye and not be afraid to speak. To share.
That’s just a little food for thought as I weave in the theme of contrasts. And we’ll come back to that theme in a different context in another chapter.
For now, I’m going to post a gallery of pictures. I’m not in any of them 🙂
Not every pic is crystal clear. The animals didn’t always face me or pose for me. Sometimes I moved the camera. One technique I tried to use when possible was blurring out bars and cages and fences. It doesn’t always work though.
I included the Guam Kingfisher, even though the cage blurred the pic. Because it’s extinct in the wild, this may be the only way to see it.
I hope there are a few you enjoy.
This is sort of an iconic image. A sole person testing his skills fly fishing in a mountain stream. I’ve never done fly fishing per se, at least not the way it is supposed to be done. But I do love fishing because I find it to be meditative.
Repetitious motion. Casting. Reeling. Casting. Reeling. Letting your thoughts drift.
Then there is the thrill of catching one, and in most cases for me, releasing it again. Although there have been times when I’ve eaten a few.
Many moons ago, I was in a remote part of southern Utah living off the land, and was catching trout by hand. Amazing. And nourishing on different levels.
It is said that to dream of fishing is to really be dreaming about spiritual pursuits. I like that image. And just looking at this one, I find it to be meditative. Relaxing. Letting inner thoughts fade into quietness . . .
I think most people like lighthouses. They are very beautiful and each has its own uniqueness. We also like the image of having a warning light, or a light that helps lead us through a storm.
This seems to me to be a very troubled time in the world at large. When I’m out, I don’t see many smiles. I don’t hear much laughter. Happiness seems to missing in this fast-paced, hectic society. And people won’t find happiness chasing material wealth or from any external source.
We all need to venture inside. Find our spark. Light up our own inner house. Then venture outside.
When we do that, we see that happiness is contagious. Just smile and watch the people around you light up.
Be the lighthouse. Let your own light shine. Be the guiding light. The light of wisdom.
The sun sets over the bay.
Imagine what our ancestors thought long before the science of astronomy. The Sun would disappear each day and you would not know if it would return. This giver of light, of heat, of life, extinguished.
This is why so many early religions worshiped the Sun. Gratitude for it returning each day. The source of many creation stories . . .
And we can all be grateful for our Grandfather, who cradles the Earth in its gravitational arms 🙂
A great irony of being in an urban environment is you’re able to see some animals, up close, that you would most probably never see in the wild. They are caged.
In some ways this helps to preserve species – ironically protecting them from us. In other ways it seems inhumane. They should be roaming freely.
But when you look at all of human life’s modern entanglements, perhaps we are caged too 🙂
Yesterday, I was able to get in about 7 miles of “hiking” in an urban setting. At some point I’ll put together a travel piece for that experience, but for now enjoy a little beauty I discovered along the concrete trail.
I still have to identify this one, as I do with so many other of my flower pictures.
The morning sun hit this one just right 🙂
I’ll be gearing up soon. Time to cut roots, pick another dot on the map, and drive. As the time dwindles in my current resting place, urgency grows to take in all the sights and sounds possible in this oasis.
I study maps and locate a pristine spot that holds great promise. A place where perennial streams meander through desert canyons. A place bursting with life. But I discover you need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get there. Such are many places here. Primitive roads where only a bulldozer has preceded you. Signs warn that you’re driving at your own risk, and being out of cell range you want to be sure that car is up to the task. It could take a day or more to hike out if stranded and returning with a tow truck may even be difficult depending on where and how you get trapped.
Forty years ago, I off-roaded in an old 1970 Plymouth Satellite. It did ok for the most part. I knocked the muffler off once and a while bottoming out, but I’d just reattach it and move on.
It would have been quite the sight, if anyone had been there, to see me driving that car right through the middle of forests, across open grasslands, or over rocky flats. In search of the mythical Escalante.
Freedom then was being surrounded by Ponderosa Pine with fifty cents in my pocket, half a tank of gas, and some food to cook over an open fire. Most probably food I had caught that day after making the proper offerings.
But the world has changed and I’m outfitted quite a bit differently now. I’m driving a Prius with about 8 inches of ground clearance. Smooth ride on the highways, but cautious trolling on the back roads. I’ve had to turn around many times where the rains have washed out gullies big enough to swallow this car.
With one destination scratched from the list, I search out another. It’s not far away from the original target and promises a good hike through the mountains. Unusual mountains. They look like some giant had fun rearranging and piling boulders to the sky in very unnatural configurations. I wonder what this terrain must look like from the Eagle’s point of view.
How did this mountain range form? Was it volcanic? Was it upheaval? Metamorphic stone smoothen by the rains and bleached by the sun over millennium.
I have good road most of the way, but the last five miles are primitive washboard. I creep along at 10 miles an hour. Any faster and the Prius shakes violently. I bridge cattle guards in this open range country and cross four low-water washes. They dip gently enough to cross, and a few inches of water reflects the recent rains. If it rains again, they’ll fill rapidly. Flash flooding is common during this season.
It is the Monsoons.
As I reach the base of the mountains, I discover the road is gated. This segment of national parkland is “closed for the season.” The sign doesn’t say what season, but I’m here and so I park on the road.
I check my gear, settle my backpack. Essential to fit it correctly to avoid strained shoulders, neck or back. But as I head towards the trail dark clouds start rolling in. They appeared so distant on the horizon only moments before. What appeared to be days away now envelops the area.
The temperature drops rapidly from the 80s to the 60s. And as the rain drops begin to fall, I scramble back to the car. This is not a time to hesitate. I have to make it past those low-water crossings and can’t speed to do it.
As I splash through the first one, I glance back and the sight is amazing. The mountains have virtually vanished in the veil of heavy rain. Like a magic trick of monstrous proportions, the Monsoon rains have made the mountains disappear.
No time to gaze, I creep back the way I came and I’m grateful to make it across the last wash intact. Now I can pause and reflect. Marvel at what I’m witnessing. But I can’t pause for too long. Time to finish finding my way back to that paved road.
Once back on solid ground, and with hiking out of the question, it’s time to pick a new destination. The rain forces me east, and I find an old historic town with the navigator. The navigator wants to save me time, but I choose the backroads.
As I streak out on that gray ribbon and back into the warm sunshine, I notice I’m in a valley, a flat plain between 4 different mountain ranges. The Monsoons blanket the north and the west, and I’m treated to a wonderful display of wrap-around lightening from the Thunderbeings.
This dessert grassland has been brought to life with water. Water that hides in underground streams. I’m driving through orchards, and pecan farms. Corn fields and pistachio trees.
Vineyards and wineries dot the horizon. The soil here perfect for developing the favor and sugar the grapes need for their fermentation.
Hawks ride on the trusses of the center-point irrigation systems that pull water from the buried aquifer. The perfect vantage point for any prey attracted by both the water and cultivation.
I pass a gin factory and a bean plantation. A cattle feedlot appears, surrounded by planted pines – an attempt to hide the final forced growth before the trip to the slaughterhouse.
Dust Devils spring up in the cultivated fields. Mini tornados spawned by the Monsoon winds not far behind.
Herded out of the mountains, I find myself in an almost two centuries old town. I park on the street next to the railroad tracks and soon a freight train rumbles through town.
First stop, a cowboy museum. Not where I expected to be, but the storm brought me here so I explore the town the same way I explore the mountain trails. I walk the streets and feel where my body is pulled.
Of all things, I find a bar of old-fashioned lye soap to purchase. Something suggested to me to avoid modern soaps and detergents to which I now have chemical reactions to. I didn’t know where I might find some, and wasn’t looking for it today. But here it is.
Next stop, an antique store. Now the Monsoon catches up with my retreat and as the high winds blow and torrential rain pours, I take my time in this shelter of shiny objects. Glassware, military medals, old clothing, hats and rocks and minerals.
The proprietor turns out to be a Cheyanne Indian and she gifts me with a beautiful feather.
The symbolism associated with feathers refers to ascension and spiritual evolution. A flight to other realms, Shamanic Journeying to gain knowledge. Feathers also represent the Thunderbeings, along with the power of the wind. Both clearly present today.
Feathers are also used ceremonially, fanning the smoke from sacred tobacco, sage, sweet grass and cedar. A way to carry prayers to the heavens.
The proprietor and I talk and trade stories of life as historic figures might have traded coffee and sugar for furs. It never ceases to amaze me how we meet kindred spirits on our paths. In the middle of nowhere. Some 1500 miles away from where I call home and a hundred miles away from where I’m currently based, my soul recognizes a familiar soul. Had we walked together before, a different time and place perhaps. Had I gifted her with a power object in that past life time, a gift now returned?
As we talk, she shows me many treasures in her shop. I elect to add one to my collection. A piece of rutilated quartz. Quartz with inclusions of Titanium Dioxide – golden filaments. This stone has also been called as the “Venus Hair Stone.” It is said to be an energy amplifier to aid meditation and intuition. To help free one from the feelings of suffocation or strangulation. It is also said to connect the physical and spiritual realms and to aid in bringing out one’s true spirit. It is an illuminator for the soul. An interesting mirror image as the heavens touch the earth with life-giving water and electrical charges.
I am gifted again with a medicine bag for the stone.
The rain, thunder and lightening now paused, I give my thanks and say my goodbyes. I make one final stop. The retail shop of one of the local wineries. A glass of wine to top off the day’s unplanned adventures. As it turns out, the store’s owner, the only person in the shop, is a displaced mid-westerner from my home area. So, we remanence of familiar times and places we walked before our consciousnesses had connected in this distant town of less than a thousand households.
What are the odds of any of these encounters? These gifts – all cleansing, physical and spiritual connections, healing and growth.
Such is life in free-flow. Chance occurrences. Chance connections. Compelling feelings to head into the mountains, to drive to an ancient town, to walk inside certain buildings, to converse with complete strangers whom we’ve seem to have known for lifetimes.
But is anything truly by chance?
The storm cloaks the mountains I sought, chases me out of that remote natural world to a place with spiritual gifts, kind words, and communion.
It was a good day.
Photos: All captured in the moment. Below, a couple of shots before the rains.
Published ! Thrilled and honored that my story was published by The Urban Howl on September 12, 2018, under the title “Surrender Control & Let The Wind Take You To A New Adventure.”