Tag Archives: Spirituality

Contrasts – ምዕራፍ 7 – Molecular Hysteria

I paused for a few moments to take in the panorama.  Absolutely beautiful.

I was sitting on top of a mountain pass looking down through the outstretching valley below.  Mountain ridges rose parabolically, expanding outward and then opening up to a gorgeous vista.  More mountains in the distance shrouded in a light bluish haze.  The product of wind-blown dust and the sun’s rays bending around all of those tiny particles.  Photons bouncing through a prism, the colors and shadows changing constantly with Sol’s rotation.

The undulating hills bore the tracks of water courses, washes that were bone-dry now but would rapidly fill in the monsoon rains.  Rains that would carve.  The softness of water overpowering the hardness of basalt, granite, and rhyolite.  Like a sculptor of the landscape etching images that can best be scene from this bird’s-eye view.

Volcanic remains from a once violent explosion.  The center of the caldera sinking as millions of tons of smoke, ash, and debris filled the sky, blotting out the sun until the jet stream cleared the airways.  Once molten rock now overgrown with sagebrush, Mexican feather grass, manzanita, brittle brush, turpentine brush, prickly pears, mesquite, pinyon pine, alligator juniper, and scrub oak.

A light, warm wind blows as black hawks sore at dazzling heights – eye-level now that I’m at the peak.  I speak to them and offer thanks for their company.  A roadrunner scurries across the path in front of me carrying a freshly caught spiny lizard.  Life.  Predator and prey.  A continuous cycle.

There’s no other human soul around me and I’m basking in eternal peace.  Yet there is another battle silently raging in the recesses of my mind and body.  Ever pressing its way into the forefront of my consciousness.   An insidious illness that many doctors refuse to acknowledge even though some seven million Americans are afflicted.   Symptoms growing from minute exposures.  Triggering a cascade of molecular hysteria.  The body unable to compensate.

***

I found myself rapidly getting dizzy.  My brain was becoming foggy and then the headache came.  I noticed my heart beat was irregular, sometimes slowing down, and other times speeding up.  Skipping beats.  And there was the abdominal pain and nausea.   It was difficult to navigate to find a place to rest.  My voice cracked, became hoarse, it was difficult to speak.  There was short-term memory loss, the immediate short-term, making small instant decisions difficult.

You might think I had been poisoned.  Inhaled some insecticide by accident.  Perhaps a farmer spraying crops in the distance.

Or maybe I could have spilled some rat poison or gasoline on my hands.  Drank some polluted water.  Walked through the thick smoke of a brush fire.  Breathed paint fumes in a freshly painted house or from a recently stain deck.  Or maybe it was formaldehyde or ethylene.  Gassing-off of furniture or from the upholstery and plastic dashboard of the car.

All of these factors, and more, can be triggers.  But all I had done was get dressed.

You see, clothing manufactures are spraying all types of noxious chemicals on clothes now.  To make them last longer, wear better, not catch on fire, and not smell when we sweat.  Or to kill bugs when they’re shipped.  No different than the farmer spraying the crops.

Then there are the chemical detergents the clothes were washed in.  Or the washing machine and dryer themselves.  Now contaminated with chemical residues from past loads.

Chemicals that are truly poisonous, but which most people, at least for the moment, can tolerate in small amounts.  Some of us aren’t so fortunate.  Our bodies have become overwhelmed by all the toxins and we can’t clear our systems of them any longer.  Smaller amounts begin producing bigger reactions all the time.  It’s called toxicant-induced loss of intolerance.

And there’s no escape.

It began with a reaction to chemicals used to tan and waterproof leather.  A new pair of hiking boots.  And then exploded to any clothing, soaps and detergents, sunscreens, shaving creams, etc.  Anything that may contain any type of rubber accelerator, biocidic agent, or chromate.   Foods, now saturated with pesticides and herbicides and preservatives, can trigger it.  Molds, that produce endotoxins that gas-off or are carried by their microscopic spores, once inhaled, can debilitate.

This condition goes by various names.  Multiple chemical sensitivity, environmental illness, sick building syndrome, idiopathic environmental intolerance, ecologic illness, total allergy syndrome, and the 20th Century disease.  In terms of our military veterans, this can manifest as Gulf War Syndrome or Agent Orange disability.

One of the hindrances for doctors accepting the existence of the disease is their disagreement on how to define and name it.  It also doesn’t quite fit the traditional allergen-antibody reaction.  Instead of having hives, or a runny nose, watering eyes and difficulty breathing, the reaction is nuerotoxic, like a poisoning.

Despite the AMA’s denial, there is so much information about this disease and its various manifestations that I won’t attempt to try to cover it all.  Treatment is extremely limited and primarily consists of avoidance and boosting the body’s natural ability to detoxify.  Kind of hard to avoid clothing 🙂

Some medications can lessen symptoms but there is no treatment to my knowledge that is getting to the root cause – an increasingly toxic planet caused by human occupation and alleged progress.

If you find this concept hard to wrap your mind around consider this, there are some 85,000 chemical compounds licensed by the FDA for commercial use in America.  And very few have been tested for safety.  The umbilical cord blood of infants in this country, just prior to their birth, before they have even taken their first breath, test positive for up to 287 industrial chemicals with an average of 200 per baby.  These chemicals include: polyaromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins, furans, pesticides, flame retardants, industrial lubricants, plastics, consumer product ingredients, wastes from burning coal, gasoline and garbage, lead, mercury, methylmercury, perfluorochemicals (PFCs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), to name but a few.

***

So, as I hike through this paradise of nature my mind grows cloudy and my body becomes weary.  A contrast of pristine beauty flooding my senses with intoxicating images, forms and scents.  A vision that is totally energizing and invigorating, while the body betrays and is overwhelmed with fatigue.  Predator and prey . . . the continuing cycle that none of us can escape.  But perhaps our predator has become ourselves.

***

Postscript: Sometimes I believe that the Source strips away many of the material distractions in our lives to get us to focus on spiritual development.  You are compelled to pay attention to those matters of soul growth.  Our mission in life is not to work and pay bills and engage in immediate sense gratification.  There is so much more about getting to and experiencing our true essence.  I believe that this is one of those times.

Photo: Sitting on top of a mountain in the southwestern desert, gazing though the valley formed by an old volcanic caldera.

Language for “Chapter 7” in the title:   I know you’ve all noticed that I’ve been using different languages in the titles of these chapters I’ve themed as “Contrasts.”  Today’s choice was Amharic the Semitic language descended from Ge’ez that is the official language of Ethiopia.  I enjoy marveling at different languages as I explained in my post “Like.”

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

Contrasts– 第5章 – Wild Spaces

Contrasts – Isahluko 6 – Southwest versus Midwest

Source Materials:

Case Definitions for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

A Report on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

How many toxins is your baby getting in the womb?

Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns: Detailed Findings

What is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?

Amputated Lives: Coping with Chemical Sensitivity by Alison Johnson Chapter 2 The Elusive Search for a Place to Live

Chemical Sensitivity Foundation Research Bibliography

Seminar explores multiple chemical sensitivities topic

Fragrance-Free Workplaces

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Link Rot: As always, I cannot predict how long a hyperlink on the Net will hang around.  They tend to disappear over time or be hijacked to other sites, but they were current at the time I referenced them.

Transformation or Illness: How Would We Know?

I picked up a fun book tracing a historical perspective on the advancement of medicine, and it naturally included a section about the Hippocratic Oath (400 B.C.).  Hippocrates was the ancient Greek physician credited as being the father of Western Medicine.  He is famous for dismissing beliefs, more ancient than he was, that advocated the supernatural origin of disease.

The oath, which has frequently been summed up as “first do no harm” is actually quite lengthy.  It has been modified multiple times over the centuries and, as it turns out, was not, most probably, written by Hippocrates.

Another irony is that, while Hippocrates disavowed supernatural origins of disease, the original oath translated from Greek, begins by invoking supernatural beings: “I swear by Apollo the Healer, by Asclepius [God of Medicine], by Hygieia [Goddess of health and cleanliness], by Panacea [Goddess of remedies], and by all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will carry out, according to my ability and judgment, this oath and this indenture.”

The Hippocratic Corpus is a collection of texts associated with Hippocrates’ teachings, only part of which was authored by Hippocrates.  And perhaps in another irony, the Paneth Codex, another medical text that was completed long after Hippocrates had passed, contains some of his writings while using depictions of demons as metaphors for disease.

It seems that it was hard for even the most objective early practitioners of medicine to fully eliminate the supernatural from the corners of their medicine cabinets.  And maybe for good reason.  For the supernatural, once identified and defined, can become quite natural.

So just what is the supernatural and what is natural or normal when it comes to defining illness?

My background and careers are largely based upon science and logical reasoning.  Yet, I’m still willing to keep an open mind and recognize that science and human genius can’t always explain things.  As most people would attest, we’ve seen or experienced things that simply don’t fit neatly into the boxes and shelves of the “normal.”

To say it differently, I believe in the metaphysical realm.  I also believe in mind-body connections and what’s happening in the mind can find ways of manifesting itself in the body.

While I was working at a major research hospital, the doctors and nurses frequently described and linked personality types with specific diseases.  And not always in the most positive terms.  A more neutral example might be that “Type A” personalities were more likely to have heart attacks than “Type B” personalities.

Which brings me to today’s pondering.

Is every so called “unnatural” or “abnormal” condition truly an “illness?”  What’s the interplay between mental and physical illness?”  And what if instead of an illness that required treatment, people were really, in some instances, going through an evolution that should be allowed to progress?

And I guess before I dive in too deeply here, I should clarify that I’m not a mental health professional, nor am I a medical doctor.  If you’re needing a medical opinion, consult your primary care physician, and if you wish to learn more about mental health from a real professional, check out the site of my blogging friend Dr. Perry.

That disclaimer aside, most illnesses would fall outside the definition of normal and some seem relatively simple to diagnose and identify their causes.  Some are genetically related and some follow the pathogen-induced pathway.  Sounds simple, you’re born with the genetic makeup that can be expressed as a physical ailment or you encounter a virus or bacterium and you contract a disease.

But many people have “bad genes” or have close encounters with pathogens and they don’t become ill.  Why?  They are usually said to have healthier immune systems.  What makes a healthy immune system?  Besides good nutrition and exercise there are plenty of correlations to good mental health, positive thinking, and being happy to having a healthy immune system and healthy body.

The idea of illness originating in the mind, or from a body being out of balance might coincide more with some Eastern medical practices, while germ theory most follows Western medicine.  Although I will give Western medicine credit for having researched some things like meditation and meridians and finding scientific bases to support traditional Eastern or more holistic approaches to treatment.  And many Western pharmaceutical treatments come directly from old-fashioned herbal remedies from the Shamans of old.

So if one is encountering an illness, or deviation from normal physical or mental health, something not occurring naturally, then, despite Hippocrates’ claims, could there be a “supernatural” cause, and just what would that mean?

The definition of “supernatural” doesn’t only include references to spiritual entities, but it more basically means transcending the laws of nature or being attributable to an invisible agent.  So, before the advent of the microscope, a simple bacterium or a virus would not have been visible in the observable universe and an illness caused by such would have been a supernatural occurrence.  Consequently, depending on the limits of scientific measurement at any point in time, many causes of diseases could, by simple definition, be supernaturally caused.

And when referring to the supernatural, does it have to be an external source?  What about the person’s own spirit?  Can’t a damaged soul be expressed as a physical ailment?

Or maybe an enlightened soul is causing a physical evolution?

My daughter sent me an interesting article the other day called,  “Shamans Believe Mental Illness Is Something Else Entirely.”  The article focused on a West African Shaman of the Dagara people who proposes that some mental ailments, like depression and schizophrenia may actually be a step towards transformation – even meaning the birth of a healer.

The Dagara believe that some of what we in the West call mental illness is really what happens when people encounter, and don’t how to deal with, psychic phenomena and the spiritual world.  In their tradition, these individuals are seen as a bridge between physical and spiritual worlds.

This Shaman is said to have taken an 18-year-old suffering from hallucinations and depression back to his village.  After 8 months of healing rituals this person was acting quite “normal” and returned to U.S. society to earn a degree in Psychology at Harvard.

While this may be an isolated example, it’s an amazing concept to contemplate.  And I’m not saying that such non-traditional approaches would be a panacea for mental health treatments.  I’m just saying there is still more unknown than there is known.

Given our acculturation, if we were undergoing a positive physical, mental, or spiritual transition we might very well be totally confused as to what was happening and think we were ill.  Our doctors might be unable to come up with a definitive diagnosis and resort to traditional treatments or try to repress the evolution.  You might be labeled as being mentally ill, which could, in turn, send you down medical corridors forever obscuring the inner butterfly emerging from the cocoon.

As more advances are made, and as more ways to measure the currently unmeasurable become available, finer distinctions may emerge as to what constitutes good or “normal” health.  For the supernatural may be commonplace and just another source for healthy growth and development.

***

Photo: The book I picked up is titled: “The Medical Book” and it was written by Clifford A. Pickover.  This picture is a portion of a photo used in the book and comes from the Paneth Codex, completed in Bologna in 1326 A.D.   The book begins in the time frame of 10,000 B.C. moving through medical advances until 2008.  Medicine, indeed, has come a long way from bloodletting starting in 1500 B.C., and I believe it still has a long way to go.

I can personally attest to the advances made in the treatment of asthma since the 1960s when many doctors believed that asthma was a mental illness.  I had many a scary trip to the emergency room as a child, and when in full respiratory distress was even administered Thorazine, an antipsychotic medication, and knocked unconscious.  Oh, the many things we’ve been fortunate enough to survive:-)

Hypocrite: I feel compelled to mention that the word “hypocrite” does not originate from “Hippocrates,” even though it sort of sounds like it does.  Hypocrite comes from the Greek word hypokrites, meaning “an actor,” and translating more literally to “an interpreter from underneath” because actors at the time traditionally wore masks.  Figuratively, it meant someone who wears a mask to pretend to be someone they are not.  In early religious texts, its appears as “ypocrite” referring to those acting like they are morally good to deceive others.  Today, of course, we accept the meaning that it’s a person acting contrary to their stated beliefs.  In a loose sense, that could apply to Hippocrates – denouncing supernatural causes of disease while swearing to supernatural beings to practice good medicine 🙂

Update December 1, 2018: I stumbled upon another article today about this same subject and the Dagara. “A Mental Disease by Any Other Name.”

 
Link Rot Warning: No one can guarantee how long a link on the Net will last.  The US Supreme Court got into trouble over this.  One of the judges quoted from an Internet site, but after a couple of months the site was no longer there for reference.  I also once went to check out a link promoted on our local TV weather channel only to discover it had been hijacked by a porn site – Yikes!

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.

 

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.

The Many Flames of Life

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 . . .

Fire +

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.

Keeper of the Flame

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.

Cold in Them Mountains

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.

I end with a link to a friend’s blog.   Lucid Being recently posted “Solving the Anger Issues! – Open Leader.” It’s a good read.

As for that spiritual burn in all of us – don’t let that fire go out.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Question for the Women

I’m really not interested in getting into shouting matches or debates regarding a lot of political topics.  We all have views formed over time based upon our education, our individual experiences, and our peer associations.  We can agree or disagree, and do so civilly.  And we can also talk about more positive and enlightened subjects 🙂

But I am curious about a broader topic right now that was brought into the spotlight with the Senate confirmation hearings of Kavanaugh.

What I’d like to hear from the women out there is how you see the proper way for men to enter the discussion about credibility, double standards, and the elephant in the room – sexual assault.

Women are certainly justified with being outraged with men’s behavior and especially with the fact that men’s morally reprehensible and even criminal behavior appears to be accepted and, at times, even reinforced or rewarded.

I support women’s issues.  I support women professionals.  I helped to raise a strong daughter, although she came into this world with her own fire so I can’t take much credit there.

I’ve always tried to be respectful of all.  And I recognize that women do not “need” men to fight their battles.  They are fully capable of doing so themselves.

So, the question is, how would you like for men to help and support you?

Comments I’ve read have given me pause about even engaging in the discussion.  And I don’t think that is helpful because men do need to be involved, not only to control their own behavior and serve as examples of what it is to be a “good man,” but to influence what is and what is not going to be socially acceptable treatment of over half of our population.

Some of the comments I’ve read recently include:

“We don’t want men speaking up for us, that’s just another way for them to try to control us.”

“Just being a good man is the equivalent of doing nothing.”

“Any man who defends himself as being good, and not like the others, is insecure with his manhood.”

“You (men) should probably just sit this one out right now.”

 

Your thoughts and perspectives would be appreciated.

***

Great Blue Heron from the Net

Photo: The Great Blue Heron.  I found this picture on the internet in the public domain and could find no further attribution for it.  It was much better than my picture of a Blue Heron 🙂 I chose the Heron for this post because it symbolizes self-determination and self-reliance.  It also represents balance and the ability to progress and evolve.  I believe we all have these strengths and can use them together to the benefit of the community.

BTW: With Kavanaugh, it’s been pointed out that in our representative government, the Senators voting No for his confirmation to the court represented 182 million people, while those that voted Yes represented 143 million.  But we can save the discussion on the functioning or non-functioning of the system for another day 🙂

Diversity

I’ve always been amazed by the beauty and diversity of species in the world.  But as more information is gained, the more we find out just how similar we are.

With more DNA genomes being fully sequenced, we find that we share 44% of the same DNA profile with bees, 50% with bananas, 60% with fruit flies, 65% with chickens, 69% with rats, 70% with slugs, 80% with cows, 82% with dogs, 90% with cats and mice, 96% or more with chimpanzees, and 99.9% with the person sitting next to us.

And not so long ago a research team confirmed that a frog’s genome has between 20,000 and 21,000 genes, including more than 1,700 genes that are very similar to genes in people that are related to conditions like cancer, asthma, and heart disease.

There is even enough of a genetic overlap between humans and oak trees to show a common ancestor.

Yet we display such huge differences – not only in appearance but in behavior.

I believe the Native Americans have had it right all along when referring to all of Earth’s Creations as being All of Our Relations.

***

Photo: A Green Tree Frog that came to visit and shared my back porch for a while 🙂

 

 

 

 

Torrent

The Torrent can take many forms.  It can be the day-to-day grind.  It can be the Mitote (MIH-TO-TAY)* in our minds.  It can be the loss of a loved one, or the betrayal by a loved one.  It may be an overall feeling of being lost.

Or it may be an actual physical event, with spiritual ramifications.  Such is this story from many circles of the sun ago.

***

The water was rising faster than we could climb on the smooth granite boulders that lined the steep gorge we had descended.  Just one of the many hundreds of tributaries feeding the Colorado River below.

We had only seconds.  And if we failed to get out of this gulch, we were destined to be mixed with the other rocks and sediments that eternally grind and cut this steep channel.  Only we wouldn’t be the grinder, we’d be cut and smashed to pieces in the grinder.  Only our remains would reach the water course some half a mile below.

My brother and I were soaked from the abrupt downpour and my hiking boots were slipping on the polished stone.  The quartz, feldspar, mica, and hornblende of the granite, now wet, were glistening as if they’d been given a coat of mineral oil.  Beautiful, yet deadly in this situation.  I hung on as best I could.

There wasn’t enough of a ledge to get around the last boulder I was clinging to.  Safety was just out of reach.  I was frozen, and the water was now completely over my feet.  I yelled back to my brother, who was perched behind me frantically yelling at me to move on . . .

***

The day had started out uneventful.

My brother and I were hiking the Grand Canyon for the second time.  Like the first time, we had chosen the Bright Angel Trail on the South Rim because there were water stations about a mile and half apart part before you got to the Indian Garden campsite.  That meant less weight to carry and better hydration.

Of course, we wouldn’t be camping at Indian Garden.

The bottom of the canyon would be about 20 degrees hotter than the rim’s 91 degrees, and that arid draft around us evaporated our perspiration so fast that we didn’t even appear to sweat.  Our clothes were as dry as our mouths, and we lost more fluid with each exhalation.  The water stations were a must.

Unlike the first time, where we had planned and prepared for a month prior to the descent, this was a spur-of-the-moment adventure.  We were traveling light, over-confident.  We knew what we were doing, or so we thought.

Joining the only 1% of the visitors that actually traverse into the canyon, hiking there is essentially mountain climbing in reverse.  Steep switchbacks down can appear to provide an easy stroll, but you must remember, you’re going to have to make that rugged climb back out.  On our first trip, we made two-thirds of the climb out at night when it was coolest.  Slept on the trail for a couple of hours and pushed the rest of the way out at dawn.

But just going down is tough enough.  You better have the right gear.  On the first trip, I was wearing steel-toed boots.  A big mistake as my toes were crammed over and over again into those leather-covered steel plates on that sloping gradient.   Fortunately, I had brought a first aid kit on that trek and my blisters were padded for the climb out.

The “developed mule trail” had about an inch or two of powered dirt above the hard surface and if you stepped on a loose rock hidden in that dirt it was like stepping on marbles.  Better learn to keep your balance quick.

An omen perhaps this trip, they had just helicoptered a woman out who had been bucked from a mule and hit her head against the rock wall where the trail had been cut by miners a century ago.  Had she gone the other way it would have been over a cliff to the switchback below.  She was taken by mule further down to a landing zone as that was faster than trying to pack out.

Mule trains have the right of way.  If you’re hiking and one comes upon you, you have to move to the edge of the precipice.  They get the inside lane.  And you hold still as you wouldn’t want to have a mule startle and bump into you, sending you over the edge.

While it’s about a mile straight down on a plumb line from the rim to the Colorado at the bottom, it’s 7.8 miles of winding trail to get to the river.  We would bed-down the first night a little past Indian Garden at a place we discovered on our first hike – some 5 miles or so down and then off the trail.  Some Native American ruins on the back side of a low mountain peak protruding up from that part of the canyon’s varying elevations.

Terraced floors.  Each one lower, another step back in time.  Isolated peaks at different elevations created from the differential erosion as veins from the watershed spread out like a spider’s web before cutting through and finally exposing the bottom surface from a billion years ago.

Respect.  That’s what you better have before taking on this challenge.  That’s what you better have before entering sacred native grounds.   Places where our ancestors lived in harmony with Mother Earth.  What they built seems to be a simple design, but it’s one of perfection.  Semi-circular stone masonry in front of cave-like depressions in the mountain.  Shaded from the sun in daylight, remaining cool.  And with the surrounding rock and the walls heated by the sun all day long, you have radiant heat throughout the night.

We offered our respects upon entering.  Never lifted a stone.  Left without leaving a trace of our passage in the morning.  You pay homage to the spirits or maybe they’ll decide to keep you.

Maybe we weren’t respectful enough.  Maybe we were just too arrogant.

We had intended to head straight down for the river once we returned to the trail.  But we spied something out of place in a wadi.   A normally dry water course.  There was a sparkle in the distance and we were intrigued.

Off trail again, but this time walking down a dry ravine bed, we saw a trickle of ground water emerging.  It carried for a short distance widening out and then dropped over a crag.   Just below that rock face, about twenty feet down, was a carved-out basin.   A natural stone bath tub about four feet deep to receive that shower of water from above.  Water that fanned out into an opaque curtain of white.

We were hot and covered in trail dust and that clear blue pool at the bottom of that thin wall of water sure looked inviting.  We would have to climb down some massive granite boulders to get to that level, but that was doable with our light gear.

On the way down, I foreshadowed what was about to happen.

As we hugged the rock, I noticed how smoothly worn these boulders were.  A millennium’s worth of rapid water carrying stones and sediment had polished these surfaces smooth.  And in the distance, maybe a week away, was a spotting of clouds.  I remarked to my brother that if it rained and those boulders were wet, we’d be screwed.  Too slippery to navigate, we’d be trapped below.  And the gorge would fill and sweep everything out of it.

What we didn’t understand then about this desert weather, was that spotting of a few clouds were actually major thunderheads.  And those storms were not a week away, more like an hour.

Having succeeded in reaching the pool, we stripped down.  I pulled a bar of soap from my half-pack and we thoroughly enjoyed a nice bath.  A good thirty minutes or so passed, but then I felt the first rain drops.  Realizing my observation had turned into a prediction, I yelled at my brother to MOVE!  He was puzzled by my outcry at first but then he realized it too.

We dressed, packed up our gear and were scrambling in mere minutes.  But it was still too late.

Later we would call these storms “thunder-boomers,” but to the residents who knew the region these were monsoon rains.  Intense cloudbursts that may rain one or two inches of water over several square miles in a matter of minutes.

The desert sand that is baked hard like concrete cannot soak up water quickly.  There is little vegetation to help.  So a dry waterbed can become a raging torrent, sometimes creating a wall of water ten to thirty feet high.  In just minutes.  As it turns out, more people drown in this desert than die of thirst.

We didn’t face a wall of water, but we were about to be overtaken by a rising torrent.  Raging water.  Water forced into a narrow and deep gorge.  The power and speed of which we had never witnessed.  The same ancient forces that carved this masterpiece of a canyon were now threatening to end our lives.

***

. . . I yelled back to my brother than I couldn’t move any further.  Thinking quickly, and realizing we had no traction with our hiking boots, my brother took his off, handed me all of his gear and his boots.  His hands and bare feet now like that of a frog, he could cling to that slick, wet surface, and he climbed around me and that final boulder.  He was safely out of the path of the rising, rushing water.

He then took his belt off and threw one end to me.  I gabbed tight with one hand, wrapped that belt around my wrist while clutching our gear with the other hand and draping my brother’s boots around my shoulders.  I took that leap of faith and my brother swung me around that final boulder.  Both of us sitting now, safely out of the gorge, and gasping for breath, we gave thanks for having survived.

We asked for forgiveness for any offense, and we knew we had to leave the canyon as fast as we could.   So it wouldn’t keep us.

As we sat there breathing a sigh of relief, we looked back up to the not-so-distant trail.  A small crowd of people had gathered and were watching us from afar.  We just sort of looked at each other dazed as they now tuned away and walked off.  I guess the show was over.  No one had offered help or stayed around to see if we were injured.  It’s not that we were anyone else’s responsibility.  We had made the decision and took the risk. Knowingly or not.  It was just an odd feeling of us having been their momentary spectacle that was weird.

There was no longer any idea of continuing down to the river.  It was time to begin the hike out.  We just knew it.  That five plus mile climb lay before us.  My brother called cadence as we walked, and we not only made it out, we passed other hikers on the trail with a rejuvenated energy.  We were young men then.

And I still wouldn’t trade the experience.

It is said that humans resist life.  That the greatest fear is risking living.  One may take many breaths, but never have lived.  To be caged or restrained or hide is not life.

I’ve learned.  I’ve returned.  I’ve hiked.  I’ve prayed.  I’ve given thanks each and every day.

I’ve learned to listen to my inner voice.  To pay attention to a greater sense of awareness.  A spiritual radar.   And I’ve never felt so alive knowing every moment is to be lived.  Every heartbeat cherished.  Every love is the love of a lifetime . . .

For you never know when the spirits may keep you.

*****

* The “Mitote” is the word used by the ancient Toltecs to describe the fog in one’s mind.  The human mind is essentially in a state similar to “a dream where a thousand people talk at the same time, and nobody understands each other.”  It is basically part of the illusion produced from our domestication.  It can prevent us from discovering who we really are.

Photo: This photo is of a portion of a river in the northwest, but it is a reasonable depiction of the conditions we were facing that day.

Contrasts – Kapitel 1

It was time to come down out the high-desert mountains and head back to “civilization.”  So, what should one do along the way?  Why be a tourist of course.

For months I had lived in an amazing little oasis, hiked in beautiful spaces, and found peace being on my own and in the company of a few very special people and very special wild animals.  Simply put, Nature.  But it was time to move on and prepare a winter base.

I picked a few target sites and turned this into a bit of a winding path.  West, Northwest, Plains, Midwest.  I knew I would be encountering volumes of people, but there are many good ones out there.  What I saw, quite by accident, was some very interesting behavior.  The blacks and whites and the grays of social discourse.  And the rainbows of course.

One place I always wanted to visit was the San Diego Zoo.  I headed west through Yuma, Arizona – a hot, stifling, industrial and farming zone.  The contrasts there are incredible.

Bleached, beige sand with ribbons of blue water.

It was 108 degrees, surrounded by barren desert that normally receives a little over three inches of rain annually, and yet there was lush farming.  All because of a 53-mile system of irrigation canals that divert water from the Colorado river.

Not a place I would want to stay.

I was a little apprehensive as I headed into California.   A small-town boy, I had images of massive, intertwining freeway systems choked with a bazillion cars bellowing out vast amounts of toxic fumes.  Road rage nightmares.  Dirty inner-city avenues.  Muggings in poorly-lit alleyways . . .

I was packing my 9 mm.*

But I also had the contrasting images of deep blue ocean waters, sailboats at sunset, deep green valleys in the shadows of rolling mountains.  Heavy forests.  And palm trees, contrasting the desert scrub I’d become accustomed to.

And all of those visions did indeed come into view as I entered parts of the Cleveland National Forest.  The Pine Creek Wilderness.  Then the busy highways of San Diego.  And then, the Bay.

A couple of differences.  The forested areas seemed to me to be very dry, ripe for those California wildfires.  A layer of brown smog filled the air.  But the traffic was comparable to that of St. Louis – a mess, but not as much of a mess as I had anticipated.  I reached my destination in the center of the city without incident.

It was a cute rehab of an old stately home divided into condos.  The neighborhood was picture perfect.  Palm trees swayed among gingerbread homes on terraced streets.  Local businesses within walking distance perfumed the air with taste-bud delicacies.  Jazz resonated from three blocks down while neighbors across the boulevard gathered for a barbecue.

I divided my short days to visiting the Zoo, hiking around Cabrillo National Monument, strolling through the Museums of Art and Natural History at Balboa Park, and relaxing on a sunset sailboat ride in the bay.

The Zoo was nothing short of amazing.  I spent 10 hours there, Urban Hiking some 7 miles of Caged and packaged wilderness.

And it turns out, I was a bit of an attraction myself.  I looked out of place.  Wearing long pants and hiking boots.  My Aussie-style, wide-brimmed, bush hat.  Still shaking off a bit of desert sand and dust with each marching stride.

I was surrounded by short pants, pastel Becker-style T-shirts, retro bowling shirts, sun dresses, bikini tops, and sandals.  Designer everything.  Several people looked me up and down, and when their eyes reached my boots they visibly laughed out loud.

I was an outsider in a city where multicultural diversity thrived.  Many tourists blended in, but me, not so much.

But I was fine with that.

***

Next Chapter of “Contrasts” – The Zoo.

Photo: San Diego Cityscape at night.

*Don’t worry, I had trained and had my permit for it.  Besides, one can’t travel alone these days without considering some form of self-protection.  Highway robbery has never died out.

Sunset Sail - 5