Archive for June, 2020

Jun 27 2020

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Matika Put to Rest

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Yesterday afternoon Judy and I bushwhacked along a mountain stream to a favorite old campsite of ours. We were on a mission. In my daypack was a can holding Matika’s ashes. Matika was a wonderful, long-haired German shepherd dog who played an integral part in our lives for twelve years. A year and three months after her death, we decided that it was finally time to put her to rest.

Before leaving home, we buried a handful of her ashes in our Buddha garden just to keep part of her close, and to ward off the squirrels invading the back yard. I swear there are times when I can hear Matika barking from her ashes whenever the squirrels are scurrying about. She never had any patience for those pesky rodents.

Upon reaching our old campsite, we each took some of her ashes and released them into the brook. The ashes clouded the water for a few moments, looking rather ghostlike as they floated downstream. Then the water cleared. We both shed a few tears in the process.

After that we buried the remainder of Matika’s ashes at the base of a maple tree, next to where the ashes of our other German shepherd dog, Jesse, are buried. Two stones now mark their graves. In the future I’ll stop by occasionally to visit our deceased canine companions. As for Judy, well, she had a hard time reaching the old campsite so there’s no telling if/when she’ll be back. All the same, this is where she and I both want some of our ashes buried when we die. Then the whole pack will be back together again.

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Jun 18 2020

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Order and Chaos

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I have a lot of time on my hands, thanks to the pandemic. As a result, I’ve been doing two things a lot more than I usually do: reading and gardening. And in a strange way, these activities are related.

A month and a half ago, I finished putting together my latest book, Campfire Philosophy, for publication. Since then I have been hard at work, reading and doing research for a brand new book project about nature and the Absolute. Central to this project is the dance of order and chaos that we find in nature – something that has always fascinated me. To what extent is nature designed, subject to immutable laws? To what extent are the forces in it utterly random? Needless to say, these questions have taken me all over the place, from German Idealism, Indian philosophy and microbiology, to Natural Theology, evolution, and quantum mechanics. My latest stop: chaos theory. Egads!

Along with the entirely ordered gardens around the house that are full of utterly domesticated plants, Judy and I have cultivated a patch of forest floor in our back yard that we call the Buddha Garden. A stone Buddha lords over this somewhat haphazard experiment in what I call unnatural selection. In addition to a dozen or so domestic flowers that we’ve planted there – some of which are found naturally in the wild, like false Solomon’s seal and foamflower – we have allowed many of the native plants to stay. Among these are trilliums, baneberry, trout lily, and some rather aggressive asters. So you could say that this so-called garden, wilder than most, is a curious blend of order and chaos.

At any rate, while transplanting more flowers into it this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder what the laws of nature are and to what extent they dictate what happens in my semi-wild garden regardless of my tinkering. Meanwhile, the stone Buddha just sits there, seemingly detached from my pondering and handiwork, staring into oblivion as if there’s something about simply being in the world that guys like me completely miss.

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Jun 04 2020

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Campfire Philosophy Is Now in Print

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Back in 2006, I self-published excerpts from my field journal in a slender staple-stitched chapbook. Last winter I added more excerpts to that collection, expanding it to this 138-page paperback. I call it Campfire Philosophy because these are all wild moments, reflections and insights written while I was in the woods – quite often while sitting next to a campfire. One can almost hear the campfire crackling in them.

The fragments in this book span 30 years. They have been drawn from the field journals of every major excursion I’ve taken into the wild, along with a good number of smaller outings. And while my worldview is worked out better in other books of mine, this writing best captures the spirit of decades of woods wandering. It is also presented here in nice little snippets that the reader can digest at his or her leisure.

At any rate here it is, Campfire Philosophy, my latest offering to the world. It’s available at the Wood Thrush Books website, and Amazon.com, of course. I hope it inspires some of you to get out and enjoy wild nature while the pandemic rages in the more developed places.

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