Tag Archive 'reality'

Aug 27 2017

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The Promise of Another Day

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Morning sun breaks through the trees – the promise of another day. Forget the madness of civilization on full display throughout the media, and focus instead upon here and now. A calm, clear, azure sky. And you are alive. Cherish it. Your days will not go on forever. So whatever your troubles, however distressing the human condition may seem, there is this day. And you are alive.

It’s hard to believe that Nature has no agenda, that all this living and dying all around us isn’t to some good purpose. The sun burns brightly, suggesting divinity. Or am I just imagining it? Each and every one of us walks the fine line between reality and illusion. Only the truly mad amongst us think that they are completely sane.

The sun, moon and stars move across the sky, marking time. Together they hint at something eternal – something that we call the universe. But that’s of no consequence to us really. Our days are numbered. From the first hominid to the last there are only so many days. So we should make good use of them. What then should we do? More to the point, what should I do today?

The promise of another day. Each and every day is fraught with possibility. Perhaps I will do today what I couldn’t do yesterday. Perhaps the passage of time is all that’s needed to beat the long odds and accomplish something truly remarkable. Perhaps today I will truly understand the world and my place in it. Stranger things have happened, haven’t they?

 

 

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Feb 16 2014

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Dreaming of Spring

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spring wildflowers in the woodsPity the poor coworker who had to put up with my surly mood yesterday. Because of a head cold, I haven’t been able to go snowshoeing this past week. And the foot of snow that fell a couple days ago created ideal conditions. Life isn’t fair. But my home still has power running to it, my cupboards are full, and I haven’t been in a car accident or stuck out on the highway like some people, so how dare I complain?

Truth is, I am now dreaming of spring. I resisted it as long as I could, but reverie overtook reality this week. Now I’m in the thick of it, pining for the green season and a forest floor covered in wildflowers. It’s worse than being sick.

I am luckier than most. I don’t mope through late March and the better part of April, longing for balmy temps. The first tramp across cold mud is enough for me to call it spring.  And every bug I encounter, every hint of new vegetation emerging from the bleached forest duff, will be cause for celebration. So the beginning of my spring season is only five or six weeks away. All the same, I’m lost in daydreams right now.

Writing about my outdoor excursions only scratches the itch. For a couple hours each morning, I am in a different time and place. But when I finish, the cold reality of the here/now bears down upon me. It’s a strange way to live, to say the least.

When a cardinal’s song penetrates the frosty window of my workspace, I know I’m not alone. Others are dreaming of spring as well – longing for the bounty of it, anyhow. But winter still has teeth. So I’ll stop brooding long enough to shovel away the snow from my door and go fill the bird feeders. There’s no sense letting daydreams get in the way of living.

 

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Sep 06 2012

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First Color

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I deny it for a week or so, telling myself that I’m seeing only the occasional stressed tree. Then poplars fade yellow and I ignore them. But goldenrod is in full bloom in the fields, and white wood asters populate the forest floor. If there’s any doubt in my mind as to what time of year it is, all I have to do is open my ears to the high-pitched, electric whine of crickets that has replaced the melodic sounds of songbirds.

I enjoy autumn as much as summer, yet there is always something a little sad about the transition between the two. When I was a child, I thought the sadness had everything to do with going back to school. Perhaps it did back then. But now it stems from something else. Now it’s all about the end of the growing season.

Even though the first hard frost is many weeks away, I can’t help but notice that the sun is setting earlier. The equinox is right around the corner and evenings are much cooler. The first color explodes suddenly amid the green and I am shocked by it. Yeah, there’s really no sense denying it any more. Another summer is history.

I bite into an apple grown close to home and taste the season. A cool breeze surprises me when I step outdoors in the morning, making me think twice about how I’m dressed. I go for a long walk on the recreation path and hardly break a sweat. Where did all those menacing flies and mosquitoes go? They’re not nearly as numerous as they were just a few weeks ago.

This is the best time of year to go for a hike. It’s also a good time to ruminate. After all, one’s cognitive batteries have had all summer to recharge. What I like best about autumn is the earthy smell of drying leaves, reminding me that wild nature is an endless cycle of growth and decay. I find consolation in that as the noise and absurdity of fall elections reaches its feverish pitch. Fact and fiction get all mixed up periodically. But some things you can count on no matter what, like leaves turning color. That is unmistakable.

 

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Nov 05 2011

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Pantheistic

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Recreation. Making good use of a precious day off from work, I head for the hills to re-create myself. It’s a cool, sunny day in late autumn and everything I need is stuffed into the small rucksack on my back. I step into the woods, following a favorite stream deep into the Green Mountains. My dog Matika, wearing a blaze orange vest, bounds ahead of me all smiles. She’s just as happy as I am to be here.

It’s a hunter’s forest. A few brown and gold leaves still cling to branches but most of them are on the ground now. Slightly overdressed in thermals and wool shirt, I quickly break into a sweat. And yet I feel a chill in the air whenever I stop to catch my breath. Oh yeah, it’s that time of year.

It’s a hunter’s forest but I’m not hunting for anything in particular today – not game, not adventure, not deep thought. I have no agenda, really. I’m just out here to groove with the elements and forget about all that nonsense in the lowlands. It’s enough to simply move, to sweat, and occasionally rock-hop across the stream. And yet a moment comes when I start pondering the order and chaos of the natural world, wondering half consciously where the laws of nature come from. Then I stop and look around me in pantheistic ecstasy, convinced on the most visceral level that the universe is far from being random.

I recently read The God Delusion, a manifesto of atheism penned by a renowned biologist named Richard Dawson. I was deeply disappointed by it, as I am by most religious and anti-religious texts. Professed atheists do not take pantheism any more seriously than religious fundamentalists do. These two camps are too busy warring with each other to consider any other possibilities – namely that the laws of nature have to come from somewhere, that “god” and “nature” are different words for the same thing. A few pensive souls like myself speak up but we are quickly dismissed.  There is little room in most human minds for the obvious. Warring – the battle between good and evil – is so much more engaging.

“Let it go,” I tell myself, as I tramp through the woods. I didn’t come out here to think. I came out here today to leave all that nonsense behind. I came out here to groove with the wild, feel the truth of it, and reconnect with What-Is in a way that doesn’t translate into any kind of -Ism. So I whistle to Matika to follow as I change direction, rock-hopping across the stream one more time. By the end of the day, I will be re-created and ready to return to the lowlands.  But right now, I just want to worship nature in the simplest and most direct way possible.

 

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Sep 11 2011

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Alaska Podcasts

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Alaska is one of those places you never forget. In the sumer of ’92, I had a bush pilot drop me at a remote airstrip near the mouth of the Endicott River, and there I stayed for two weeks grooving with bears, eagles, ravens and salmon. That was almost twenty years ago.  It seems like yesterday.

Recently my stepson, Matt, started uploading 25-minute podcasts of me reading my book about that trip.  The downloads are free.  To listen to them, go to iTunes and type “arguing with the wind” into the search box.  You should hear echoes of the Alaskan wilderness in my voice.

If you want to know the whole story, you can always read my book: Arguing with the Wind.  It is still available at Amazon.com.  Or you can go to Wood Thrush Books and make other arrangements to acquire a copy.  Either way, it’s all there in black and white for anyone who’s curious.

Nowadays I’m trying to write about life after the Alaskan bush.  It isn’t easy.  I’m having a hard time gaining perspective. That trip was a real game-changer.  And the years before it seem like some kind of hallucination.  A part of me never left the bush, I guess.  It never will.  Once the wild gets under your skin, there’s no going back to that other way of looking at things.

 

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Jan 19 2011

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Culture of Fear

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A friend of mine urged me to visit Salon.com and read an article about how the government has created a climate of fear since 9/11.  I did just that and, quite frankly, I was underwhelmed.  Like most of what passes for journalism these days, the article was only about half true.

Fear is alive and well in America nowadays, but that’s largely due to the fact that we have created the ideal environment for it.  We live in a culture of fear, and all of us are culpable to some extent: patriots, pundits, fundamentalists, environmentalists, artists, scientists, government workers, businessmen, teachers, radicals and conservatives alike.  All of us are on the verge of panic on any given day, and neither politicians nor the media can resist playing on that.  Why should they?

Some nut shoots up the place and suddenly he has the rapt attention of the entire nation.  Why shouldn’t the media, the government or anyone else with a vested interest exploit the situation?  What’s to stop them?

When I was in the wilds of Southeast Alaska years back, I stumbled upon the remains of a moose.  I found a little hair, blood and tissue, but mostly just bones scattered across the gravel riverbank.  I squatted down in the middle of the mess and tried to wrap my brain around what had happened here.  Moose don’t die of old age in the open like this, I told myself.  They crawl into the dense alder bush to do it.  So this one must have been surprised by a brown bear, a pack of wolves, or something.  Suddenly it occurred to me that I could meet a similar fate before the end of the day.  Then I felt what can only be described as absolute dread.  Sometimes one has good reason to be afraid.  Some threats are immediate and very real.

What are the chances of either you or me being hit by lightning?  That’s not nearly as likely as one of us being horribly mangled or killed in an auto accident.  I’ve never seen a terrorist or mad gunman in action, but I’ve arrived early onto the scene of a horrific auto accident several times.  And yet, like most people, I keep on driving my car as if it could never happen to me.

Some things are worth being afraid of.  Others are not.  But in a culture of fear, legitimate fears are ignored while other less significant threats are blown completely out of proportion.  Why?  Because there’s money to be made by it.  Because we’ll go to any lengths to prevent or avoid the threats that we believe can be prevented or avoided.  Yet who refuses to get into their car?

Snoop around on the Internet and you’ll find that many more Americans die in auto accidents each year than have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars combined.  And every year there are many more auto deaths than murders in this country.  Think about that the next time you strap yourself into your car and head for the highway.  Then ask your self why you don’t fear your car at least as much as you fear the random bomb or bullet.

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