Sunday, February 21, 2016

Mourning

Lying awake this morning, just before dawn, a lone coyote raised a single howling note of mourning not far from my bedroom window. Expecting to hear the raucous chorus of his family joining in, I raised my head from the pillow when a different howl rose in the silence. It was Jake, answering his wild cousin, perhaps mourning from the deep genetic memory of the time when dogs were wolves - wild, and roaming with few enemies. Jake always answers the coyotes.

In our arrogance, we claim we domesticated the dog, the horse, the chicken and any other animal species that grace our lives with their help or their giveaway so we can live. I consider it a conscious decision on their part. They were here first, after all. They are our Elders.

Surely long ago the Animals saw the starving humans and took pity on us, with our limited senses and our two legs. At a great council, it was decided that the strange two-leggeds would need help or they should perish. The great Wolf chief agreed that some of his people should go live with the two-leggeds who, as all could see, were neither wise nor strong. The wolves would help them hunt, help protect their camps, teach them a true protector lays down his life for his family.

The bravest of the Wolves, in an act of selfless courage, came into the camps of the two-leggeds, trading away their freedom as mighty hunters and warriors with few enemies. They became the Dog, no longer wild and free, yet still mighty warriors, from the tiniest to the largest, even to Jake the Bad Dog.

The wolves of this world are hunted, trapped, poisoned and skinned. Their families destroyed. The coyotes are hunted with dogs who have entirely forgotten they were once wolf warriors. And dogs, their fate inextricably intertwined with ours, suffer with us - neither of us free, neither of us wild.

The coyotes howl for all of their kind who have been trapped, poisoned, shot, torn apart by dogs in the endless, merciless persecution by humans. Perhaps Jake howls for the senseless abuse and neglect his noble kind often suffer at the hands of men. Maybe they howl to honor those first wolves who came into the camps, changing the history of the world.

from Indian Country Today - George Monbiot
from Youtube - www.calxibe
Descendant of the Mighty Wolves - whose only gift he retains is how to howl like one.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Feeding the Wild Beasts

People rarely become addicted to anything overnight. It starts slowly and builds. That is how my addiction to feeding the birds came into being.

I can no longer recall the exact sequence of events. I do not know when I discovered the Wild Bird House store (my "dealer"), but it all started with a cheap hummingbird feeder that attached to the window by a suction cup. Living in a 1970's double-wide had its perks: the windows opened out and were easily accessible from the front porch. I could easily maintain the feeder with minimal effort, and I could sit comfortably in my living room enjoying a marvelous up-close-and-personal view of the birds.

That particular feeder had a serious design flaw that I discovered - repeatedly! One of the hooks that held the entire thing together would inevitably break when I tried to reassemble it after cleaning. After paying for at least three of those models, it occurred to me to buy a different style. (I do not easily adapt.) By the third feeder, I am sure The Wild Bird House was getting my money.

The WBH is dedicated to the back yard bird enthusiast, selling high quality bird seed mixed for the various types of birds you wish to attract. The seed is fresh, clean, non-GMO and of the highest quality. The "house mix" smells good enough to eat, and that is not an exaggeration.

I graduated from hummingbirds in the summer to feeding the wild birds in the winter thanks to the WBH. At first I was only spreading the seed on the ground in front of my house. I could sit by the front windows and watch the birds for hours. It does not take long before word gets around the neighborhood. Everybody is coming in for a bite!

From my close vantage point, I learned to identify about a dozen new (to me) species of birds. I observed that the handsome little titmice, with a top knot just like the jays and cardinals, are as fearless as the hummingbirds. Whenever blue jays arrive for the cracked corn, everyone else clears out - except for the little titmice. They swoop down, grab a kernel right from under a jay, then zip to a tree where they hold the corn against the branch to peck it into smaller pieces. They are the cutest little fellows!

I saw for myself the reason why the dove is considered the bird of peace. Even if a group of blue jays is commandeering the feeding ground, when a dove arrives everyone calms down and shares both space and food as if by magic.

I think my favorites are the little round juncos. They always travel in a little flock and they are absolutely the most industrious of all the birds. They are the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night, coming and going all day. They thoroughly comb the entire area for every little speck of food. They make the most lyrical small whistling among themselves while waiting for me to refill the containers.

The next stage in my addiction came when I purchased a small, two-perch nyger seed feeder for the American goldfinches. It was a six-inch long clear tube that had to be refilled every single day. Addictions always escalate! Just this year I purchased a finch feeder that is about 24" long and have started filling it with nyger mixed with tiny pieces of sunflower seeds. The flurry of activity around that feeder every day is amazing!

I could write forever about the observations I have made but the point of this entry in my magnificent blog is to relate how I became a wild bird feeding junkie. As I say, it started with the hummingbirds and then became a small amount of mixed seeds tossed on the ground in winter. Eventually, I was buying 50 pound bags of bird seed, just like the feed for the horses and the chickens. Then I added the nyger seeds for the gold finches. When I noticed rabbits were coming in at night, I added cracked corn for them. Here is how I know I am a full blown junkie: I am deliberately feeding squirrels now. The WBH sells a mixture for the squirrels - peanuts in the shell, huge sunflower seeds, and large whole kernels of golden corn.

As you can imagine, none of this is exactly cheap. The worst part of it is that the trees (spared specifically to shelter the winter bird feeding activities) are actually too far from the house for me to even recognize the smaller birds, which is why I spend way too much money on those pesky squirrels. I can clearly see them from the front office windows.

I was buying cracked corn from the farm store for the rabbits and the blue jays. It was about $7 for 50 pounds of stale, dusty, and most likely GMO corn. If it is not GMO, it is surely grown in soil sprayed with tons of herbicides. The WBH knows its addicts! Yes, they also sell cracked corn - non-GMO, fresh, clean and in "designer" feed bags! It is $13 a bag, plus Topeka's 9% sales tax!!! (Oh my God!) None of that matters to an addict...


Designer feedbags!  Feedbags are a fact of life in Kansas but when have you seen any as fancy as this?


It is as clean as Orville Redenbacher's popcorn!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Learning to Meditate

For over five years I have been taking advantage of a series of meditation classes and book study with a teacher who lives "just down the road" - that is, about ten miles distant. I am not very disciplined to meditate every day though I have meditated enough that I have noticed some of the emotional and mental benefits of it. The most intriguing thing about meditation has been the merging of two interests: quantum physics and those major existential questions I have lain awake pondering my entire life.

I do not pretend to understand quantum physics. I have only read layman's explanation books for the theory of relativity and for quantum physics. I do not hope to ever understand but it is fun to attempt to understand. Little did I know those books were actually laying the groundwork for an entirely new synthesis of thought born into the world via the tragic Chinese invasion of Tibet. The knowledge of centuries of sustained Buddhist inquiry fleeing the genocide unavoidably met with Western science, thus providing a dizzying array of validations for what the Buddhists already knew.

It is far too complicated and I am certainly not qualified to explain any of it. There are excellent, well written books by numerous exiled Buddhist monks who have learned English and have focused their well trained, analytical minds on the findings of Western science in various disciplines. Perhaps this is the new road for humanity - a new vision born of two schools of incredibly disciplined inquiry into the reality of, well... reality. Consciousness and the nature of reality. Maybe there is still hope for us.

"No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path." Buddha

Probabilities

I spend so much time alone driving in my car that I believe I have examined my life from every angle at least ten times over. Much of the inspiration for my poetry occurs when I observe something in passing, or when my mind wanders toward a different view point regarding something I may have relentlessly turned in my mind for years/hundreds of miles. I can often find a better way to think and feel toward someone I have had a dispute or misunderstanding with. Occasionally I reach the inevitable conclusion that I am a total asshole. Most often I find it to be that the other person is an exceedingly outrageous and egregious asshole. (I am simply sharing a few of the outcomes of my vehicular musings here.)

From the driver's seat I have witnessed amazing weather events or other natural spectacles, some of which I have either written about or posted photos here. I had never seen a fogbow nor even knew such a phenomenon existed until I witnessed it first hand one brilliantly lit winter morning travelling north on Vera Road. I photographed the largest flock of migrating geese I have even seen, happened upon because I chose to drive home a different way that evening. It was mere chance that I was at the right place and right time to witness both amazing events. What are the laws of probability that govern such moments in any one's life? I think about such things driving.

So, the idea of probability leads to the evening I came to halt at a major Topeka intersection due to a red light. I noticed two identical cars side by side in front of me. I had to time to examine the cars in every detail. They were both white Hondas, apparently the exact same year and model. The only differences were the dealer's identification on the rear trunk. I remember thinking to myself, what are the odds that I would be stopped behind two absolutely identical cars in a small city like Topeka? I thought the odds would be good that I would stop behind two very similar cars but significantly longer odds to stop behind cars exact in every observable detail, sold by dealers in two different states.

I likely would have forgotten about this small coincidence by the time I got home that evening but about one mile later, I came to a stop at another intersection behind two identical black cars. Not only were the black cars also identical in every single observable detail, they were the mirror images of the two white cars I had just noticed a few traffic stops ago. What would the odds be of that happening, I wondered? What are the probabilities of two identical cars being at the same stop light, side by side? Probably not astronomically high. But what are the odds I would observe four identical cars, two white and two black, on that day, at that time, in Topeka, Kansas? If that could happen, does that mean I have a good chance to win the big lottery?

The extent of my probability education arrived and departed in one of the interminable math classes I suffered through in high school. Remember the old white socks/black socks in a drawer lesson? Yeah, me neither.