Wednesday, June 26, 2019

If It Ain't Raining, I'm Bitching About Something Else

Rain and eye surgery have been the preoccupations so far this summer. So boring. So "elderly"! Also, so amazing! Profound medical knowledge and technology combined with a skilled surgeon has restored my eyesight to a remarkable degree already. It will steadily improve over the next weeks. It was disconcerting to be awake and know what was happening to my very dear and irreplaceable eye(s), but the surgeon completed the procedure in a few MINUTES. I am lucky to live in these remarkable and knowledgeable times.

I know my physical body is slowly wearing out but I feel strong and vital and young at heart most of the time. After the well-intentioned patronizing from the surgical nurses, I realized that I must safeguard my own self-perception going forward on this journey of retirement and old age. The nurses assume I do not understand technology and require someone younger to explain. (I am old, motherfuckers, not stupid!) If I have a little difficulty hearing, it doesn't mean I am mentally deficit as well - I just need the nurse to speak a bit more crisply - not more slowly - not more loudly. The surgical team dealt the worst insult of all. Because I have a cane, they put a second medical band on my wrist bearing the hand written warning: "Fall Risk". Fuck that! I still carry 60 pound bags of oats, 50 pound bags of dog food! I still carry the 5 gallon, 40 pound water jugs. I can still push my lawn tractor sideways to move it if I need to. I am not some frail old lady - yet. Becoming physically old happens despite our most fervent desire to not wear out like tired elastic in an old pair of underwear! Those nurses will all grow old, too. Some day they will remember every time they treated an older person like a child and they will regret it. The WORST was insisting that I sit in a goddamned wheelchair after the surgery, then being wheeled out to the curb like a sack of yams! I was perfectly capable of walking and should have been allowed to walk out of there like an adult! (I assume their insurance liability ends at the curb.)

I behaved and did not give any of the nurses a hard time but I doubled my resolve to stay as far away from medicines and doctors as possible for as long as possible. Nothing makes you feel any worse than to be treated like an adult imbecile. However, if they had treated me as callously as people are routinely treated in the work place, I would be bitching even more about that.

I am thankful for the amazing level of knowledge and skill and true medicine available to us. If I regain the ability to clearly see the stars, it will be worth sitting in a wheel chair against my will.

Monday, June 3, 2019

A Tiny Step

The United States Attorney General is supposed to be the supreme lawyer in service to our entire country - not a personal defender for a corrupt president. I knew that writing to the Washington DC Office of Disciplinary Counsel, asking them to investigate William Barr as an unethical attorney would not produce tangible results. It was instead a gesture with the force of my deeply held belief that if our country is to survive as a democracy, we must have people who aspire to the highest ideals of the office in which they have been placed. William Barr should do his best to conduct himself as an ethical servant to the will of the people, not as a personal toady for a lying president. I have officially registered my resistance to the unethical actions of William Barr. That energy is out there. When enough people express their opposition in whatever manner best suits them, it makes it more difficult for things to occur unchallenged, out of sight, unethically, and immorally.


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The Response

Saturday, May 18, 2019

In Need of Better Equipment

Once upon a time, I saw a marvelous and mysterious occurrence in the night sky between Kansas City and Topeka. I was on a date with handsome soldier who had been deployed in Vietnam as a medic. He was spending his last few months in the Army at Ft Riley. We had gone to Kansas City for a concert but the tickets were sold out. Instead of staying in KC for the evening we opted to buy wine and return home. (A lot less expensive for guy on a soldier's pay than partying in the River Quay area would have been.) If we had stayed in Kansas City, I would never have witnessed the only thing I have ever remotely considered as a possible UFO.

As we were driving back from Kansas City, I was slouched down in the passenger's seat, gazing into the northern sky. There was not nearly as much light pollution then as there is now so once we left Kansas City behind, I could see a few faint stars in the north. A particularly bright one caught my eye. There are no exceptionally bright stars in the northern skies but this one was not so bright or so large that I thought it was a plane or anything artificial. It simply looked like a bright star. For whatever reason, it kept my attention as we rolled through the dark night for about seventy miles. I just happened to be looking at the "star" when it suddenly turned bright red and accelerated in a razor straight line to the west, literally disappearing from sight in an instant. I was so astounded that I shouted, scaring the soldier, "Did you see that?!"

"What? What?" He was shocked by my outburst. I excitedly tried to explain what I had just seen. I am certain he realized I had truly seen something startling. He knew I was not lying about seeing something is what I mean, but he had not seen it.

I have seen falling stars many times. Though they are fleeting, they fall toward the horizon, toward the ground. You have a beat or two to witness their fall. This thing, whatever it was, shot out of sight supernaturally fast. It seemed to have disappeared into a point.

Since then, I have kept my eyes open, hoping to see something like it again, but the odds of seeing anything travelling that fast are infinitesimally small. If I had not been looking directly at that star when it turned red, I would never have seen it move and disappear. It was an amazing thing to witness. There might be some natural explanation. I have often wondered if it was a meteor falling toward earth that hit the atmosphere and glanced off. That might explain why it turned red and might explain why it shot away at such a tremendous rate. I am not sure if glancing off the atmosphere would cause it to travel at such a tremendous speed? If it had been falling toward the earth at the same speed that it appeared to have accelerated into the west, wouldn't it have appeared to be moving relative to the other stars, at least a little bit, before it turned red? I was looking at it for almost an hour before it disappeared.

Sometimes I think that if it was some sort of a spacecraft - just thinking here, not saying I believe it was actually a spacecraft - maybe they will come back for me some day. So, the other night when I turned north on Snokomo Road, I noticed a brilliant light low in the west that is normally not there. I took a photo of it with my phone but all it captured was this fuzzy orb. Venus is visible in the eastern sky right now, and Jupiter doesn't rise until 11 pm CST. My little phone takes good photos, but not nearly good enough to determine what this brilliant orb was. I need better photographic equipment! Alas, I do not think it was the mother ship coming back for me...





Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Stories We Tell


I read something entirely remarkable today: at least 16,000 fans of Game of Thrones have signed a petition demanding HBO remake the final season that ends the 8-season series. They are upset with the way it is ending. My first thought was, "Go pound sand, you entitled idiots! Write your own fantasy series and good luck finding the millions and millions of dollars to get it made into an A+ television series!"

Of course I understand the disappointment when a wonderful book is made into a film but things go askew. Maybe the actors are not talented enough to bring the characters to life. Brad Pitt comes to mind, ruining the character of Louie in Anne Rice's "Interview with the Vampire". I read Pitt changed his mind about acting in the film but it would have cost a fortune to back out of his contract. He sullenly honored the commitment and subsequently ruined that character. Tom Cruise was cast as Le Stat, the main character, an ancient, beautiful, elegant, soulless vampire who decided to walk the world again in modern times. Tom Cruise looked nothing like the way Anne Rice described Le Stat in the book, and the fans of the books were so disappointed - including me.

As for Game of Thrones (GOT), I watched the first two seasons piece-meal because I was traveling, spending four nights a week in a hotel where HBO was available. After the traveling came to an end, I did not want to spend the money for cable at home. Lo and behold, streaming technology has evolved since then! Via my internet connection, and a much less expensive monthly fee for HBO, I recently decided to catch up on the entire GOT series in anticipation for the final season. I am very glad I did this. It is a remarkably well done story with excellent actors and top-of-the line CGI and other digital effects, superb costumes, sets and authentic locations. And most thankfully, because it is HBO, it is free to tell this enormous story in adult terms - adult language, violence, nudity and other adult themes. The universal themes and the wonderfully developed characters struck chords with people around the world.

I was thinking about the enormous effort required to create such a sprawling, fantastical world as the one brought to life in GOT. I went looking for statistics.

According to the article, "Game of Thrones: By the Numbers", Dona Feldman, published in Forbes magazine, April 11, 2019: there are some astounding GOT numbers.

Broadcast in 207 countries and simulcast in 194 countries and territories

Season 7 had 32.8 million viewers

It was filmed in 10 countries, with 105,846 days for extras across all 8 seasons and countries where it was filmed. (This boggled my mind until I realized it was similar to "manhours")

68,143 hotel rooms were booked during the filming of GOT

There are more mind boggling statistics in the article, found here:Forbes Article

The enormous creative endeavor of GOT spread work and money across the world, and required all manner of expertise. Imagine what is involved in support of filming this series - the countless crews and the support needed for all those crews. The food and lodging and transportation of hundreds of people and tons of equipment. Imagine all the trades and skills needed to create buildings, sets, props, special effects, stunt people for all of the battles and fights and thousands of movie "extras" to bring the world of Westeros alive. There were scores of horses the various characters and armies needed, especially the Dothraki - a warrior race, like a cross between Genghis Khan and Native American Plains horse tribes. All those horses required food and shelter, transport, veterinarian attention, farrier services, grooming, handlers, costumes of their own, and of course, consummate riders! The raw materials needed for costumes and sets - such things as fabrics, lumber, plaster and energy to power everything - required money be spent in every location, and surely there were suppliers and specialists located around the world.

There is a high tech aspect of a fantasy series like GOT. The three dragons that hatched from ancient eggs, grew from cute baby dragons into enormous fire breathing monsters of legend, were CGI and they were almost flawless. They were so real that they were the stuff of nightmares! The technical expertise to meld CGI with special effects, real actors, real scenery into seamless motion pictures is truly remarkable. The technical advances developed for movies absolutely finds it way to dozens of other commercial (and likely government and military) applications. The creative efforts of modern film making moves the entire species forward.

Game of Thrones is routinely referred to as a "cultural phenomenon" but I heartily disagree with that. From the first human being until the last, we are storytellers. Before we ever scratched our art and stories into rocks or painted cave walls, there were people in every tribe who memorized their history using knots on a counting rope, beaded leather strips, shells on strings, reed tapestries, pottery, or animal hides. Written language evolved, then we recorded our stories on baked mud, parchment, animal skins, papers and in stone. Now we record our stories using art and theater and technology. It is not a phenomenon that something as innately human as the stories and characters in Game of Thrones appeals to people all over the world, speaking dozens of languages. It is the story of being human.

The basic premise of GOT is that humans must put aside their tribal differences and unite to fight the White Walkers, a race of undead creatures that only exist to feed on the living. If the living do not destroy the dead, the human race will be utterly destroyed. Of course, most of the humans recognize the need to cooperate, but some humans only see a chance to enrich themselves, isolate in their rich cities so to be left to plunder the world when the other humans have all been killed or sufficiently decimated. It puts you strongly in mind of a certain American President and his greedy, short-sighted, compatriots absolutely rigging the odds in their favor to plunder whatever is left of our natural world for their own monetary gain.

George R. R. Martin, the author of the books that Game of Thrones is based on, was writing a different book when the first chapter came to him. He had to stop his other project in order to write the entire series. Stephenie Meyer, the author of the young adult books that became the "cultural phenomenon" of the Twilight movies dreamed of a young girl and a beautiful vampire sitting in a meadow discussing the challenges caused by falling in love. When Meyer woke up, she wanted to know where that story led so she began writing what became the Twilight series.

Twilight is a story about tolerance between whites and Native Americans, vampires and the Native American shape-shifting wolf warriors. First they must learn to respect each other to protect the half human/half vampire child born to Bella the girl and Edward the vampire, the two characters Stephenie Meyer dreamed. Vampires from across the world and the wolves had to unite to battle the ancient evil, all-powerful vampire rulers that tolerated neither the wolves, nor the inter-species child, nor vampires who wished to live in a different manner than the old vampires dictated. The message was very clearly transmitted to a generation of young people all across the world that tolerance and cooperation is clearly desirable.

I am not a big Harry Potter fan but I am certain that "cultural phenomenon" story came to J.K. Rowling, the author of all those wonderfully magical books, in some sort of an imperative-to-write manner as well. The Harry Potter books have been translated into 74 different languages to date. I think there are similar messages in that work, what little I know of it.

While I can understand the investment the 16,000-and-counting fans have in seeing Game of Thrones end in a satisfying way, there is not a single ending that will satisfy everyone! Instead of whining, I wish they would be still and contemplate the truly amazing evolution of human story telling, and be thankful for it.

Here's to our long human history of superb storytelling. Here's to Sunday night and the end of something amazing.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Mysteries

The flaming sunset

Life is full of mysterious things. We explain them with science so they seem commonplace and routine. If you are like me, sometimes you begin to contemplate ordinary things until they appear extraordinary. I most often succeed in merely confusing myself. Sometimes, though, I scare myself.

I blame my mother for the first time I scared myself. She insisted I go to bed at 8 o'clock every night whether I was tired or not. It was torture to lay in bed wide awake. The lights had to be off and there was no excuse to get up, to make any noise, or complain. I discovered I could read by the dim single light bulb on in the living room if I laid on the end of my bed with my head hanging over, angling the book above me to catch as much light as possible. I read a lot of library books this way! But the neck, arms and eyes could only hold out so long. Sometimes my mother would go to bed early leaving the house in darkness, making it impossible to read. Then I would "think about" things, simply because I had no other option until blessed sleep arrived.

I do not know what led up to this little exercise, but I imagined I was above my bed looking down on myself. Then above the house looking down on the roof. Then the town, the state of Kansas, which looked remarkably like the map in my text books. Then the United States. Then I was out in space viewing the earth below me, which looked a lot like the globes we had in school. While I was out in space, I decided to take a little glance around. Suddenly facing the cold black infinity scared me so badly I fell back into my body on the bed and never tried that again. But I continued to amuse myself "thinking about" things, and I still do.

I recently burned a brush pile in the corral. Of course, I waited until the countryside was dry and flammable to do this, so I could not leave the fire unattended. It was several long hours of silent contemplation. None of the animals were interested in keeping vigil with me so I had a wonderful opportunity to "think about" all manner of things.

A common meditation exercise is to meditate by being aware of being aware. For the longest time, that was too complicated for me to understand. Eventually I realized it was simply paying attention to whatever was in my awareness. It is very simple, but like so many of these meditation practices and lessons, it may be simple but exceedingly difficult to accomplish or to understand. Since I was sitting and staring at the fire anyway, I might as well meditate. I do not think it counts as true meditation but soon enough the inevitable questions of the nature of fire came into in my mind. I know that fire is a rapid oxidation process that releases heat and light, a transformation of energy from one form to another. I wondered why human beings were created from combustible materials. There must be a reason. I know how we are combustible but I do not know why we are combustible. Wouldn't the Creator have figured out a safer way for us to exist in these bodies, especially since fire is exceedingly common in our dimension? He figured out the best way for ice to freeze in rivers and ponds in order to allow the aquatic life to survive through the winter but He left in one mystery. If you fill ice cube trays with hot water before placing them in the into the freezer, it freezes much more rapidly than cold water. This fact was disputed by an entire department full of engineers so the youngest, prettiest secretary filled two trays - one with cold water and one with hot - and proved this is true. As far as I know it is still a mystery to science. Did the Creator play a little joke on us, knowing eventually there would be a world full of hot shot engineers who would mock the women in their office? Possibly.

I digress. As I was staring into the flames, I was thinking of the true nature of our combustible bodies and what may be left behind after my time is up. I was deeply contemplating the true nature of our physical bodies - 60% water - more space than matter at the atomic level - and if that is all we are, then why doesn't everyone look like their race's equivalent of Jason Mamoa or Sophie Vergara? If we are all the same physical ingredients, then why are our bodies so different? Again, I know how this happens, but I do not know why it is designed this way.

I am supposed to come to some understanding of the impermanent nature of our existence by meditating. I am assured that it is possible to still and discipline the mind well enough that serious inquiry into the authentic nature of existence will lead to enlightenment. The Tibetans are not overly optimistic on how quickly a person can gain this knowledge: countless eons. Soooo... I have plenty of time to sit around watching the fire burn.

After some time watching the flames I was, in fact, still. It was mesmerizing to let my thoughts gently float on the edge of understanding the nature of fire. Some things are beyond words. As the entire mass of limbs reduced to red hot coals, some of the larger limbs were burning with an almost invisible flame. Had it been night, I could have seen the flames close to the charred logs, but it was bright afternoon. I could only see the energy distortions as the flames moved silently in the intense heat of the coals. The question came again and again, not in words but in something beyond language - how is your life like this transmutation you are witnessing in these invisible flames? I tried to sit as still as a stone because I knew for certain if I could sit still long enough, the mystery of the universe would open to me right there in the ashes of the fire. I grew impatient. I am not stone. No wonder it takes countless eons...

The mystery of spring arrives.

The mystery of the living sky

The mystery of the Solar eclipse

The mystery of a foggy morning

Why is a rose beautiful? 

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Twenty Years Today

Exactly twenty years ago today, April 4, 1999, I became the official owner and caretaker of Spiritcreek farm. I was handed the keys and it was a thrilling day.  A quick look back over the last two decades in twenty photos:

The first little home on the prairie:



The view from the front window every time it snowed:


This is young Ginger with the new barn, a sun shade and all of the beautiful big bluestem that finally grew in the restored pasture!  The pasture had not been fenced yet, so Ginger lived in a big round pen.



The front gate, after the pasture had been fenced.  Ginger then had plenty of room to run and roam.


My little orphan Annie, lost to a terrible accident at the trainers.  I never took a single good photograph of her, or her beautiful long mane, or photographed her running when she was the most beautiful of horses...



The Good Dog Duke.  He came to live at Spiritcreek in April of 1999 and took his leave 16 years later.  He is still missed.



Duke in his younger years and the stray dog King, who just appeared, trotting down the driveway one day.  I was stupid enough to feed that dog and he was part of the crew for several years.  He attacked my beloved cat, Aldebaran, right in front of me, and though I pounded that dog with all my strength, I could not make him leave her alone.  He was lucky I did not kill him.  I called a dog rescue and they took him away. 




The Jake'N'Bake when he was a little puppy.  Early morning, everyone's favorite time.  Always starts out with a trip to the barn to feed the Supreme Being, Ginger.  Duke was patiently waiting while Jake rested.  Jake was sick, of course, when I got him from the shelter.  It took him a while to become strong and healthy like Duke.  It was cold the morning this photo was taken.  Duke loved cold weather!


The first week Wally came to the farm.  Mutual grooming.  Ginger was so happy for another horse!



The chicken coop I built and the beginnings of the entirely enclosed 10 ft by 20 ft pen I constructed for the chickens - all thoroughly chronicled in the first few years of my blog.  The three nest boxes were inside, and once it was all built, I decided to take them out and hang them on the back side of the coop.  For someone who does not know a freakin' thing about carpentry, I did pretty well, all things considered.



This is the view from the old office window, looking due east and toward the barn.  These are the bonded Redtail Hawks that live here and raise their young every year.  I was thrilled to see them each morning in the late winter.  One would arrive at dawn then the mate would arrive within a few moments.  They would greet the sunrise together every morning.  I built the new house very close to this tree and was sad to disturb their morning perch.



This is the little mound where the new house would be built.  You can just see an orange flag marking the spot.  This is the high bank of the creek at this location.  The sleeping porch overlooks the creek, about 15 feet below the base of these trees.



The long-held dream taking shape in the physical, at last...



The ugly end to the first little home.  It probably deserved a better ending than this.  I have photos of the deer coming through to inspect the gaping hole that suddenly appeared along their trail.


The land almost entirely healed from the destruction and the construction.  Beautiful.


The abundance of water, photo taken from the driveway.   (The two orange things in the office windows are to prevent birds from flying into the windows, killing themselves.)



Tiny little Mattie!  At first glance, she was a disappointment to me.  I had waited almost two years for a pup and I was expecting a furry fat butterball that weighed about 15 pounds.  Instead, she was this tiny little being weighing 6 pounds!  When they handed her to me the first time, she looked right in my eyes and we have been best friends since.  She is beautiful now.


The northwest view from the front door on November 1.  Beautiful!


Same view showing the latest addition:  the OK Corral!  It prompted my son to say, "You are going to have those horses in the house with you!"  Yes.  Yes, I would love that!


Driving down the driveway still fills me with gratitude for my little corner of the earth.  May the Creator grant me another twenty years and more here in the bend of the nameless little creek.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Winter of Deep Mud

Though this might appear to be complaining, it is mere observation. I do not want to be caught complaining about something as simple as mud when Colorado suffered over 300 avalanches this winter - when California was on fire last fall - when people are suffering snowfall measured in feet not inches. Let me just say I will be profoundly more appreciative when the soil between my door and the barn has solidified back into firm dirt. I must lace my work boots extra tightly to prevent them from being sucked off my feet when I wade through the deep mud on the way to the barn. And my poor horses! Wally is one big mud pie. He gets mud on his face and in his ears! Ginger gets muddy but never as messy as Wally. Their hooves have cut into the soil in the new corral and most likely the big blue stem will not come back in the worst of it. Weeds - cockle burrs and stinging nettles - will be likely all that grows if spring ever arrives this year. Again, I am not complaining. The water tank is a mere 75 feet from the faucet now and I can quickly drain the water out of the hose after filling the tank. I only had to chop ice a few times this winter before the tank was moved close enough to electricity to use a tank heater. The horses have fresh water 24 hours a day!

The beautiful wood floor in my house is covered in muddy dog paw prints from Miss Mattie coming and going and from my own shoes and boots - though I have tried mightily to limit the import of mud into the house. Every rug is filthy but no sense in hauling them to the laundromat before the world dries up. Still not complaining! I will simply be exceedingly grateful when there is grass once again covering all the mud holes around the house.

A lot of rain is forecast beginning Tuesday afternoon. As saturated as the soil is, the creek could easily flood. Though I built the house on a high point, the water could come around the house and possibly get into the crawl space, maybe even into the garage. That seems unlikely, but the strange violence and unpredictability of the weather now makes it seem far more possible. If the creek escapes the banks, it can quite easily flood the old garage, including the pit of despair where the whangdoodles reside - the portal to hell I reluctantly enter in order to plug in the space heater when temperatures fall below 10 degrees. (Okay, I am straight up complaining about the portal to hell.)

It has been a long winter, cold and frozen and muddy and dreary. Not the worst winter but I have had my fill of deep mud though there is likely another two months of it on tap. Still, mud is better than a ten day electrical outage caused by an ice storm. Mud is better than 8" of snow that stranded me for three days. Mud is better than tornadoes. Mud is a million times better than drought! There are a million things worse than mud but right now, I can only think of a few.

Just to be clear:  still not complaining...
Beneath all this pristine white is a bottomless pit of mud...