We have lived with nature

We the Saami are a native people. We have lived with nature, not against it. — Mio Negga in these climate justice stories from 350.org

I would guess that Saami herders and hunters rely as much on motor power and mobile phones as the rest of us, but also that they’re more inclined to give Nature the benefit of the doubt in decisions small and large. The people who plan, approve and construct a hydroelectric dam,  on the other hand, are more inclined to privilege shareholder value, economic growth, personal career advancement, financial gain.  Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the dam-makers get their way.

When I was little and had my first carpentry kit, my Dad showed me how much easier it was to saw and shape with the grain of the wood rather than across it. People who live well seem to have that knack in life, and I suspect it’s true of cultures too. By this measure, our turbocharged fossil-fuelled industrial culture  does not live well. We have fought spectacularly against the grain of Nature for the past two centuries, and have equally spectacularly got our own way. But only in the short term. Our greatest victories over Nature have been Pyrrhic. We are now re-learning something that smaller, unnoticed cultures, like that of the Saami, never needed to forget.    

In the spirit of taking small steps, it’s a question we may ask in our daily choices:  is this with nature, or against it?

(photo credit: Abi King, Inside the TravelLab)

Seashells by the shore

I once visited a beach deep into Mexico along the Gulf of California.  I encountered a group of young girls as I was walking the shore collecting seashells, as I love to do.  We neither spoke each other’s language.  The girls were probably as interested in an American on their beach as they were in what I was doing in particular.  I showed them the pocket full of shells I had collected and then oddly enough they did the same.  It seems a universal habit then to pick up shells along the shore and show them off.  Humans the eternal collector and showoff!

One of the girls pointed to a particularly nice shell in my hand and I interpreted her expression of sounds/words to mean that she wanted to know if she could have it.  I sat down on the sand, spread out my shells, and invited her to do the same.  She immediately did so.  Amazing how much we communicate without words!

I saw a shell in her pile that I wanted, I drew two lines in the sand between us with a space in between.  I then reached over to her pile, picked up the shell I wanted, and placed it in the middle space.  I motioned with my hand that she could select from mine.  She grasped the idea quickly and did so, but selected a shell with which I was not willing to part.  I shook my head no, removed it from the middle, and invited her to pick again.  After she had chosen again I felt the one she selected was ‘worth’ more than the one I had chosen from her pile.  I made the sound of “hmmm” to indicate I was thinking about it and then I reached over and selected a second shell from hers and placed it in the middle.  I looked at her to see if she understood.  She shook her head yes and added a big smile, and we each took the shell(s) we had selected from the middle.  Our trading was completed.

We both seemed happy with our transaction, perhaps she was simply happy to have had interaction with an American.  Difficult to know!  But for me it was a  pleasant experience because we had done something as complicated as make trade decisions even though we did not speak each other’s language.  Later I reflected on trade deals and economics.  I realized that in our exchange we were both free to decline.  We both agreed to what we exchanged.  Neither of us had any power to force the other to trade unfairly.  We both knew what we were getting and what we were giving up.  We traded fairly.

So what does this have to do with the complex economic system we currently call our global economy?  The values of the seashells were arbitrarily chosen and what was valuable to me was different from what was valuable to her.  There wasn’t an intrinsic or objective value; we each decided what we were willing to exchange.  If it had been food or water and one of us had been hungry or thirsty the other could have held out for more because of the other’s need.  I tend to think of this as economic blackmail.  Supply and demand would also affect our trade decisions. If the beach had been covered with shells perhaps we would have seen no reason to trade for each other’s.  We all individually decide the value of the things we want and need.

Economics is a give and take, exchanging things we value; except we exchange dollars for cartons of milk, or pairs of shoes, or a package of meat.  And since we trade with dollars or some unit of currency it creates an intermediary, the ‘job’ where we acquire the dollars.  But economies are still about trading.  I trade my labor for the dollars you agree to pay me.  If you have more power than me I have less position to bargain.  The store owner trades dollars for products they then trade for more dollars.  The more intermediaries, the more complexity of the trading, the more difficult it is to see all the levels and ramifications of our trade.

Wages earners seem less able to negotiate the value of their labor making us less satisfied as employees.  We know less and less about the products we buy.  I go to a store and trade some dollars for a bottle of weed spray.  I don’t see the factory where it was made.  I don’t see how the factory affects the environment around it.  I don’t see the number of people who handled the bottle from manufacture to arrival in the store.  I don’t see the person who unpacked the container and placed the bottle on the shelf.  After using the spray in my garden I don’t see its effects on the microbes in the soil, the insects that visit the plant that was sprayed.  I don’t make the connection between the spray and a skin rash I develop later.  All of the things we don’t see or don’t make connections to are part of the reason why we’ve lost transparency in the trading system we call our economy.  And as trading has become more complex transactions are even less transparent.  Our purchases are increasingly affecting people around the world.

Trading seems to me to part of human nature, and it certainly has been important in the development or our civilization.  Rather than obsess about what we buy perhaps we should simply pay more attention.  Read labels and insist on good labeling and transparency because the more accurate the information the better informed we are as consumers.  We should do our best to find out about the product’s effect on users, producers, and the environment.  And we can start to think about how trade and economy work, how it affects the world. This is the power of the market; we are the market, we are on both sides of the market because we trade labor for money and money for goods.

We should keep in mind that across every ‘line in the sand’ is a another person.   It is much nicer when both parties have some power to trade or not, to walk away satisfied with the bargain.  And it never hurts to remember that every resource we trade comes from the earth.  We might dig it up, melt it, process it, make it into something with our hands or machines; but we still need the earth to supply the raw materials.  Ultimately, everything we trade is traded with the earth itself.

Community versus Consumerism

What is a smile worth, or a hug when you’re feeling bad?  Community is the experience of sharing and depending on others.  Consumer ideology tends to go in the opposite direction of community.  We are taught to compete against others for jobs and opportunity.  Consumerism creates an ‘us against them’ mentality that destroys our sense of common purpose.  If we are to get ahead, someone else must fall behind.  And even if others join our ‘hate group’ we still end up feeling condescension towards each other.  Rivalry corrodes relationship and destroys community.  Sharing mutual concern for each other binds us together in community.

Communities are made up of families and homes, the place where we feel a sense of ‘belongingness’.  There is something that stabilizes us when we belong, when we know where we come from, when our roots feed us even when we’re no longer there.  If our sense of community or family has been lost we feel cut off and adrift.  We derive value in a connection to the place we call “home” an identity that has a deeper meaning than just the name of the state or city in which we were born.  Home may be the house we grew up in, our parents, the source of our beginning.  Home may be the street on which we grew up.  It may be the view of the ocean, mountains, rolling farm land, or cactus dotted deserts.  Home may be the people we remember, the teacher, minister, or musician on the corner.  Whatever we think of as home, we carry this identity with us throughout life, no matter how far we travel or change.  Home grounds us and our rootedness gives meaning and stability to our life.

We are witnessing a significant erosion of both home and community in our society.  A large part of this is due to consumerism and globalization, the ability to purchase commodities made far away, distancing us from the people and places they were manufactured.  Were the shoes we bought manufactured by child labor?  We don’t know.  Was the food grown unsustainably in fields drenched with toxic chemicals?  We don’t know.  Are businesses exploiting developing countries?  We don’t know.  We only know that we need shoes.  We need food.  We need a job so we can pay for shoes and food.  When everything we purchase comes from somewhere else we are no longer living in community, we no longer know the people who grow our food and make our shoes.

We are also losing the connection to family and home because of how we spend our leisure time.  Reading email, surfing the web, checking social media are leisure time activities that we do most often alone.  These activities reduce the amount of time families play together, eat together, or talk about their day.   Children rarely play outside with other children, they prefer to play in their room on the computer.  Parents organize their children’s leisure time filling it with after school classes or team sports they believe are necessary to enrich their child’s life.  Even sports that used to be played in community have become organized around highly profitable businesses and travel teams.  It appears family time is a consumer product, something to be bought and sold.

Knowing who we are, where we come from, our origins, and belonging to a community is all part of developing a healthy psychology.  Working and playing with others we know well and depend upon is part of community.  When we know and like ourselves we are able to like others.  If we don’t like our self, we tend not to like others.  Hatred, bigotry, and racial prejudice lead to an unhealthy psychology that prevents us from being happy.

When we think of a happy person what do we imagine?  A happy person is someone that often laughs because they see humor in life’s situations.  A happy person has good health and well-being.  A happy person finds new people as interesting as they do familiar friends.  A happy person really listens when you talk to them and is secure enough to tell you honestly what they think.  A happy person is someone who feels loved and in turn loves others.

A gift economy is the opposite of a consumer economy, and gardening is truly one of the last gift economies that are still thriving.  Growing food in a garden encourages sharing.  Gardner’s share advice, plants, seeds, and produce. “Where did you get that beautiful plant?”  “How do you get such big tomatoes?”  “Please give me the recipe for this dip!”  When a neighborhood has gardens, people are neighborly.  You will share and receive fresh flowers or herbs, a bag of tomatoes, cucumbers, or zucchini; the excess from the garden.  You will visit with neighbors over the garden fence.  There is no sense of exchanging things of equal value, as in a consumer economy.  In fact, when my garden is producing too much, I am thankful that someone is willing to take what I offer.  It doesn’t matter if they give me anything in return.

Another community growing activity is the potluck meal in which everyone brings food to share.  Of all my memories from childhood the church potluck picnic is my favorite.  Tables covered with homemade food; children running about playing; adults sitting around talking.  People look you square in the face and ask “How are things going?” and you feel safe enough to tell them the truth.  Maybe ‘not so good’ and it’s nice to finally unburden yourself.  Maybe ‘something great has happened’ and you love to share the good news.  After lunch the adults would organize a softball game and everyone cheered for both teams.  This type of community gathering makes communities stronger.

Communities are places occupied by families and people who help when you need it.  We can depend upon each other.  Communities are places where people don’t need laws to tell us how to behave towards each other.  Our concern for our place in community controls how we behave.  Is everyone perfect?  No.  But it wouldn’t be a community if we didn’t have someone to talk about!  Hard to be arrogant when others have known you at your worst as well as your best.  Can communities become too enclosed, walled off from new thinking and change?  Yes.  But the opposite extreme is the World Wide Web where we are not walled off from much of anything.

Every time we turn on the T.V., surf the internet, or open social media platforms we are opening up to a flow of information that can be toxic and damaging.  There is a lot of negative comments and fake news stories spread on social media, cyber bullying that has become all too common.  Social media has become the worst form of social pollution.

The question to ask ourselves is “How does this make me feel?”  If what we read or hear makes us feel sad, confused, and miserable, then it’s pollution, it’s polluting our mind.  We can seldom do much to change the bad situations we hear and read about in the news.  And what we can’t control, we can’t be responsible for.  So when we read a story and imagine ourselves in someone’s place and feel bad, it isn’t a real and genuine life experience, we are merely being voyeurs.

What real purpose does it serve to watch stories about the horrors or violence that happens to others in the world; so that we can feel depressed?  By all means be informed and change your life where you can so that your consumption patterns make a difference.  I’m not suggesting ignorance is bliss.  I’m saying that ingesting negative disturbing information about things we can’t change is like eating junk food, it has no nutritional value.  It just makes us emotionally and mentally sick and depressed.

The places where we can act are at home and within our community.  Find ways to connect with the people around you.  Have a conversation with your husband, wife or child.  Make friends with your neighbor by stopping to talk when you see them outside.  Shop locally.  Get involved in your community through volunteer work or join an organization that does work you support.  Become a better friend to yourself.  Shut off the computer or phone and read a book now and then.  Enjoy a relationship with the writer.

Stop looking for happiness in consumption, shopping for stuff you don’t need.  Find your place, your home and community and occupy it.  Sometimes there will be sadness, but there is something you can do about it.  You can be there, for real, in person.  And you will also be there to share the happiness too.  You will experience the richness of belonging.

Identifying Social Pollution and the Erosion of Community

Following on our earlier discussion of community as a necessary myth or story for our time and the discussion in the comments about the ambivalence of tradition as both grounding and nourishing but also sometimes stifling and rigid…

Something that both “liberals” and “conservatives” can agree on is that our current American way of life is marked by extreme loss of community.  What we disagree on is who or what is to blame.  (Actually both sides like to pin the blame exactly on each other: conservatives blame the disruptive moral relativity of liberals and liberals blame the pro-business ideology of conservatives.)

I have been thinking about how traditional communities with their shared culture have been decimated around the world by the onslaught of the West with its monetized economies and emphasis on individual achievement/success over the health of the family or the community.   Western market economies (and their imitators around the world) are incredibly successful at producing consumer goods and creating material prosperity.    But it seems to me that this success has been bought at the cost of family and community coherence, not to mention environmental degradation.

We have gotten better at identifying and addressing physical pollution, (partly, it’s true, by off-shoring manufacturing), but are slower at seeing the social pollution that has eroded our communities.  We still see this social pollution as necessary and inescapable.   This is the way it is, we have been told since as long as we can remember. It is hard to see what is necessary and what is harmful. We don’t have the tools to understand and mitigate this kind of pollution yet.   And without understanding social pollution we seem to be trapped in a system that drives us to contribute to physical pollution.

For instance, many people commute long distances to work and  spent their days and energy at jobs that do not build a local community.  Instead their job will support the interests of a national chain or a multi-national corporation. Such corporations are primarily interested in communities as groups of consumers, and only distantly interested, if at all, in the health of a community.

What constitutes a healthy community?  What constitutes the unhealthy social pollution of a community?

I would argue that social structures – economic, cultural or institutional – that destroy the place-based bonds of a human and natural community are a form of pollution.   Probably there are other ways to identify what is polluting, but that is my starting point.

What has become blindingly obvious in the last few years (2016!!)  is that we live in a very socially polluted world.  Not that there ever was a social world – some perfect Golden Age – that wasn’t polluted.  Just because we don’t know what a perfectly healthy community would look like doesn’t mean that we can’t recognize the things that pollute and weaken a community and that we can’t identify beliefs and practices that are better versus worse in building community in a particular place.

What is healthy in one community might not be so for another.

Things that destroy human and natural community might include: adapting the environment to the needs of machines rather than the other way around, or the ideology of perpetual economic growth or the globalized food production and distribution system.  Community-destroying pollution also might be in the stories we tell ourselves and our children about how the world works and what success looks like.   Also in what we tell ourselves is beautiful and desirable.

What is pollution for one person might not be for another, just as a weed is just a plant that I happen not to like at this time.   Again there is no state of perfect purity that we can go back to or that it is even useful to imagine.   But maybe the idea of social pollution connects the natural and social environment in a way that might be helpful when we think about our lives and communities.

Some quiet time with the wildfire

In the last three days a wildfire has turned 800 acres of pasture on our ranch to black. It was a very dry pasture with very dry feed, hence the wildfire, but still  it was good feed, like standing grass hay. 

These fires happen periodically when it gets dry.  Every ranch around here gets their turn at this and it is no cause for despair.  But it is a painful blow to lose so much feed for our cattle when we are in a Stage Two Drought and there is no predicting the weather-patterns anymore.

I don’t know how the fire started. Probably a careless fisherman tossing away a cigarette into a clump of dry grass as he crossed our pasture on the way to or from the ocean. Maybe it was started deliberately by a local “firebug” – a person that likes to start and watch fires. It doesn’t really matter how it started.  What matters is that once it got started it was almost unstoppable.

This is a photo from the first night, when it had burned all day and eaten up about 200 acres. This is just before a bulldozer got in to cut a firebreak – a line where the brush has been scraped off, depriving the fire of fuel.   When the firebreak  was done the line of flames died out and it seemed we had the fire stopped.

But that was a vain hope.  The next day the wind picked up and the embers that had been smoldering “in the black” leapt to life, crossed over the firebreak and consumed 500 acres between 9 am and 1 pm.  More firebreaks were made and again as the wind died at dusk the flames stopped at the newly made firebreaks.  But there were smoldering piles waiting all along the line.

The next morning I decided to get to know this fire personally.  I have to admit that this is the first wildfire that I’ve taken the time to get to know face-to-face, one-on-one. During all the previous fires I’ve stayed distant while my father or brother got involved in assisting (and sometimes surreptitiously directing) the fire-fighting effort.  But for this one I decided I needed, finally, to try to understand what was happening.  Why was this fire defying the efforts of a half-dozen fire-crews and two helicopters?  How could it keep leaping the firebreak even though it was a back-burn i.e. burning against the wind?  What is the most effective way to fight a range wild-fire?

So I went down to the fire-line early before the wind picked up, before anyone else was there and watched the fire.  I didn’t bring any equipment to fight the fire.  I just wanted to be there with it for a while, to see it up close, rather than watching it from a distance or running around reacting to it or talking about it with other people.

Everything was black on the far side of the firebreak, white smoke streaming in tiny wisps from single blades of grass, or billowing extravagantly from half-burnt piles of debris that the bulldozer had pushed to the side.  A little way into the black orange flames burned in a pile of wood at the base of a brush tree. I stopped there looking at this few hundred feet of the fire-line on this, the back-burn end of the fire.

What amazed me was that the dirt seemed to be quietly on fire, reaching by slow black inexorable fingers across the fire-break.  I stuck the toe of my boot into the hot, black dirt and discovered that it was a root that was burning, the underground root of a clump of grass that had already been incinerated, and that burning root had blackened the dirt all around it.  Even with no fuel for it above ground the fire was slowly crossing the fire-break.  

The sun shone hot on the dark soil and the dark burning debris radiated heat and then the wind picked up slowly.  Out of what was smoldering and smoking emerged active orange flames, burning, reaching back against the wind to patches of fuel, flaming, reaching.  The fire was going to cross the break and there was still only me watching.  And then just as the fire crossed and orange flame burst out in a clump of grass in the unburnt side a team of firefighters arrived and doused the flame.  If they had been a minute later they would have been too late.  But this was just one spot on the mile-long line.  

After the fire-fighters arrived I went for a walk down the fire-break. Rounding a corner  down the line I saw a brown columnn of smoke and the roar of a wildfire at full-bore.  We had lost the line again after all.  I turned and walked quickly back to my truck, hearing the roar of the fire following me.  I told the fire-fighters what I had seen and evacuated behind the next fire break line.  Before long red flames were shooting into the sky very impressively and we had lost another thirty acres.

Finally, late on the third day, we got the only help that mattered, the thing that we could not ask for or requisition: a misting, then a very light drenching of rain.  It was not enough to put out the fires but it was enough to dampen the hot dirt and the hot air and discourage the fire from its willful spread.

On the fourth morning the wind did not pick up and the fire-fighters could get a handle on the fire.  Late on this, the fourth day, more rain came.  I’m pretty sure that it is over this time.

What did I learn there with the fire?  That if you want to fight a range fire with any hope of success you need to know a lot of things, such as the wind pattern for that area and the kind of vegetation there.  That timing is everything: you need to be able to think 12 hours ahead and at the same time be ready to change and react instant by instant  as the wind, the humidity, the terrain that the fire is on changes.   That you will probably not be able to beat the fire no matter what you do because when it starts burning it just wants to keep burning.

And that the world when it is burning is a very different place from when it isn’t.

Comparing Woods and Forests

The funny thing about Hawaiʻi is that we donʻt have “woods.” We have forests: dry forests, wet forests, extra-wet forests, perpetually raining forests.  (We do have the wettest spot on earth here, high on the mountain top of  Waiʻaleʻale on the island of Kauaʻi.) This is what a wet forest nearby looks like.  Mostly giant ferns and small shrubberies, with a canopy of ohiʻa lehua (Metrosideros collina).  It looks just like that pretty much all year long.

Iʻm not sure why we donʻt have woods in Hawaiʻi.  For one thing, itʻs just not a word that people use.  No one says: “Iʻm going for a walk in the woods.”  So it may be simply a linguistic peculiarity.  But it feels deeper than that.  Maybe  you need a temperate climate with its annual cycles and its interplay of animals and plants throughout the year for that feeling of a woods to develop.   Maybe itʻs because the kind of landscape that would make a woods  – a relatively open sort of forest through which one could walk at will – is both rare and non-native here.   You have to make such a landscape with either labor or pastured animals.  Maybe itʻs simply because these islands are  too young geologically (only a few million years) to have developed such a storied kind of being as a wildwood.

The woods and sky near home

Some pictures of the woods beyond the edge of the grass that is my yard.  Sunrise is only visible when the trees are bare of leaves.  Beyond the edge of grass the earth falls away into several deep ravines, home to white tailed deer, fox, racoon, possum, rabbits, squirrels, hawks, owls, and many types of woodland birds.

I think the sky at sundown is  even more beautiful than sunrise.  Many times as I walk the dogs in the evening I see colors and textures that almost stop my breath.  To witness such splendor is one of life’s simple pleasures.  The light scattered across the clouds, the colors,  are visible only briefly.  Watching the display may last only 10 or 15 minutes.  But if we don’t go outside, or are too busy to simply look up, we miss the show!

If you stop in the woods

If you stop in the woods, or move unobtrusively, and make a point of noticing, you discover there’s a lot going on.

It takes a few minutes, like eyes adjusting to the dark, before your senses re-tune. There are birds and rustlings, and puffs of air across your skin. Your nostrils open to the cacophony of scent. After a while longer, maybe an hour, a kind of spatial synaesthesia has taken over. The area around you is abuzz with conversation. In all directions stories are unfolding, on various temporal scales. Insects whirr and trees sigh. The ripples from your presence on the scene are noted and are fed back to you, and you become aware of that too.

You experience these stimuli as intimately as if your surroundings have become an extension of your body. It feels awesome. The woods themselves are your organs of perception.  They and everything that’s in them seem to be doing the thinking for you. What’s left is a kind of heightened sixth sense. Like waking into a lighter and immeasurably more alert state.

Is that how it is for the wild ones, all of the time?

It may have been an effort at first to “notice”, but when it’s time to trudge back to normality you find it’s almost a greater effort to switch off that enveloping hum, to shut your senses down and buckle into the familiar mental harness. There’s a boundless dialogue of life going on out there and the denizens of the wildwood are all a part of it. But we, the tamed ones, mostly blunder through insensate, having fenced ourselves off mentally and physically.

Why would we do that I wonder? How much was really gained in return for all that we lost?

Honoring the past and the lessons we learned

Humans haven’t always been ignorant of how our world and our civilization worked.  I was intrigued by this image of a church in Houston Texas recently flooded during Hurricane Harvey.  The picture above is of the old First Baptist Church of Orange, Texas completed and dedicated on September 14, 1915.  The architect is not known.  The First Baptist congregation has built newer buildings in the years since and the current building may be sold to the city and demolished to make way for new development.  What I found striking about this picture was the main floor was well above the flooding from Hurricane Harvey because it was built well above flood levels.

Perhaps the people of Houston built this church in response to the Great Galveston Hurricane, known regionally as the Great Storm of 1900, a Category 4 storm that made landfall in Galveston on September 8, 1900. A storm surge of 15 ft (4.6 m) washed over the long, flat island-city, which was only 8 ft (2.4 m) above sea level, knocking buildings off their foundations and destroying over 3,600 homes.  The disaster ended the Golden Era of Galveston, as the hurricane alarmed potential investors, who turned to Houston instead. The whole island of Galveston was subsequently raised by 17 ft (5.2 m) and a 10 mi (16 km) seawall erected. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1900_Galveston_hurricane]

On September 17, 1947, a Category 4 hurricane struck southeast Florida, generating an 11-foot storm surge at Palm Beach. The seawater at Palm Beach on that date reached the highest recorded level, even topping a 9.8-foot storm tide generated by the “Lake Okeechobee Hurricane” of 1928. Both of these storms generated high enough storm surges to inflict substantial damage along the coast.


Hurricane damage at the Seacrest Hotel – Delray Beach, Florida. 1947. Black & white photoprint, 8 x 10 in. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. <https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/38352>, accessed 8 September 2017.

The beach in the photo above is damaged severely, but the building looks intact.  Why is there so little observable damage to the building?  Why are the trees still standing with palm fronds intact?  Could it be that the walls of the building were built thick enough and strong enough to resist the wind; that the palm trees growing in sand instead of surrounded by concrete sidewalks had better root support?

It is so easy to find information about the past, old ways of building that may be more resilient than newer ways.  Permaculture, shorthand for permanent culture, teaches sustainable ways of producing food, building homes and communities, ways to conserve and reclaim land from desert, replant forests.  We do have ideas.  Humans are very good at surviving climate change.  Think of how many ice ages our ancestors survived!  We simply need to remember what we have forgotten…that life is a hard won endeavor not an entitlement.

 

keep your eyes and heart open, you never know what you’ll see

taking off on the idea of communication without words by using words has a certain charm, just like having a secret channel on the oh so public net.

willingness… first i am honored to be included in a conversation with a couple of no doubt troublemakers ornery enough to challenge the capacities of the previous herd enough to be banned from that digital island.  without knowing any particulars sometimes it is not productive to try to describe colors to the colorblind.  it’s not their fault and time is short. will try and live up to the spirit animasoul implies and speak from the heart as we get to know each other.

the world of the possible… there have been times when i’ve been allowed to “see behind the curtain” (if we were in wizard of oz land), more precisely seen something beyond the levels of education and understanding that i had  been exposed to and absorbed. Raised in a science based family where direct observation and repeatability were the required cornerstones of the world view,  many times some of the more rigid precepts have crumbled in moments, and each time i was left feeling that i had been allowed, priviliged actually, to see the inner workings of an entirely different world.

an example… many years ago 5 of us were fishing about 125 miles offshore  in an antique wooden vessel built in 1927.  she was a classic hull but with that age came the necessity of having seven primed pumps running continuously in order to keep her afloat. Before we sailed i discovered that there was going to be a total eclipse visible from the area we were bound. Normally might have been able to use the dark glass in a welding helmet to look directly at it but this vessel did not have that equipment so put one of the small glass plates in my seabag.

If i remember correctly it was the time of full moon, the tides normally strong there, now ferocious with the moon,  the old girl did not have a lot of horsepower. The trawl gear tangled and snarled repeatedly, culminating in an hours long repair on the morning of the coming afternoon eclipse. I decided to have some fun with the young Portugese shipmate Junior who had been at the wheel when the disaster occurred, humor often helps to break the monotony of long or difficult trips, bad weathers etc.  i told him that because of his lack of attention earlier there was going to bring more bad luck later in the day. He was going to pay for it!

the time came and it began to darken. Junior had the wheel again so out of sight on the stern i checked progress with the glass seeing that initial bite out of the side of the sun, and proceeded to let him know his time was coming. Ever so slowly the early afternoon sky darkened. it seems to take forever, then finally that eerie almost darkness of totality with the purple ring of flames. He looked at the sky but could not see the sun, Finally i let on about the eclipse and gave him the welding glass.  Meanwhile i turned to look around and was imobilized at what was going on. Struck dumb then yelled for him to stop looking at the sun.

For as far as you could see in every direction giant blue tuna were leaping out of the water, dozens of them, twisting and turning. Then they were running at high speed along the surface and launching themselves toward the sky over and over. Shear exuberance.  Tail dancing to the perfect alignment. A celebration of absolute magnificance.  Pure joy !

All too soon it stopped, they disappeared.  all of them. Speechless, the joke was on me.  I was ashamed, making a poor attempt at demonstrating a little knowledge, when the larger truth was that this was the special time of celebrating a holy communion of Joy…

Were they concious? how could they be leaping repeatedly into the sky and not know what they doing? were they self aware?  self concious ? or is that a peculiar affliction of the hominids, putting actions into verbal thoughts, putting thoughts into sounds about actions, the difference between music and singing, and reading printed text about music.

a little lesson about what we think we know