Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Yogi and OM in the Same Day

I just experienced a kind of an India day.

We just returned from a going away party for one of the finest yoga teachers in the area, and I spent the morning chanting OM with some friends.  It was a very uplifting, relaxing, rejuvenating day.

This afternoon, as I said was a going away party, for Michael.  A few minutes after we arrived I remarked to Carol that the people in the room did not fit the statistical norm for the US.  The percentage of overweight people in the US in 2014 was an astonishing 70.7%.  The population in the room would yield about 4% that may fall in the overweight category and even that is a stretch.  Seems to me  there's something to a regular yoga practice.

A bit over two years ago I wrote about chanting OM on a rainy day and since it was that long ago I feel justified in including it here:

OM, chanted as three syllables [Ah-oh-mm] that flow into each other through a single breath, is a way to calm one's thoughts, to relax, to facilitate meditation.  It is a private time, a time when the sonorous repetitive drone brings with it a defocusing, a soothing, of the mind and of the body.

When the chant is performed in a group, for an hour or more, something else happens.

My good friend, Dahlia, counselor, mediator, musician, and beautiful soul, leads a chant four times a year around the equinox and solstice - the times of transition when people tend to recognize their connection to the universe, if only for those brief periods.  I have participated in most of them, and each time I come away with the a sense of peace, of altered consciousness, of awareness of ME.

The thing about a group chant is the melding of voices, of people sitting, eyes closed, voices open, in a common simple intonation. Om, in its polysylabic rendition, is an unintended incantation.  As the chant progresses it changes from a simple repetition to a sea of sound.  As Dahlia begins the chant, her pure gold voice pulling us in, we initially follow, picking up her rhythms, but she changes, doesn't maintain a metronomic cadence, and soon we are in our own rhythms, each different by a beat or two. The result is an almost continuous sound, sometimes with just a few voices somewhat tentative to be alone, sometimes in a cacophony of discordant sounds, sometimes even in a harmonious crescendo that lifts each voice into the harmony of OM.

An hour passes so quickly that I can't believe we're done. In the chant, I have found distance from my all-to-present mortality to some other feeling - peace I think.  The acceptance, the okayness, of this rung in the ladder of my existence.  

It is as much of a treasure today as it was then.  On October 16th. Dahlia lost her mother, Hazel, a smart gentle soul who had reached 100 in July of this year.   The chant on her return from West Virginia had a special feeling for me, having known Hazel briefly before she moved.

What I intended this musing to be was a contented sigh celebrating a relaxing, rainy day.  I hope I didn't deviate too far from it.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Terrible Cost of a Comma

And so we experience one more fusillade because of a comma.  How have we gotten here?  The founding fathers (you remember them, the guys that crafted a great but imperfect constitution for our fledgling country) were unable to anticipate: that we would have a standing army so that militias were unnecessary, that  weapons of today are not muzzle loaders but instead are capable of expelling many rounds of death in a very short time, and that an industry built on that capability would have found a way to place these weapons of death into the hands of sick individuals.

Welcome to our world.

I just read that modifying a semi-automatic weapon like an AR-15  to fully automatic is illegal (the implication is that it's not impossible) but there is a crank that one can legally purchase for $40.00 that will pull the trigger faster than a human.  Oh, by the way, I don't care if it was a Colt, Bushmaster, or whatever, the concept of being able to execute people faster than a human can pull the trigger holds, because all the device needs to do is pull said trigger.

Let me be clear about a couple of things in case any 2nd amendment folks are reading: I hunted as a young man, I owned weapons, I am a veteran of almost seven years active duty at which time I qualified expert at every annual test.  I know weapons.

Two truths come to mind immediately:

  • A weapon of the type mentioned above is not a hunter's tool, no hunter worth the name would use one.  As my father (a pre-WWII marine) often told me while he was teaching me to use and respect a weapon, "If you can't hit your target with one shot, you got no business shooting at it."  Other gems from this expert of experts (he shot  expert with the Marine rifle team at a 1,000 yard range without a scope. Try it sometime.)  "Treat every weapon you see or touch as if it was loaded." and "Never point a weapon at anything you don't intend to shoot."  
  • There is no courage in our elected officials to address the issue in any meaningful way.  Prayers, condolences, and other comments by them are self-serving meaningless gestures.  What must happen, and I have no idea how, is that the people of this country need a serious attitude adjustment.  There is no point other than intimidation in 'open carry' advocates carrying assault rifles or sidearms into a populated area.  There is no point other than money for companies to produce and sell them. There is no point, other than money and power, for a once-honorable organization that concentrated on gun safety. to lobby for the right to carry them.
The entire rationale surrounding this abomination is based on willfully ignoring a comma.  Words and their misinterpretation can clearly hurt one more than sticks and stones.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Cymbals and Symbols

I think this blog is going to be about some of the things occupying FB and the media currently, but hopefully not at full blown rant amplitude.  Let's give it a go.

Removing confederate Statues and flags Edition - While I understand that many, if not all, of the monuments were erected in a direct attempt to intimidate people of color, removing them will not change the attitudes that got them erected in the first place.  No matter how many statues are removed, how many flags are taken down, or words redacted, the fundamental problem still exists.

The USA - that's us - is still a racist country.  It hurts me to say that, but it is.  We are in the throes of a major setback in any attempts to mitigate that situation.  Enabling racism while chastising those who bring the inequity of racial bias to the front is throwing gasoline on a fire.  And it continues to happen with the current chief executive as the arsonist.

Stars and Stripes and Anthems Edition -  Let me first be clear, I am a veteran (10/13/1961 - 8/2/1968.) I took an oath to defend the US against all enemies foreign and domestic.  I saluted the flag almost every day of that enlistment, sometimes twice a day if I was present at both the raising and lowering of it, whether or not there was musical accompaniment.  I did that out of respect for the country, not its symbol.  That's all the flag is - a symbol.  It's the country and the populace that it symbolizes that's important.

To stand for an anthem, face a flag, and then disrespect residents of the country they represent is not patriotism.  You must, to be a patriot, preserve and protect the land you live in and the people who occupy it with you. You must, to be a patriot, be able to discuss differences, listen to opinions with which you disagree, without resorting to violence - verbal or physical.

Patriotism is hard when you see your country in an emotional crisis, but it's then when true patriots emerge, stand up and salute the country by their actions to promote discourse, equity, and peace.

Things are changing but so slowly as to be glacial.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, in a BBC interview, said "A great man once said that the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle; it is the pendulum."

Think about how you can do your part to put the pendulum in motion toward caring about your country: the land and the people, not the music and flowing fabric of its symbols.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thinking About War

I ear-read (Carol's term for audiobook listening) The Iliad a couple weeks ago.   It occurred to me then that all war is about wealth, be it money, property, power or combinations thereof.  Back then though the kings were warriors.  They went to battle along with the troops, suffered wounds, killed, and were killed.  All for wealth and power.

If you've never read The Iliad, I recommend it.  Though it seems endless when you first get into it, it is a compelling narrative of the cruelty, stupidity, and overall cost of war.  It is also a chronicle of monumental egos, manipulative gods, and the general irrationality of men.

There are probably as many translations of The Iliad as there are recordings of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.  The one I listened to was by Caroline Alexander.

Here's the gist of the poem as my old brain has processed it - with apologies to Homer.

The Achaeans (Greeks) are almost a decade into a war with Troy,  nominally over the abduction of Helen, wife of Menelaus, King Agamemnon's brother.  During this time Agamemnon and the Achaeans take a side trip to sack Chryse.  King A. claims beautiful Chryseis, the daughter of Chryses, a priest of Apollo, as his prize, while Achilles claims equally stunning Briseis and promptly falls in love with her.

When Chryseis' dad tells Apollo about this, the big guy drops a plague on the Achaeans.  Agamemnon consults a prophet and finds out that it's the priest's doing, so he returns Chryseis to her dad.  Desiring a gorgeous prize fit for a king, Agamemnon then demands Briseis from Achilles, who relents but gets really pissy and returns to his tent refusing to fight anymore.

Without Achilles the Achaeans are getting the crap kicked out of them.  Turns out the head God, Zeus, decided to make the Trojan warrior Hector invincible ... until Achilles got over his hissy fit, at which time Hector was toast.  There's more but I don't want to spoil the ending.

It is evident in this story that, other than as warriors, the principles: have the intelligence of pocket lint, egos  as enormous as DT's, and no clear idea why the war is happening.

 "All war is a symptom of man's failure as a thinking animal."  claims John Steinbeck.  It was true then and it's true now, we just have bigger spears.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Coffee and Cropdusting on a Bayou Morning

Welcome to a Cajun Country morning.

Our son's home just outside Patterson Louisiana (The Cypress Capital of the World) lies on three beautiful acres about a hundred feet from Bayou Teche, the meandering waterway made famous by James Lee Burke's novels.

As bayous go, it is rather long - 125 miles.  It begins in Port Barre, about 25 miles north of Lafayette. From there it flows southwest about 5 miles before making a looping turn east to snake its way toward Breaux Bridge.  If you want to take a scenic ride, LA31 tracks the bayou from halfway around that looping turn, almost to New Iberia.  At New Iberia The Teche turns east southeast, accompanied by LA182 - The Old Spanish Trail - until it empties into the Atchafalaya River about 5 miles from the house.

We spend mornings at the house sitting on the screened porch  in back with the view of the Teche you see above.

 Most of yesterday morning a crop duster worked the many acres of sugarcane across 182 in front of the house.  The plane made its turns over the Teche not many feet above the cypress at the edge of the bayou. Though I'm not in love with the thought of the toxic stuff that emanates from the many nozzles under its belly when it sprays the field, the maneuvers as it blanketed the cane field fascinated me.

I watched every time it flew over the roof dipped its wing for the hard turn above the Teche. Then I hurried to the corner of the house to watch the plane drop so close that its landing wheels nearly touched the tips of the cane as it turned on the spray.  At the end of its return pass, the plane accelerated and climbed sharply to clear the trees in the front yard then leveled off for its 180 over the Teche and began its descent for the next round.

The work was repetitive, much like mowing hay in a field, only with the extra parameters of altitude and wind.  One wonders if it's possible to zone out, to let body memory take over as in mowing hay, while the mind goes elsewhere. Perhaps the pilot imagines doing strafing runs against a sugarcane army.

I tried to get a picture of the plane as it passed overhead because it looked kind of old.  Here's the best one I could get -

Not good but it was clear enough for me to do a little research on the craft.  

Here's Grumman's photo - it's an  Ag-cat G-164B.

With it's maiden flight in 1957, it was the first plane developed specifically for agricultural use.  That made the machine flying overhead 60 years old.  

Time to get some breakfast.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Not Even Close

The past couple weeks have not been my best.  It all started when Carol and I bought a comfy old, heavy reclining chair from a neighbor.  He and his son moved it into my utility trailer, and I hauled it to our place and backed it into Carol’s garage (it’s the one attached to the house.)  I managed to wrestle it down the trailer ramp and, using a short board, got it up the single step into the hallway at the top of our basement stairs. 

One would be correct to say it went downhill from there.
First: Carol left for a meeting.
Second: I reasoned that if a ramp worked to get the recliner up one step, a longer ramp would work to get it down the basement stairs. 
Third: I actually had a plank long enough.
Fourth: I decided I could do it alone.
Fifth and probably most significant: It weighs nearly 100 pounds – I weigh 185.
Twenty-four or so hours after the event (the recliner is in place in the TV room downstairs) I was at my doctor in intense pain with a swollen left ankle.  X-rays (no breaks), pain meds, and finally an antibiotic to handle an infection that was spreading up my leg, and it seems that I’ll live to be stupid again. 
While in pain and before my visit to the doc, I tried for some sympathy from my elder daughter so I called and admitted the recliner saga.  “You are in great shape for a seventy-five year old but you have a fourteen year old brain!” was her response.  Next I tried my loving wife.  “Dumbest thing I ever did,” I moaned.  “No, it isn’t,” was her response.
When I related that last exchange to my doctor and friend, he laughed and added “It’s probably not in the top ten.”   
So as I get back to what passes for normal in my body, I can’t help but ponder former missteps.  I’m not able to come up with even as many as five, no chance for ten.  That’s probably a function of selective memory and that some of them were so … whatever, that I have self-prescribed amnesia. 
Here are a few that I remember:
-       Borrowing my brother’s customized ’51 Ford and flipping it down a hillside while tuning the radio.
-       Hunting for cobras one night in Pakistan while plotting the tiny orbit of Polaris to locate true north. My weapon was a five-foot copper grounding rod.
-       Overindulging one night and throwing up my removable bridge along with whatever else then flushing it down the toilet.  My dentist installed a permanent bridge, making that my most expensive drunk ever.

There are more coming to mind so maybe I would be able to come up with ten, but it’s probably better to leave them buried.   
By the way, that expensive permanent bridge that I got forty-five years ago fell out last week.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Walk in the Woods

Thirty or so years ago Carol and I would venture out as soon as winter showed signs of lifting its blanket to let spring in. We called these our Cabin Fever Hikes. Most times we'd end up trekking through a foot of snow up on the Shawangunk Ridge. Once we drove out Route 55 near Pawling and hiked several miles around Nuclear Lake (look it up) in melting snow. Since our legs don't tolerate that kind of activity very well now, we fly to Florida for a week or two instead.

Yesterday, we ventured out on a very warm Easter Sunday, to Ferncliff Forest Preserve and Wildlife Refuge, just north of Rhinebeck. The mostly deciduous trees this early spring day were bare of leaves, with only tiny varicolored buds heralding the promise of change while the scattering of conifers watched.

A distinct advantage of this barrenness is the view of the Hudson River from the top of the trail. In summer one would likely have to climb the fire tower to see it.
Other signs of spring peek through the packed soil of the trail, only lightly used this early in the season. I suspect they will not survive the summer intact, but with deep and hearty roots they'll be back to greet spring hikers.
The two hundred acre preserve is open year round for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. even in the near ninety degree heat the walk was pleasant. The trail we took (the yellow loop trail to the tower) had some steep ascents and descents, the second could be a bit of an issue for someone with bad knees so a stout walking stick would be a great asset.

Along our way I spotted a few intriguing rock formations but declined to photograph them. I thought immediately of my talented friend Ruthie and how she could make a work of art out of those formations while my photos would somehow not have that perfect angle, perfect lighting ... so I didn't take any. Maybe when we go back for our next hike.

Anyway it's a great place to spend a couple hours and it's free! I recommend i

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Accidental President - or a case of the DT's

Truth is he tossed his hat in the ring as an ego trip, something he takes on a daily basis, but because of the clown car of GOP candidates that vied with him, and because the die-hard republican voters were weary of bending over and getting screwed by their representatives, he won the primary.  Meanwhile, the democratic in-crowd  hoisted their chosen candidate to the top in spite of the warning signs they should have seen in the popularity of her primary opponent. 

So the final run for the roses was between the petulant child-man who incited anger, racism, and misogyny in his constituency, and the woman with more experience at the top levels of government than probably any candidate in history.  

Her experience was a mixed blessing because, through judicious spinning of events opponents could accuse her of everything from ineptness to treason.  She was also the woman who gave her philandering husband a pass rather than castrating him.  Even with those handicaps she garnered about three million more votes than her opponent, but candidates win by getting the most electoral votes. 

So she lost, probably because her campaign ignored a few states that were normally in her party's pocket, while the man-child did not, but whether or not that factored into the result is at this point irrelevant.  What matters is he now occupies the White House.

What matters even more is his party controls both houses of Congress.

What matters most perhaps is his puppet masters - The Steves, Bannon and Miller.  None of the three have even a nodding acquaintance with the truth.  Nor do they care.

It is an unfortunate fact (not and alt-fact) that a lie told repeatedly without being called out, soon becomes believed, becomes a truth.  It is imperative that anytime Tweety and his handlers make a public statement, it is refuted if untrue (almost a certainty.)

So fasten your seat belts journalists, columnists, tweeters, and don't let the lies stand.

Now the next chore:

How do we get back to a semblance of democracy in our country?  First by making the 2018 election count.  Every member of the House of Representatives is up for reelection.  Many will return to their seats due to gerrymandered districts that insure their party has the voting majority.

We must have those districts redrawn based solely on population - the intent of the constitutional directive establishing the legislature. Without that change, a fair election of our representation is not possible.  Push your state governments to undo that wrong.  In New York it apparently takes a constitutional amendment.  Right now the state legislature draws the congressional districts after the national census determines the portion of the 450 representatives the state is allotted based population.

Whatever party is in power in the state controls the redrawing of the congressional districts.  Can anyone guess how that works out?

Okay folks, while we endure and fight the DT's, Let's also think about that.

If I keep grumbling to myself about the latest lies and the need to resist, I'll never get this posted.  I'll be back sooner than a month next time.

Bye for now.  Resist the lies but with forethought not anger.  I know that's hard but anger they can fight, reason they can't.