Come and Stand Beside Us

We can find a better way….

It seems that we must. Times are strange and the weird are getting weirder.

My mom just called. She’s amazing. Smart as a whip. Intuitive. Kind. Loving. Independent. All things a mother needs to be to the power of 10. She’s my primary connection to the planet. Basically the only reason I live in Ohio. Without her, I make no predictions about my future. But at 83, she’s still out-working most everyone 50 years younger than her. She has no understanding of the word idle and no desire to learn. She is powered by movement and purpose. She’s my hero. I know I’ll never reach her standard, but she inspires me to try.

There’s a good video floating around the net by a Children’s choir out of Utah. A really beautiful and spectacular mix of dozens of children of all ages in their remote locations but singing in perfect harmony. In times like we are living through now, it’s easy to forget the potential humans have for good. The innocence and purity of youth is our reminder. Shame that collectively as adult humans we are failing one another, and the planet and all the other species living here. If we were not so susceptible to greed and so easily intoxicated by power, and used our wisdom and intelligence, it seems perhaps there is still time to save the planet. But that seems unlikely.

Still, the children and dogs and loads of other animals and the occasional amazing adult human, can inspire us to dream about a different way. As John Lennon said ‘Imagine all the people, living life in peace’.

Or as John Denver said “

It is here we must begin

to seek the wisdom of the children

and the graceful way of flowers in the wind

 

for the children and the flowers

are my sisters and my brothers

their laughter and their loveliness

could clear a cloudy day

like the music of the mountains

and the colors of the rainbow

they’re a promise of the future

and a blessing for today

 

though the cities start to crumble

and the towers fall around us

the sun is slowly fading

and it’s colder than the sea

It is written from the desert

to the mountains they shall lead us

by the hand and by the heart

they will comfort you and me

in their innocence and trusting

They will teach us to be free

 

for the children and the flowers

are my sisters and my brothers

their laughter and their loveliness

could clear a cloudy day

and the song that I am singing

 is a prayer to non-believers

 

come and stand beside us

we can find a better way

My massage Therapist is located in Lakewood and she recommended Clifton Martini & Wine Bar. She gives a terrific massage, and, apparently, knows her martinis as well. Good place. Nice outdoor patio and ambience. I had their signature ‘Clifton’ martini which was Ketel One with blue cheese olives. Except I had them add the slight touch of Lillet Blanc, and it was right. Sublime.

I had a shrimp cocktail and a marinated skirt steak with chimuchurri. A Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with the shrimp and a nice Oregon Pinot Noir with the steak.

A table of 4 older folks, two couples, later 60’s or early 70’s rocked up and sat at the table next to me (appropriately distanced). They all ordered martinis. They know. They get it.

Drinks and dinner, just after a great massage and topped off with a perfect late evening ride across town on the motorcycle, well, let’s just say hard to beat. I am one lucky bastard, that’s for sure.

I think I must have had my first motorcycle ride when I was around 8 or 9. Local kids’ mini-bikes or mo-peds or such. Our family had no money for those things, but a few friends would let me ride once in a while. Also, on the farm, for no good reason at all, there were occasionally a few motorbikes around. Finally, when I was 16, I bought a Honda 100 street legal bike with money from mowing lawns. At 18, a Yamaha Exciter 250. Later a Honda CBF 900. And so on. Later I abandoned the Japanese bikes for BMW’s. The traditional Japanese bikes are still very good bikes. I just prefer the German engineering in my now more mature state.

The excitement and exhilaration of riding, for me can be compared only to rugby and, on occasion, some short highs from extreme mountain bike rides, or night scuba diving, or a few other high adrenaline instances.

Reading is one of our last great pleasures. Preferably while sitting outside in a natural setting; with a campfire and a glass of whiskey and maybe a cigar. Evening is good, but then so is early morning. When only the birds are awake and are at their most rambunctious. The nocturnals are down and the day dwellers mostly not up and moving yet. It’s the closest to heaven we will get here I think.

I’m reminded of when I lived in Victor Idaho and had to travel each week to Chicago for work. I would leave from the house Sunday around noon, and then depending on best flight available, I would drive to Idaho Falls or Jackson Hole.

The drive home on the return was perilous from either Idaho Falls or Jackson airport. In winter especially, driving icy roads up and down a pass regardless of which direction I came from, I also had to content with animals and exhaustion. Deer, raccoons, coyotes, foxes, possums, elk, moose and at least once, a bear.

Driving from Jackson Hole airport one night, near midnight and still on the eastern side of the pass, I saw a couple of luminescent eyes watching from the side of the road. As I went past, I saw it was a bear. Probably a black bear, just going on statistics, but I was well within grizzly territory, just a few miles outside of Yellowstone. It’s magnificent really, being able to share space with nature. Even, when depressingly going by in a car at 60 mph. It’s not nothing.

Surely living in a wild setting is what we are made for, but in that moment, for just a few seconds, I liked to imagine that bear and I had a shared experience. He was passing by and so was I. I would soon be home and hopefully he would too. Both bedded down for the night in our safe space and there is a collective understanding of the importance of that among all living animals.

Still reading Rick Bass and he had this nice passage. Terrific nature writer.

I can picture getting so addicted to this valley, so dependent on it for my peace, that I become a hostage to it.

And sometimes, being human, Elizabeth and I have to ask, What are we missing?

Usually the easy answer, the quick one, is not a damn thing.

But some days—here as everywhere, I think — a longing sweeps into the valley like a haze.

But we can’t define it, can’t pin it down—and it passes soon enough’.

I’m still pretty fascinated in the nuance and distinction between solitude and loneliness; between reflection and creating; stillness and movement.

Saturday I drove down to hang with the fam for an early Father’s Day get together. As always, good fun. We sat outside and had drinks. Lots of drinks. Then the usual amazing meal and then sitting outside sitting around the fire-pit chatting.

I’ve been having coffee most mornings on the patio now, since the weather is agreeable. I sit and read, but the squirrels’ movements are distracting, and then mesmerizing. It’s just beyond belief how well adapted they are to their environment. I’ve never seen one fall, although I’ve heard others say they have occasionally seen one come out of a tree. They are so quick and sure-footed in their runs up and down the trees and jumping from branch to branch, tree to tree, tree to rooftop and back again. There seems to be little purpose to their actions—often one is chasing the other. Is this play or some sort of mating ritual or protecting unmarked territory?

I was curious how long squirrels live, so I turned to that trusty and always reliable source called the internet. I would have guessed a squirrel might reach a ripe old age of 5 or 6 and then move along. Their metabolism is through the roof and you’d think they would just be fucking exhausted all the time. But no, squirrels can live up to 24 years. Imagine that. I’ve never seen one that seemed slower than the others, or with a grizzled beard or grey hair. The old timers seem to carry their age well.

I devoted a good bit of time this morning to watching squirrels and I remember that John Muir devoted an entire chapter in ‘The Mountains of California’ to a bird I had never heard of. So I dug out my copy and found that chapter to better remember why he was so obviously taken with the Ouzel. These birds apparently live near waterfalls and Muir just adored them.

‘While water sings, so must he,
in heat or cold, calm or storm,
ever attuning his voice in sure accord;
low in the drought of summer and the drought of winter,
but never silent.’

‘Find a fall, or cascade, or rushing rapid,
anywhere upon a clear stream,
and there you will surely find its complementary Ouzel,
flitting about in the spray, diving in foaming eddies,
whirling like a leaf among beaten foam-bells;
ever vigorous and enthusiastic, yet self-contained,
and neither seeking nor shunning your company.’

I learned of John Muir and John Wesley Powell’s writing through my love of Wallace Stegner. Muir is beautiful; robust and delightful reading. Powell, not so much. Powell was a pure scientific explorer and while he clearly appreciated the west, his ability to describe for the casual reader was pretty limited in my view. I tried twice to read Powell, but nearly died from tedium.

I re-read a text from one of our MYO alumni about the death of Paulina. It is a precious and thoughtful and honest tribute to their relationship. Frieda admits openly the selfishness of expressing loss, which is of course about our pain. But it also made me think back to those early years, in 2004 and 5 and 6, when I knew these children well. I never really understood much about their home lives. Only that their experiences were frequently far more difficult and complicated than I knew or that children in more affluent societies had to deal with. Of course I often had to pick them up or drop them off at their homes, so I understood some of the obvious difficulties like 12 people living in 2 rooms, or no running water or electricity etc.

We are all damaged of course; some more than others. We are at least in part defined by our willingness to reflect inwardly and deeply to examine our flaws and attempt to heal. Frieda, like myself, does this largely through writing. All the young adults in Namibia that I know and have watched grow and mature, are now suffering from the COVID experience. Jobs were already scarce in that part of the world and now most are not able to find anything. Frieda lost her job at the radio station. Everyone is doing the best they can—most are living with family now. Some in the villages; others remain in the city but stay with aunts and uncles or anyone who has a little extra room. I feel for them. I wish I could help them.

I got duped in to watching a video of a protest and counter-protest event here in OH the other day. It was shocking to see so many white men walking around with guns and rifles and shouting so much venom. They were so full of ignorance and contempt and hate—it was really shocking to see. I definitely would have been shot if I had been there. One of the rednecks sucker punched a protestor. Really really crazy shit.

As more information comes out in this new wave of awareness, the stories are heartbreaking and fucking horrid. Institutional protection of cops, across the entire country, includes suppression of key evidence, primarily videos, of shocking instances where black men died in the custody of police. The videos, for some arcane and irrational reason, are not presented to the grand juries and kept from the public. Also, records of police brutality, are not allowed by law, to be made public. Cops get fired in one town for being dicks, drive down the street and get hired by another city police department.

Police are immune from criminal and civil prosecution in the vast majority of instances. They can literally ‘get away with murder’ because they have a blue uniform and a badge. How and why someone ever thought it is okay to kill someone and be immune from prosecution is hard to digest. I’m pretty sure that in my job, if I wrangled someone to the ground and knelt on their neck until they died, that I would be arrested and prosecuted. But cops–nope. Carry on.

And the brotherly camaraderie is shameful. While the few ‘bad apples’ we read about go on murdering and terrorizing, the ‘good cops’ keep quiet and protect the bad ones. I’ve been in the military. And I played rugby. These are two environments where brotherhood is strong. But never did I advocate or support someone going over the edge and off the deep end simply because of that relationship. That is bullshit and has to change. We have to make it easy for cops to report bad cops. Currently, if a cop takes a stand for the right reason against a bad cop, their lives and livelihoods become endangered.

It’s fucking medieval.

Hate to end on a negative note but….

Dylan’s waiting on the turntable and time to make dinner.

No explanation of the church/laundromat picture. Just found it a hell of a business joint-venture. Sjoerd and Onah are vacationing at a small island up on the northwestern coast of Holland. I am jealous of Sjoerd eating oysters from the ocean and drinking champagne out of a paper cup next to the sea.

No other news of note.

 

 

1 thought on “Come and Stand Beside Us

  1. Fabulous pics

    Like

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