Tag Archives: Thoughts

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward

Forward progress revealed

Forward progress revealed

I captured this photo on a November hike, arrested by the hieroglyphic quality of the insect trail on the tree trunk.  Perhaps this is the dead trunk of an ash tree, and the grooves were made by emerald ash borer larvae, deposited as eggs beneath the trunk and munching to maturity while slowly killing the tree.  These little bastards have left thousands of dead trees in their wake across Michigan, just in the last few years.

In trying to put myself in the head of a bug that made these channels, it strikes me that they came into awareness in a dark location suitable for their growth, and started living their purpose, chewing blindly forward, ever forward, until something told them they were done and it was time to move on.  They came and left with only the narrowest conception of the tree, their host, as just the flat earth they wandered while they lived.  I can step back and take measure of the tree’s geometry from my perspective, the intricate three-dimensionality of it, the size and the volume of space it occupies.  Then mentally subtract the tree, and what’s left is a delicate cylindrical negative of the bugs’ road.  The destructive little bastards left us some art to attest to their one-dimensional grindage.

loop run

Straight ahead

This weekend I went for a run in a nearby forest, a few times around a 2-mile loop in the snowy woods.  Hills and tough footing made it slow going.  After all that struggle and conversion of oxygen into forward motion, I finished right back where I started.  But nothing was the same, including me.  As an aside, an hour of solitude in the woods offers solutions to many things.

Time pushes us forward, usually not unidirectionally, instead on a tortuous path around, over, under, between and in spite of.  Even Brownian motion must still be forward, driven by the arrow of time.  We go backward in our memories while we move forward in time, forward on our path – whether it’s linear, forked, bifurcated, doubles or triples back on itself, we still have to move forward.

Blindly we make our path and trace our wild pattern in the dark substrate, unaware of so much, and never really appreciating the beauty and complexity of our winding course or the medium on which it’s traced.  And we’ll never have the vantage to see revealed in full the path we trace – but might someone else?

Forward is time working upon us, us working within time.  You’ll never read that last sentence again, for the first time.  You’ll never have this exact now again.  You’ve moved forward.

Saturday morning muse

First Saturday morning of the school year, basking in the togetherness and at-homeness of it all.

There’s much to be done today – in fact it’s one of those days where there’s a huge Lazy Susan of ideas, opportunities and necessities spinning in my head, and I can’t quite bring myself to stop it and pick the one thing to be done next.

One thing’s certain, that I’m continually haunted and pursued by the need to dedicate time and effort to a writing practice.  I find myself wishing for foul weather, which would force downward my available options and I could feel good about retreating to the new office I’m creating downstairs.  I tell myself we need to follow through on plans to create living-room space in the adjoining big room downstairs so I can still be near the ladies while I pound away at this new lifestyle.  Wait, I know! – I need a whiteboard in that office so I can really get going, mind-mapping stuff, plotting and planning.

“Just shut up and write”, they tell me, so I turn and tell that to myself.

OK – right after I work on this bike.

Old school roadie on the stand – extreme makeover Saturday

A busy week, and reasons for racing hard

I wrote in my last post about cultivating some balance in our lives, and how our steady progression toward the end of summer might assist that goal.  Returning from vacation to work this week, that balance seems elusive.

It’s not just the grind of returning to the day job, but meetings after work every evening this week to address needs related to my civic commitments.  I serve our local community as a Village trustee and also as a trustee at our local community library, and I believe strongly at this point in my life in putting some effort into helping to keep our village as that place that first attracted us to live here…so while tired and off-balance toward the end of this week, it’s all worth it, all toward the right ends.

Plus…to cap the week off…

Our oldest daughter turns 13 today.

She was born at 9am, and I’ll never forget holding her and looking deep into her wide eyes that first night, when she was 12 hours old, while my wife slept soundly, getting some needed rest.

Not yet a day old, she lay wrapped in a blanket in my arms, hiccuping and looking back at me.  I had the profound, mystical feeling that there was wisdom behind those eyes, that she knew things I couldn’t know.  I held her there for quite some time, not wanting to let go of that moment with her new life in my hands.

I tell her this story every year around her birthday, as I want her to grow up knowing the impact she had on me that first night.  Right now, she lays in the bottom bunk (with her sister in the top) in the room behind me, having slept away her 12-hood, soon to wake up as a teenager.

There have been, and will be many more, times when ‘wisdom’ is the furthest word from my mind to associate with some of her actions or behaviors (or her sister’s), but the memory and the impact of that first night persists.  And whether or not she really knew unknowable things that first night, she and her sister have taught me so much…

So we’ll move through the work days and the birthday festivities today and Friday, remaining joyfully off-kilter, and will look to rebalance over the holiday weekend…

Unwinding to wind again

We spent the early part of this week in northern Lower Michigan – a day trip to Mackinac Island launched from our several-day base in Petoskey.  This has become a tradition for us over the last several years, a late-August trip together as a family before our free-form summer lifestyle reverts back to the phased rhythm of work and school routines.

“Loving where I live” is a major component of my TGQ (Total Gratitude Quotient), and of course “loving other places within a few hours’ drive from where I live” factors into the equation as well.

Experiencing this recurring ritual getaway affords an opportunity to benchmark our girls’ growth over time.  We pass this way another year older, and that brings a little more clarity to how they’re growing and changing.  We’ve shed the baby jogger and the scooters, and there are no more rides on Dad’s shoulders as we hike into the Petoskey Gaslight District from our hotel a mile out.  New opportunities and perspectives emerge, riding bikes around Mackinac Island and letting them wander down to the shoreline by themselves while we watch from a distance.

This brief unwinding also brings into relief the balance that we try to strike in our lives.  We’ll start the cycle again soon – school will start with the requisite drop-offs and dramas, routines of homework and music lessons.  We’ll measure it off with the Monday through Friday metronome, and learn again together how sweet Saturday mornings are.

Black raspberries and the miracle of electrification

I went out yesterday morning with the camera intending to capture striking, stunningly beautiful photographs of nature – the sun was rising, dew was heavy in the cool morning – conditions were perfect.

Near our house is a through-way of high tension power lines.  I’ve taken our ladies berry-picking back there many times on the trail underneath the power lines, filling our small containers with ripe black raspberries.  Those hikes were as much about the time outdoors together as they were about the fruit.

A couple weeks ago, a cutting crew was contracted by the power company to clear-cut underneath the power line easement.  Everything’s gone now, all the small trees, the sumac and honeysuckle, and the black raspberry bushes.

The trail is still identifiable.

I’m not quite mourning, as I know the reasons why.  This area will grow back over time, and there are other spaces for hiking and berry-picking.  It’s an occasion to consider the tradeoffs of our modern age, and to aim the camera upwards for a change.

Clarity wanted – apply within

Sitting beside a body of water at sunset has a way of putting things in perfect perspective. Doing so with kids around magnifies that by 10x or so.

Sometimes we adults think we have it together.  We’ve got it all figured out.  Planning, projecting, we control our destinies, we OWN our careers.  We make things happen.

Then come those times when we realize – no, make that remember, because it’s buried there in each of us – in a crystalline instant, that it’s all about the joy of the present moment – even if that clarity is fleeting, the memory of it remains, to be applied within.

Suspension in the moment

In the meadow on a Sunday morning

Yesterday was an active Saturday – miles & miles of cycling across lower Michigan to the lakeshore, first to South Haven and then north to Saugatuck.  The family joined up with me for lunch at the brewpub, then we headed to the beach for a swim and into town for the Art Fair.  In the evening we dragged ourselves home for some needed repair sleep.

So this morning was slower and contemplative – some early reading, accompanied by sounds of breeze and birds, and then a quick walk through the woods and into the meadow behind our house.ImageImageImageImage

Orion’s scout

I snuck out and caught you this morning, Betelgeuse.

Yes, I was drawn out by brilliant Venus, backed up by regal Jupiter in the early twilight. But I saw your orange shimmer down close to the horizon, about to be veiled in the rising sun’s radiance, like you were peering through the crack of an open door.

Every mid-August I look forward to the appearance of Orion in the morning sky. He brings the promise of cool fall weather and I think ahead to him riding high above in the dome of a crystalline winter night sky.

For now it’s still July, and at 6am the new daylight streaks across the east and north; it will be warm again today and summer still dominates our attention but look closely – our days are noticeably shorter, evidence that the grand wheel spins. Betelgeuse sneaks into the early morning sky affirming that change is afoot, letting Orion know that the coast will be clear in another fortnight.

Glorious, how we roll.

Next person who says ‘austerity’ …

Austerity’s Big Winners Prove To Be Wall Street And The Wealthy.

Shocking, I know.  GOP and Democratic corporatists and the broader conservative movement have been bleating a unified austerity message, emphasizing deficit and debt reduction, even at the expense of a focus on job creation.  Now to find that austerity policies benefit the financial sector and the extremely wealthy – that must just be coincidence, there’s no way the austerity message could be driven by anything other than statesmanship, patriotism and love of country, right?!

And when did this drive for austerity and fiscal correctness begin?  Oh, roughly about 2009.  Coincidentally, with the onset of a Democratic administration faced with trying to bring the nation’s economy back from the crash of 2007-2008.  Dick Cheney famously said circa 2002 (paraphrasing) ‘we’ve shown that deficits don’t matter’.  The debt ceiling battle from summer 2011 cost all of us an estimated $1.3 billion – in the name of fiscal responsibility…

You’ll note that I said above ‘at the expense of job creation’.  Conservative dogma for at least the last 30 years has maintained that those in the top tax bracket are the job creators.  But we’re still waiting for the trickle down effect to take place.  Neither I nor anyone I know owes their job to someone like Mitt Romney.  It’s a myth, pure and simple, propagated as a talking point because it works – because it’s rooted in peoples’ fear for their livelihoods.  In fact, note that every Republican talking point on jobs involves the element of fear, not hope – deregulate businesses so they’ll add (i.e. won’t have to eliminate your) jobs – keep taxes low (15% effective tax rate?!) on the highest earners, or else they might not create more jobs – have to re-up the license for that old nuclear plant because that’s mo’ jobs.

We’d better watch out or John Galt might just pick up his toys and go home.

It’s time to unplug from this – get Big Money out of politics via publicly-funded elections – enact a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the principle of corporate personhood so that speech is an exclusively human right again – and reorient our economy and political system to serving people instead of corporations.

Why He Wrote (…and why I should write more)

Why I Write: George Orwell on an Authors 4 Main Motives – Maria Popova – The Atlantic.

I find this fascinating, not least because of the source.  Orwell these days is such a monolith that it’s intriguing to find him here describing the very human motivations for his work.

The item on his list that strikes me here is political purpose, writing out of a desire to ‘alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.’  Politics in our time leaves me with such a feeling of bitterness.  Debates are constrained within bounds deemed reasonable by the big underwriters of our governments.  We don’t have serious conversations on what should be huge topics of our time; war, the role of government in ensuring the best life for all of its citizens, financialization, assault weapon libertarianism, and so on.  Because the terms of debate have already been fixed, only a narrow range of opinions are considered acceptable by the clique.

Of, by and for the people seems to have left the building some time ago.

I look forward to picking up a copy of Orwell’s ‘Why I Write’ – I guess I might have something to say too.