Tag Archives: season

Dark Adventure

In America’s pre-dawn darkness on Friday, December 21st, 2012, our sun will reach its extreme southern position on our horizon—and people will die.
They will die because they are afraid.
They will die to avoid adventure.
For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, this is our longest night, our longest wait for the light of our sun. It is a dark season for us. For Christians, it is Advent. We wait.
This year we wait for the unknown. We wait for the change—maybe the end of the world as we know it—and we are afraid.
If the world does not immediately end on that day, we will face the cold. As my dad used to say, “When the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen.”
But, the sun is coming back. The days are getting longer. Shouldn’t it be getting warmer?
All seasons lag. There is a delay as the long nights continue to take their toll. Winter follows the solstice,
February was always, ironically, my longest month. Spring still seemed so far away.
But it is coming, which is the meaning of advent, and our time between now and then is always an adventure. Because we do not know what comes, exactly, and we do not know what awaits us between now and then, between pain and salvation, between birth and death.
That is precisely what makes life an adventure.
In many ways, 2012 is no different from any other Advent season. We never know what the season brings or the new year (or, the new century, millennium, or age). Life is always adventure.
Earth will turn on Friday and the sun will rise over America as all other lands. The old adage, “It is always darkest before the dawn,” is figurative only. This year, our moon is in first quarter on Winter Solstice, so it will light our sky before sunrise, reflecting the sun’s light, foretelling its coming.
If we can but read the signs.
Pessimists among us decry change and adventure. They claim the world is ending, and fearing change, take their own lives. Sometimes they take the lives of others. Because they are afraid.
I watched a movie recently in which a young couple was stranded in the Grand Canyon. The husband lost his leg and suffered fever. As he lay near death, wolves approached. To save him from the wolves, his bride took his life—only moments before the sound of the approaching rescue helicopter.
Optimists see a Mayan prophecy of changing worlds, a grand spiritual shift from selfishness to cooperation among people. They see hope in adventure where others see despair.
Who is right?
Both. Seasons always lag. There will be more darkness. But seasons will change, light will return, Spring will come, and humans will evolve.
It will not be easy. It will be adventure.

Seasons of Sorrow

Science of Joy III: Public Rug

How do we teach joy inside and outside of our institutions of learning?

I left for college in 1964 and never went back home other than short visits. I even worked during Christmas break cleaning dorm rooms. Still, I remember spending time with family during the holidays with a cloud over my head. The semester did not end until January, and I had final exams to take. While this insanity of school calendar seems to have passed for most college students, it remains in many public high schools. We place an academic damper on the joy of our students.

Winter holiday time is stressful; evidence abounds in suicide rates. I wonder why that might be. I have heard some speculations about seasonal affective disorder, expectations of failed expectations, people missing family, and so on. While all of these may be true, I suspect the root cause is much simpler. We do not teach our children how to be joyful. It is not part of the curriculum. I suppose schools are leaving that up to the family.

Our larger institutions seem to lack joy, as well. Especially when Christmas comes during campaign season—and that seems to be every year, recently—we are inundated with everything that is wrong with our country, real and imagined. News cycles focus on tragedy, conspiracy, and calamity.

Fear is not conducive to joy.

We seem to believe we can buy joy.

Science seems to indicate otherwise. The more stuff we accumulate, the more we seem to fear losing it, and the more we seem to believe we need. We teach our children by our actions. Gluttony of mammon is an inherited disease, and there is no joy in it.

Grim post, isn’t it? It doesn’t have to be. This is the season for giving. Giving without any thought of thanks or reward is a certain pathway to joy. There are other avenues, but all have one thing in common: humility in diminution of ego. Sorry, I don’t have scientific evidence at hand to validate this claim. Do you? I would love to read your comments.

Maybe we need only remind ourselves to enjoy what we have. Certainly, material security in air, water, food, and shelter is important. Joy, however, comes not from our security or other blessings, but in our opportunities to share. Isn’t that the real message of the Season of Joy? Let us teach this to ourselves, families, friends, and strangers through our actions.

All I want for Christmas is time to share a little joy.

Whatever your faith, I hope you enjoy the journey.

Mind Wind: My Stuff

Because of this blog, I’ve been doing a little inventory of my stuff. Yes, I have both kinds of stuff, matter and energy. Granted, energy may be a little harder to hold onto, but I work at it—pun intended.

Here in my beautiful North Woods, I have literally tons of stuff. I have sand and soil, including rocks of various types. Some rocks are high in quartz and suitable for knapping, making them into sharp tools such as knives, spear points, and arrowheads. Others are coarse and useful for sharpening wood and bone into tools. Many would make excellent construction material. Some are simply lovely, and a few have found there way into Nancy’s little rock garden. One is chocking my trailer tire right now.

I have what seems like a million trees. Aspen, of course, are good for making paper. Balsam firs provide color and aroma. Basswood is an excellent carving medium and the inner bark produces very strong string/rope cordage. Pine and spruce make excellent lumber. The black ash is particularly tough for poles, spears, and clubs. I expect it would be very strong for primitive shelters. The birches offer bark for shingling shelters or making baskets and other forms of functional art. They are also high in combustible oil that helps to start fires in wet conditions even when rotten (a fungus grows upon it and stores the oils). The wood makes fine, quick fires—speaking of which, the cedars are awesome for this. Not only is their wood full of heat, but it does not absorb a lot of moisture, and dry twigs are abundant under spreading branches of live trees.

There are many other plants useful for tools, construction, medicine, and food—even clothing. No, I don’t have any figs, but cedar’s inner bark, grasses, and other plants can be braided and woven into garments. Berrybushes provide berries and their leaves are wonderful green or dried for nutritious teas. Speaking of food, I have many growing sugar maple trees, which also make fine, hot coals for cooking when a limb falls. I don’t cut live maples (or, many other trees if I can avoid it). The point is that I do have a lot of wonderful stuff here provided by Nature. One would think I spent most of my time shopping my free forest for good stuff and making it into better stuff. Nope.

I spend way too much of my time, especially in the fall—it is fall here—as I prepare to move back to AZ, getting rid of other stuff that once seemed really important but, now, not so much. I bought some more important stuff, yesterday, a shed to keep my good stuff—or my other stuff I can’t seem to let go just yet. I blame it on growing up poor. I just never know when I might need another box, a worn out mower and chain saw, a wild game cart, old tackle boxes….

So, this morning I woke up early and went out to start my little generator, the true sine wave Honda that safely powers my computer. It burns gasoline, a kind of matter that stores a lot of energy. That energy made my coffee, stored in a plastic container sent to me from some faraway place using some more gasoline and probably a lot of Diesel fuel. I could have made a fire to brew some pine needle tea, but I have become accustomed to coffee. Note to self: roasted dandelion and chicory roots make an excellent coffee alternative. Okay, duly noted.

But, I NEED my computer, so the generator runs. If I had thought ahead (and spent the big bucks), I could be using a true sine wave inverter and my energy stored in my batteries from the sun. But, alas, my inverter will not safely run my computer, so I burn gasoline. Of course, I have limited storage in those batteries and the days are getting shorter. It’s almost 8 a.m. and I am generating only 0.5 amps with two large panels. It’s one of the drawbacks of having so many tall trees.

Soon, I will take my shower with water pumped from my well by the same generator and heated by LP gas, more stuff full of energy. Then I will get in my little SUV and drive 20 miles (about 1 gallon of gasoline) toMichigan to buy some more stuff I think I need. Of course, it will be another gallon of gas to get back home. I wonder, “How much matter and energy was required to mine the coal and iron to make my car?”

How did this happen? How did I become so dependent upon material things, matter and energy? I wasn’t born with it, and I don’t need to die with it. Why do I think I need so much of it to live? I know I didn’t have a binky, but I wonder if I ever had a blankie. Somehow, I came to believe that I needed a whole lot of stuff to stay alive.

I know I don’t. Maybe there can be a blessing to poverty. I hope so, because it is approaching, but that is a subject for a future blog.

Time Defined

Time, itself, does not exist.

It is as imaginary as angels, demons, muses, and ideas.

Time is one component of the medium in which our physical world exists, the other being the subject of next month’s blog, space.

So, how is it that we can measure a thing that does not exist? It is a matter of relationship. As a medium component, time is intimately related to all existence. Why? Because existence is change.

We perceive existence only by way of physical, chemical, or nuclear change. We see light from fusion that is a star. We hear sound that is displacement of atoms, ions, or molecules. We even feel changes in pressure. All change happens only through time.

Our moon moves through space and time in patterns that allow us to “tell time”.

  1. New Moon rises and sets with the sun;
  2. Each day the moon rises and sets later (some 50 minutes);
  3. Waxing moon gets brighter on the sun (right) side, waning stays brighter on the sun (left) side;
  4. The photo is a waxing crescent moon with the sun to the right and below the moon soon after sunset;
  5. The sun sets north of west in summer—to the right of the moon in the photo. That gives the crescent moon the appearance of pouring water rather than
    holding it. Some call this a dry (no water) moon and a cup crescent that appears to hold water a wet moon. I would reverse that, calling this moon wet because it pours the water out. In any case, it is a summer moon.
  6. This photo is a waxing crescent summer moon taken after sunset (around 9 p.m.) in early June.

I believe my conclusion is unambiguous; however, I welcome corrections and reflections. I could be wrong.

All existence (of the physical world) is change is matter and/or energy through space and time.

E = mc­2

Don’t see time in this relationship? It’s hidden in the c, the speed of light, which is a ratio of change in space (distance) to change in time, or distance divided by time.

Time, itself, may not exist, but it is still as real as angels, demons, muses, and ideas.

 

Mind Wind: Beating Time

Mind Wind: Beating Time

(Note: This was written a few weeks ago, while in the north woods. I wasn’t sure I would have time after I got back to Arizona.)

I always wonder what people do with all that time they (we) save by speeding, changing lanes, and passing in traffic. Do they save a few moments to cherish later?

Individual views of time are personal but grounded in culture and heritage. We learn both consciously and subconsciously, and we develop habits without even noticing.

When did you get out of bed today?

My morning was blessed with sunshine on tall trees in a deep blue sky. Time feels different in the north woods, even as I look out the bedroom window of our RV. Then, I hear the factory whistle and know it is 7:00 a.m. and I am still in bed. That’s late for me. I feel lazy. Oh, well. It’s only 5:00 at home in Arizona.

Sometimes it can be difficult to perceive our true attitudes and beliefs because they have become habituated. It takes conscious intention to observe the day. Am I feeling a sense of urgency? Why? What’s the rush?

The world is our mirror. A sentient look around our social environment reflects our own attitudes and beliefs about time. Walk with intention of observing and see yourself. Become a stranger in your neighborhood.

The garbage truck comes between 6:00 and 7:00. Mail, not until afternoon this time of year. Irrigation at 5:00, but that’s all in Arizona. In the north woods, loons go to work early in the morning and whippoorwills call before full dark. Owls are a little later. I am not familiar with the other rhythms. See? That tells me I am still not settled into north woods time. It can take awhile.

I’ll drive into town today, first the little unincorporated county seat in WI, then the VAH in the bigger “city” in MI. I want to be there for a meeting precisely at 7:00 p.m. I hate to be late. It draws so much attention to me, and I might not get a chair facing the doors. I’ll be there by 6:45.

Our neighbor in the woods said Nancy and I are the two most punctual people she knows. I wasn’t always that way. I don’t know about Nancy. I used to be late for most things until, well, I guess until the Army. It wasn’t that I had ever wanted to be late—I hadn’t—I just planned poorly.

Tardiness and punctuality can both be egocentric. Yes, tardiness is obvious because it seems to place more value on my time than others’, but punctuality can be a personal fear of being noticed or embarrassed. Anyway, I now have a fear of embarrassment at being late.

I used to blame my mother for my being late. I said I had been a ten month baby and was still trying to catch up. Actually, I was a surprise five and a half years after my siblings. My parents had recently purchased a farm on a special low down payment WWII plan when my mother found out she was pregnant. The other five children were ages 5 to 12 years. Yeah, I would say I was born late.

There is a speed limit of 15 mph on our shared private road. A stop sign welcomes me to the civilization of a state highway. The U.S. highway through town allows 30 mph with no stop. Speed is measured in time.

Distance is measured in time, too. How far is Yuma from San Diego? Less than 3 hours. It’s 36 hours from my Arizona home to the north woods and 5 hours from here downstate to my brother’s farm where we grew up.

The bank sign here gives us time and temperature. I was across and up the street at the hardware store when I heard the radio news on 9/11. Time stopped that day. I had heard on my car radio that a plane hit the World Trade Center, but I had visualized a small private model. The owner at the hardware store briefed me on the second plane and we listened together. She said she couldn’t stop listening. I went home and told my wife we were at war, but we just didn’t know with whom. We watched TV. That is the only time in memory that my wife chose to not go out to eat on her birthday. That family owned hardware store closed just before Memorial Day, 2011.

The smoke from the collapse of those twin towers hung above America for almost 10 years. Finally, it seems like only a shadow in our collective memory. America likes short wars.

I have 27 years and a few months to pay off my mortgage. Already on Medicare, it sometimes feels like a race. Hope it’s not a dead heat. Actually, I don’t much care.

Buying on time is a way of life for many of us—including the nation, itself. If we pay off the debt, who wins? If we don’t, who loses? Time will tell.

Wisconsin and Michigan clocks agree in my neck of the woods. East or north of here, it is one hour later on the clock. It’s two hours earlier in Arizona and California, but that all changes when Daylight Saving Time ends. Arizona stays on Standard time year round. I guess there is no reason to save sunshine there.

How does one save time? Does it earn interest? Can we borrow time? I perceive some strange social views on this subject. Oh, that’s right. Time = $. No, I don’t believe that. Money is a human invention. Time exists in nature.

High winds yesterday took down many of my trees. I heard and watched two of them crash. You were not here, but I can tell you they did make sound in your absence. My conclusion is that others this spring made sounds even though I was not here at the time.

I have to go clean up a fallen tree. At least one of us has run out of time.

P.S. The moon picture was taken with my new camera at our place in Northern Wisconsin. Now, can you determine approximate date and time?

P.P.S. The blog header photo was also taken with my new camera just south of Quartzite, AZ as I approached home after ~70 hours on the road.

Essence of Time: God’s Art

Natural Time

Nature is an exquisite calendar and an elegantly functional clock. There is much we can determine about time from a single photograph of the moon—if we know how to read the clock. What time is it in the picture? How completely can you answer? Assume it is the Northern Hemisphere. I may post clues as needed from time to time.

While I was a Volunteer Interpretive Ranger at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in Arizona, I observed the phenomenon of light from the sunrise near equinox passing through a hole in the east wall, moving down the inside of a west wall, and passing through a similar hole there. Among other things, this great building is an impressive calendar.

Some people suggest this helped the Hohokam know the right time to plant their crops. I don’t think so.

My dad was a Wisconsin dirt farmer, and he taught me that the right time to plant corn was when the Burr Oak leaves were as big as squirrels’ ears. I suppose I remember this because it was important to me. It meant freedom. When my dad started planting corn, I was free to go barefoot all summer.

O’odham people, likely descendents of the Hohokam, hold a similar folk tale. The right time to plant cotton is when the Mesquite trees begin to grow new leaves.

Still, the Bitter Man of legend said to have built the Casa Grande had his reasons for making it a calendar. Prophecy aided by scientific prediction, like the Casa Grande itself, is impressive, and impressing people is an effective tool of politics. Perhaps his great big calendar helped the Bitter Man predict the coming monsoons. Maybe he even hosted great ceremonies appearing to bring the rains. That would be true power in the desert.

My interest in understanding the universe has taken me to inquiry of a spiritual nature. I find beautiful order in man’s perception of natural laws. Certain experiences have nudged me to accept some Mystery of Creation which, for simplicity and cultural relevance I choose to call God. In short, I want to know how the universe works, and this includes all things spiritual as well as physical. I want to understand what I can about God. But, I am an empirical sort of guy inclined to science as a preferred epistemology.

How do I find evidence about God? Well, I figure, if I want to understand an artist, I should probably study the artist’s work. After all, art is an expression of the artist. Since God is what I am calling the unknown (force, intelligence, being) who creates Nature (at least natural law), Nature is God’s art. I study Nature to study God.

I am attracted to Nature. I feel at home in Nature. I feel like me in wild places. I feel closer to my life goal, closer to understanding, closer to God.

Essence of Time: Grounding

Can you tell time with the moon?