Tag Archives: space

Reflection: Celebrating Life

Today I pause for reflection on the intersection of time and space we call life before proceeding next week to physical stuff. I pause while my mother passes.

Life as existence is the occupation of space for some time. The space we claim and share affects many other entities for the duration of our mutual existence and beyond. Our tracks endure.

My life consists of nearly 24,000 days and counting. My ego asks, “What will I leave behind?” Then, I see the blessings of my life: my wife and daughters, grandchildren, students, family, and friends whose lives have touched mine. I leave tracks, some that endure briefly, and some quickly obscured by the sands and snows of busy lives. Regrettably, some tracks are scars of my mistakes. I hope we learn from them.

Each of our lives is shaped by others as well as one’s self. Self—an interesting concept. I consider myself a product of three natural forces: Genetics and Environment of course, but also Spirit. The Nature/nurture argument is silly without regard for the piece of God that became my Soul. Perhaps I digress. Perhaps, not.

Because my father lived and loved, six children were born, eighteen grandchildren, thirty four great grandchildren, and twenty three great-great grandchildren. We occupy space on this continent because brave ancestral souls crossed the Atlantic, at least one on the Mayflower, and because at least one Native American joined the family.

My father passed inYuma, AZ, in 1988 in the same hospital where Nancy now works. I grieved two years, complicated by the loss of a sister in the same year. My grief ended in the desert near Florence, AZ, on Fathers’ Day of 1990. That was a good, spiritual day with verbal prayers of gratitude.

There is a lonely finality to death. No more can I ask advice, listen to a story, or watch interactions between the deceased elders and our children. Oh, but I can, because I am blessed with memory. So, today, I watch my mother slip away and I clutch the gratitude of memory, but my little boy inside does not want to say his goodbye.

I will grieve, but I am not sad. I am blessed. She lived 96 years, 9 months, and 3 days, passing on Sunday, August 28th, 2011. Mom leaves many tracks that endure and most of them compel us to smile. Please, smile with me.

Re Quest: Space Entitlement

Toward the end of my teaching tenure, I proclaimed to students in our environmental problems class, Solar Starship, that land use would be the issue of our lifetime. Actually, that was not prophecy so much as observation: Land use has been and may always be a primary issue in human relationships. Yet, I was wrong, and my lesson came, as it often did, from a student. But, first, a brief view of land use as space entitlement.

I “own” Lonesome Pines, our 27 acres in the North Woods of Wisconsing where I write today. I am entitled to call this space mine because Nancy and I exchanged thousands of dollars with the people who then held title, and that entitlement can be traced back some years to the mining company that owned the county. Before that, it was presumed owned by some Native Americans and “ceded” to our government in exchange for certain perpetual rights including spearing walleyes in the lake I fished yesterday.

My point here is that we claim entitlement to land space because of some business deals and treaty agreements. We also claim some special entitlement as superior human beings–Manifest Destiny being one example. I believe the people who lived and died on this land still hold some claim because of the bones and spirits that remain. The question looms as to who they might be.

They might be Sioux people who seemed to have been pushed out as Anishinaabe people arrived from the east, fleeing a prophecy. Perhaps title belongs to people here long before any Sioux. Land Entitlement is often murky. My sense is Pottawatomi history lives here along with Ojibwe, but that is just a feeling.

Actually, my legal entitlement does not include mineral rights, and, morally, I do not claim artifacts that might be found. Ojibwe, Pottawatomi, and others may have anything I uncover.

The questions for your consideration are these: What space are you entitled to own? By what right do you claim entitlement? How is this entitlement affected by your choice of land use?

Aldo Leopold, founder of UW Wildlife Ecology in Madison, wrote on the concept of Land Ethic. He hoped our human evolution would arrive at an application of ethics to land use including the space and everything within it, living and nonliving. This was published after his death in a collection called A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC. He was an optimist. Still, land use is one of the most important issues and ethical concerns. What could be more important?

I’ll tell you. On what I believe was my last field trip as a teacher, I asked the students, high school Juniors and Seniors, to view Devil’s Lake with a concern for land use. While one class went with a former student, I asked the second class to ponder the land use question while sitting quietly near the effigy mounds on the north shore.

Nancy and I watched as I called them back and asked what they had learned. The answer I got caused us to just look at each other. I said, “Well, I guess we can go home, now,” because the answer felt like the very reason those mounds had been built.

One student said that she didn’t know if she had learned anything, but she had decided something. “I decided land appreciation is more important than land use.”

Public Rug: Sacred Space

Do you have a special and personal space? Do your children?

One thousand eight hundred and ninety miles of space traveled and another two hundred and fifty to go before I will be at my special space in the North Woods, the one I call Lonesome Pines. Apparently, and according t0 neighbors, at least one black bear also thinks it is special. Lesson One of Special Space etiquette starts tomorrow. Where did you learn your space etiquette?

What are we teaching children about personal and community space and place ownership? Is school a place?

I was actually taught to manage uncooperative students by invading their personal space. I didn’t like doing that because, well, is nothing really personal?

What space in a school belongs to an individual student? A peg on a wall? A desk? A locker? Hmmm.

How much space is one person entitled to claim as personal? I have 27 acres in the woods. If I had had more money, I wouldn’t have it anymore because I would have more land, at least another 40 acres on which I had an option. Touchy subject, though, owning space. There are rules.

I cannot grow certain crops on my land. If I do, I could be confined to a very small space with no personal entitlement. I cannot dump hazardous waste–not that I would. The point I’m making is that no space is really personal because what is done there can affect other people even in their own personal space.

It is all about the relationships. Again.

Yes, we teach our children that space is limited and scarce, that they don’t really have personal space to do anything they want, and that the community interest affects their personal space. But, my title is Sacred Space.

Is it appropriate for a teacher to touch a student? Is a pat on the back appropriate? Does a person have a right to declare any space so personal that touching of any kind is inappropriate? Yes, it depends upon the nature of the relationship. In particular, it depends on the mutual nature of the relationship and, if not mutual, upon the responsibility of the dominant person to maintain the personal space of the other.

Do not walk on my land without permission. My neighbors have permission–except during hunting. Then they have permission to follow a wounded animal if, and only if, they try to make contact with anyone hunting on my land.

Do not cut a tree on my land, do not put your hand on me without my permission, and stay out of my face. Do we grant such space to our children, students, friends, or strangers?

There is a smaller area in my woods, right along the logging road and overlooking my driveway, that is sacred to me. And that had better make it sacred to you if you want to be invited to sit there. What makes space sacred? That is your business, or in this case, mine. It is sacred because it feels sacred to me. Nancy calls it Healing Rock and, yes, there is a story there, but it is personal. With her permission, I may share it later.

Different opinions on what space is personal and what is community is the root of wars–many wars. I’m thinking we should teach our children, especially by our example, the importance of rules of relationship regarding sacred space. Why?

Because an animal without personal space, especially sacred space, is a dangerous animal, and that is true for lions, tigers, and bears, oh, my, and people, too. I need wild space to commune. Without it, I get dangerous. That’s why my wife keeps sending me back to Lonesome Pines.

The bear needs it, too, but I draw the line where I mow the grass. Stay our of my camp or it will get personal.

Mind Wind: My Domain

We have established the abundance of space in our universe. Here on this finite marble we call home, Earth, there is also an abundance of space. This became clear to me as I traveled across the states west of the Mississippi. We crossed miles and miles of open grasslands, desert, and mountains. Geographically, Arizona is the fourth largest state in our Union, so I was very surprised when I looked for my own space here.

Yuma has approximately 75 RV parks of various flavors. Most have spaces somewhere in the 2000 square feet range, many less. When we began looking for a spot, I literally became ill, sick to my stomach. We lived almost 8 years in our RV full time but never in one of those crowded parks.

My wife chose to work the first 4 years in Casa Grande, and we found a new RV park with fewer amenities but very large spaces set in the desert of Cactus Forest 30 miles away. We had a space the size of a city home lot set on the park edge and a view of saguaro-mesquite desert with trails to walk. She said she made the choice for her dog, but I think she knew this country boy needed the room.

In Yuma Foothills, we found a lot to rent from another traveling nurse. We shared the space with them, but had plenty of room in a mixed neighborhood of homes, mobiles, and RVs. It seemed diverse in home style if not ethnicity. We also had a golf course and Fortuna Wash for the dog and me to wander. For Midwesterners, a wash is a stream bed dry almost all of the time—although I have seen it run wild a couple of times.

Now we live in 1300 square feet on a lot in a slow-growing development, so it still feels like I have plenty of space. There is also some undeveloped desert to walk with my dog, but it is not mine.

Mine, mine, mine. The place in Northern Wisconsin I call mine, or Lonesome Pines, is my domain. Nancy and I own it, all 27 acres. I can walk into my woods and be as alone as I want to be. Funny thing, though—I never feel alone there. Actually, regardless what the deed says, I don’t believe it is all mine. I just pay the taxes for the privilege of being adopted by the land as temporary caretaker.

The day will come when I have to let it go. The opportunity to “own” a special place, a personal space of some acres, comes along rarely. I bought one in 1974 and had to let it go in divorce in 1980. I didn’t find Lonesome Pines until 1998. But, someday, because of economics or declining caretaker abilities, I will have to say goodbye, again.

If there is a point, today, it is that space is abundant, but special places are not. This makes space similar to time. It is what it is–dependent upon our attitudes and perceptions, particularly regarding the relationship between place and us, a very personal relationship in my case. I leave you with a poem I wrote at the time I had to sell my little farm in Dane County in 1980.

But, hey, that got me to Beaver Dam Unified School District.


That old, run down farm,

Wasn’t all that much,

Twenty acres of silt over clay,

A barn and, half a house,

Too much work, too much money,

Never would reward,

It was a damned fool place all right,

So why do I miss it so?

And I have to let it go,

Too bad, I fit it so.

Sense of Space

Existence is change happening in the medium of time and space. Without change, could we notice any existence? Perception is a change. No change, no perception, no cognition, no volition, no existence. What, then, is space but the absence of existence?

How much space is there? Does it have a shape? A size? A definition?

I ask such questions because it amuses me. I sit with my feet at the dancing embers of a retiring campfire, look up to the Milky Way above the trees, and wonder. It is a wonderful world.

I sit in the woods of Northern Wisconsin in my own space, my land, my domain. “Lonesome Pines” is my place. My sense of space includes a concept of geographical place and distance from other people. This month I invite you to explore the concept of space as it includes place.

Sacred Space

Sacred Space

God’s Art: Boundless Abundance

Our universe is made almost entirely of space.

If our Earth were a marble, the sun would be a beach ball taller than me about a quarter mile, or two football fields, away.

The moon would be a BB some thirty marble widths away from the Earth marble.

If the sun were this two meter beach ball, the nearest star would be approximately as far away as Thien Ngon, South Vietnam was from Fort Atkinson, WI. That seemed really far.

(I scratched these ratio comparisons out myself, so I invite all of you to research the data to correct my conclusions. Please.)

I run out of meaningful comparisons to picture the Milky Way Galaxy, which is twenty five thousand times farther across than our sun is from the nearest star. And, this is only one mediocre galaxy in space.

I am grossly unsure of my calculations and comparisons, but brutally confident in my conclusion that our universe is created almost entirely of space.

Then, there is Terra Firma. Solid Earth? Our rocks, water, and air are all made of atoms, ions, and molecules separated from each other by relatively vast distances.

Even our tiniest particles, atoms, are made mostly of space. The simplest form of the Hydrogen atom consists of one proton and one electron. Magnifying our scale now by many orders of magnitude, if that proton were a marble, the electron might be a BB zipping around at an average distance of a quarter mile, or two football fields, from the marble proton. Space.

If you remember learning that the electron is larger than the proton, so did I. Actually, assigning a size to an electron at all is probably sophomoric, but this is a limited model to illustrate the point that most of our universe, including inside atoms, is space.

I marvel that these dimensions of space produce an Earth just the right size for gravity to hold an atmosphere without crushing a cell or an elephant. I wonder at our distance from the sun being perfect for water to exist in three phases that moderate our temperatures in a range
supporting life, at all. I wonder at the vastness of our country, especially as I travel through the west, contrasted with the limits of space we impose in our population centers. But, that is a topic for next week. I am amazed at the properties of atoms that result in changes existing as life, and that is a topic for next month.

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.