Gulping down undigested experiences

fingers,

As it is, we are merely bolting our lives—gulping down undigested experiences as fast as we can stuff them in—because awareness of our own existence is so superficial and so narrow that nothing seems to us more boring than simple being. If I ask you what you did, saw, heard, smelled, touched and tasted yesterday, I am likely to get nothing more than the thin, sketchy outline of the few things that you noticed, and of those only what you thought worth remembering. Is it surprising that an existence so experienced seems so empty and bare that its hunger for an infinite future is insatiable? But suppose you could answer, “It would take me forever to tell you, and I am much too interested in what’s happening now.” How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such a fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself as anything less than a god? And, when you consider that this incalculably subtle organism is inseparable from the still more marvelous patterns of its environment—from the minutest electrical designs to the whole company of the galaxies—how is it conceivable that this incarnation of all eternity can be bored with being?


Notes:

I need a belief system

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Heather Havrilesky, Like a Prayer:

I don’t believe in God, but I need some kind of a prayer to repeat when things go haywire. I need a prayer because, as a writer with several unruly dependents under my roof, each day is a rollercoaster, a crapshoot, an exercise in uncertainty.

[…]

See how the tiniest events can shift the barometer just enough to stir up a storm? My buoyant mood sinks. The day that felt so full of promise sags, landing in a haze of exhaustion and niggling worries by the time I crawl into bed.

I need a belief system. I need a morning ritual. I need to say some bold and glorious words out loud at the start of the day, to remind myself who I am and what I’m doing and what the point of it all is. Unfortunately, I don’t like saying bold and glorious words out loud. So I need a prayer that’s not too prayer-like. I need a belief system that doesn’t require me to suspend my disbelief.

[…]

So instead, I just lay in bed and tried to think of every member of my family and every one of my closest friends. I started with my husband, my kids, my mother, my sisters, my brother, their spouses and kids, my aunts, and my father, who’s been dead for 19 years. Then I listed my close friends. I put them in alphabetical order so they were easier to remember.

The next day, it was much easier to remember everyone, even though it had been hard the first time.

And by the third day, the names felt almost like a prayer.

It’s been a month, and now every morning I just say my prayer of names. Doing that makes me realise that I do have a belief system: almost everything is superfluous, except people. People matter. And there’s a strange emancipation that comes from acknowledging the people you love, and giving them your love, even when you know they can’t always understand you, accept you or love you back. People are flawed. But people will surprise you.

We aren’t on this Earth to improve endlessly, forever approaching infinite perfection but never quite getting there. We are here to notice the enormity and beauty of everything around us, and to notice each other – to notice how flawed we all are, and feel connected anyway.

Read entire essay by Heather Havrilesky at Aeon Magazine @ Like a Prayer.


Image Credit: Tanya Moss

Flying over I-95 N. Sometimes, you gotta go.

Airplane-Lavatory-Door

We are lifting off on flight #2395 heading back north.

I sneak a last peak at my smartphone, a text message from home:

It’s windy (very) here.  Expect a bumpy descent into NY. 

Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers comes to mind. Help! Thanks! Wow!  Thank YOU for the soothing send-off. My fingers are on the keys to fire back a rocket. I decide against it. What incredible restraint you have shown. And yet, so unlike you. I sit and ponder whether I’ve finally matured in Middle Age. Shake my head. An aberration from the mean. I’ll get the final word when I get home.

And, it’s choppy.

The beverage cart is rolled cautiously down the aisle. It is now a “beverage” cart. There are no longer any complimentary snacks on two and half hour flights. It is noted that the seats still recline, and they are complimentary as part of the ticket purchase.

I ask for a Diet Coke. It will dissolve a nail and here you are fueling your tank. She offers me the entire can. Just drink half.  Do it.  I slug it back, all of it, like a thirsty sailor. There are no napkins, those cost extra, so I wipe the spillage with my shirt sleeve. Class.

And, it’s choppy.

As the plane lurches up and down and left and right, the soda sloshes around. The Oxidation process is well under way, my intestines groan.  In my youth, my bowels could swell up like a dirigible and I would feel no discomfort – a light balloon drifting in a summer breeze. No longer. A whiff of dew and he’s a boogie-eyed meerkat on look out for the toilet.

And, it’s choppy.

Expect a bumpy descent into NY. We’re still one and half hours away.

There are core foundational principles with air travel. On the top of this list: “Avoid the Lavatory.” Unless you are ready to explode, don’t do it. Why do they call it a lavatory? Lavatory. It sounds like Def: A location where medical research is being conducted. But it is def: A room with a toilet and sink. AND LAYERS OF JUMPIN’ BACTERIA. The best outcome here is avoidance. Period. There is no close second.

And, it’s choppy. [Read more…]

Sunday Morning: An epic spectacle on par with the annual wildebeest migration

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Charu Suri @wsj.com: Have You Ever Seen the Crane?

North America’s sandhill crane migration is one of the world’s greatest natural spectacles. To witness these frequent flyers on their favorite plains, head to Nebraska now.

From mid-February to mid-April (peaking during the last few weeks of March), the densest influx of migrating sandhill cranes descends on Nebraska. 80% of the planet’s crane population, 650,000 birds, have been making seasonal stopovers in the region for at least 10,000 years, an epic spectacle on par with the annual wildebeest migration in Kenya’s Rift Valley.

These slate-colored winged beauties with crimson foreheads and cream-colored cheeks gather along the sinuous, braided channels of the Platte River, which offer them protection from predators, and feast on corn left on the fields after harvest until not a kernel remains…(In a perfectly symbiotic dynamic, the cranes help the farmers by leaving them a clean field ready for planting the following year.)

I could hear the distinctive, low and throaty call of the crane — as insistent as cicada song — even through the closed windows of our car. (The song of one sandhill crane can carry well over a mile.)…It sounded as if an avian orchestra was tuning up just a few feet away, as a blend of sharp trills and lush cooing filled the air. Though the sun had not yet risen, I could make out the silhouettes of wings and of reedlike legs supporting the birds’ hefty bluish-grey frames. A few frisky, early rising males did the mating dance, flapping their wings and leaping a few feet into the air like giddy, light-footed schoolboys, while the females seemed to look on approvingly. But most of the cranes were still asleep, their heads tucked under their wings…The entire scene was accompanied by what sounded like countless chamber orchestras riffing simultaneously on Stravinsky.

Fun Facts on Sandhill Cranes: Sandhill cranes travel up to 10,000 miles, as many as 500 per day, on their annual migration from the Southern U.S. and Mexico. Their wingspan: 6.5 feet for adults. Their average height: Just under four feet for adults. Special Talent: They are known for their ability to dance. Like humans, they boogie to find a mate, relieve tension and just for fun.

Read more here: Have You Ever Seen the Crane?


Photo by Siena62 taken near Kearney, NE

Cat’s Left the Cradle 2

hair-long-man

WEDNESDAY. 9:30 PM.
Medium: FaceTime.
600 miles away, Son sits in his dorm room.
(Technology. A Miracle)

Eric: Hi Dad.
Dad: Hi Eric.
Dad: When’s your interview?
Eric: Friday at 8 am.

Dad adjusts his grip on the iPad to get a better look at Son.

Eric: What are you doing?
Dad: Take your cap off.
Eric: Why?
Dad: Take it off.
Eric: Why? (Here he comes. Here he comes.)
Dad: I’m only going to ask you one more time. [Read more…]

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective

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Oliver Sacks: My Own Life. Learning of Terminal Cancer

…It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can…

…While I have enjoyed loving relationships and friendships and have no real enmities, I cannot say (nor would anyone who knows me say) that I am a man of mild dispositions. On the contrary, I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions.

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night…

I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.

…Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

Don’t miss reading the full essay by Oliver Sachs: My Own Life. Learning of Terminal Cancer


Notes:

Driving I-95 S. With Bombogenesis.

electrical-cord-face

6:10 am.

The digital read-out on the dash flickers + 22 F.

Where’s the  “+”?

It’s dark, and cold, and the day opened with the media blaring: ‘Bombogenesis‘: Northeast Blizzard “Juno” Will Be Fueled By Dramatic Pressure Drop. This is followed with a pre-recorded, public service announcement of impending doom:

This is an important winter storm advisory. A blizzard warning is in effect for the State of Connecticut.  It is predicted to bring high winds gusting up to 60 miles per hour.  Snow accumulation of 20 to 30 inches is expected.  Coastal flooding and high tides are anticipated. Widespread and long duration power outages are expected.  Utility crews are prohibited from engaging in repair work until the end of the storm.  There will be a travel ban at 9pm this evening.

In 1973, the ’63 GMC Short-Bed Step-Side was outfitted with a block heater. A three-pronged electrical cord dangled from the grill and was plugged in overnight. On most frigid British Columbia mornings, this would be enough to crank up the Chevy after three or four turns and get us to hockey practice.

40 years later, my ignition fires on the first pull, with no dangling cords hanging from the grill.  The Gratitude Bus is rolling.

I pull out and accelerate onto I-95.  The highway is clear and dry. I’m flowing with traffic.  My Ólafur Arnalds’ playlist lands on “Undan Hulu.”  I have no idea what Undan Hulu (Icelandic) means but the Cello solo hits a sweet spot.  I hit replay, replay and replay in my Monday morning meditation.

Yet, there is no mistaking the dark streak darting in and out of Arnalds’ Cello solo. [Read more…]

The War

rooster

A cock. A non-castrated capon. A cockerel. A reptilian, evil bastard.

His siren call would come before sunrise, echoing up the mountainside and back down again. And rush in, with piercing cock-a-doodle-do gusts into my room. My eyes, wide open, stare at ceiling. I shiver. The S.O.B. grabbed the psychological edge at 5:30 am.

His battle lines were indisputable. His was the coop. Yours was outside. You crossed the demarcation line, the clink of the metal hook on the dilapidated wooden door, and he was coming.

He attacked all comers.  He feared no one. All generations buckled: Deda, Father, and his pubescent sons.

He could smell Fear. The perspiration would stream and thicken in the soft armpits tasked with gathering eggs in a red, long-handled, five pound Maxwell House coffee can. Good to the last drop!

His flock of fifteen continued foraging, unfazed by the battle preparations. [Read more…]

32 years and counting.

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It’s 5′ x 7′, that is five by seven feet. Unlike contemporary, machine-made models, which are much shorter and cheaper to produce, there is ample cover to reach the tippy-toes of my 6′ 1″ frame.

It has survived 32 winters.
It has served 6 homes, and is now working its 7th.
It has outlasted 10 automobiles.
And, yet here it is, working, in pristine condition, with a new car smell.

Besides our tableware, which should be replaced, it is the only wedding gift that has survived. She has long since passed, but her afghan lives on.

Is an afghan knitted or crocheted? Are they stitches or loops?  I have no idea.
Eric calculated 38,260 individual loops. 38,260 hand made loops.

It is brown, green, and two shades of blue. Why these colors? The earth? Its plants and forests?  Her hope for a God, for heavens? Why didn’t you ask her when she lived? [Read more…]

Day 1 of 365: Resolutions

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Thank you Rudy @ Et in Arcadia Ego*