NOT LOCAL —Deluge Camping—

My life is so tragic that I used to schedule two hours first thing every morning to cry my eyes out, but that got old after a while, so I decided to stop hanging around with poets. It was more fun to look back and laugh. So I suppose that makes me a humorist.

One tragic thing about my youth was that my Mom didn’t like camping. My Dad did a foolish thing, which was to take her camping on their honeymoon. He thought he might open her eyes to the beauty of nature. It poured. Years later, when he was a little wiser, he took her to the Caribbean. She stepped on a poisonous sea-urchin. Come to think of it, maybe Nature didn’t like my mother. When my Dad took her out mackerel-jigging she caught a sea-gull. It squawked and flapped about her face at the end of a hand-line, and she indignantly concluded only fools found joy in mackerel fishing. Nor did she like anyone finding joy in her discomfiture, but Dad did a foolish thing, which was to laugh.

After the divorce I was very careful to avoid the topic of camping. I was a sort of barefoot, suburban Huckleberry Finn, illegally fishing and skinny-dipping in the water supply of Harvard professors, and was briefly arrested at age eleven, but the officer had compassion and didn’t tell Mom. I had many other wonderful adventure that I didn’t dare share with Mom (at least until a sort of statute of limitations had passed) for I had concluded there were two types of people in the world. There were those who didn’t like camping…

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…and those who did.

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Back in my days as a bachelor and bum I did a lot of camping, for a tent was cheaper than an apartment. In 1987 I camped from May 1 to October 23. This presented me with a bit of a dilemma, for if I didn’t write my Mom she’d worry, (and I usually couldn’t afford a phone call.) The letters I then produced were masterpieces in the fine art of censorship. Every day camping was a sunny day, and rain was never mentioned.

After I surprised everyone by marrying and settling down, I got a surprise of my own, for it turned out my wife’s mother did like camping. I didn’t know that was legal for Moms to do, but she’s gone right ahead and done it.

As a young mother of five with a hot home, too poor to afford a summer house, she had moved to a campground by a lake each summer, perhaps to escape the heat or perhaps to escape vacuuming the house. Her husband would commute to work from the campground, and the kids rode their bicycles about and fished and swam to their hearts content. They don’t seem to remember any rain. The mother didn’t know what she was starting. It became a yearly event.

This year the lady, in her eighties, sat back and happily regarded her daughter and three sons, their four spouses, ten grandchildren, four grandchildren-in-laws, two step-grandchildren, two step-grandchildren-in-laws, six great-grandchildren, and two step-great-grand children, and likely thought about the ones who couldn’t make it this year.

It rained, of course. It seems to rain every year, but we count on the rain, and one of the first things we do is stretch out tarps between trees. I am proud to state I was the one who started this great tradition in 1991, and as the years have passed it has become a sort of art, as we’ve learned by making all sorts of mistakes. A tarp can turn into a spinnaker in a strong wind, and snap ropes, and also a tarp also can turn into a massive udder if  it catches rain and sags. Now we have learned all sorts of remedies, one of the best of which is to get old, so you can sit back and watch others clamber about in trees.

Only once did I arise this year, as the wise old man,  to show them the trick of tying a rope to a hammer and tossing it up over a branch, so you can skip the climbing, (which I didn’t learn until I was pushing fifty and getting tired of bringing an aluminum extension ladder camping, and saw a friend who was lazy demonstrate the hammer trick).  This year no one had a hammer so they used a hatchet. It added risk to the enterprise.

In the end we were ready for the rain. Here’s my area:

and here’s the main gathering area:

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In the old days we only had tents, and looked down our noses at RV’s, but a son and brother-in-law have gotten soft, and I must admit I don’t mind a bit of softness myself, though I can’t afford a RV. We also only cooked over wood fires in the old days, and while we still do a bit of that (under the high part of the tarp), the younger folk haul in all sorts of smokers and newfangled propane gadgets. I don’t complain, when faced with a spread like this:

I’m not sure we could have done as well if the winds had been high. Around five years ago we gathered in the gusty deluge of a former tropical storm, and as I recall we put off the gorging until the next day, but this year the feast was prepared despite downpours. It was interesting to see the smaller girls incorporate the water coming off the tarp into their play.

My wife strongly believes that, to acclimatize grandchildren to camping, you need to break them in early.

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We’ve been camping in the rain so long, nearly thirty years now, that we’ve watched an entire generation go from being this small to being stronger and richer than we are. I like to just sit back and contemplate the passage of time, but did get up and take part in a game of whiffle-ball when the rain let up for a bit, and now rue my brief ambition.  Within hours I was walking funny. But the former boys are now strapping young men who don’t stiffen up so quickly, and who itch for challenges, such as jumping into rivers from high places and being carried downstream.

This river is the Ashoelot, a geologically interesting backwater that flows down a channel made by a glacial flood. Usually it is fairly shallow,  but all the rain had its waters rising.Camping 9 IMG_7106


When we first arrived my dog L.C. (short for “Lost Cause”), (Animal Rights Activists think I’m calling her “Elsie”), had a great time annoying herons and geese on the river, which was a little higher than usual.

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But the clear, tea-colored water had risen three feet and turned to coffee by the second day.

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By the third day it had risen three more feet and gone dark again, and had the spin-drift suds that sometimes indicate pollution, but can also be natural, in swampy rivers.  The campground owner said the water was as high as he’d ever seen it. Driftwood shifted, with its colonies of greenery and crimson blooms.

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The men were smart enough to know you can’t jump in at the usual place, if you are unsure if driftwood has moved in, so they sent my nine-year-old  grandson down to swim around and see if he could feel any branches with his toes. The cheerful, young, eager-to-please chump fellow checked out the entire area under the embankment, which usually is around twelve feet tall. He said it was all clear. Then they asked him if the water seemed colder, and he shrugged innocently and said, “Maybe a little.”

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I wish I could show you the video of whqat followed. You see six big brawny men dash to the edge of the bank and leap whooping out into the river, make a tremendous splash, and then their heads emerge and they all simultaneously register the fact the water is twenty degrees colder. Not so manly, all of a sudden. As they drifted downstream you could have heard the shrieking a mile away.  (I looked suspiciously at my grandson. He was smiling noncommittally.)

Despite the fact they had disgraced themselves, in terms of machismo, some of the women wanted pictures of the young men “for a calendar.”

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Himph! No one asked me if I’d pose for a calendar. And I tell you, I’ve taken on all four of those fellows and whupped them with one hand behind my back……twenty years ago.

As the evening came on I sat in the light of the campfire listening to the patter of the rain on the tarp overhead, and the deluge became a flood of memory. I listened to the murmurs of conversation, snatches of laughter, and strumming of a guitar and thought about what a fool I was thirty years ago, when I decided I had God’s plan for me all figured out. I was camping all alone in the New Mexico desert, and expected to be single all the days of my life.

In fact I managed to convince myself that being alone was likely for the best.  Spirituality is all about renouncing the things of the world, and it would be far easier to renounce everything if I didn’t have anything. Just as it is far easier to be a teetotaler if you have no booze, it would be easier to be celibate without a babe. My “bad karma” was actually “good karma”.

Not so fast. (Though it did happen with astonishing speed.) In fact, when I told a spiritual friend I had married a mother-of-three I didn’t try to explain it, beyond saying, “I don’t know what happened.” Karma is like that. Just when you think you have things figured out you learn you’re just a chip on a mighty river.

It is also a little amusing how “good karma” becomes “bad karma”. When my wife was clobbered by morning sickness and I had three kids to care for it occurred to me that “family values” might not be all that they were cut out to be. Not that I had any desire to camp alone again. But I understood the irony of the Springsteen “Hungry Heart” lyrics:

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back,

There are times when leaving all worldly possessions has a definite appeal.  The Australian poet Francis Brabazon  describes a man who came to Meher Baba and offered to lay all his worldly possessions at his feet, namely, a wife and six kids.

However when Jesus said, “Leave all and follow me”, he didn’t mean just your “bad karma”. All means all. To be true follower you have to give up your “good karma”. Yikes. That is not so easy, when the kids who seemed like “bad karma” grow up and delight you by being “good karma” in a campfire’s wavering glow.

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It is no easy thing to truly give all to God. We are all addicts. But it helps when you reflect on how bankrupt you are without the gifts you have received from God. (I’m not sure where atheists think their talents and “luck” comes from.) It helps even more to believe God is love, and even “bad karma” holds compassion, though it may be a blessing very deeply disguised.

As a cancer survivor I know even accursed cancer can be a blessing, for it makes every day a treasure. One lives praying the doctor doesn’t deliver the bad news, “it’s back”. It is as if you are looking  around for the last time. Habits people have, which once annoyed you, become strangely endearing.

It is oddly ambiguous that, when we think we have control of our lives, we are full of complaining, but when we lose control we experience an overwhelming gratitude. Perhaps that explains (to some) why “leave all and follow me” is not really loss, but gain.

Will Freedom Survive?

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There is a certain feeling I awake with, when some shock has occurred in my life. Often it occurs after someone near and dear has died. It isn’t actually disbelief, for it involves the grim recognition of a changed reality, yet there is an element of incredulity involved. The words, “I can’t believe”, seem most apt in expressing the brassy clang of a harsh dawning. Even though one does believe, one says they don’t. One says something like, “I can’t believe he/she is dead”, or “I can’t believe I’m fired”; or “I can’t believe the house burned down”, or even, “I can’t believe I graduated”. It is the dawn of great change, and trauma is involved.

Lately I have been waking in the dark before dawn with that odd feeling involving my homeland. I can’t believe what is happening is happening. Largely it involves the behavior of the leaders in Washington. To me they seem to have forgotten what America stands for, and to have “exchanged their birthright for a mass of pottage”.  “Freedom for all”, the very thing the nation stands for, no longer matters as much as their personal gain.

These people are generally called “The Elite”, and they have their ways of justifying their greed, lust, hate and general selfishness. Usually it involves some “ends justify the means” illogic.  When you examine their thinking, it resembles a thin scab over a growing abscess. They ask others to sacrifice their freedom, as they themselves waddle in wealth. Their manner of justifying their dishonesty and hypocrisy involves warping the Truth, and misinforming the public with a dishonest media, and misinforming the children with dishonest history. Nothing is sacred; even the temperature records of the past are “adjusted” to further their cause, which, in the end, is not freedom for all, but glut for a few.

The very existence of the so-called “Elite” is an affront to what America stands for, and is every much our enemy as are Islamic terrorists, who also are a reality that I awake to, who cause me to say, “I can’t believe it has come to this,” to my bedroom ceiling.

The “Elite” and the “Terrorists” like to portray themselves as opposites, when they are actually the same thing. The Elite like to portray their selfishness as a broad minded, Truth-seeking “progressiveness”, utterly different from what they see as the narrow-mindedness of fundamentalist religions, even as the terrorists like to see themselves as standing for Truth, and see the Infidels of Babylon in the grotesquely selfish behavior of the Elite.  Thus they both stand for “Truth” and, in the name of God, commit ungodly acts.  They both dress as priests while behaving as devils. They both hold out the promise of a harmonious, heavenly future, while creating a present tense that is a divisive hell.

In fact goodness does not wait in the future. Goodness begins now, as does Eternity.  Unity does not begin only after you are done killing all who disagree. Unity begins when you accept some fundamental Truths, such as “All men are created equal,” and in order to do this you must believe in what some scorn, what some disdain as being naive and mushy: A thing called “Love”.

In medieval French drama evil was often portrayed as a priest who had a distinctive laugh, a sort of “Bwah-ha-ha”,   which was doubly ironic as it was the distortion of “bārūkh habbā”, which was a phrase recieted by priests that meant,  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Ps. 118:26) The priest-character was the absolute wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing, and from his ability to make chaos of harmony, and to then laugh “Bwah-ha-ha”, comes our word “brouhaha”.  Sadly, while a brouhaha is laughable in a play like “Much Ado About Nothing”, in real life it can result in horrific misery.

An example of this misery involved the freedom of India, which a century ago was the “jewel of the English Empire”.

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The British controlled a broken collection of principalities which in many areas involved Muslim princes ruling over Hindu peons. It was a highly complex and delicate political situation, with Hindus and Muslims the majority, but also involving Buddhists, Sikhs and others. The British actually did a fairly good job of keeping the peace, but they were the smallest minority of all, and had blown their chance to be good rulers by being too haughty, too greedy, and dragging India into a couple World Wars. India wanted to rule itself, but the urge for freedom faced the divisiveness of a population that did not agree about how to Love (IE: Religion.) In some area Muslims were the majority, and in some Hindus were the majority.


The first result of freedom for India was a loud, “Bwah-ha-ha”, involving a double genocide and the most massive migration the planet has even seen (until the current one in the Mideast.)  The death, rape, abductions, carnage and human misery were unbelievable, and the true numbers on both sides who died are unknown, but may be above a million in both cases.

A grandfather of my age, who had lived in the same area all his life, in his grandfather’s home town, might suddenly see people he had known all his life go insane, burst into his house, abduct his daughters, kill or castrate his sons,  and take all property and valuables, sending him packing to walk with his little grandchildren to a distant land as much as a thousand miles away. Here is a picture of a Muslim grandfather who didn’t make it:

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This is the sort of Brouhaha that the Elite like to point at and say, “Do you see what happens when we do not rule over the ignorant masses?” However I can all but guarantee this was brought about by the Hindu elite and Muslim elite saying something other than “All men are created equal”, (and also by the British elite abdicating from their responsibility).

As I poked about looking at what happened during the partition of India I wondered what the spiritual people did. In every disaster there are those who do good, besides those who are vile. My curiosity led me to leaf through a gigantic tome about the life of Meher Baba called “Lord Meher”, to the year 1947, and on page 2590 (!) I read  Meher Baba said, “Selfishness is the root cause of all troubles. It is all the more dangerous because, under the subtle influence of selfishness, the worst evils are apt to assume false colors of chivalry, sacrifice, nobility, service and even love. In spite of sometimes turning into a beast with cruelty, anger and the lust of aggrandizement and subjugation, man can and often does cheat himself into believing that he yet remains a man, a patriot and so on.

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The above rang a chord in me because I feel both the Elite and the Terrorists are beasts that believe they’re above bestiality, for the low often fool themselves. A cowardly man too spineless to fight, struggle and die (as did the poor old man in the picture above) for women and children will often justify his inaction as “pacifism”, and call himself a saint. In like manner, in the eyes of the disillusioned public the phrase “for the children” is now spoken ironically and even derisively, because it has been misused so often by deceitful and selfish politicians, doctors, pharmacists and social workers, who see themselves as saints.

The problem is that the vile can become (and may even intend to become) damned discouraging. I’ve been griping and bitching about the sheer stupidity of certain aspects of American life for a half century, and what good has it ever done?  The idiots just go on becoming more and more idiotic. They are like drug addicts increasing their dosage, hellbent to drag themselves and many others over a precipice to doom. What is there to be encouraged about? Why get out of bed in the morning?

I flipped ahead to page 2591 and read the answer is Love:

“Pure love is matchless in majesty, it has no parallel in power and there is no darkness it cannot dispel. It is the undying flame that has set all life aglow. All the same, it needs to be kindled and rekindled in the abysmal darkness of selfish thoughts, selfish words and selfish deeds in order to burst out in a mighty spirit to serve as a beacon for those who may yet be groping in the darkness of selfishness, be it deep blue or all black.

The light of love is not free from its fire of sacrifices. In fact, like heat and light, love and sacrifice, so to say, go hand in hand. The true spirit of sacrifice that springs spontaneously does not and cannot reserve itself for particular objects and special occasions.

Just as it can never be too late or too early to learn to love for the sake of love, there can be nothing too small or too big to be sacrificed or sacrificed for. The flow of life, the flow of light, the flow of love is as much in the drop as in the ocean. The smallest thing is as big as the biggest, and the biggest thing is as small as the smallest. It all depends on the particular yardstick with which one measures a thing.

The spirit of true love and real sacrifice is beyond all ledgers and needs no measures. A constant wish to love and be loving and a non-calculating will to sacrifice in every walk of life, high and low, big and small, between home and office, street and cities, countries and continents are the best anti-selfish measures that man can take in order to be really self-ful and joyful.

May you one day behold the ever-shining Light of Love that never dies and knows no darkness.”

Well…umm….It’s hard to be quite so discouraged after that.  I especially liked “the smallest thing is as big as the biggest”, because I think big things are needed, but I’m more likely to do small things, for I’m not quite up to running for president, this week.

I also like the above because it does not suggest that Freedom is an accessory, attached to the ordinary state of slavery on rare occasions, and just as easily snipped away, but rather Freedom is the base state, the foundation. Slavery is the add-on, and Freedom continues to exist even in the enslaved, like the sun above the clouds.

I don’t think the Elite like the fact people are free to think what they will, even if enslaved, and regard them with eyes that see them in an unfavorable light.  Some Elite would like to find ways to enslave minds, as would some Terrorists.  Perhaps some even think they can, with false media and false education and even drugs the public might be required to take, but they face a very big problem because there is one mind they cannot control, and that is their own. Lurking in their own skull is an enemy to their desires. The Elite are confronted by examples of members of their own class who abruptly go mad or become religious, and Terrorists are confronted by traitors to terror, who abruptly get sick of it, such as the man who handed the computer chip of all terrorist addresses to the German authorities.

Who would have believed in 1947 that Great Britain would back out of India and continue backing up until it was so backed-up it had to fight to regain its independence in 2016 with the Brexit vote? And who would have believed that the world’s greatest democracy, (in terms of population at least), would now be India?

This is not to say we are not living in dangerous times, and may not be confronted by a brutal choice between Elitists and Democracy, or Islam and non-Islam, such as the subcontinent of India faced in 1947. I might even wind up an old man dying on the roadside like the poor grandfather in the picture above. But Freedom itself cannot die.

So let Freedom ring.