THE SMOLDERING RAGE OF THE DEFEATED

My last post dealt with how I came to be plopped down in the middle of a desert. This post involves the state one is in,  after a humiliating defeat makes one look like a complete fool.

True poets tend to be in this state a lot, for true poetry, (as opposed to the crass and commercial collegiate balderdash which makes the common man loath poetry), sees man could be far better than man actually is, and, because it forgets how mean man actually is, tends to trust in the wrong place at the wrong time, and therefore poets wind up embarrassed and looking like chumps.

This doesn’t just happen to sissy poet-dreamers. It also happens to entire nations, full of poetry and beauty, such as Poland and France. Some hard-nosed realist, such as Adolph Hitler, embarrasses them. They were just minding their own business, and the next thing they knew they were defeated, and were ruled by a Gestapo.

Any people who is outraged by outsiders infringing upon their God-given liberty is experiencing what a poet deems rather ho-hum and every-day, for every day a poet witnesses people behaving in less than poetic ways.  How can I tell you what it is like to see how beautiful life could be, when I am like a Frenchman trying to explain good manners to the Gestapo? Henry Miller put it well:

Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source; there is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.

Others do not seem to be troubled by outsiders infringing upon people’s God-given liberty. They just “go with the flow” and “do what it takes.” If the Gestapo takes over, they smile at the Gestapo. It comes to them as a great surprise that, when the Gestapo is later defeated, they are called despised “collaborators”, and mobs of angry people shave their hair from their heads.

The French women being shamed in the above pictures were “politically correct” when the Gestapo ruled. They felt they were smart to ditch honest and patriotic French boys for what made more sense, in some senseless way.  Maybe it was for money, or advancement, or power, or fame, or for some other thing, but it was not smart, in the long run.  In the end a higher Truth defeated the “political correctness” of the Gestapo.

What the above pictures do not show, directly, is how their old boyfriends felt, when the above women ditched them for the Gestapo.  It is obvious that the majority of the French people had a pent-up fury towards collaborators. But what about the rejected suitor? Did he want to see his ex shaved bald?

Probably not. (I say that as one who was chronically a rejected suitor when young, and also a poet). What the rejected poet wishes is a better way, often expressed with the two sad words “if only…”

It was important to me, when life plunked me down in the desert in 1984, to battle my own bitterness. I could recognize a rage in myself I didn’t like at all. It is one thing to write a sardonic song like the Eagle’s “Lying Eyes”, expressing contempt towards women who marry for money and who therefore, in a sense, put the gestapo of greed ahead of Truth,  but it quite another thing to strip women naked, tar them and shave their heads and then force them to stand before a photographer, heiling Hitler.

Belgian Collaberators humiliated 738833

At some point the rage one feels towards “collaborators” begins to approach the rage Hitler felt, towards those who surrendered Germany at the end of World War One. In his rage-warped mind the people who surrendered Germany were collaborators, and he was able to tap into the outrage of the German people, for the punishment inflicted upon Germany was not just. If the kaiser, who the king of England referred to as “cousin Willy”, was to blame, then he perhaps should have paid the price “cousin Nick” (the Czar of Russia) paid. And perhaps “cousin George” (king of England) should have paid as well. Talk about a dysfunctional family! The grandchildren of Queen Victoria were given great power and authority, but rather than good made a slaughter as bad as the slaughter caused by supposedly Christian Protestants and Catholics in Europe’s Thirty Years War (1618-1648) that cost Europe eight million lives.

Thirty years war 1618-1648 1280px-The_Hanging_by_Jacques_Callot

It was the “swamp” of 1914, the royalty, that led mankind to misery. The soldiers didn’t hate each other.  During the Christmas truce of 1914 the English and German soldiers played soccer together in No Man’s Land.

Soccar 1914 No Mans Land Christmas PFIXa

The soldiers didn’t hate each other. They had to be ordered to hate, and in actual fact royalty was horrified by reports of their troops “fraternizing with the enemy”, and Christmas Truces were forbidden, after 1914.

In other words, the German people should not have been forced to pay enormous and impossible reparations; the royalty should have paid.  And the demands of the victors were hateful, and punished innocent Germans who had already been horribly punished by the stupid war. In a sense it was a continuation of war’s hate, and it was quite easy for Hitler to tap into the national resentment towards all who collaborated with such an unjust and hateful invader. But responding to hate with hate only made things unspeakably worse, and resulted in slaughter that made World War One’s horrible slaughter look small.

We are now facing a political elite which make the royalty of 1914 look civil and wise, and a politically-correct “swamp” that makes 1914 look like a highland.  If the lunatics running the asylum are allowed to have their way, the resultant slaughter will make World War Two’s look small.  But some of these “elite” are actually on record as saying such a slaughter would be a good thing, as the over-populated planet needs to see population reduced to a half-billion. The death of seven billion would not trouble them.

As a poet I tell you, such ugliness is totally unnecessary.  We too can play soccer in no man’s land over Christmas, and after Christmas no one can force us to return to killing each other.

There are certain socialists who seem to be attempting to blame all the world’s  problems on old, white men, and when I listen to them I have the creepy sense I may wind up stripped naked and tarred and forced to stand for a photograph with my hand on my heart, saluting the American flag. Such socialists seem pumped up by the vengeful adrenaline-rush that Hitler exploited, which caused Germany to declare war on the entire world and all of mankind.  Such socialist zealots are past being mildly mad. They are past going completely mad. Their intellects foam mad-dog-insanity. Such hatred is utterly unnecessary.

I know this because in 1984 my peculiar fate plopped me down in the midst of my “enemy”, in the desert.  Most people I associated with were Navajo, and their word for me was “Behlighana”, which means “People who we fought.”  Therefore I was identified with an invader, and as an oppressor, and even as a member of the gestapo. To even associate with me could be seen, (and indeed was seen, by a few), as “collaboration.” But instead we played soccer in No Man’s Land, like brothers.

I like to think this occurred because I am utterly charming, and such a good poet that just meeting me convinces people brotherhood is better than hate, but in actual fact I think the reasons may have been more mundane, and even sordid.

The first reason involves the fact some jobs are so hard men are forced to get along even if they don’t like each other. For example, on a sailing ship in a storm, everyone knows that they will die if they don’t work as a team to survive; all hands are on deck; race and religion do not matter. In “Moby Dick” Herman Melville describes the astonishing racial diversity which worked together on whaling ships. I have seen the same fellowship while spreading hot asphalt under a blazing sun in the desert. Sometimes a man has got to do what a man has got to do, and, because there is no time to hate an enemy, men are in harmony.

The second reason involved the fact some Navajo identified me as being a “Glahni”.  (Which means, “drunkard.”) This was because, when the woman you crave has left you for some gestapo she thinks is better, the thing that replaces her can be a six-pack of beer.

I often could not even afford a six-pack, and when I could it often was a horrible bargain-basement beer with some name like “Texas Star” that smelled so highly of bad-water sulfur only a tough man could drink it. But I did drink, and when I had a six-pack I was willing to share. This somehow redeemed me from my gestapo status. Somehow I couldn’t be all bad, if I shared my beer.

In terms of the true Glahni, I was an effete tippler. True Glahni could pound down amazing amounts of alcohol. They explained to me that, back in the day, they could be arrested if they were found with a bottle, and therefore they would drink the entire bottle as fast as they could, and then throw the empty bottle as far as they could into the sage brush. Then they would sit back and watch what happened.

I told them I am a sissy. If I drank a quart of wine in thirty seconds, and then sat back to see what happened, I would get sick and throw up a quart of wine. The wine would be wasted. Therefore, I told them, I sipped more slowly.

They forgave me for being a sissy, because I had confessed my weakness. I then learned some Glahni were only passing-out-on-the-street briefly, like a drunken sailor binging  while on leave, and the rest of the time were gainfully employed doing other things which sissy Behlighana could not do, such as walk on I-beams eighty stories above the streets of Chicago. Most of the time they were making more than ten times what I made, and were more sober than I was, as a tippler, but once in a while we were on the same page.

The law had altered, and the younger Glahni did not have the same reason to never be seen with a bottle holding alcohol. They were sissy tipplers like myself. However they castigated me in the same way their elders did.

The elders, after downing a quart of wine, were only good for ten minutes of good conversation, after which things went rather rapidly downhill. But the young tipplers could talk with me longer. They did castigate me, as being an oppressive invader, but they also recognized me as a brother. Why?  Because I was drinking beer to drown my sorrows because a woman had chose a “gestapo” over me, and they were doing the same for the same reason, in their lives.

Our conversations were brutal and blunt, and so ridiculous we sometimes would shift from debating jaw-to-jaw to fits of laughter. For example, I often was informed, “You stole our land.” I’d look them straight in the eye and reply, “Land? Land? I have no stinking land! If I had land do you think I’d be sleeping in my car? It is you guys who have the land. Your reservation is as big as the the Netherlands and Belgium put together! Why is it I have to pay taxes and you guys don’t?  It seems to me you guys should be taking care of me, but you guys get all the government hand-outs while I get diddlesquat.” Then I would laugh and conclude, “Those morons in Washington just haven’t got a clue.”

It is important to know the right time to laugh, when quarreling with your enemy. It is also important to deflect attention to the morons in Washington, which is something you can agree upon. In any case we’d dissolve from jaw-to-jaw disagreement to rolling around laughing.

There were a lot of reasons for laughter, for cultural differences make silly misunderstanding happen.  At this point I have to restrain myself, or I’ll give a hundred examples. I had a lot of good talks, and enjoyed a lot of laughter, with the Navajo.  People think Indians are grim-lipped and stoic, but my experience was that they love any excuse to laugh. And perhaps that is an element of stoicism: The ability to laugh at what would make others cry.  But allow me to sidetrack slightly by giving a single example of a cultural misunderstanding.

One thing I was struck by in Navajo children of that time was that they were amazingly tough and seldom whined.  This trait was made clear one time when a small four-year-old girl insisted on walking with me when I went to walk to get mail from the mailbox, which was a half-mile away across a blazing hot desert. I tried to talk her out of it, but she was insistent, for reasons that only make sense when you are four-years-old. So she came trotting along beside me, as I went to get my mail.

The hot sun pummeled me without mercy, and I myself was thinking mail wasn’t worth such punishment before we reached the mailbox, but the little girl never once complained. I was fairly certain, as we set out, I’d wind up being asked to carry her, and was willing to let her ride my shoulders, or I never would have let her come along. But she never asked. All the way to the mailbox and all the way back this little girl never once whined or pleaded. I looked down at the girl, as she plodded beside me, amazed at the grim look on her young face. I could not help but conclude she was tougher than sissy poets, like myself, are.

I am not sure how Navajo parents taught their children to be so tough. The children seemed to follow a commandment at an early age, “Thou shalt not plead.”  But then they would attend a white man’s school, and face a contrary commandment:  “Always say ‘please’.”

There is a lot to laugh about, concerning this cultural misunderstanding.  And I did laugh a lot, once I got the joke. The problem is some stuffy schoolmarms don’t get the joke.

This allows me to get back to the original topic, which is, in case you have forgotten, how some women bow to an oppressive gestapo, and later face having their heads shaved for doing so.

It seems to me underpaid schoolmarms have no idea of the danger they are in. They assume they know right from wrong, when they are merely enacting an inane edict created by know-nothing bozos in Washington, and inflicted upon the innocent.

It seems to me schoolmarms don’t know why they demand a child say “please.” They just demand it and think they have every right to punish a child who refuses to say “please”.  (Or, if they are told Global Warming is an established fact , they think they have every right to punish a child who states it isn’t.)

One thing the Navajo Glahni and I immediately agreed upon was that school was not a pleasant experience. In their case the crap they endured in “Indian Schools” was really horrific, but in some ways not very different than what I experienced as a white poet in a politically-correct suburban school in a town of rich white people. The politically-correct seemed so busy attempting to virtue-signal to the gestapo that they are on-the-team and deserve-the-benefits that they never truly thought about whether what they taught made a lick of sense.

The misunderstanding is something to laugh about. For example, for a number of smart and quite beautiful reasons, Navajo of that time taught their children not to point.  A Navajo joke was that their hunting dogs pointed with their lips, like their masters did. But at an Indian School a white schoolmarm might ask a child to point a what was a triangle and what was a square, and then become irate when the child, obeying the biblical commandment to honor their parents, refused to point.

Such misunderstanding can lead to the resentment and repressed fury expressed by the rock group Pink Floyd in “Another Brick In The Wall”.

However the repressed fury Pink Floyd wonderfully expressed is totally unnecessary. Do I really need to show again what hatred does to schoolmarms who, in their ignorance, complied with the political correctness of the gestapo?

Belgian Collaberators humiliated 738833

Do we really want our stuffy, old schoolteachers to suffer such a fate? For that is exactly the fate a certain brand of socialism promises. In China schoolteachers faithfully taught what Chairman Mao stated should be taught, but when he put the “Cultural Revolution” into effect he tapped into a youthful rage that resulted in the “Red Guard” insisting nearly every teacher in China be destroyed, and when that “socialism” spilled over into Cambodia you could be killed for the infraction of having a writer’s callus on your middle finger, which supposedly proved you were a capitalist because writing was something capitalists did.

This is not anything any sane man wishes upon a schoolmarm, even if she was less than wise. In the end, what defeated Mao’s insanity was not smart Americans. Smart Americans avoided the draft by going to college. What defeated Mao was the stupid kids, who schoolmarms didn’t like and who didn’t go to college and who gained no student-deferment from the draft. It was these mere teenagers who went to Vietnam and defeated Mao’s demented version of Liberalism-gone-awry. (The victory in Vietnam was not that the North Vietnamese were overrun, but rather thyat Mao was delayed eight years, and during those eight years the “Cultural Revolution self-destructed in China.) These bad students, whom schoolmarms never much liked, in actual fact defended schoolmarm’s freedom to be schoolmarms. Not that many schoolmarms ever thanked Vietnam vets for their heroism. And many Navajo Glahni were Vietnam vets.

If you look at the above situation in the right way, it makes you laugh. There is something laughable about schoolmarms detesting the very people who save their wrinkled, old hides.  At the same time it is sad. Such men deserve better.

Such men deserve to be loved by their women.  Their women should see what fine men their men actually are, even if they are Glahni.  And when you listen to a certain sort of music called “The Blues”, you often hear men who have in many ways disgraced themselves as “Glahni” appealing to their woman , (often with a sense of humor), that they are worth loving, and better than the politically-correct, schoolmarm’s gestapo.

When my life landed me in the middle of a desert, I had a strong wish that my ex would change her mind, and see that I was worth loving. She never did, but I was among Navajo Glahni who wished the same thing.  I am thankful I met them, for it is hard to feel alone when you are midst a brotherhood of spurned men all yearning for the same thing you yearn for.

At some point after I met these spurned men I apparently felt the desire to express “The Blues” of being a Glahni who saves schoolmarms, but is never appreciated for it. I say “apparently” because I cannot remember how I came to scribble the following verse on now-yellowing paper. I find the verse somewhat stunning, for it suggests a level of inspiration was involved I do not remember; a golden light shone in the shadows, as we laughed and were losers, all those years ago. The crudely scrawled scribble employs the then-Navajo slang where a man is a “buck” and a woman is a “doe”, and states:

        RHYME OF BUCK

Doe don’t hear the sonnets any more,
I guess.
Though I speak ’em all the time,
Who hears rhyme?
Like the sleeper to the snore or
Confess-
Ing harlots to the whore,
She sees no crime.

When I ask her for a dime
She don’t see
Ten Syllables a line,
And she has missed
The beauty of my rhyme;
The poetry.

The ones who reach her
Teach her
With a fist.

The terrorist
Touches her.
I fail.

Grenades are her maids.
Bombs move her.
I don’t.

Everywhere poetry pounds like warm hail;
Still she sees no sonnet.

I sail.
She won’t
Until she sees the sonnet in her buck
And brings out the
Hid
Mid-
Night rhyme of luck.

As I scanned this poem, which I couldn’t recall bitterly scrawling, I had a sense a younger me thought I was being tricky as I wrote it. I rolled my eyes a bit rereading, because I saw immediately that the rhyme of “buck” and “luck” is “fuck”, and the poem in some ways is just the crude appeal of a spurned man, asking his ex to return to the status quo of nightly copulation. As such it seemed little more than the selfishness of lust.

However, as I recall, my younger self would never willingly give lust such power. (I might be defeated a thousand times, but I kept on fighting.) Therefore I knew some deeper trickery was involved. All of a sudden I saw what I never intended any reader to see. It was my youthful joke, aimed towards the ignorant. It assumed no one would ever figure out that the above poem, written in a politically-correct modernistic form, was actually an old fashioned sonnet. and as such would look like this:

Doe don’t hear the sonnets any more, I guess.
Though I speak ’em all the time, who hears rhyme?
Like the sleeper to the snore,or confess-
Ing harlots to the whore, she sees no crime.

When I ask her for a dime she don’t see
Ten syllables a line, and she has missed
The beauty of my rhyme; the poetry.
The ones who reach her teach her with a fist,

The terrorist touches her. I fail.
Grenades are her maids. Bombs move her. I don’t.
Everywhere poetry pounds like warm hail.
Still she sees no sonnet. I sail. She won’t

Until she sees the sonnet in her buck
And brings out the hid midnight rhyme of luck. (1985)

I assume that, by writing a sonnet no one would see was a sonnet, I was creating something that symbolized the hero hidden in the Glahni.  After all, if God is in everything, then God is in the Glahni. Furthermore, to be quite frank, it was a lot easier to see God in the laughter of the Glahni than in the frowning of a prissy schoolmarm.

What was most God-like about the Glahni was that they didn’t seem to want their exes to be stripped and tarred and humiliated.  They simply wanted their exes to be nice. Though unforgiven they forgave, which was a paradox we could laugh about, sitting in the desert sunshine, 34 years ago.

Now I suspect a lot of those fellows are dead.  They were heroes who defeated Mao in Vietnam, but they also defeated a greater enemy in their own hearts: The seething hatred towards those who collaborate with the gestapo. Therefore I suspect they have gone to a sunny place where there is no hate, and the sonnets are not hidden.

 

Advertisements

LOCAL VIEW –Facing The Destroyer–

In humanity’s attempt to get it’s puny mind around the infinity of the Creator, humanity is forever subdividing the unity of God into various aspects. At its worst this fragments Oneness into a whole pantheon of lesser gods or saints, who tend to be at war with each other, but at its best it is like a lover listing the beautiful attributes of their Beloved.

One trinity, made out of the inseparable One, is the idea of God as Creator-Sustainer-Destroyer, (or Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, in Hindu thought).  People (myself included) seem to have trouble with the third part of this trinity, “God the Destroyer.”  Though we know all things in creation are fleeting, “dust-to-dust, ashes-to-ashes”, we object to death.  We want life to be “eternal life”.

Because people object to “God the Destroyer” there have been various attempts to soften this part of the trinity, such as “God the Dissolver,” (as if being dissolved is somehow more acceptable than being destroyed). Amidst the amazing variety of Hindu thought are several sects that redeem Shiva by giving him creative and sustaining attributes.

I suppose God smiles at our attempts to rehabilitate Him. He also likely appreciates our love of life, and our attempts to avoid death.  There is something in the human spirit that rebels at the idea of termination;  we have a hunger for tales to end, “they lived happily ever after”,  though we know the truth is, “until death do we part.”

Even though I am a “childcare professional” (IE: baby-sitter), and dealing with children tends to involve me with God-the-Creator and God-the-Sustainer, I have been dwelling on the morbid topic of God-the-Destroyer lately because it is not merely autumn, but a particularly wet and gloomy autumn. Brooks that usually barely trickle, (or even go dry, some years), have been rushing, and the mossy rocks have been lush.

Thankful 7 FullSizeRender

There have been small ponds where I’ve never seen them before in the drenched woods, to throw sticks into. This allows boys to practice vandalism, (and to be boy-the-Destroyer), without getting into trouble.

Thankful 9 IMG_7671

It was so wet that some trees, especially sugar maples, did not achieve their full glory because leaves rotted even as they turned, and rather than leaves of pure crimson they were crimson blotched by brown and black spots. This dismal situation didn’t seem to diminish the jauntiness of children walking through golden glades of rain-drenched beeches.

Thankful 8 FullSizeRender

The sheer cheerfulness of children in rainy woods seems a defiance of gloom: A puddle in the path of life is a joy; jump in it!

Meanwhile I am not finding as easy to keep up with them as last year. I can feel the damage caused by all those hundreds of thousands of cigarettes I so foolishly smoked in my past, and I huff and puff walking up hills. The hand of mortality lays on my shoulder, and I see how “the wages of sin are death.”

But then I watch the glee of children, and the thought occurs to me that the wages of sin are children. Men strive to make sex something other than what it is, but it goes right on overpowering men’s will-powers and creating babies, which is the real reason for sex, (though violin-makers see sex as good excuse to sell violins to violinists). Some men then get all gloomy about the wages of sin being child-support, but that is usually because they do not spend enough time with their children, and miss the joy. Many hire an old geezer like me to experience the joy, and pay me for it.

One thing I’ve found remarkable over the years is the relationship children have with creation, as they rollick through the woods and fields. They are not at war with nature. Nature puts up no signs that say, “Fragile ecosystem. Stick to the path.” It is environmentalists who want to ban children from the outdoors, and to instead show children a lot of depressing videos about how man destroys all he touches. If children get the chance, many fall in love with the outdoors, (though some children are more inclined than others, and a few children, I’ll confess, seem born to be indoors.)

Children develop a respect for life out of love for it. In the woods I really don’t have to preach all that much about respecting livings things. Some small ones torture ants and frogs and scar a tree’s bark, but it is usually more out of curiosity and rambunctiousness than out of sadism, and the same children who were the worst offenders at age three tend to tattle on their peers at age five.  I can honestly say I do a minimum of preaching, and nature does the rest.

Not that nature coddles them. New Hampshire is no Polynesian Island, and there are mosquitoes and black flies and ticks, and the weather, especially this year, can cause people who move here to change their minds and move out. But, despite the fact children can become understandably wary of the woods after stepping on a hornet’s nest, few are anything close to becoming permanently scarred and neurotic. Instead they, even at age three, become this remarkable thing called “tough.”

As the autumn passed the lands to our north became snow-covered early, and, on the rare occasions when the rain stopped, we started getting bitter blasts on the back-side of storms, as they blew up into gales over the Maritime Provinces of Canada. One day the north winds howled so fiercely there was spin-drift and whitecaps even on the relatively small flood-control reservoir, as a bitter gale roared from the north.

Thankful 6 FullSizeRender

With wind-chills below zero Fahrenheit, I suspect most would have chosen to stay in, but I took a group of three boys and two girls out, all under five years old. It included a three-year-old inclined to red-faced tantrums. He was not at all pleased by the idea of a hike in the roaring wind, but he was not pleased with the idea of staying in, either. He thought the entire idea of child-care was a bad idea, wanted to go to work with his mother, and, among other things, I had to gently remind him that the word “fuck” is not a good word. Given the choice of staying indoors or being outside with the small hellion, I chose the environment where the wind could drown out some of his whining, though I had to carry him the first quarter mile because he was flopping to the ground and girning, and as I carried him his voice was particularly penetrating, an inch from my ear.

All five children were especially well dressed. I likely was the coldest person on the hike, due to the fires within me producing less hot blood than in my younger day. My mood was not particularly good, because my current staff is nearly as decrepit as I am, and two were unavailable due to work-related injuries, (a twisted knee, and a sprained wrist.) I had to fill-in, when I had planned to sit in my warm study by my cozy computer and write about Arctic Sea-ice. So I was in the same mood as the squalling three-year-old I carried. But I have been running this child-care enterprise a decade. (We will finish our tenth year this December.) Even when it seems God-the-Destroyer is manifesting, I know what to do.

The first trick I used is one I picked up from the children. It is to rejoice, when the weather is bad, over how very bad it is. The north wind’s gusts burned exposed faces and made us wince and flinch away, but we clambered up to the top of the flood-control dam, where it was worst, and four of the children laughed as the wind shoved them around and all but knocked them down. The fifth child, (who of course was the grumpy three-year-old), made it obvious that he deemed us utterly mad, and folded his arms, and refused to climb up to the top of the dam.

This brought about my second trick, which is to foster wonder. What do you do when the wind is cruel? What do animals do? Where do they go? I turned the wondering into a project: Find a place where the three-year-old would be comfortable. We walked around to a sunny hollow on the downwind side of the dam, and “had snack”. Though the wind still scoured down and moved the tops of the tall, dead weeds we crouched midst, at ground level it was quite tolerable. I explained this was the sort of place deer and my goats hunkered down during cold gales, taking advantage of the low sun as it shone for the first time in days. The children, even the three-year-old, chattered happily as we picnicked.

Actually this simple knowledge (stay in the sun and out of the wind) is knowledge some bank presidents lack. If their private jet ever crash-landed in a winter forest, they might needlessly freeze, while my little children would, in an almost instinctive manner, chose the warmer paths and survive. Even homeless bums know enough to cross to the sunny side of the street, as the supposedly-wiser bankers stoically stick to striding a straight line through the shade. (This may not seem to make much of a difference in a five-minute winter walk between sky-scrapers, but over the course of a day, after your jet crash-lands, all the chilling adds up).

We next sought out the deeper woods in small valleys where the wind won’t go, but the sun shines through the now-leafless trees, and there the kids had a great time, balancing while teetering along fallen logs; throwing sticks into a stream to watch them float with the current; and chatting and quarreling (which is officiously called “developing social skills”).  The three-year-old forgot I was never-to-be-forgiven, and joked with me. Despite the cold we were late heading back for lunch. An entire morning, which many would have called “too cold to go outdoors”, had been spent under the sunny sky, with the tree’s branches clacking in the wind overhead. The day was redeemed.

I often shake my head over how little I actually do, in this redemptive process. Perhaps I get some credit for directing traffic, but I don’t do the driving. Most of the joy radiates from the landscape, and from the children themselves. At times I see a relationship maturing between creation and the created which seems very natural and very beautiful, yet which some (of the environmentalist ilk) strangely mangle. Rather than a love affair between the walker and the woods, some promote a “protective” alienation.

One good thing about getting kids outdoors into the cold is that it burns off a lot of calories, which has positive effects: Children fuss little over their lunches, eating voraciously like small wolves, and then they conk out quickly into deep naps during “quiet time”.  This gives me sweet silence, and time to think more deeply about man’s alienation from creation.

When I was younger I think I was less interested in having a love affair with nature than in wrestling with it. It is interesting to watch my older son,  now entering middle age, as he tests himself against what New Hampshire weather can dish out.

As a landscaper and snow-plowman he spends a lot of time outside, but after growing up in my house, (which was built in the mid 1700’s and is like an icebox in the winter), made him a man who has nothing against the luxury of warmth indoors. He is building a new house behind my house, and I could not help but notice the care and attention he put into having heated concrete floors, (when I thought he should be in more of a hurry to just finish). Warm feet at home at winter is very important to him, and part of his battle with nature,

He thought the weather would remain fair, which of course it never does. Even before the concrete pad was poured a great deal of time was squandered (I felt) in laying an intricate, complicated network of heating, plumbing, sewerage and electric conduits, with various baffles of insulation. The floor is indeed an amazing floor, but when the walls finally started to go up the final fair weather was ending, and the bad weather beginning.

Thankful 10 IMG_7388

Since then it has poured every weekend, which is when he finds time to work beyond his ordinary work. Downpours constantly fouled up his plans. Over the years he has helped many other local fellows build their houses, and the fellows want to return the favor, but it is not the easiest thing to assemble the crews needed, when they all have other jobs. After all the work of making the arrangements, it would again pour. He fell behind schedule, and then the onset of winter was particularly early, with eight inches of snow. Perhaps he was pushing his luck a bit, but one Saturday my breakfast was interrupted by a crash outside, and my daughter yelling that my oldest son had rolled his truck. We dashed out to see, fearing the worst.

The truck hadn’t actually rolled…

Thankful 2 IMG952854

….but things didn’t look good. As the truck skidded backwards down the slippery slope my son made the split-second decision to ram the stone wall rather than risk skidding across the street and plunging down into the neighbor’s house.

Thankful 1 IMG952856

At this point there was little talk about a love affair between man and nature, and the walker and the woods. God-the-Destroyer in the form of snow seems to be battling God-the-Creator, in the form of my son. However I silently philosophized that this conflict forms a necessary tension, a friction which creates traction in creation.

A preacher at a nearby church refers to the above as “a rich man’s problem”. People in Africa would love to have a truck, or even a bicycle, to have problems with.  We should be thankful to have such problems, but I didn’t mention this to my son. Instead I said I was thankful he was all right.

He seemed, if anything, invigorated by the challenge. Like a jaunty child walking with swinging arms in the rain, my son set about surmounting yet another difficulty. He brought a rented “lull”, (used to lift shingles up to the roof), down the hill, lifted the truck while pulling with a chain, and the truck came off the wall with a loud squawking noise as it settled back onto its frame.  Amazingly, very little was wrong with the truck.

Thankful 3 IMG952858

For the most part I watch the battle between man and nature, (or God-the-Creator and God-the-Destroyer), (or friction vs. the slippery slope), as an interested observer. There may have once been a day when I could out-hustle others on a construction site as the brawny “gopher”, (go-for), but those days are past. Back then I could make up in brawn for what I lacked in knowledge, but now I am largely in-the-way. The little knowledge I have is antiquated. For example, back in the day we lugged heavy bundles of shingles up ladders; I did not even know what a “lull” was. Secondly, I’ve slowed; if I did lug a bundle up a ladder, just to show I can still do it, I’d be in everyone’s way as I caught my breath at the top.

Compared to what I once was, I’m puny. I’m increasingly a weakling. God-the-destroyer is having His way with my physical frame. Though this is normal and natural and part of the so-called “circle of life” I don’t like it one bit. I grump it would have been easier if I was puny to begin with and had little to lose. It is a lot harder because I once was very strong. (I was also incredibly good-looking and amazingly smart, no matter what my siblings may tell you.) But I can give such things up, because I have watched amazing athletes be forced to retire at the young age of forty, and seen some of them move on to being brilliant coaches.

It is far harder to give up dreams. This was brought home to me as my favorite goat, “Muffie”, died unexpectedly.

Thankful 5 FullSizeRender

I doubt I can do justice to how deeply I was troubled by the death of what many may see as a mere dumb goat. However Muffie was a friend, and also the last of a blood-line. I once dreamed Muffie would be the first of a whole herd. Nine years ago, as Muffie was bottle-fed by children at my Childcare because her mother died while giving birth, I had ambitions. Now I am tired, and the dreams are dyeing.

The death of a dream is in some ways a ridiculous thing to be troubled by, for a dream is a dream. It may not ever have come true, and this means you are grieving something that never existed in reality, a bit like Lieutenant Kéje in Prokofiev’s suite.

However a dream has power. It is like the apple dangled in front of a reluctant mule, prompting it to plod on even when it wants to quit. Even though the apple is never reached, the mule may plod on and achieve other goals.

A dream is the conception of an idea. The time between conception and the fruition of the dream may be called a sort of pregnancy.  When the dream comes true it has many of the wonders of childbirth, but when a dream doesn’t come true it has much of the ugliness of stillbirth or abortion.

When you hit age sixty-five you are not like a baseball-player switching from the role of player to the role of manager or coach. Rather you are giving up the game itself.  It is a totally different sacrifice, and far harder to bear.

When I was young, it was far easier to sing that “for everything, there is a season”.

But now I have reached the age when it is the season to give up on dreams.  There is a part deep down in me that just can’t do it.  As death approaches I just can’t give up on life.

This brings me back to the start of this essay, where I spoke of how we dislike the idea of “God-the-Destroyer.” We disliked the idea from the start.  It was a seventeen-year-old girl, Laura Nyro, who in 1967 wrote, “And when I die, and when I’m gone, there’ll be one child born in this world to carry on; to carry on.” After a version was recorded by her, and then by  Peter, Paul and Mary, a bunch of young white hippies, attempting to sound black and gospel, had a smash hit  in 1969:

But it is all well and good to defy death when you are young and vigorous. It is not so easy when you are faced with the increasing feebleness of age, and are suppose to be “aging gracefully.” How can one be graceful when one sees no grace?

Anyone who has seen the beauty of God-the-Creator and God-the-Sustainer tends to fight death, and to, like Dylan Thomas, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

But, if you rage against what the Creator made a definite part of creation, namely death itself, are you not telling God he is wrong?

You’d be surprised at the dark storm-clouds which the death of Muffie sent my mind drifting up and into.

Fortunately my wife smacks me back down to earth, so I don’t forget my worldly responsibilities, but even as I shoveled the snow from the walkways of our Childcare my mind drifted elsewhere, miles and miles away.

I arrived at an odd conclusion, which may get me pitched head over heels out of many Christian churches. It was that the end of creation is death, and God-the-Destroyer.  Therefore creation itself is the “everlasting death” that Christianity warns against. And, in a strange manner, that makes Christians like Hindus.  Yikes!  How can I make such a claim?

It involves some convoluted thinking that I know will get me in trouble, but basically suggests creation is the process and not the Goal, the road and not the Destination, the creation and not the Creator.  If we have “life”, then life can be a thing we have in creation, and also be the Goal of creation. If we are tricked into identifying “life” too much with the material things and the dreams of creation, then we see life turn to death. But if we see life (and most especially love), as more important than creation, then we escape the death that always ends life in creation, and instead triumphantly arrive the goal, which is everlasting life beside the throne of the Creator.

Now supposing I, (as seems likely the case), am too concerned with the creation and neglect the One who made it. I am doomed to face God-the-Destroyer, rather than the embrace of God-who-is-love, at His throne. If my worldly tendencies make me too focused on creation it will not matter that I complain, “But I was loving my neighbor”, because it will be obvious that I cared more for the creation than the One who made it, Who is the Reason and the Goal. Big mistake. Rather than eternal life, I get everlasting death.

Then what?  This thought occurred to me even when I was a very small boy. I have no idea who told me about everlasting hell. I simply recall fleeing the grown-ups to an alcove in the attic, by a tiny window, and imagining myself punished in everlasting hell,  and pouting, and growling in a puppy-voice how I’d never, never surrender to such a mean bully.

Then what? What happens when you have failed to live up to the standards of the Christ, and have blown it big time?  Is it all over forever?

What happens when you laughed at Noah for building his ark , and sneered at him for believing in what made no pragmatic sense to you?  What happened when it then rained and rained and rained, and his absurd ark in a middle of a dry desert floated safely away, as you treaded water until you couldn’t tread, and drowned?  Did God have no mercy on you for being the sensible one, and caring for sensible things, and maybe even caring for family and neighbors as Noah ignored such things,  instead seemingly wasting scarce resources by building a gigantic, silly structure out in the middle of nowhere. Why the hell should you get hell, as the nincompoop Noah gets blessed?

The Bible actually states the sinners of Noah’s time were not forever cursed. According to Saint Peter, between the time Jesus was crucified and the time he rose from the dead, he went to hell to visit the sinners of Noah’s time. Why?  To preach.

This creates a big problem for Christians.  Why? Because if I was sitting in hell I would not call myself “forever cursed” if Jesus himself appeared and took the time to “preach” to me.

I assume that Jesus would not take the time to preach unless some hope, healing and good could come of it.  Why would he preach to the damned if damnation was forever? What purpose would it serve? To go, “Nyah, nyah, neener-neener-neener. You’re damned and I’m not”???  That doesn’t sound like the Lord of Love to me.

This incongruity in scripture may have resulted in the idea of “purgatory”, which many Christians call “Non-Scriptural.”  But me?  I simply think God’s love is more than I can fathom.

This leads me on to the completely Anti-Christian idea of reincarnation, which seems bound to hopelessly divide Christians from Hindus until the end of time.

According to the Hindu, when most die they do not escape creation, but remain trapped. They, after a time contemplating the mistakes and/or joys of their past life,  are born into a new body, with a new brain that cannot hold any memory of the past life.  They are born again, but usually it is only to die again. They die over and over and over, this time rich, this time poor, this time black, this time white, this time healthy, this time sickly, this time male, this time female.  But, whether king or peon, the result is always the same: death.

It occurred to me that reincarnation is the same thing as everlasting death.  There may not be the gulf between Hindus and Christians that they each believe. They both believe that, unless you escape time (to the eternal) you are trapped in time (the everlasting.)

After all, what is the use of being born again, if it is only to die again?  If it turns out the Hindu are correct, and I am born again in a physical body, it likely will mean I will have to take math classes again. Who in their right mind wants that?

Both Hindu and Christians speak of an escape from “everlasting death”, which is an escape from the very-real part of creation we call God-the-Destroyer.  Both state we must put the Creator ahead of creation.

Yes, they waste time quibbling about the details. Is the one life a single incarnation or many?  Did the Christ come once as Jesus or more than once as Vishnu, the Avatar?

To be honest, I lack the experience and wits to weigh in on such matters. I can wonder all I want, but it is only wonder. In the end I have to confess my incapacity. In doing so, I recognize I need the help of a Master.  There is no cotton-picking way I’m going to Seventh heaven without a Savior, and it matters not a hill of beans whether you call that Rescuer the Savior, Avatar, Messiah, Rasool, Vishnu, or Christ.  All that matters is that you recognize love has a Source, and the nature of the Source is Love, which Christians believe took on mortal flesh and walked (and walks) among us as Jesus.

As my life enters the phase where I deal more with God-the-Destroyer than with the Creator or Sustainer, it occurs to me I am blessed to be a mere baby-sitter, dealing with children just entering creation. Not that I always feel blessed. It is not seen as “manly” to be a baby-sitter. Among the politically correct, being a baby-sitter earns me few kudos. But I am blessed all the same, because simply dealing with the very-young exposes me to something utterly different from God-the-Destroyer.

For one thing, the very-young are more wise than they have any right to be. Even though they have brand-new brains, they are not un-programmed computers we are adding data to.  They already know stuff they have no business knowing. How can they know? The secular blame “genetics” and the Hindu blame “past lives” and the Christians blame “God’s gifts.”  Me?  I really don’t know, but can’t help but smile even when I’m gloomy. Why?

I suppose it is because the trust children enter life with (which is so sad to see harmed in any way) holds a joy which, in and of itself, seems to prove that the reason we are born is not to die.  After all, if they were only born to die, why would children laugh?

I may now be facing death, as we must all do when we can no longer call ourselves “middle aged”, but that does not mean death, or “God the Destroyer”,  is the net result of living.  There is another reason for life.

I can’t fully explain what I’m attempting to say, but I hear it in the cries of children.  At times it is hard to hear when they are in your face. I hear it best when they are far away, and sound like a glitter sledding down a distant hill.

Thankful 4 FullSizeRender

Like glitter on a distant winter hill
I hear the children sledding once again,
And once again I feel the ancient thrill
That drenches deja-vu on all that big men
Construct and think is mighty; all that kings
Claim they can control, and all that we mourn
And think that we are losing. Of all things
We want to grasp, the most fleeting, least lorn
Is the eternal song of children at play.
On the hill an ancient oak has hearkened
Since before the Pilgrim’s children had their day
When the children were Indian’s. No end
Is there to the Truth in the distant mirth,
And that is all ye need to know on earth.

FORGOTTEN HEROES

I’ve been going through my notes from my drifter days, trying to figure out how to describe the sense I got at times that I was part of something bigger than I could conceive.

At that time nothing was going according to the script I had written for my own life, which was a sort of Horatio Alger tale of small poet who makes it big, becomes filthy rich, marries a beautiful blond, and lives happily ever after.  In actual fact I was unknown, destitute, and my romantic life made a train wreck look pretty. But, despite my apparent lack of success, I felt I had an importance all out of proportion to what anyone could see. Nor was it merely me who had this importance. You also were important. You too would, if you only knew how important you were, be able to swell your chest in an attitude of grandiose magnificence.

The best way I can think to describe what I glimpsed would be to contemplate a small ball bearing in the palm of your hand. While a ball bearing might seem like an insignificant bead, without it mighty machinery can grind to smoldering ruins.

We each have an important part to play in the scheme of things, and it is sheer foolishness to think one is raised at all by becoming a so-called “star”.  Many in Hollywood think, in their vanity, that they are more important than humble bumpkins, but in actual fact the part they play is evil. They represent vanity, a tool of Ignorance, (or “Maya”, or “Satan”.) They currently like to plaster their Maserati-bumpers with “Resist!”, as if their political vanity proclaims they represent Truth,  when in fact it proclaims they are vain. A truer “resistance” resists the seductions of fame and fashion and fad and popularity, and accepts humble positions, and is willing to be a bumpkin and be called “a deplorable”, while simply performing the work of a ball bearing, which is to “do your job”, which is to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your Lord”.

I had a hard time being humble at that time, for two reasons. The first was that, to be honest, I very much wanted to be seduced by fame and fashion and fad and popularity, and be absurdly wealthy, and drive a Maserati, and walk with a buxom babe at either elbow.  As a poet, I figured I’d die young, but at times it seemed to me better to die of a cocaine overdose, than of starvation. But, as I said earlier, my life was not unfolding according to my script. (Thank God.)

The second reason I found it hard to be humble was that, when I glimpsed the part mere bumpkins played in the scheme of things, I wanted to screech from the rooftops how divine and exalted they were. They were the true heroes, the Atlas holding up the world on their shoulders. They were the ones who were the good guys, as Hollywood stars played the role of the bad guys. What was wrong with everyone? Was humanity blind?

I felt I had important news to share with my fellow man, concerning how exalted bumpkins were and how stupid Hollywood was. Of course, this news is deemed politically incorrect by Hollywood Agents, and also Gatekeeper Publishers, and in fact if you want to get ahead in Hollywood it is likely unwise to call Hollywood evil, which is probably part of the reason I wound up destitute in a desert campground.

I am fairly certain I deserved the destitution I ended up with. But, if I say that, then I also must have deserved the people who showed up at that campground, and made my life a pleasure. I found myself within inexplicably joyous periods of time where I actually raised my eyes to the sky and thanked God. Such times were like the kindness of spring after a hard winter, or the kindness of healing after a hangover you know you darn well deserve. I felt I hadn’t done half as much as it would take, to earn myself such compassion, but I couldn’t stop the dawn from ending my night. Often the dawn was the arrival of inconsequential fellow-Americans, at an obscure campground.

One fellow had worked hard and kept a steady job for years, as I had spent my years avoiding steady work and being a poet. He was a quarter century older than I, and had scraped together enough for a modest retirement, whereas I had slim prospects of scraping together enough to feed myself more than rice and beans the following day. You might think we were opposites, but we both liked salt-water fishing, and I shared a couple beers from a cheap six-pack I’d bought with the $20.00 I’d made with that day’s spot-labor, and we enjoyed an evening by a campfire at an altitude of 7000 feet, talking about the ocean far away.  The next day he headed off in his camper to Mexico, to fish off Baja California, as I headed off to see if I could make enough with day-labor to buy chicken wings.

Around two weeks later the same fellow returned from Baja California, and sought me out.  I was late returning to the campground that night, after a discouraging day when I didn’t make enough to buy chicken wings. I was expecting to prepare a dinner of rice and beans, but instead enjoyed all sorts of Baja California fish the fellow had smoked and brought back.  We had a fish-fry party, with other campers joining and contributing both food and liquor. It was not what I expected, after a discouraging day.

The next day all my new friends left, which is to be expected, when you befriend people at a campground. Those friendships reminded me of hitchhiking nearly twenty years earlier. You meet people, have amazing conversations, and never see them again.

But one old fellow did want to see me again. I’m not sure why. Maybe something about the amazing conversation of the night before convinced him to hang around the campground an extra day. I know he didn’t ask me permission.

Meanwhile I was having a far better day seeking spot-labor. Minimum wage back then was stuck at $3.35/hour, and a good day was to work 8 hours and return to the campground with $26.80 (rent was $25.00/week), but on this day I’d made $5.00/hour and worked ten hours, and had a whopping $50.00.  I not only paid the next week’s rent, and not only had money to buy some food and do my clothes at the campground laundromat, but also had extra money for cigarettes, coffee and beer. I was looking forward to a quiet time writing at my picnic table all alone. The last thing I wanted to see was a grizzled old man sitting at my table, as I came puttering up to my pup tent in my tiny, battered, brown, 1974 Toyota Corolla. But what could I do? One must be a good host.

Dinner that night was a chowder made from smoked fish from Baja California, which was a pretty classy meal, for a bum in a New Mexico campground. I had a huge box of powdered milk for my coffee, and several bags of free smoked fish which wouldn’t rot in the heat, so all I needed for a chowder was a couple onions and potatoes, which I’d bought on my way home to the campground.  My fuel was half-burned logs I scrounged from other camper’s hearths after they left in the morning. My kitchen held a coffee pot, a pan, and a kettle, and my utensils were a spatula, a large spoon, and a jackknife.  The desert sky was brilliant blue, and the crimson setting sun was lighting up the towering, orange-sandstone bluffs surrounding the campground. Life seemed good to me, and I offered my guest a beer. He offered me some whisky, which I gestured for him to dump into my coffee. Life was seeming even better.

My guest was a retired aeronautical engineer. At first he struck me as a bit boring, seeming like a person who had worked for years at drafting tables with slide-rules and inky fingers, but as I questioned him I soon understood he’d seen the start of the Cold War, which was a war without front lines, fought largely behind the scenes.

I told him a few tales about a nearby cavalry post called Fort Wingate. After soldiers stopped galloping about on splendid horses it had become an ammunition dump in World War Two, and for a brief time after the war people hadn’t guarded it very well, because people thought the Russians were our allies, and all wars were over and done with, and there was no need to guard ammunition dumps any more. Rumor had it that local Navajo and Ranchers had wound up with bazookas, though I’d never seen one. Then it turned out Stalin didn’t want to be friends, and the ammunition dump was guarded more carefully.

The old man laughed, and told me he’d known a few ranchers who “liberated” surprising weapons from army-surplus stockpiles after the war, including a tank. We talked a while about how men like to blow stuff up, and about tremendous booms heard in the desert on July the Fourth. As the man rambled on about his past I studied his face in the firelight, and decided he didn’t look entirely like a draftsman; his complexion had rancher-wrinkles gifted by wind and sun.

He became more interesting to me the more he talked. Partly this was due to the whisky, but also I just have a habit of being nosy. I mind my own business if other people mind theirs, but if I am stuck with someone I figure I might as well get to know them.  Few people are actually as dull as they appear. Even though 99% of life may be dull, God lets few of us off Scot free, and most have been through trials and troubles. Even dull people don’t mind telling you about the adventure of surviving, if you know how to ask.

This particular fellow kept veering away from the subject of post-war aeronautical engineering, and when I pointed out that he was avoiding the subject (whisky allows such frankness) he replied some of what he’d done was still classified.  I was amazed technology from 1946 was still secret, and he simply shrugged. Then I became a pest, asking if he could at least tell me what general subject was still secret, without leaking the actual details.

He looked at me thoughtfully, and then I was surprised to see anger creep into his expression, and he said, “I suppose I can, considering the asshole president was such a big blabbermouth.”

I agreed (being a democrat at that time) that President Reagan was an asshole, and the fellow replied “I was referring to President Carter.” Things were awkward for a bit, and I endured a bit of a lecture about my naivete, but the fellow was gracious in a gruff way, and forgave me for being liberal, leaving me with some version of the John Adams quip to Thomas Jefferson, “A boy of 15 who is not a democrat is good for nothing, and he is no better who is a democrat at 20.” (Churchill read Jefferson’s account, and revised it.)

Churchill quote liberal heart no brain cd4da4fabffccd3866cae3620de356b7

The old engineer was of the opinion President Carter had no brain, for he had publicly bragged our air force had a bomber which radar couldn’t see, at a time when the information was top secret. He was referring to the “stealth bomber”.

Stealth Bomber download

The old engineer told me there are all sorts of difficulties with the design of “flying wings”, which were originally designed because they could fly farther than conventional bombers due to increased “lift.”  They could fly for 10,000 miles.

Flying wing prop Northrop-XB35-Flying-Wing-Bomber-Title

Despite all the efforts to keep the flying wing secret, there were spies in the desert, reporting to Stalin, who was able to tell President Truman he knew of the first explosion of the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 at the Potsdam conference only a few days later.

Truman Potsdam Trumanstalin

Therefore Truman was aware Stalin likely knew about the crash of the flying-wing (jet version) on June 5, 1948. This may explain why Truman had a different flying wing roar over the White House not far above the rooftops in mid-February 1949. He not only wanted to see it himself; he wanted the Russians to see it from their embassy.

Flying wing jet take-off 800px-YB49-6_300

It is typical of the Cold War that Truman would want Stalin to see the success without leaking the secret of the troubles. This might get Russia working on its own version without knowing of the problems they’d run into, (which eventually led to the abandonment of the flying wing).  In a sense it would send the Russians off onto a wild goose chase, and waste a lot of money. It was vast military expenditures that eventually led to the Soviet Union’s downfall;  In the end the Cold War was won by battling pocketbooks, like old ladies fighting at a sale.

Washington D.C. was a swamp back then, just as it is now, and the designer of the flying wing, Jack Northrop, stated a reason for the failure of his project was that the Secretary of the Air Force, Stuart Symington, was in cahoots with Northrup’s competitor Conair. (When the Democrats lost power Symington became president of Conair.) (There may have even been industrial sabotage involved, as one flying wing nearly crashed because someone “forgot to change the oil.”)

Jack Northrop was bitterly disappointed when his pet project lost the necessary funding from Washington, but at the very end of his life in 1980, in a wheelchair and unable to speak, he was taken to see a top-secret Stealth Bomber. After seeing the reincarnation of his pet project, he reportedly scribbled onto a pad of paper, “Now I know why God has kept me alive the past 35 years.”

The old aeronautical engineer I talked with in 1985 didn’t go into any detail about the “secrets” discovered by the early flying wings, which were utilized in the stealth bomber. I suspect the most important one was discovered by sheer accident. While the emphasis was on flying wings being able to stay aloft longer than conventional aircraft, it was noted that they presented a very small “cross section” on the radar screen.

What impressed the engineer most was the courage of the test pilots. Both Forbes and Edwards air force bases were named after test pilots who died in the crash of the flying wing in 1948. They were heroes, for they gathered the information that led to later successes, at the price of their lives.

At this point the old man’s face became very sad in the firelight, as he recalled the death of a test pilot he knew. The old man may have been leaking a secret, for I cannot find any record of the crash he recollected. It involved a much smaller flying wing, more of a fighter than a bomber. During a test flight it flipped upside down, and then the pilot could not get it to flip right side up again. The entire time he strove to right the air-craft he spoke in a calm voice, explaining what he was attempting and how the aircraft was responding, and listening to the suggestions of the engineers on the ground. As the aircraft ran out of fuel he came gliding in upside down, landing with the cockpit downwards, which of course killed him. His death was instantaneous, but the engineer was still in pain forty years later.

I suppose that exploring new frontiers always involves the deaths of pioneers, who show us the dangers, and save many lives through the loss of their own. We now take air travel in jets for granted, oblivious of the forgotten heroes who made such luxury possible. Meanwhile the big-shots in swamps rattle sabers at each other, and thump their gorilla chests with nuclear tests, and fight with pocketbooks like little old ladies.

When I reflect, I think the big are far smaller than they imagine, while the small are far bigger than they dream.

UNEXPECTED KAVANAUGH REPERCUSSION: Getting Over It

I’m certain I’ll offend some by stating this: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s apparent inability to leave a teen-aged affront in her dead past seems a sad testimony of how psychology fails to help people.  The fact she is a “doctor” should indicate some skill at healing,  but the only nursing involved seemed to be the nursing of a grudge.

We all have traumas in our past.  Some are worse than others. As a writer I used to hang around with other “sensitive artists”, and we could become absurdly competitive about which one of us had suffered the most. Then, in California in 1983, I met a Cambodian woman who had been through the nightmare of Pol Pot, and a further nightmare involving pirates, as a “boat person” escaping Indochina’s horror and fleeing to the United States, and, after hearing her tales, the worst traumas I had ever endured paled in comparison. I even felt a little sheepish about ever having called my pains “trauma”.

Yet traumas we have been through, both major and minor, are bound to effect us. This is only natural, for we learn through our experiences: “Once burned, twice shy.” Our successes are only the result of a great many failures. Even as I now write, these words are part of a rough draft I will later go over, and improve upon. It would be a sad thing if the rough draft could not be improved upon, and instead indicated “trauma” that would burden me for the rest of my life.

While I recognize Justice Kavanaugh strenuously asserts Dr. Ford’s recollection is a false memory, and that he never did what she “remembers”, I’ll mention that even if he was guilty of inappropriate groping as a teenager (and many of us were) it should not be held against him for the rest of his life. Nor should Dr. Ford be permanently scarred by the discomfort of unwelcome advances. Considering the society of that time tended to mock abstinence (AIDS didn’t become a major concern until later in the 1980’s), and considering adolescents are not known for a lack of social clumsiness, the goofs of youth should be expected, and forgiven, if not forgotten.

The question then becomes how we “get over” the traumas of our past.

The most natural thing to do is to forget about it. For example, as we learned to walk we experienced the trauma of losing our balance and sitting down hard. After a brief spell of bawling we forgot about it. The lesson was learned,  and became part of our “experience.” This natural process allows us to do many things without thinking. For example, there have been many times I’ve driven long distances with an engaging conversationalist, so engrossed in the conversation I hardly remember the drive at all. The simple fact I didn’t crash into anyone (or a tree) demonstrates that my learned “experience” was able to do the driving, even as my consciousness was elsewhere. In this example the action of driving was “unconscious.”

Psychologists ask the question, “What is driving you?” There is the assumption that our past traumas make up our current identity. The reason that we turn left or turn right in life is that we are avoiding past pains. (Some focus more on pleasure, as a motive, but pleasure can be seen as avoiding-pain.)

In spiritual terms the same dynamic can be seen as our frustrated or gratified desires. What are desires? Well, some things attract us and some things repel us, due to “impressions” we gather. Some things impress us positively and some things impress us negatively. (There is actually a word for these impressions: “Sanskaras.” A sanskara is a sort of sub-sub-atomic particle of mind, and collected sanskaras make up sub-atomic particles of energy, which make up material atoms.)

Because psychologists have an awareness we are “driven” by things that we don’t even think about, they have a tendency to root about in the backs of our minds, seeking what motivates us. Our subconscious mind is an interesting place to explore, but unfortunately some investigative psychologists are clumsy, even brutal, and often their efforts to “fix” us are not helpful.

For example, when a person is troubled, some psychologists simply zap the brain.  The idea is that the brain needs to forget, so electricity is used. Such psychologists like to justify their zapping by pointing at what they see as “positive results”, though they have no idea what they are doing. I have always felt that “electric shock therapy” is the equivalent of giving a malfunctioning TV a whack. If the picture improves it does not make the whacker an electrician, (and sometimes the whack breaks the TV).

Drugs are the same sort of thing. More harm than good has come of trying to deal with troubled people with pills, whether the “cure” is doctor-prescribed or self-medication,  although some forms of self-medication, (such as Churchill’s cigars), are not entirely ruinous. (After all, he was over ninety when he retired from politics.)

A third form of foolishness, which I myself was very involved with, involves rooting about in the past, when you should be facing the future by attending to the present. There were times I would have benefited more by simply going out and getting a job, but instead avoided getting a job by thinking deeply about the psychological roots of my dreads and desires (when my desire was to hide in my mother’s basement). In such cases I was seeking in the wrong direction; the cure lay out in the fresh air, but I stayed stuck, thinking the cure lay in “psychology.”

Psychology should free people who are stuck. A great irony is that some psychologists prosper by keeping people stuck on a sort of treadmill of problem-causing thought, because some psychologists stand to gain more by advising people to sign up for fifty-two psychological sessions than they would gain by advising the person to go get a job.

The greatest irony is when a psychologist does this to themselves. I am not saying Dr. Ford did this, but her peer-reviewed paper on self-hypnosis and creating false-memory does suggest the possibility of her being overly inward. (The expressed idea suggests that, if you are controlled by a real memory of a past trauma, you can escape that control by using self-hypnosis to create the new control of a false memory.) The danger of such inwardness is that, rather than going out into the fresh air and interacting with real people in reality, one stays stuck in the musty halls of academia, diddling with old ideas attempting to make something new out of fossils. Rather than the fresh outlooks of another’s view one instead is stuck with their same old mind’s same old views, and one reviews, and re-reviews, and re-re-reviews…

In my own life I called this becoming “ingrown”. I tended to fall prey to it because writers do withdraw a lot, and do look inward a lot. Also I often found other people’s minds very boring, even disgusting, and would want to run away and be a yogi on some mountaintop far away, in a beautiful landscape. However sitting around without the input of other minds gradually made me bored, even disgusted, with my own mind, as I became “ingrown.” Eventually I’d be driven to come down from the hills and rejoin the human race.

Not that I’ve ever completely conformed to the world’s boring ways. In some ways I am still as imaginative as I was in first grade. In first grade I always found “Show-and-Tell” tremendously dull, and would attempt to liven things up a bit with sheer balderdash, (which I suppose could be called an example of “False Memory Syndrome”).

When I was young school was a bore
And so I said, “A dinosaur
Came walking through my yard today.”

The time was “Show and Tell”. I told.
The teacher didn’t have to scold.
My neighbor coughed and scoffed, “He lied!
There was no dinosaur outside!”

“He lied! He lied!” The taunting burned.
“He lied! He lied!” The taunt returned
In midnight flames that made me mad.

So I went mad, and didn’t care.
From the blackboard’s deep despair
The window’s view would lure my eyes
To peek to see how moved my lies.

Did you know angel’s paint the skies?

                                                            (1973)

I wrote the above poem when I was twenty, and deeply involved with “getting in touch with my feelings” through men’s groups and sessions with psychologists. As I recall, I did a lot of weeping and wailing about how teachers abused me and tried to make me sensible, rather than appreciating that I was a sensitive poet.

What did this accomplish? Well, I certainly felt a lot better. Originally no one had wanted to read my poems, so I felt unheard,  but “therapy” let me feel heard.

(Of course, if I had paid people as much to read my poems as I paid the therapist, they might have read my poems. But I didn’t want to pay people, I wanted people to pay me, to read my poems).

In any case, once I felt better I was more likely to stop sulking, and more likely to go out into the world and begin interacting. That was what all the weeping and wailing was good for. It didn’t really accomplish anything, but it put me in the “mood” to accomplish something.

Of course, some therapists didn’t really approve of me feeling so much better, as it would lessen their income if I was “cured”, and some might therefore start saying things that lessened my confidence. When I objected they could then state my “hostility” towards them was a sign of “resistance”, and that more therapy was needed. When I objected further it was a sign of “denial”. The interactions became a sort of downward spiral, and by the time I told the psychologists to “shove it where the sun don’t shine” I stood accused of all sorts of “subconscious sabotage”, no longer felt all that good about myself, and was back to sulking.

Besides wasting a lot of time and money, psychology taught me a lot of jargon I could use to describe the inner workings of my poetic side, and also let me see “feelings” were something more than a sign I was immature wuss. “Feelings” were a sort of sixth sense, able to “feel out” situations, and grasp the “shape” things were in, before the intellect could even begin to find the words to describe the same situation.

In some ways that difference between “feelings” and intellect is the boundary between poetry and prose.  Poetry grapples with indistinct shapes, with gestalts and Jungian symbols, whereas prose is more scientific and precise. Poetry, at its finest, (for example in the case of Shakespeare), has an adroit capacity to comprehend the subconscious that puts an ordinary psychologist to shame. Poetry playfully toys with what psychologists struggle to grasp, and too often mishandle. Once I became aware of this psychology seemed far less interesting to me. To be honest, my psychological knowledge felt more like a ball and chain than like wings. I longed to dismiss it, but it lurked like a post-traumatic ghoul in the back of my mind.

At this point (age twenty-one) I had “got religion”, (though I was not affiliated with any church), and had renounced the hippy concept of free sex and free drugs. I became rabidly anti-drugs , and grimly prudish. I felt that the natural consequence of sex was a baby, and I therefore should not have sex unless I was prepared to support the mother and child.  I did not merely talk the talk, but walked the walk, and women seemed to sense they were “safe” with me. This resulted in situations I did not enjoy at all.

At that time I held the simplistic view that women sought three things in a man. They wanted financial security, sexual gratification, and the emotional sensitivity of heart-to-heart talks. As a writer I was dirt poor, which was strike one. My spiritual discipline made me avoid sexual gratification, which was strike two.  But my poetic understanding (and complimentary understanding of psychobabble), allowed me to have heart-to-heart talks. With certain women this hit a home-run, for though their husbands were rich and very good in bed, they had the sensitivity of brass knuckles, and their wives had a deep longing to talk about mushy stuff that made their husbands gag. They found me a wonderful adjunct to their lives.

I didn’t like it. I felt like a sort of effeminate hairdresser, a man women felt safe to be close to because he wasn’t as threatening as a vibrant and viral man. In fact at this point in my life various homosexual men (and I knew many, in the world of writers), informed me their “gaydar” told them I was “gay”. I told them I wasn’t, and told them (and a few women) that the one thing I could never understand about women is why on earth such beautiful bodies would want to lay down with something as unlovely as a man.

It was tiresome, but for the most part I could handle women who made me be a sort of adjunct to their marriages to other men. This was largely because these woman also had the sensitivity of brass knuckles, when it came to being the slightest bit sensitive to what men care about. Having heart-to-heart talks with such women made me aware they really weren’t all that attractive. They may have felt heard when we talked, but I felt increasingly unheard and increasingly lonely.

It was when my loneliness was at a crescendo that I met a married woman who could hear me.  It struck me as a most remarkable thing, to be heard, without having to pay the price a psychologist charges.

To cut a long story short, I fell in love with her, which spoiled everything. I couldn’t live up to the high standards of my spiritual discipline, and was fed up with being a hairdresser, but she didn’t want to be more than a friend. Emotionally, it was devastating.

When you had troubles I was there.
When I had troubles, what?
When I was in my direst need
I found your doors were shut.
                                                           1980

Unrequited love is not a healthy situation to remain in, when your constitution cannot withstand it, so I hit the road and never returned.

Was this a trauma? Yes. Did the memory pursue me even as I ran away? Yes. Did it haunt me? Yes. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford does not have a monopoly on the trauma of heartache.

What’s more, whereas Dr. Ford claims she was grievously wounded by a man trying to have his way with her, I assert a man can be just as grievously wounded when he doesn’t have his way. Many women have the sensitivity of brass knuckles, when it comes to unrequited love.

But one more question should be asked: Did I get over it? Yes.

        AX-MAN’S SONG

Ask me why I’ve dropped my ax
And wear the fondest smile.
Ask me why the wood’s unsplit
For just a little while.

I now recall a girl I knew
Who had such lovely ways
That it is like I’m wrapped in warmth
Recalling her these days;
But when we split my mood was dark
For she was not for me
And if there’d been a clipper ship
I would have gone to sea.

Like Frenchmen in their legions far,
Far from friendly homes
I’ve known the skies that lack a star
To guide the man who roams.
Where some may slay a dragon’s wrath
And hope to win the fair
I had no hope; the foe I fought
Was my complete despair.

Without the path that leads one home
Or guiding star above
My only hope in hopelessness
Was, “God made life for love.”
Even though I couldn’t see
Examples this was true,
And wandered on without a dawn
Or midnight moonlight-blue,
And even though I saw all hope
As something of a sham
Like salmon to the springs of birth
My dreaming spirit swam,
And there, by clearest water’s spring,
I saw, when I began,
I had no dreams or hopes on earth.
I simply was a man.

I saw my hope of ownership
Had blinded me to light,
And that to lose that single hope
Had closed the lids of night.
Then, opening my eyes, I saw
Past greed and past desire,
And saw what’s true and beautiful
One always will admire.

Unplucked or picked, the rose must wilt
But beauty it revealed
Will ever be, unless my lids
Know sleep, and all’s concealed.
And that is why my face is softened
With this dreamy smile
Musing on the ways that were
For just a little while.
                                              1986

The ability to smile about something that once made you grimace is a sign you have “gotten over it.”  It involves more than merely erasing a memory, or repressing it. It involves digesting and assimilating experience, and moving from innocence to maturity.

This still doesn’t answer the question, “How does it happen?” The simple answer is to say, “I don’t know how it happens; it just happens.” It is like a cut on your finger. We do not really know how it heals; it just heals.

The confidence that a wound will heal, given time, goes a long way towards relieving the pain, because for many the pain involves a lot of baseless worry that they are forever maimed when they aren’t, especially when they feel worse than they have ever felt before. This confidence is also called “faith”, and even atheist doctors know how important faith can be in the healing process.

But simple answers aren’t enough for me; I’m like a doctor who isn’t satisfied with the knowledge a cut will heal, and who wants to know more about the process, and if there is any way to speed the process. Therefore I am always poking about in my past, and listening to the stories others tell, looking for clues concerning how people “get over” heartaches.  If you are at all inquisitive you can learn surprising things about the most dull-seeming people, and the adversity they have overcome, if you only ask.

Hearing the testimony of people who have survived what you are going through seems important, though it may be the last thing a suffering person wants to hear. When you have just hit your thumb with a hammer it does you little good to hear another say, “I did that once.” It can even make you mad. You are hurting and they aren’t, and you don’t want to hear about how they don’t hurt. That’s flipping obvious, because it your thumb that just got crunched; not theirs. There are times it is wisest for onlookers to simply keep quiet and do nothing, (unless they happen to have some Novocaine handy.)

Just as one may hop about for a while after hitting their thumb, there seems to be a sort of emotional equivalent. To a degree people need to rave, or have a good cry, or shiver with fright, as their emotions “feel out” what they have been through. I suppose at this point it is best for onlookers to reserve judgement, and just sympathetically listen.

Then, just as a day later one may gingerly flex and touch their sore thumb to see how the process of healing is proceeding, people seem to have a need to revive a past trauma. This can get boring, if you have already heard the sad tale thirty-six times, and I suppose one can be forgiven if one stops reserving judgement, at this point. It is at this point your testimony is more likely to be heard, if not accepted and assimilated.

Recently I’ve been going through old notebooks dating from my time as a drifter, looking for times I showed signs of maturing a little. I want to write a book about those times, but don’t want it to be a depressing collection of gripes, for, although those were hard times, I learned a lot, and I now smile, recalling my hardships. I didn’t smile so much back then, for I had no idea better days lay ahead, but one reason the future held better days was because I was well taught by the School Of Hard Knocks.  I have a feeling that, if I was able to testify about how I was taught, the tales might be eagerly read by youth in similar situations today, and they might gain some sort of uplift.

Back then I often camped during the summer, either where there was no fee, or at campgrounds where the fee was small, and one spring, after I moved out to a campground, I saw a spell of terrible luck give way to a period of such beneficence that I looked up at the sky and just said, “Thank You.” It was as if I was being rewarded for getting through the winter.

My routine was simple. If I couldn’t find day-labor I would return to the campground and write, chain-smoking and sipping coffee mixed with thick, powdered milk (which enabled me to avoid the bother of eating), deeply engrossed in my thoughts. For some reason many seemed to find the sight of a man chain-smoking at a typewriter at a picnic table irresistible, and they’d come strolling over and attempt to start a conversation. I usually found them a distraction, and I wasn’t very welcoming.

Often they would ask, “What are you writing?”

I might gruffly reply, “That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

While this did end their nosy interest in my writing, many refused to be discouraged. They would laugh and sit down and change the subject to the weather, or the advantages of their camper over my pup tent, and with a sigh I’d light another cigarette and sit back to see what God had brought to my table.

On a couple of occasions I was somewhat startled by the sequences of fascinating people who appeared out of the blue, day after day. It seemed so contrived that I again glanced up to the sky. If I ever get around to writing a book people will think I am making it all up, especially when it was a sequence of truly kind people, after a winter without many crumbs of kindness in sight.

For now I’ll just describe one kind person, a woman who in some ways uplifted my attitude permanently.

I was not all that happy to see her approaching my table out of the corner of my eye, and tried to look very busy and focused on the page. It was a day I had devoted to writing, after making some decent money (for a bum) with day-labor the day before, and it furthermore was the time of day when I usually did my best writing; mid-morning, when the campground quieted down after many left, and before the day grew hot and the desert winds grew gusty and flapped my papers about. As she arrived at the picnic table she asked, “Do you mind if I join you?”

I gave her my stone-face, and responded, “Looks like you already have.”

“This is true,” she laughed, and sat down across the table, and continued, without much of a pause, “So, what’s your story?”

I did a quick evaluation. She wasn’t looking at the typewriter, so that wasn’t the story she was curious about. She was about my age, and reasonably good looking, considering she wore no make-up and her hair was tousled, yet I had zero sense she was considering any sort of sexual advance. The frankness and friendliness in her eyes was that of a sister I never knew I had, and we quickly fell into a long and comfortable conversation. It was all about me, for when I asked her about herself she deftly steered the talk back to me. I never learned where she was from or where she was going, nor heard even a tale about what she’d experienced in life, yet she struck me as wise. Around lunchtime she walked back to her car (which was already packed) and drove off and I never saw her again. Yet I felt on a different level.

She was blunt, in a disarming way, and seemed to have no fear of asking me if there was some woman behind my destitution. I was equally honest in return, and told her I had a whole harem of women, in my memory, but in real life I had given up on women. I confessed that over the years I’d met three I’d wanted to marry, but they had the good sense to lose me, and I’d concluded I was a complete fool, concerning women, and marriage was now out of the question. I said chasing woman is the normal behavior of a lusty, young man, but once a man passes thirty such behavior increasingly looked like the behavior of a dirty, old man.  I’d had my three chances, and three strikes meant I was out. I was too old.

These were lines I’d spoken so many times to so many strangers that I knew them by rote. She wasn’t buying it. She casually said,  “Oh, you’re not too old,  although I’ll admit…” she looked thoughtfully to the side, pausing before smiling at me and continuing, “….you’d be difficult to train.”

I remember smiling broadly, and shaking my head at her nerve. I admired the way she felt free to make statements people usually waltz around making. Later on she said something I had to scribble down in a notebook, telling her “I’m going to use that in a poem.”

I had been telling her what I fool I was, and how I was completely incapable of telling the difference between a good woman and a facade-witch. She wanted to know what a facade-witch was, and I explained it was a Norse demon that, from the front, resembles a beautiful woman, which always tries to face you, for from the rear it looks like a hollow shell, lacking any heart or guts. I added I’d met a girl like that, who only needed to smile and nod at me, and I was completely convinced she understood and agreed, though she did not agree at all. I continued that I had told the girl I didn’t believe in short-term relationships, and the girl had smiled and nodded when I said there must be “100% commitment.”  I explained I thought I had found my soul-mate. Then I bitterly laughed, “It wasn’t two months before that girl announced, ‘I’m not 100% committed any more.’ ”

“Actually,” the stranger responded from across the picnic table, “You are lucky she left if she loved you so little.”

       WISE WORDS

“You are lucky she left
If she loved you so little.”
So spoke the wise one I met on the trail.

I knew she was right
But my laughter was brittle.
Humor is humble when loving seems frail.

I thought and then answered,
“But she could say this:
‘I’m glad he is gone if he wouldn’t pursue.'”

She cocked her brow
As if I were amiss,
“Which one left whom?”
                                                   “I haven’t a clue.”    1986

Not only did this stranger give me a good first line for a poem, but she also gave me a totally different way of viewing the same situation. I went from “I am the victim of a facade-witch” to “I am lucky.”

Which returns me to an earlier point, which was that one should avoid being too ingrown, and instead should seek the fresh air of other’s views.  That is why we don’t have a single eye like a cyclops. Having two eyes gives us a third view, called “depth perception”.

And perhaps it is when we start to view life with the depth perception we gain from other’s views that we find we are able to “get over it.”

LOCAL VIEW –Fall Peepers–

There is always a danger of missing the beauty right before your nose, especially if you take it for granted. I’m sure people who live with spectacular views can get up in the morning and look out the window and say, “The Matterhorn…Ho hum.” In such cases it helps a little to have people come from all over the world to see what you take for granted.

But then there is a new danger of acting as a sort of prop to the scenery. Years ago I lived with a Navajo in Arizona, and I used to kid him about a stoic expression he always assumed when tourists snapped pictures, and with a bit of a smile he’d inform me, “That is how Indians are suppose to look. Check out Arizona Highways magazine.”

I remembered him years later when I was raking leaves off the beaten path for a rich lady, using an old fashioned rake rather than a leaf-blower, and much to my surprise saw a bus come swaying and lurching down the lane, barely squeezing between the old stone walls. The upper part of the bus was largely glass, and on the inside I could see all the tourists, who I assumed were from Japan, were all pressed up against the glass snapping pictures of me, the quaint Yankee raking leaves. As hard as I tried to be natural, I found myself assuming a pose, and felt like a picture in National Geographic.

A third way to miss the beauty is to rate it. No two autumns are the same, and some have briefer beauty, because a gale rips all the leaves off the trees, while others have a browner beauty, because of drought. Rather than appreciating the variety I sometimes look back to the year which was the most brilliant, and become comparative.

The second half of the summer was so wet that all were expecting an especially brilliant autumn. But brilliance is dependent on sunshine. As I took the kids from the Childcare out on a daily walk I’d look over across a pond to the swamp maples, which are the the first to change, and see the amazing growth of color in the sun.

Leaf peep 1 FullSizeRender

But then a passing cloud would drape a shadow

Leaf Peep 2 FullSizeRender

I prefer the colors to stand out, and a part of me called the second view downright dingy. But this would make a liar out of the part of myself that states the beauty is there for eyes to see, so I strove to see it. But then I was put to the test, as we were hit by a long spell of various sorts of gloom, cloud, drizzle and dampness.  Even as the foliage grew more brilliant the weather grew more gloomy.

Leaf peep 3 FullSizeRender

Leaf peep 5 FullSizeRender

Leaf peep 6 FullSizeRender

I figured I’d likely miss the swamp maples at their most brilliant, and have to wait for the sugar maples, but then I noticed the weather was so wet the sugar maple leaves were rotting as much as they were changing color.

Leaf peep 12 FullSizeRender

Then I heard motorcycles roar past one gray morning, and knew for them to be out leaf-peeping it had to be dry, though very gray, and as I headed off to do chores in an adjoining town I made plans to sidetrack into some swamps. I had a sense it was “now or never”.

Leaf peep 7 FullSizeRender

Leaf peep 8 IMG_7509

All you need to do is pull over and slosh a little into the sedge to have the color engulf you.

Leaf peep 9 IMG_7518

If you are not careful you may become enchanted, wander into hidden valleys, and go unseen for twenty years like Rip Van Winkle.

Leaf peep 10 FullSizeRender

Soon you forget CNN or Drudge. You are visiting a utterly different swamp.

Leaf peep 11 IMG_7522

And once you have found beauty on a cloudy day, a clear day is sheer heaven.

Leaf peep 13 FullSizeRender

LOCAL VIEW –September Thunder–

September starts the battle between summer and winter that summer is bound to lose, but which is always interesting to watch, as waves of warmth from the south grow progressively weaker, and the north rears up tall and cruel.

So far the cold has remained locked up in Canada, but this just means their snow cover builds up early. On his Weatherbell blog Joseph D’Aleo reported snows are already building to our north.

For a time the Canadian cold was kept in check by a strong Bermuda High, displaced north, which brought us steady imports of tropical air up the coast.  To the south of the high pressure the Trade Winds came further north than usual, bringing balmy ocean breezes to the Carolina coast, and all enjoyed the beaches,  until, like a cork riding in the stream of the Trade Winds, Hurricane Florence approached from the east. Envy turned to pity as over a million fled their vacations.

Florence slammed ashore and then curved north to New England. I had had forgotten that few things feel quite as tropical as a hurricane. In terms of a pity-party, we could not compete with North Carolina, which got over twenty inches of rain and far more wind. Yet I think we, here in southern New Hampshire, deserve pity for not getting pity. We got over five inches, and everyone just ignored us. What’s the use of suffering, if you can’t milk people’s hearts?

The remains of Florence passed over us with the nearest Canadian cold front far to the north, so although the winds had died Florence remained a pure, tropical system. Seldom do we experience such darkness hand in hand with such warmth, this far north. (Our dark summer thunderstorms are usually due to cold fronts, and involve cold downdrafts and even icy hail.) The rain was warm, and the day was deep purple, and I decided such a rare event deserved a sonnet.

Out of breath, with nothing left but rich rain,
The hurricane came north and it grew dark
As December by noon, but heat can’t feign
It’s winter. The rain poured, and my small ark
Was my roof, and my windows looked out on
A steamy world, with leaves still summer green
Yet darkness deepening after dim dawn.
The roar was not wind, but a rain seldom seen
This far north. On and on the torrents poured
And flat streets became lakes and cars were boats
With wakes, and then my watching spirit soared
As happily splashing in bright raincoats
The children came laughing, dancing eyes bright.
Even on dark days there’s always some light.

Even before I put the finishing touches to my sonnet the hurricane had moved out to sea, and its exit dragged down some colder Canadian air that utterly changed the quality of our rainy weather. Abruptly the rain was of the sort that turns an old man’s hands purple. This is actually gave  us far more of a reason for a pity-party than a nice, warm hurricane, for not only does cold rain make it difficult to do summer chores like mowing wet grass, but it makes it hard to face autumnal chores, such as stacking wood. It seemed time to tune up the violins, for a new self-pity was building. Life is hard enough, for even on a sunny day it is not as easy for an old geezer like me to do such chores as it was when I was younger. Oh, woe is me.

And abruptly the nights are longer than the days, and there are more hours of chilling than of warming, and, right on schedule, it cleared just at sunset and the long night gave us our first touch of frost.

Hint FullSizeRender

It was actually a day late, on September 23 when our average first frost is September 22, and it was the sort of touch that only happens in low places and doesn’t kill the tomatoes in the garden, but first frost is a hint, and I’m wise to the ways of winter and can recognize the signs, though the bees may still be humming in the asters.

Hint 2 FullSizeRender

Yet I have discovered something. I cannot take a hint as well as I once could. Years ago autumn shifted me into high gear, and I enjoyed the zest of labor in cool, crisp weather. Now the hinting strikes me as a bit like nagging. Rather than zesty I get grouchy.

These changing seasons really are too much
For a dignified old man to handle.
I deserve respect, and a gentle touch,
But these changes want to snuff out my candle.
I’m ready for heaven, where it’s summer
All of the time, without these shifting gears.
Winter’s a bummer, and nothing’s dumber
Than changes, to an old man of my years.
But here we go, the old sun’s gone lazy
And stars fill the sky when I rise from bed.
I nod at Orion, but think he’s crazy
To fight the good fight and bleed as he’s bled.
Forever he fights, from autumn ’til spring
But if I could, like a duck, I’d take wing.

It seems unfair to me that the sun gets to sleep late while I have to get up early, yet even as I was grumbling and rosining up the bow of my self-pity-violin, a slug of superb summer weather surged north. But then, even before I could put my violin back in its case, Canadian cold came crashing into the warmth.September thunder FullSizeRender

What an awesome evening, with the night lit by brilliant flashes of lightning, and thunder prowling from horizon to horizon! I left work late, and after I turned off the lights I just stood in the parking lot, watching the magnificence. Rain soon budged me, but then driving was a wonder, with flashes lighting the deep dark depths of night forest with crazed shadows, and every raindrop frozen in midair by blinding pink. The rain was erratic, deluging down the street even as I drove in dryness, and when I made it home I could dash to the door between downpours. But once I made it to the sheltered porch I had no desire to go in, and turned to watch the incredible sky. I felt like a mouse under the floorboards, or like I had rented an apartment with gods living upstairs. Yet the odd thing was that though I felt minuscule, I forgot all about my self-pity violin.

Two thoughts then occurred to me. The first was that the Senate Hearings about the Supreme Court nominee have somehow degenerated from a job interview into a massive pity-party. The second was that pity is pretty useless when nature is displaying her might, and a hurricane has dumped two feet of rain and the rising river is pouring through your front door; then you don’t want pity; you want a rowboat.

Sometimes pity is absurdly impractical. Self-pity is not merely self-centered, but also ungodly, for among all His infinite attributes God is infinitely practical.

Already the north is whitened by snows
But still the sunny, stubborn south stays strong.
My fate depends on which way the wind blows;
You can tell the weather by my songs.
In ways I’m just a flute played by the breath
Of powers far, far greater than I am.
I’m battered and flattered nearly to death
By forces I deem do not give a damn
About puny mortals as mousy as me.
Tonight God’s gods played with fire in the sky
As south fought north, and vision could see,
As thunder slammed, just how weakly I try
To befriend the Truth who made sky’s berserkers.
Seek God, or else you’re just grist for his workers.

JUDGE KASANAUGH VS. FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME VS. #MeToo

I myself actually was sexually abused when young, and, though I am a man, can feel for women who are swept up in the #MeToo movement. I understand a lot of the self-loathing and guilt, and also rage and hatred, involved, though I myself have largely “lived it down”, in terms of my own life.

Part of the process of leaving such trauma in the past involves confession. It is a very ancient process, described all the way back into Old Testament times.

The reason events are hidden is often due to an element of shame, for quite often, even when a person was taken advantage of in a most foul manner, the situation began with the person being tricked into trusting someone they should not have trusted, and they therefore feel ashamed for trusting. Because the person is so ashamed they never bring the crime out into the sunlight of Truth, and it lurks about in the shadows of their mind, influencing them in any number of ways. However as soon as they confess, the sunlight of Truth disinfects. Saint John described the process like this:  “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Of course, if the abuser is a priest, one wants nothing to do with the church. However the exact same process is enacted by secular psychologists, even if they happen to be atheists. They may not believe the Christ is the Truth and the Way, but they do notice the “Way” to “mental health” involves “Truth”.

People in the #MeToo movement tend to feel they are involved in something new, riding the breaking wave of social progress, but in fact we old-timers know we have “been there and done that”. Back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s there was a great deal of excitement about new “psychologies”, and that in turn sprang out of a disillusionment with older Freudian psychiatry which people had been excited about in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Many of Freud’s own students stated his approach had flaws, and came up with “new and improved” approaches of their own. As a young hippy I tried out a number of the interesting new approaches, and I also worked for a psychologist and got to see the new approaches from a different and interesting angle. Lastly, I studied psychology further on my own, not as a client but because I was very curious.

I had and have no doubt it is good for the soul to confess. I witnessed some heartrending catharses that used up entire boxes of Kleenex, and could often see people felt much better afterwards, as if a huge burden had been lifted. I took part in pounding pillows for various reasons, “getting my feelings out” and expressing “repressed hostility” towards people I hardly remembered, (for example a football coach who benched me back in Junior High). To be honest, it got a bit silly at times, for I was “less repressed” than some, and recall I one time alarmed a psychologist because I got too enraged and beat the hell out of a pillow with too much ferocity. In the end there came a time when enough was enough, and it was time to stop dwelling in the past and to go get a Real Job.

In the process of digging up things one resented from their past one entered a interesting landscape where so-called “recovered” memories were encountered. These were not things that had troubled you for years and years, but things you had supposedly “completely forgotten”. Some psychologists made a good living by claiming they could help people “recover” things they had forgotten.

The problem was, the human mind is very creative. In exploring various psychologies I’d  investigated the interpretation of dreams, and also fantasies. Fantasies were very interesting, in that they were windows into your own subconscious or the subconscious of another, and it was fascinating what people could dream up when wide awake. In cases where powerful emotions were involved, the fantasies could be quite vivid, as real as an intense dream. The problem with “recovered memory” was that they might be the same thing.  I actually witnessed people “remember” things that hadn’t occurred.

The mind is constantly working on  ideas. An idea does not simply sit in the brain, but rather is revised and improved-upon.  These changes are actually a good and healthy thing.

There has been some research hinting that memory itself is initially stored in one part of the brain, and later filed in another, and then called forward and worked upon and then refiled, undergoing revisions in the process. Memory isn’t a photograph that stays the same, (or perhaps yellows with age, becoming “golden”.) For this reason witnesses have varying accounts of the same incident.

This is also a good reason to keep a diary. (I’ve kept a diary since I was nine years old. Now, as an old man, there are certain stories I’ve told [and perhaps bored people with] many, many times. It is a bit shocking to look back in my old diaries to when the event actually occurred, and see how I have changed the tale. I have made it “better” in some ways, altering the chronological order and even my own responses, but I have not made the story more accurate.) The mind’s ability to improve upon raw data means that it is important to verify what is remembered, to be sure it is true and not fictional. In some cases a memory may be false.

The creation of a false memory is called “memory consolidation” by some. Much like a dream, the mind creates an image that basically states how the person feels. Then the image is “recalled” and the person believes it is an actual memory.

It is unfortunate that some psychologists can, either inadvertently or intentionally, cause this process to occur, and confuse a false memory with a real one. There have been cases where lives have been ruined because parents were “turned in” by psychologists for sexually abusing their children, when no such abuse occurred. In some cases the “recovered ” memory was from when a child was supposedly only two.

My Dad befriended a woman who had suffered such an experience, and refused to accept the disgrace and suffering she and her husband were subjected to without cause. Her name was Pamala Freyd, and she and her husband Peter started the “False Memory Syndrome Foundation.” The response was immediate, because it turned out a lot of parents were falsely accused by their hippy children. (Having been a hippy, I used to visit some cult-like communes and met megalomaniac leaders and saw how susceptible young, innocent and suggestible minds could be to B.S.)

Here is the False Memory Syndrome Foundation website:

http://www.fmsfonline.org/

There are, of course, tremendous battles between accusers and the accused, with each insisting the other is false.

My initial impression is that Judge Kavanaugh is a victim of False Memory Syndrome. My reasoning is that:

1.) It took so long for the memory to be “recovered”. That in and of itself is not a good sign that the memory is genuine. In cases where actual abuse has occurred the memory is not forgotten, but rather tends to plague the person year after year. They attempt to forget, but are haunted.

2.) There is a huge lack of corroborating evidence. In the example I gave from my own life, I can go look back in the yellowing pages of my own diary to check up on the details of my recollections. I also have old friends and family I can talk with, to see what they remember. Christine Ford has failed (as of this time) to offer more than a “memory” that came back to her thirty years later, in a psychologist’s office.

I only throw my idea out to be considered, for I haven’t heard False Memory discussed at all.  Like everyone else, I wait to see if any corroborating evidence is forthcoming.