ravine trail

The new trail opens up the wildest area in this urban forest oasis. Clusters of mushroom sprout from the center of the path. Few have walked here yet. It is high summer and the wood thrush yet sings. Cicadas offer up a constant backing drone. Point of fact: dogs don’t process the switchback concept. It conflicts with their innate knowledge of the shortest distance rule. As the trail climbs from the deepest shaded low point, the morning heat barges uninvited into the cool air space. Sounds of the nearby freeway intrude. As I struggle to adapt, a certain chorus tears through my head in response. This walk is soon over.

born today

Recognizing two exemplary humans born on this day, May 12…

1895J. Krishnamurti – Indian philosopher who renounced his foretold role as guru and head of the Order of the Star in the East.

From his biography on the Krishnamurti Foundation site:

“Krishnamurti belonged to no religious organization, sect or country, nor did he subscribe to any school of political or ideological thought. On the contrary, he maintained that these are the very factors that divide human beings and bring about conflict and war. He reminded his listeners again and again that we are all human beings first and not Hindus, Muslims or Christians, that we are like the rest of humanity and are not different from one another. He asked that we tread lightly on this earth without destroying ourselves or the environment. He communicated to his listeners a deep sense of respect for nature. His teachings transcend man-made belief systems, nationalistic sentiment and sectarianism. At the same time, they give new meaning and direction to mankind’s search for truth. His teaching, besides being relevant to the modern age, is timeless and universal.”

*Krishnamurti is not one to follow, for he spoke against all leaders and authority, but his words are insightful and, in my opinion, worth reading.
_____________________________________________________

1921Farley Mowat – Canadian writer and conservationist who just passed away last week on May 7th at the age of 92.

From the tribute Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society wrote for his friend:

“Canada has lost their greatest literary treasure, the world has lost one of our most inspirational conservationists and Sea Shepherd and I have lost a wonderful friend.

Canada will one day name a national park in his honour for he has earned his place as a truly Canadian hero through talent, imagination, vision, courage and passion. Canada has a long history of contempt for people that they later almost canonize as heroes long after they die – people like Grey Owl, Louis Riel, Dr. Norman Bethune, Tommy Douglas, etc.

For despite his unpopularity with the conservative Harper government, Farley has always had the love and the respect of the Canadian people and he will not be forgotten.”

*My dog is named Farley, partly in honor of Farley Mowat, and I can see a spirit in him similar to that of his namesake.

the tricky truth of time

I have not been to work in 11 days. I will not return for another two. I love this time. I have been taking this break at the end of the year for at least five years running. It has become important to me, this shucking off of the past 12 months in preparation for the new rack of days about to be set.

What happens is a curious thing. The coccoon of time unravels and I am released into a nebulous world of days and hours unmarked by the usual frames of reference. On occasion, I find myself searching my mind for what day it is. Recall is often laborious. When it does occur, I laugh quietly. I lose track of what days the recycling is picked up, when certain shows air on the radio, who among my circle might be working at any given moment.

I know it is morning when the yellow light pours into the sunroom from the east. It warms me over my shoulder as it falls across the pages of my book.

I know it is midday when Farley starts angling for a walk.

I know it is evening when the last light fades, leaving a gloom to settle in the house.

But the weekdays tend to blur into the weekend. Morning hours are in general distinguishable, one from the other, but the afternoon hours caper gleefully, spinning in circles around the maypole, daisy-chaining their elastic selves around my helpless body, freeing me from the snare of routine. They tempt me into running for the hills. Crouching in the thickets, they whisper to me snatches of their secrets, of ‘p time’ and ‘m time,’ with the laughability of it all unconcealed in their twinkling eyes. We are not binding straps, they say; rather we are possibility, we are discovery, we are whatever happens between the beginning and the end.

Soon, though, Colonel Responsibility will beckon with his truncheon for me to trudge down from the hills. Under the hard Colonel’s watchful eye, I will refasten the familiar leghold trap, grinding my teeth as the steel fangs puncture my skin, reopening barely-healed wounds. The yellow light will disappear behind windowless walls. The afternoon hours will sheepishly turn their backs on me, showing me their ugly sides. And I will wonder again about their truth they never fully share.

Soundtrack:  EarthHex: or Printing in the Infernal Method (Thanks, Taidgh!)

the sniffington post – a guest blog by farley the dog

Good evening. First, I would like to thank one of my humans for giving me the chance to share a day in my life with you. As I understand it, the audience for this blog is primarily human, so I will accommodate by writing in the English language. Today was another day full of sleep punctuated by short bursts of manic energy. I woke as usual before dawn. For some strange reason my humans were still sleeping. I have yet to train them to get up before the sun, although I’ve been working hard at it. I find that constantly walking back and forth, clicking my nails on the hardwood floors, is one effective method. Another one, known as the “constant licking” method, consists of licking one of their hands repeatedly until I get a reaction. Their general reluctance to rise immediately upon seeing that I am awake and ready to go outside greatly vexes me. What possible reason could they have for this absurd behavior. I find it simply unacceptable. Oddly enough, I have consulted some of my colleagues and found that apparently this is a widespread problem, although certain of my rural kinfolk did allude to some magical invention known as a “doggie door” that allows for free passage to the outdoors at will. O wonder of wonders! Perhaps one day I will be so lucky. In the meantime I guess I’m stuck with these slugs.

But I digress. One human finally stumbles downstairs to feed me and take me outside. So, we get outside and what is the first thing I see but some woman with an enormous hat! I could not believe it. I mean, who is in charge of these things. Such abominations should be flatly prohibited. Of course I alerted my human to the danger immediately. I thought that I was quite effective at conveying a sense of urgency, but instead of the gratitude I expected in return, my reaction was met with a command to be quiet. Quiet?? This is preposterous, I brooded, as the human urged me farther down the block away from the threatening hat. Luckily I soon came across some grass that the cute poodle on the next street had recently urinated on. I inhaled the fragrance deeply and all thoughts of that horrible lady and her evil hat evaporated from my mind. I then lifted my own leg in reverence to the poodle’s sweet black curls.

The rest of the walk was fairly uneventful. Well, with the exception of that guy at the bus stop carrying those plastic bags. Whatever was he thinking? Once again, I sounded the alarm and once again my helpfulness was met with irritation. I swear, sometimes I feel like me and my humans are on two totally different wavelengths. Not only do they appear unfazed by all these unspeakable horrors around us, but they’re also each missing a set of legs. Honestly, I don’t know how they get around. I guess I am impressed that they’ve managed to overcome their disability and survive in this world of giant hats, plastic bags, balloons, and hammering sounds.

At some point in the afternoon it became clear that something was happening. I pride myself on my acute awareness of when the humans are preparing to leave. The only question in my mind, however, is whether I will be joining them or not. This is never quite clear until they do one of two things: pick up my leash (god, I hate that thing) or begin filling my Kong toys with treats. If it’s the latter, I know I’ll be left alone. But if it’s the former, I know I will be going, too! This time they picked up my leash so I knew I was in the clear. We walked down to the field at the end of the street and then my humans ran around in circles with me, threw me a toy that I only sometimes get to play with, and chased after me a lot. It was so fun! But it was also really hot out and so I got tired pretty quickly. Eventually my humans figured out, what with all the panting and my reluctance to run further, that I needed to go back home.

After that excitement, the humans left me alone for an undetermined period of time. I got in some good napping while they were gone. When they returned it was as if they’d been gone for ages. I did my best to explicitly make known my excitement at seeing them. However, I soon was distracted by the allure of my left rear leg, which I immediately began gnawing on with gusto. The humans then gave me my dinner, which I am always grateful for, before commencing to eat their own dinner, which I am not allowed to partake in. For some reason they sit upright at a table, while I eat on all fours from a bowl. I’m not sure what that’s all about.

After dinner, the humans settled down to do their things and I focused in on chewing my bone. How I feel about my bone could fill a book, so I won’t bore you too much with details there. Suffice it to say that my bone and I have a special relationship, borne of many hours of me chomping on it. It’s a mostly one-sided relationship, as I don’t believe the bone itself derives much pleasure from it. But I could be wrong.

Finally, it’s time for my last venture outside for the day. I munch on some long grass, carry a large stick in my mouth, and slide down a grassy hill on my side. You know, a typical late evening walk. At one point I almost step on a slug, but my human pulls me aside, averting potential disaster. Several insects torment me and I snap at them. Eventually we go inside and it’s time for sleep again. I can’t wait ’til 5 AM!

mosquitoes = o quiet moss

It’s possible I saw more mosquitoes than birds during my birding expedition. I probably now have West Nile Virus. They are going to spray stuff from airplanes to kill the mosquitoes where I was looking at birds. Really. I wouldn’t lie about that. Think about not ever going to work again. Just think about it. For one. heart. beat. Fuck. I saw a dead slug on the sidewalk. I can’t take it. Why is it so easy to dislike people without even knowing their faces or their names. And yet. a squashed slug. crushes me. Farley walked right past a cat. Didn’t even see it. I think the cat was mocking him. There were a lot of vultures at Soldiers Delight. Hanging out on the cancer towers. Airing their wings and such before kettling up. It’s a vulture’s world out there. So many dead things to feast on. Because life is too much of everything. And so things are always dying and being replaced. And if you’re a vulture…well, I don’t feel the need to explain any further. There are too many people. And there are too many things. Too many people things and too many thing-people. The other night I dreamed I was living in an outdoor camp in a forest. I was part of a team. Our job was to watch over the forest, to help people traveling through it and to keep poachers out. We slept outside in little beds and watched informational films that helped us do our jobs better. How is this relevant? Let me put on my Jungian hat and pontificate. I guess maybe I want to help people instead of rot at a desk all day? Maybe not a job, per se, but something. Why not. Jung said many of his patients were successful middle-aged people who suddenly realized their lives were empty and meaningless. Hooray. Nothing changes throughout modern history, does it. It. just. gets. worse. But what does ‘successful’ mean in this context. I suspect it means the opposite of what I consider success. I am not interested in ‘social standing’. I am not interested in ‘moving up the ladder’. Of course that kind of success is going to make your life feel empty and meaningless. Of course it is. I hate your filthy money and everything. it. stands. for. I just want my time. That is all. Why is it so difficult. It seems like it belongs to me. But actually right now it largely belongs to a mammoth financial institution by way of a prominent American university by way of the United States Government by way of taxes paid by my friends and neighbors and complete strangers. So, in a way their time belongs to me, but not really because I give it to a big faceless bank, which means the people ‘moving up the ladder’ own it all. And their lives are empty and meaningless because of it. If they just stopped the process by which they are taking our time, I think we’d all be better off.

Where’s my cave. I have some paintings to make. They tell a very different story.

And yet…at work the ghost of Edouard Levé was haunting my mailbox. So there is that.

possible kalopsic casualty

Last night I swam in a sea of almost-sleep, drifting in and out of almost-lucid dreams, all of which evaporated upon waking. It was the fan, I think. The fan instead of the A/C. What was I thinking. The Siren song of dropping humidity dripped its sugar-sweet serum into my ear holes. Damn you Weather Sirens. It is Wednesday now. My bird-of-the-day calendar displays a sleek Green Kingfisher. I replaced the bulb above my office plant. We are getting new green carpet; it smells bad and looks like it was torn out of some swinger’s 1960s basement rec room. I cringe at the thought of it creeping in all molester-like into my personal office space. My feet will never be the same. Violation! Violation. I am listening to the liferaft again. So help me, I cannot help myself. Do you know what i mean. Do you. Do you really know. I attended a meeting this morning. I was 9 minutes late on account of I was waiting for the coffee to stop brewing. Also my coworker and I were busy trash-talking the last 4 years of our professional lives. I am back to drinking too much coffee again. But I drink the special tea after lunch to try and repair the damage. It appears to work, but maybe not since there was the almost-sleep and that is a heavy consideration. i am eating my lunch now and not smoking a cigar. But I bet that guy is. I’ll bet he is. The liferaft has segued into the bedside table. That is where I keep the 5 books I am currently reading, most of them Kafka-related. But there is Jung, too. And Tessimond. All of my dear friends stacked in a pile within easy reach. With my Moleskine. Sigh. Last night while out walking Farley we saw a cat. It was not a metaphorical cat that might or might not be in a box, dead or alive. It was a real cat and Farley was interested. He stared under the car long after the cat had run back across the street. I want a cat so bad. Nearby to where I live a train went off the tracks in the dead of night. Two college girls were up on the bridge tweeting photos and they were buried under a mountain of coal. They died. I’d like to think this exposes the ills of social media, but I’m not sure. I feel bad about this. That’s why I listen to the liferaft so much. It makes the sounds that I feel inside most of the time. I am perhaps a blurred model of myself. I walk outside and brush my hand against the lavender blooms and surreptitiously sniff. Hey, it’s that guy who is always sniffing his hand. Yes, that is me. I enjoy touching things in nature that look soft. I find them irresistible. I find much of what is around me irresistible. The rest of it can fall off the planet for all I care. The Internet ruined my concentration. I enjoy chasing rabbits of information down their hidey holes. That is really what I do. Often. Sometimes I pass on what I find to others. Sandy Berman taught me that. He is a good man. We used to write letters back and forth. I was an over-excited new library school student. Now I just search for stuff on the Web. My idealism is easily trod upon into a gross paste that I plan to smear on the molester carpet when it arrives leering and panting outside my office door. What you don’t know is that I was just outside touching the lavender. Literally. Between that one sentence and the next. What do you think about that. My hand smells so fucking good right now. Outside there was a truck with bins on the side dispensing free energy bars. The orbs and their blobs were shoving their fleshy flaccid fingers in those bins so fast. But they are healthy nutrition bars. Ha! That is a fucking good trick! I feel so alive today. It made me walk fast. Surf the mania. I am 100% alive and 100% dead ALL THE TIME. I am petting the cat and its back is arched. I’m an out-of-the-box solution, suckers.

a philalethe and a panmnesiac walk into a bar

Scripturient fugues scrape at this summer torment, as I sit saccadic in my seat, genuflecting to twin telescreens, the slim dark overlords of these waking hours. Glistering dreams spawn from stem and cortex under cloak of darkness; if not coaxed out quick, consciousness crucifies them upon the day’s brutal y-axis.

Late at night I hail the sidewalk slugs, grown fat on summer’s bounty, no longer convening, but navigating solo in their slow deliberate way, yearning perhaps for a more saltigrade life. I try to lead Farley’s falling paws away from their soft yielding bodies, but theirs is forever a doomed existence in this urban setting. I can only do so much.

Revulsion spawns in less innocent corners, as I perceive the proboscis of humanity probing at inappropriate places. Get thee away, proboscis! See how your callous actions rub salt in your own wounds, spinning on until one day you’ll all lie screaming, salted strips of dried-out flesh stretched on a burning hot bed of asphalt. Or something…ahem.

Never mind, it’s time to molt this dacrygelotic husk. It’s time to cram these junked-out hours in a dirty suitcase and hurl it in the harbor. The air is like bathwater and I will yet swim in it, for I have no choice. And yet the psithurism of the autumnal approach beckons. I still hear it, muted and steam-wrapped as it is.

quadripartite

© 2012 S. D. Stewart

Farley channeled his dingo ancestors in a frenetic dig for water.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart

He jumped in the pool to clean off.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart

Decrepit truck with dog.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart

Corn! We picked some and ate it. ‘Twas good.

escape to hot springs

Some friends purchased a cabin and 15 wooded acres in the North Carolina mountains so a visit was in order. On Saturday we hiked up Max Patch Mountain, a bald mountain in Pisgah National Forest that was cleared for pasture in the 1800s. The Appalachian Trail crosses the top, where lucky hikers are afforded dreamy views of the Great Smoky Mountains to the southwest. Off to the distant west rise the dark ridges of the Black Mountains.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Max Patch Trail, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina

The trail to paradise.

And then there is the reward…

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Max Patch Trail, Hot Springs, North Carolina

The Great Smoky Mountains seen from the top of Max Patch Mountain in Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina.

Such beauty is all the more poignant when shared with old friends.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, a/t on the a/t

A/T on the A.T.

Farley was beside himself with joy for the entire trip.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Max Patch Trail, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina

Farley in his element, bounding through the tall grass on top of Max Patch Mountain.

There were also non-mammals enjoying the outdoors.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Max Patch Trail, Hot Springs, North Carolina

A Common Buckeye butterfly alights on one of the plentiful blackberry bushes growing along Max Patch Trail, Pisgah National Forest, Hot Springs, NC.

Back at the cabin, we cooled off in the creek.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Creek at Dave & Betty's cabin, Hot Springs, North Carolina

I walked up the middle of the creek and found damselflies consorting with each other.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Creek at the cabin, Hot Springs, North Carolina

My walking stick used for navigating the creek.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Scene from creek at Dave & Betty's cabin, Hot Springs, North Carolina

For some reason this little sun-dappled tableau struck me. I don’t think it comes across in the photo, but it was the sort of scene into which you wish you could miniaturize yourself for the purpose of better enjoying it.

And here is where we retired for eating, sleeping (although some of us camped outside), and reading during the heat of the day.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Dave & Betty's cabin, Hot Springs, North Carolina

Farley exhibits signs of extreme boredom outside the cabin.

my thoughts dried up so i wrote this instead

When you isolate yourself, you have no one else to blame when things go awry. There is some small comfort in this. It is possible to go days without talking to anyone. This can be a magical combination of your own self-imposed silence and a general indifference on the part of others. Together we can make it work. The woman in the alley enjoys screaming hateful words at her grandson but she is sweet as pie when I say hello. This dichotomy hurts my brain. The alley is loud in the summer. The ladies across the way gun their motorcycles at all hours. The level of their inconsideration for people living together in a confined space staggers me. Small children yell and sing and talk like adults. I brood at the kitchen table. If it weren’t for the swatch of overgrown vegetation threatening to engulf my porch, I would have to see, as well as hear, the denizens of the alley and that I could not bear. Meanwhile, in the plus column, the city installed four solar-powered compacting trash cans on a main street in the neighborhood. I was overjoyed to throw my dog’s poop in them. Then they took one away. It was the most conveniently located one. Why. On another street near my house the city erected an expensive-looking fence in the median. A few weeks later they removed it. Why. Every day I see the thousands of dollars I pay in property taxes hemorrhage out onto the streets in the form of Kafkaesque activities such as this. It pains me. I could make much better use of those thousands of dollars than by funding the erecting and dismantling of fences. Segueing into the employment realm, it’s summertime at work which results in a curious laissez faire attitude toward attendance. I like it but it confuses me. I am always suspicious of it. Yet there is a natural relaxed cadence I cannot ignore, and so I allow it to carry me in its wake. When I feel agitated, I look at the little pictures in the dictionary and this soothes me. Last night I had a pleasant time in dreamland, but I forgot most of it upon waking. I don’t like that. I need to remember my dreams or waking life seems vacant. Do you ever wonder about the nature of friendships? They are curious things. Coming and going, rarely staying. Sometimes they wane; sometimes they wither. Sometimes they fail over the stupidest things. And you wonder if it could have been avoided, but in reality if it was a strong friendship it should have been able to withstand most of the nonsense we manage to self-generate. Which then begs the question of why the friendship existed in the first place. Convenience, perhaps. Boredom. Desperation for human contact [see: possibility of going for days without speaking to anyone, as outlined above]. I have had many friendships through the years, for all of these listed reasons and more. Not many have lasted, but the tiny few that have are worth more than gold. The question is then, do I now need more friends? What purpose would they serve? It gets harder to make friends as you get older. It’s horrible but I find myself more judgmental than I used to be of people when considering them as potential friends. I am also perhaps even more guarded now. Friendship requires time and effort, both valuable resources that I don’t expend lightly. How can you know if it’s worth it. Most of the time I am content to be by myself. I also have a dog now. The ultimate friend. Always dependable, always happy to see you. Can’t go to the bathroom without your help, which is a little weird. Doesn’t talk, which is both good and bad. Sometimes I wish he’d talk, just a little. See, even though I am content by myself, I have this annoying urge to reach out sometimes. It’s irrepressible. Sometimes everything can’t be found in books. Or nature. Most things, yes. But not all. This is the curse of human nature. We are not 100% autonomous. And I am so restless. This incessant unease shadows my every move. The panic. The urge to drop out. The crushing confinement of your own mind. We’re all so spread out. Held together by weakening links. I trip over my own shallow roots and fall face-down in a mucky bog. Roll around and let the clay harden on your skin. Let it cover all that you see as wrong. It feels so good.

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