tree deity

'Tree Herder' sculpture from recycled materials by Paul Rodriguez, found trailside @ Lake Roland, Balt County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

‘Tree Herder’ sculpture from recycled materials by Paul Rodriguez, found trailside @ Lake Roland, Balt County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

I came upon this woodland spirit during a sweltering late morning hike/bird walk. I’m thankful that it’s there watching over the trees. I was surprised at how many fellow humans were also out sweating in the woods. Trail people are always so friendly, even when it’s in the upper 90s and the humidity feels like we’re all floating in warm bathwater. One runner stopped to talk birds for a few minutes. Others just smiled or said ‘Good morning!’ One of my admittedly unscientific axioms, solely based in anecdotal evidence, is that people are much likelier to make eye contact and greet each other in the woods than they are on the street. Why is this? It is the power of the trees, I suspect. We are all happier in the woods, whether we know it or not. Nature has a calming effect and these days that effect is needed more than ever. As always at this time of year I have been struggling with the heat and not going to the woods has made it worse. But today I took up arms in the face of summer’s brutality and I’m glad that I did. For me there is no substitute for a couple of hours amidst the greens and browns of the forest. I feel it is my true home.

unfinished studies in probability

I am trying to determine how it is possible that I never see my immediate neighbors. We literally share walls. And I am out in the streets at least twice a day walking Farley. Yet I never encounter them. How is this possible. What are the odds of me seeing even one of them? That’s what I’d like to know, though I’m not at all a gambling man, just a curious one. Is it because I leave at random times, and they also leave at random times, making our odds of intersection quite low? Or is it because I leave at random times and they leave at the same times, also making our odds of encountering each other low. I know that I never leave at the same time, so perhaps I am the reason we never meet. My erratic behavior may be the cause of our never meeting. However, some people in the neighborhood I see quite often, even though they don’t even live on my street. Why them, I ask, why not the ones so close by. This I don’t understand.

Sometimes I look out a window and I see my immediate neighbors but they appear so far away, like they are in another dimension, another world even, or as if in a dream, and I consider that I may never know them for it is too late, too much time has passed and so we are destined to remain strangers. Somehow, in some hidden unreachable part of my insides, I think I know this is true, and for some reason it saddens me, though I don’t quite know why, but I think it may have to do with how I have created personalities and lives for all of them and the stories of their lives in my head are ongoing and can grow quite elaborate at times, and for reality to now impose on these stories would ruin them and probably depress me.

Meanwhile, the other day as I approached the revolving door at work from outside, someone also approached it from inside, and we pushed simultaneously and the door swung with ease, depositing each of us in places opposite of where we had been, and this was pleasing to me, for it rarely happens, and in general I am ambivalent to revolving doors, yet when serendipity such as this occurs I am reminded of their occasional magic, leaving me with a lingering sense of connection to my partner in door-pushing whom I didn’t know and didn’t speak to nor do I want to know or ever speak to.

prairie dog towns: a case study

I never knew if the prairie dogs could leave. They lived in a town inside a park inside a town. There was a fence around their town. It was not a high fence but prairie dogs are not tall. They do burrow, though. That’s one thing they’re known for—building tunnels. So the question for me remained: why didn’t the prairie dogs leave? How far underground did that fence go? Had any of them tried to burrow out, only to encounter the fence? To the untrained eye (mine) they looked content. But I didn’t trust my untrained eye. There were young ones and old ones, so clearly they were procreating. But was there a carrying capacity to this confined town within a park within a town? If no prairie dogs left, would the population not eventually reach this capacity, leading to a crash or other dire consequences? Did the Parks & Recreation Department even have a strategic plan?

Meanwhile, in a nearby state there was another prairie dog town inside a park inside a town. But these prairie dogs were free-range, and their town spread out across acres of parkland. It was a decentralized town, difficult at first glance to even conclude that it existed. The prairie dogs themselves were also less obvious to the naked eye, though apparently no less active according to one news source that named them as likely suspects in an electrical cord chewing scheme plaguing this year’s Christmas display. In fairness to the prairie dogs, though, human vandals were accused of playing an even more significant part in this tragedy. The implication in the article was that the humans knew better.

The other town, the one in my town, was quite elaborate, much more concentrated, presumably as a consequence of the prairie dogs’ confinement. They built up instead of out. It was an odd thing, really, with the fence around it being only a few feet high. The lower part of the fence was made of chain link so the prairie dogs could look out and visualize their freedom. I wonder how the jailers knew what height to build the fence. If three prairie dogs stood on each others’ shoulders the top one could easily leap over.

This Just In: Cursory online searching yielded an article from earlier this year that says some of the prairie dogs have begun to escape from the confined town! The Parks & Recreation director said the fencing is original and is believed to extend to a depth of five feet. But the fence is deteriorating and the city doesn’t have the money to replace it. Note: due to the horrid quality of this article I refuse to link to it. In fact, if anything, my recent superficial review of online regional news outlets from this part of the United States has made me thankful for having put such a great distance between it and me. Apparently, in that part of the country one doesn’t need to be literate to find work as a journalist.

What I wonder is how one town in a region decides to confine their park-dwelling prairie dogs while another town does not. To me this indicates a fundamental difference in world view, and yet having visited both places (and lived in one of them), I would never have guessed that the authorities would be at such polar opposites when it comes to dealing with potentially destructive ‘critters,’ as one diligent reporter so endearingly referred to them. In the free-range town, the Parks & Recreation representative displayed a surprisingly blasé, perhaps even a live and let live, attitude toward the prairie dogs. In the other town, however, the parks director made it clear that the animals were there for public display and the popularity of this display would drive the town to secure funds necessary to fix the fence. This, in my opinion, would be the expected point-of-view in that region, a place where most people consider animals to be: (a) something to eat; (b) something to shoot; and/or (c) something to be confined for the amusement of humans. However, I was apparently not thorough enough in my highly amateur and flagrantly qualitative anthropological research. Although I regret the oversight, I still expect this shoddily constructed case study to ensure my continued membership in the esteemed Society for Purveyors of the Unscientific Method.

news from dream life

Last night I had a dream where, in answering someone’s question, I referred to a place that to my knowledge only exists in my own dream life. The place is a park with a campground that was the setting for an epic dream of many months before. This is the first time I can recall this happening and I woke up feeling exhilarated over this advancement in my dream explorations. I think it represents real progress. I have been reading Anna Kavan’s book Sleep Has His House at night before I go to sleep and I now wonder if it is influencing my night-time life.

the bus to paradise passed me this morning

Some people never stop talking about their plans. They are dead serious. Just you wait, they say, as if they know you are already silently doubting them. Or perhaps it’s because they’ve been scoffed at so frequently before. Regardless, their plans are solid. However, according to my own sloppy research conducted using keen observation techniques backed with unscientific predictive modeling, these people never actually go through with their plans. But…there are questions. Is it the constant talking about the plans that keeps them from hurling themselves off a bridge? Does the mere daily mention of these grandiose plans sweep away the dark cloud of futility hovering nearby? Are they in denial? Does the bus to paradise ever stop to pick up these passengers?

Other people keep quiet about their plans. They may mention them in passing on occasion. But there is no big to-do about it. When you ask them about their plans they are sometimes evasive. Rarely do they go into details. It’s as if they don’t want to curse the plans by talking too much about them. In the meantime, we grow complacent about these people. We expect them to remain in stasis. Sure, in the back of our minds nests that tiny kernel of knowledge that these people do indeed have plans. But the infrequent or even non-mention of the plans lowers our guard. Therefore, when these people suddenly follow through on their plans everyone is flabbergasted. How did they do it. We didn’t even know. She seemed so quiet. He kept to himself. And no, I’m not talking about mass murderers, although it’s possible the same theory applies. When did these people get on the bus? Were we not looking when they slipped out the door, paid their fare and boarded?

Are you ever overcome by a feeling of being left behind? All my life I have plunged forward with only brief stays in the morass. But the longer one lingers in one place, the more departures one suffers. Now, I certainly understand the value of living in the present and how that factors into this discussion. I’m not interested in plumbing those depths for the eight thousandth time. I also recognize that I am a person to whom satisfaction does not come easily. I’ve made a lot of progress in coming to terms with this. As part of the process, I’ve developed my own specialized coping skills (note: available for hire). This is what we’re supposed to do as we get older. Learn how to live the day-to-day. If we don’t, there is trouble.

I fear this has now veered off-course. I did not intend to get confessional. Let’s blame it on the bus, broadcasting its glowing word of promise above the driver’s head, passing me by as I neared my destination, teetering on the edge of the always tenuous cliff of Monday morning, hastily rigging together the tatters of my ragged hang glider, preparing once again for a flawless take-off into the unknown.

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