Saturday, July 25, 2020

American Omens, Warnings and Good Signs

Photo of NEOWISE over Morro Bay by Daniel Worthington
published by San Luis Obispo Tribune

    Looking at the NEOWISE comet the other night, I wondered about the status of life and humanity on planet earth when NEOWISE flies by again in 6,800 years.
   Scientists estimate the frozen left overs of the formation of our solar system are some 4.6 billion years old. We live at a time when history and the perspective it brings, gets short shrift. We'd do better, and be smarter if we paid more attention to history's lessons.

historic signals
     A leading conservative Republican intellect, George Will, made a little history when he announced he was going to vote for Joe Biden. He added promptly that he would also quickly become part of the loyal opposition, challenging Biden on policies he thinks are too liberal.
     Will is part of a migration of Republicans who recognized the depravity of Trump. He predicts a landslide for Biden though he says "a nervous Democrat is a good Democrat."

of cabbages and kings

King George from Buckingham Palace

        In fact a nervous US citizen is a good US citizen. Trump's reign of ruination has become more portent. 
        England's King George, who ruled from 1760 to 1801 was known as the "mad King" and "the King who lost America." Evidence of Trump's mental illness has been as evident as his stupidity and incompetence. The other similarity is his "losing of America." Here's a for instance; his disregard of the constitution.
        Under King George the British Parliament passed the Quartering Acts of 1765 and then made them more onerous in 1774. They mandated that colonists provide "quarters," room and board, for all British Soldiers on American soil. Our ancestors were also taxed for the provisions. 
         This young nation to be did not want the soldiers here. When colonists protested, destroying property at the Boston Tea Party, the tyrant sent more troops to our cities, trying to stop demonstrations and protests and demanded that British Troops be quartered in homes even, if there was not ample room in saloons, ale houses, inns, hotels or in barracks.  The new orders were part of the "Coercive Acts" a kind of colonial Law and Order. In a year the American Revolution was a shooting war.*** 
         US citizens have a right to protest, loudly and constantly. Sending unmarked federal police, dressed like combat soldiers, into cities and states that have said no is not unlike the actions of  King George. Federal police do indeed have the right to protect federal property. They do not have the right to beat, detain, arrest or intimidate people who protest and demonstrate. That is a constitutional right. 
        Cities and States have the right to tell the President not to send his federal storm troopers.
        Constitutional scholars and lawyers warn Trump is running afoul of our American way of life. His use of the unmarked police/soldiers has drawn the wrath of our own military leaders, active and retired. It's another reality TV style campaign tactic by a desperate, sick and evil man. He is a man with no sense of the history of the nation. I doubt if he knows who was King George, or the roots of the American revolution.
        A further historical irony follows below.
pretty and tasty history

      These are some of the 60 acres of grapes that grow closer to the Pacific Ocean than any commercial winery in California.
      You can grab a peek of the big blue beneath the marine bank to the west. Ray and Pam Derby have grown Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris since 1998 and have operated the Derby Winery since 2008.
         These grapes are windswept, sun blessed and with a magnificent view of the ocean in their Derbyshire Vineyard in San Simeon.

thoughtful and kind

        One of the signs we are a decent people is the frequent appearance of "free librarys." These book give-a-ways and sharing posts dot many a central coast neighborhood. 
      Further evidence of an intelligent, thinking civilization that dwells somewhere beyond social media and reality television.

history of life

     There is a sweet sense of the continuum of life in having a 
2 1/2 year old grand son excitedly point out a monarch butterfly pupa or chrysalis.
   He taught his "Poppy" something I didn't know. They create a beautiful golden rim.
     He also pointed out the lizard, keeping watch. 
     How much happier we might all be if we could retain some of that wonderment and fascination.

old school lesson

     As we say goodbye to American hero John Lewis it is good to remember he was a devoted advocate of non violent protests. Repeated beatings, almost to the point of death, broken bones and multiple arrests did not deter Lewis from non violent protest and demonstration. 
photo by Times of Israel
      The Governor of Oregon, the Mayors of Portland and Seattle Washington have sounded the same warning-do not be baited by the police/soldiers Trump has sent to antagonize. Destructive acts will play into their hands and the Trump campaign. Damage to property will not move the nation closer to reforms and accounting that are due and could even set back the momentum. 
photo by

       John Lewis lived into the first amendment "right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Non Violence is as peaceably as one can push for change. 

       ***The movement of reckoning midst a pandemic echoes a chilling reality from the War of Independence. More Americans died from a small pox epidemic than died in the war. 
       The population of the colonies was about 2.5 Million. It is estimated 130 thousand died from small pox. Less than 7 thousand died in battle. 17 thousand Patriots died from disease and most of them as prisoners of war, being held by the British. 
      It's estimated 6 thousand British soldiers died in North America. 7 Thousand Germans died in British service in North America. Again, most of the casualties were from disease.

      We cannot escape our past. But we can learn from it.

     Stay safe and well. Take care of each other.

      See you down the trail.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

life speaks

     Much has been made about nature since we've been living through a pandemic. The earth has been clearing and healing. We are reminded of forces more powerful than human. Many good minds note this is an opportunity to learn. How are we doing on that score?

are we listening?
      We were warned not to push "re-opening" at the risk of set backs. Impatience, hubris, economic pressure and failed leadership landed us in a death spiral and so we are closing again. The scene from Washington is frankly insane.

moments of pause
       But for now, a montage of vignettes of nature, normalcy,  life, listening, and living.
       If you are familiar with humming birds, you know hyper speed is their normal. I was arrested the other day by how this creature landed on a vine that embraces our front gate. It came to a full stop, something I've not seen.

       After a stunning and disbelieving couple of minutes, it dawned that I should get a shot.  I worried my motion in the kitchen window would send it off. The little creature stayed there for another five minutes, taking in the morning sun splashing against the Santa Lucia Mountains. We shared a glorious morning pause.

morning sun
    Lana painted this, Morning Sun, in 2015. It hung in a couple of gallery exhibitions and then we put it out of sight and mind.
     Just this week a friend, who manages a winery and who saw the painting back then, inquired as to if she still had it. That set off a search by an artist who is better at creating than managing inventory. Let's say her files do not rise to the Smithsonian, or Library of Congress, so we spent time looking through the physical inventory, checking records of sales, looking through her computer archive of inventory images and calling around. In the meantime Miguel called to ask what she had learned. "Still searching," was the response.
      A call to her friend and "broker/representative," a dealer in fine art, object d'art, collectibles and such, discovered Morning Sun. Thank you Carolyn. 
      I was happy to get reacquainted, enjoying her brush work. From the time we dated when she was a budding art student, I've told her, I am her greatest fan.
     I also enjoy her gardening.

gardens are also good for the soul
      As I have been padding the front walk these last days I've admired the progress of this beauty.
     It is a lily that reminds me a bit of the orchids she raises.
      Our vegetable beds have produced an abundance of snap peas, lettuce, micro greens, artichokes and our beloved favas, that our grand daughter is developing proficiency at "shucking." 
     The shot is a few weeks old, because the fava's have been harvested and we are now watching the tomato experiments.  Stay tuned.

between sea and sky 
with a large marine bank looming
    Boats are rare, close in, on this stretch of the central coast's notoriously dangerous waters. As I watched the little craft work north on the big water, pictured in the frame below, I was brought back again to our national ship of state. 
s o s
     It certainly must be obvious to even his base and the disgusting Republican Senate that Donnie the Dope, as other Republicans call him in advertising, is insane and incompetent.
      But he is dangerous too. His attempt to divert hospital virus data from the CDC is a naked exposure of his strongman tendencies. It is a page from a banana republic dictator or Russian ruler playbook. He wants to control and manipulate vital information. 
      He must know he is a cornered rat and that makes him more unpredictable. 
       We may be fatigued by the virus, and certainly by Trump world, but now is when the resistance and our resilience must be in high gear.  Some 100 days until the election and who knows what the mad king is fevering in his sick and perverted mind.
        The homestretch approaches and only diligence and participation can extract us from a netherworld of betrayal, failure, traitorous actions, lies, racism, fraud, perversion, ego, insanity and death woven by Donnie the Dope!

a good guy
Here is the guy who gives orange a good name.

       It is almost as if Hemingway's gaze says, get rid of that rat or I will. 
       Resolve is the implement of war against what has become an unimaginable perversion of American life. We cannot lose the will to expunge all things Trump Republican.

           Stay safe and stay well. Take care of each other. Remember, pay attention to life.

       See you down the trail.

Thursday, July 9, 2020


    Gentle ripples on a little pond in the flow of San Simeon Creek offer a respite from the madness and sickness of  2020.
     Remember the kind of world you imagined for 2020, back when we were filled with dreams and when most of life, including the distant 21st century was far in the future.
     For health and for a kind detox I've been visiting the past. 
   Farmers and ranchers on the California central coast have been "putting up hay."
   That leads me back to the early 1960s in central Indiana.
    US Highway 40 east of Indianapolis was dotted with villages and crossroads that were once part of the National Road. Places like Cumberland, Gem, Philadelphia, and Charlotte were little clusters of a life that passed by when the Interstate system was built. A few still had grain elevators and the expanse between was farmland.
    My father rented an historic and drafty large farmhouse in Cumberland, as we awaited the construction of new home near a golf course. I got to know the local lads, the Hills, and their cousins the Hilkene's and Sharpe's. They were farm kids and their families "put up hay" every summer and needed manpower.
      We'd start early in the morning, as soon as the field was dry. There were usually two of us on a wagon, pulled by tractor hooked up to a baler. 
      Blades would gather the cut hay and it was fed into a kind of conveyor.
         The baler shaped the hay and then wrapped it with a line or wire to keep it in a block. My job was to stand on the front of the wagon with a hook
  and grab the wrapped bale off the conveyor, turn and hoist it to Bobby, Chip, Jack, or who ever was on that wagon. He'd then stack it on the growing pile. We rarely had three on our wagons, so the "boy-power" could be spread to another wagon working the same field.
        The farms were large, the fields were massive, and the bales kept coming at you without stop.
           Hay is "put up" in the summer. The sun is scorching,  the hay or straw is scratchy and there were days when I thought the field was an ocean. But we'd always stop at noon. If there was a tree line with shade we'd settle there or get a ride to an area that was out of the sun. The farmer's wife would bring us picnic baskets full of relief. There were gallons of lemonade, iced tea, either a mountain of sandwiches or fried chicken. And usually there was a pie or fresh baked cookies.  15 and 16 year olds can devour more food than you can imagine.
          After lunch, and a moment to answer "nature's call," it was back to the wagon, field and hay. After a field had been cleared, or when the stacks were at a proper height, we'd jostle along to the barn, where the bales had to be off loaded and stored.
         I got stuck in the loft one day and thought I'd die from not being able to breath. A barn hayloft in the heat of summer is a miserable place. After that I was the guy who hauled the hay off the wagon and threw it on to a conveyor where the rest of the guys would go about filling the loft. They'd handle only every third for fourth bale, but tossing each one was worth not being in the loft.

   When ever I see hay in a field, I go back to those couple of years of learning to work. 
    Back then the future was unlimited. I want it to be that way for my grandchildren as well.
       We've got to get better at solving problems and working around or through differences.
      Lana took these shots the other day. She said it looked like I was talking to the cow. I was. 
       We'd been hiking for a while in the sun and I needed a moment in the shade, a shade being shared. I told the cow she didn't need to bolt, or charge me, that there was plenty of shade for the two of us. We made peace.
     There's been a lot of recent attention to the fact so many are depressed, or ill, full of the toxic nature of the news.   
      There is the unrelenting worry about Covid and this nation's failure to handle it as well as most of the world.    
      Then this age of reckoning brings us to painful truths and difficult decisions. I hope they are growing pains, but pains none-the-less.
      Remember when we used to say, as mad and as incompetent as Trump is, at least there is no crisis. Almost seems like the good old days doesn't it. Another mile marker on the descent of this nation.
             If I may suggest, a great antidote is to spend a few minutes viewing Lincoln Project videos and/or the videos  of Republican's Against Trump. They are short and cathartic. The truth is always alternative to the sick fantasy world the sick man weaves. Seeing it all told so well may help this nation with it's first political exorcism.
         I've been gratified by the early response of college leaders who say the administration's recent ICE crackdown on foreign students is just more evil and meanness. I hope they fight it. 
           We are fortunate to have the timeless shore, help with our emotional respite. We enjoy being able to share a few moments.
       Another respite moment came the other day when friends Jacque and Griff arranged for this. The talented Brynn Albanese and Eric Williams entertained a socially distanced block gathering within view of the Pacific.

  They are renowned and have superb credits and resumes, but like all musicians, have been sidelined. It was pure pleasure to see and hear them back in action.

   Everyone seemed to enjoy the respite. 

   I apologize to my friends abroad. This is not the America that nations could once trust. This is not the America that was recognized as a leader on important issues, as a beacon of light. We did it to ourselves, but I'm gaining a sense we will fix this. I suspect there is a hard rain coming, and it will be a time of rumble. 
    We seem on a path to address our racist and genocidal proclivities. Honest acknowledgement is forthcoming, even now. Fixing it will take time, but it will be good work for a nation.
     I think most have been shaken into a state of awareness. The prevailing cultural attitudes of celebrity, wealth and entertainment are not lodestones for a serious nation, nor the values by which to measure women and men for the fitness of work on the public's behalf. 
     These are hard truths. We ate the poison. It made us sick. It is killing us, but we know the cure, and the power resides within.

          Stay safe and well. Take care of each other. That is our destiny.

    See you down the trail.