Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Blog Retired

This blog has been retired. The new blog that will be taking its place is "Skunk Tracks".

Children of Men

While watching "Children of Men" last night, (which is a fascinating and graphic movie about the breakdown of human society after the entire population becomes infertile) an analogy came to mind. It seems that we're driving towards a predictable set of possible futures (most of them not so attractive) on the highway of time in our SUV's of consumerism and consumption.

We can see the direction that we're headed through the windshield of indifference and denial; we see the scenery changing for the worse all around us through pleasantly tinted automatic windows as we approach a gigantic cliff up ahead. Yet we keep the pedal to the metal in our Hummers of destruction and our gas guzzlers of waste, while watching movies like the "Children of Men" on our high-tech, in-cabin, drop down DVD screeens. At least it helps to keep the kids pacified.

Like a motorized fleet of armored lemmings, we're charging full bore towards our ultimate demise. The shame of it is that while we watch the tragedy predicted and playing out in the on-board movies we're watching from plush leather seats in our comfortable, climate controlled environments, we don't seem able to react effectively as a group to either the ever-changing, ever-bleak, ever-depressing scenery just on the other side of the safety glass, or the incredible, exponentially expanding danger approaching at high speed just ahead.

This post can also be found at my Skunk Tracks Blog - which for all intents and purposes, has taken the place of this blog.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Unitarian Universalism and Buddhism Commentary

The following comments were posted as a response to a friend's post discussing Unitarian Universalism and Buddhism entitled: "A Buddhitarian?" I thought that it would be fitting to post my comments here as well, because I've never really taken the time to write this anywhere else before. Read the post on his fantastic blog (linked above) for the background on this discussion.

Here goes:

I am drawn to many aspects of Buddhism and find that the philosophy is generally in line with what I've found to be true about life in my own experience.

I love the fact that people whose personal beliefs lean towards Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Paganism and many other religions can come together in one place, to acknowledge a shared search for individual truth. I almost wish that the UU church didn't have its roots so deeply immersed in Christianity. Then, at least, its origins would be more in line with its current diversity, and its greatest credential, which is that anyone, from virtually any background, with just about any conceivable set of well-guided beliefs, can participate in a truly meaningful way as a member of the church, provided that they are guided by the seven principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Unitarian Universalism works best for me when I think of it as less of a religion, and more of a "Way". A "Way" for like-minded individuals from any religious background, who are able to accept and overcome their differences and work together for the common good of all of humanity.

I haven't found any other avenue that provides as much freedom for diversity and differing views within a framework with as much potential to positively affect the world we live in. At the same time, I do yearn for more spiritual mentorship and guidance, and I may have to go elsewhere to find it.

** Now that I've copied the comment I made, I would change the last paragraph to read:

"I've found no other avenue that provides as much freedom for diversity and mutual discovery within a framework that displays as much potential to positively affect the world as I understand it. At the same time, I do yearn for more spiritual mentorship and guidance, and I may have to go elsewhere to find it."

The great thing about the Unitarian Universalist church is that if I do discover a new spiritual truth that has meaning to me, there will always be people in the congregation who will want to hear about it, and who will rejoice with me that I've learned something that is true for me, regardless of whether or not they would identify the same thing as being true for them.

That there is no great truth may be the greatest truth, greatest fear, and greatest disappointment of them all... but only God knows the answer to that one, and they are the greatest keeper of secrets.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

San Antonio Riverwalk at Night

Vampire Killing Kit

Vampire Killing Kit
Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum
San Antonio Texas
September 2nd 2006

The sign reads:
"Created in the 1840's, this kit was to be used by travelers in Transylvania should they meet up with vampires! The kit contains everything a person needs to subdue a vampire including an ivory cross, a gun, silver bullets, garlic and a wooden stake!"

Believe it... or not!

Extremely Clever Curiousities and Contraptions

Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum Sign
San Antonio Texas
September 2nd 2006

San Antonio Street Paintings

As a friend and I were walking through downtown San Antonio tonight, we came upon a very interesting scene. On a street corner directly across from the Alamo, there were two men sitting on metal chairs between old-style rotating police siren lights, with heavy metal music blaring loudly. Both were wearing respirators and goggles. They were painting feverishly, using spray paint, sponges, razors, and blow torches. The scene was energetic, fast paced, somewhat futuristic, and surreal. Here are some of the paintings that one of the artists was creating.

The Alamo - Historical Marker

The Alamo - Historical Marker
San Antonio Texas
02 September 2006

"The fortress known to history as "The Alamo" was originally built by the Spanish in the 18th Century. Named Mission San Antonio de Valero by Franciscan officials, the mission occupied this site from 1724 until it was closed in 1793. The mission compound encompassed modern Alamo Plaza. The church was never completed and lacked a roof at the time of the famous 1836 seige and battle. Today this building is recognized world-wide as the Shrine of Texas Liberty. The structures shown in the illustration are (left to right) the Long Barrack, the front of the church, and the Palisade Wall."

The Alamo at Night

The Alamo at Night
San Antonio Texas
September 2nd 2006

San Antonio Riverwalk Rio Taxi

San Antonio Riverwalk
September 2nd 2006

If you ever go to the San Antonio Riverwalk, I highly recommend taking the river tour via the Rio Taxi. The tour is very inexpensive, and you get an overview of the major sites on the riverwalk from their knowledgable and friendly tour guides. This is a picture of one of the dinner tours. You can choose a tour with or without a meal included.

The Acequias of San Antonio - Historical Marker

San Antonio River Walk
September 2nd 2006

"San Antonio's original water system, started in 1718, consisted of eight acequias, or canals, taking water from the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek. These acequias extended 15 miles from the headwaters of the San Antonio River to the five Spanish missions, including the Alamo. Segments of the original system are still operational."

Birds and Sunlight San Antonio Rio Taxi


This is a picture taken from onboard the San Antonio Rio Taxi on September 2nd 2006.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Goat in a Can


Today I ate goat meat cooked underground in an aluminum trash can. It was delicious!



Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bumper Sticker






If you don't tell your kittens about catnip... who will?







Saturday, January 21, 2006

Big Sur Safari

Today was gray, dreary and overcast until the very moment that I picked my girlfriend up from work. The clouds rolled away to the east and the sun shone brightly over our local paradise. We had originally planned to go work out together at the fitness center downtown... but the weather was whispering sweet nothings in our ears, and we were listening.

We decided to take a drive out towards Big Sur, and to let the sunlight and the ocean waves guide us to whatever destination they thought best. On our way, we passed the dirt road that leads towards the lagoon at Carmel River State Beach, and we both had a feeling that we should turn around and take that path. We made a u-turn on Highway 1, and then turned left, heading northwest towards the lagoon.

As we were approaching the fence which cut across the end of the dirt lane, we saw an animal. It was bounding like a dog, and at first we thought that it might be a a fox. After two leaps we both realized that it was unmistakeably a cat... a very LARGE cat! As it made its final leap into the bushes we saw its bobbed tail and knew that we had just been awarded for listening to our instincts. It was a bobcat! Its fur had a dark orange tint, and it paid no mind to us as it loped along in its search for whatever a bobcat wants at 4:30pm on a sunny, cool Carmel afternoon.

After our feline encounter, we continued our lovely drive and were treated to the glorious sight of 3 different groups of whales (each consisting of 6-8 individuals) travelling south at high speed. Each of the whales in the pods would surface, blow, and then dive one after the other in a very quick succession. We had a spotting scope and a pair of binoculars for just such an occasion, and stopped along the side of the freeway at several different locations, braving the now frigid ocean breeze, while we sighted the blows which were about half a mile out to sea.

Back in the car we talked while enjoying the scenery until the sun was almost setting. At this point we decided to pull off the highway by the Point Sur lighthouse. A large group of cattle stood below on the grazing land between our spot beside the highway and the point. We were watching the steers, who for the most part were lazing in the evening sunlight (except for one which suddenly started running crazily through the throng, bucking and leaping like a young deer who has just learned how). We were just about ready to head back towards home, when my girlfriend shouted: "It's a fox!... I see a fox! No... wait... It's a coyote!"

Sure enough, it was indeed a coyote. This particular animal was meandering leisurely amidst the cattle as if it were just another member of the herd. It stopped once and looked right up at us in the car... but it was more than 500 yards away and probably was not aware that we were watching it. We pulled out the scope and the binoculars and watched intently from inside the vehicle as it stopped suddenly a couple times as if it were a retriever on the point. The next moment it charged towards a steer as if to challenge it to a game of chicken. It stopped short just a foot or two away from the comparatively gigantic beast, who munched its grass, thoroughly unimpressed with the coyote's bravado.

We stayed and watched the coyote as it wandered back and forth through the sparsely gathered group of larger animals, stopping at odd intervals when it thought that it sensed some kind of prey nearby. We were treated to the entertaining spectacle of "Coyote Pouncing" twice during this performance. It caught something approximately groundhog size with the first pounce, and ate it "on the run" immediately afterwards as it pranced through the beefy crowd towards the far side of the herd. Once there, it pounced again; but to no avail this time. Following this failed attempt, it licked its chops, looked around enthusiastically, and then walked off into the sunset of our wonderful afternoon.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

FPIS Technology


Today's Feature:
The latest in bicycle technology!
FPIS (Foam Pad Ignition System)
Jump-start whatever adventures your young mind can imagine!

Are your legs tired of providing that initial take-off energy?

Install FPIS today... and watch as Newton's laws of motion take over!
(Whether you are ready or not...)

Setting the standard in imaginative ignition system design... this latest addition to his impressive portfolio comes, not at all suprisingly, from Nephew Philip's Garage.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Whale Residential Speed Limit Zones?


Shipping groups fight speed limits to save whales

Jeff Nesmith - Cox Washington Bureau
Monday, July 25, 2005

The following is taken from the article linked above:


Marine biologists warned in an article last week in the journal Science that the right whale appears headed for extinction unless emergency steps are taken to reduce the likelihood of the creatures being run down by ships.

They said that under the rule-making process which NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service has chosen, establishing speed limits along southern shipping lanes in the winter and northern lanes in the summer "could take several years."

But it probably will be several years before technology appears that will make it possible to stop the collisions, said Edwin Fendig Jr., a senior bar pilot on Brunswick.

Fendig, writing for the Brunswick Bar Pilots' Association, said the measures proposed by the fisheries service probably wouldn't work.

"Without the whale being able to know the ship's intentions nor the ship knowing the whales' intentions, it is highly unlikely that any traffic separation schemes on this part of the coast will protect the whales," Fendig said.

"If there was some scientific validity to the proposed rule-making, the whales' intentions would still be unknown and again the whale would be unprotected."


I would like to comment very briefly on what Edwin Fendig Jr. had to say in the above quote.

Following his line of reasoning, it would seem that having lower speed limits on neighborhood streets is of little use because the young children who might run unexpectedly into the street don't necessarily know the automobile driver's intentions and the automobile driver definitely does not know the intentions of the young child who runs out in front of them; therefore it would be highly unlikely that any traffic separation schemes on these streets would protect the children. Does that make any sense at all? Of course it doesn't.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Turtle on the Edge - The Crossing - Part 1

A turtle stood on the brink of destruction, considering her next move. The handiwork of a creature that she could neither understand nor contemplate, it was an avenue to a destination she would never see, and didn't care to visit. To the turtle, this manufactured path presented nothing but an obstacle, a barrier to her continued existence, and a disruption to her way of life. Nonetheless, there it was, and she had no choice but to cross.

To this day, some of the old turtle sages speak of a time when these black tar and rock strips of desert didn't rape the earth and leave her barren; but their nursery rhymes and hatchlings' tales offer little comfort now to newer generations of mothers. They have never known a time when reproduction didn't involve the risk of crossing another's road to world domination. "The ants will eat you slowly but at least you know you're going. That road will take you before you ever know what hit you... so say goodbye before you leave as if you will never return." The moral of the stories is always the same.

So this turtle, on her Crossing, her initiation into this new rite that all mothers shared, was standing still watching, patiently waiting, anticipating the future and feeling quite scared. She kept her brave face, because to show fear was to give victory to something other than the Divine. It was not her survival that mattered now, it was the continuation of her shell-line that gave her life its meaning. She knew that she must do her part to ensure that others of her kind, with their unique understanding of reality and existence, found their way somehow into the future of this world.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Giving Thanks

I give thanks to the Universe today all of the amazing things that are happening in my life, and there are many.

I am thankful for the beautiful natural trails and running streams that remain in our great land and for the swamp here in Augusta, which has enriched my recent life here in many ways.

I am thankful for a love in my life that feels so intense, real and awe inspiring. It is a love for which I'm willing to take risks, to give all that I have to give, and one which is constantly leading me in new directions, but always closer to the real me.

I am thankful for good friends who are open and ready to talk even after we haven't spoken, written, or visited for a long time.

Thank you Universe, Earth, Nature, Spirit for being there when I come back to you.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

New Posts at Skunkroot's Stompin' Grounds

I have posted several new posts on my nature blog:
Skunkroot's Stompin' Grounds

Here is the latest picture posted on that site:


This amazingly beautiful Pandora Sphinx moth was found on the wall of a gas station in North Carolina on July 1st while I was travelling up to Virginia.

By the way... here is a wonderful website that I found today
which teaches basic ideas about life on earth.
http://www.earthlife.net

Friday, June 24, 2005

Turtle Tracking


Turtle tracks leading back to the ocean.
These are the tracks from the female loggerhead turtle that I watched lay eggs early in the morning of 24 June 2005. Her carapace measured 46 inches and she probably weighed between 250 - 300 lbs. She laid 160 eggs this morning. The average nest has 120 eggs. Her nest was moved manually by the park ranger and the turtle intern to protect the eggs.

For more pictures and a complete description of my experience on Edisto Island,
check out my nature blog at:
http://skunkroot.blogspot.com/

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Snake on the Fence


A snake at Phinizy Swamp June 10th 2005

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Aiken is in South Carolina

When no one writes to tell me that I had Aiken located in Georgia in the other night's post... I have to wonder if I'm the only one reading this blog! :-)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The 12 Days of Bush-mas

Here is a song by Dave Lippman (touted as "The world's only known singing CIA agent") who I had the pleasure of meeting after one of his performances in Aiken, SC last weekend. His performance was great - he played the part of a CIA agent to a tee. Afterwards he came out as Dave Lippman and the transformation was as complete as any that I have seen. The audience was laughing the entire time, despite the otherwise serious nature of his songs.

The 12 Days of Bush-mas

You can find more of his songs at:
http://davelippman.com/mp3s.html

And of course there's the main site at:
http://davelippman.com

Monday, June 06, 2005

Wishful Thinking

I would love to find a relatively small store, owned by someone that I know, within 10 miles of my home where I could buy everything that I need while knowing that I was helping to make that person's business thrive.

If I could Walmart in the middle of the night, when it is one of the only stores in town that is open, and buy something there without thinking of the effect that it has on small businesses, on local commerce, on the wages of retail workers, and on the efforts made by those retail workers to unionize, I might just consider doing so.

If there were more privately owned, non-chain restaurants other than greasy-spoon fast food joints, I would truly enjoy eating out more often and would feel more a part of a community than when I'm being served by a waiter or waitress with a plastic name-badge who is wearing the obligatory "flare".

It would be so enriching to be able to find things manufactured locally, for a reasonable price, that looked somewhat different from the things created 1000 or even 100 miles away. If my house were filled with unique items made by craftsmen that I knew personally, every piece of furniture would be imbued with personal meaning.

It would be refreshing to see more people spending more time outside talking, laughing and playing, instead of inside with their TV sets and their commercials, being bombarded with messages about how to live, while not doing much living themselves.

I wish that violence was not glorified in the movies the way that it is, and that the common person wasn't quite as numb to death and destruction as they have become through their exposure to scenes in the media; at the same time I wish that people could experience every bit of cruelty and inhumanity that is presented on the news as if it were happening to a family member and feel compelled to do something about what they're seeing. I wish that could all happen and still leave each of us enough time to live our Clark Kent lives without always gallivanting around the planet to play Superman.

If only we could have all of the luxuries that we now enjoy while living in a world as rich as it was when travelling just a few hundred miles brought you into a somewhat different culture, where people were self-sufficient and relied on one another in a very personal sense, I think we would all feel more satisfied with our society.

Every time I travel through the states now, I marvel at how much every place resembles every other place along the route. "One sprawl to rule them all..." Where is our Mordor?

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Grasshopper Guide


Grasshopper Guide - Phinizy Swamp - 04 June 2005

This grasshopper was guiding my path through Phinizy Swamp this evening. It seemed to be following me along my route, and at 3 different places where I had to decide which way to turn, it flew on up ahead of me as if to say: "This way! The good stuff is this way!" I chose to follow, and found many wonderful things. I was able to take some great nature shots which I will be sharing over the next few days. Thanks to this "grasshopper guide" for helping to make my time outdoors today exceptionally enjoyable.

Orthoptera Link

Gordon's Orthoptera Page


Caring for Crickets

Friday, June 03, 2005

Slouching Toward The Millennium

Here are the lyrics to another song on that Kris Kristofferson album "Moment of Forever" that I checked out from the library to see if I could find something that I liked...

Slouching Toward The Millennium

One thing can be said about Kris Kristofferson without a doubt... he knows how to write lyrics that will make you think.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Johnny Lobo

I have so many topics trickling through the spaces in my mind these days that I'm having trouble getting myself to sit down and write about any single one of them. I have decided that I'm going to let those ideas percolate and absorb all that is in there until they're so saturated that they just pour out without being forced.

I've been checking out music CD's from the library that I otherwise might not ever listen to. I've been playing these in the background while I'm doing whatever else I'm doing at home. The great thing about this is that there are absolutely no expectations and if I'm lucky I might find a song that speaks to me. This is one that caught my ear today. Johnny Lobo by Kris Kristofferson.

Johnny Lobo - by Kris Kristofferson

Sunday, May 29, 2005

'Nuf Said

This is not merely an anti-war blog.

For the moment - I've said all that I'm going to say about my feelings on the war in Iraq. I intend to address as many topics as I can in this forum. I will write when I find the time; and will try to concentrate on issues and ideas that are worthy of discussion, contemplation, and debate. Stay tuned - there is a lot more to come.

Ahab

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Birds In a Bird's Nest


"Here we sit like birds in a bird's nest - waiting for our food! FOOD!"

My sisters and I used to sing that song sometimes while sitting around the dining room table and banging our utensils with the beat of the song on the table. There were other verses as well and it was all done in very good humor. So this nest was discovered in my apartment complex tonight. The mother bird was feeding them on a pretty regular basis at about 8:30pm.
I wasn't able to get any good pictures of her feeding them tonight.
I'll try again sometime in the next few days.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Moonlit Cardinal Twilight


Moonlit Cardinal Twilight
Phinizy Swamp 2005

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Phinizy Swamp in Augusta, GA


Phinizy Swamp is one of my favorite places to go for a nature hike.

Guantanamo In The Eyes of the World

In light of my post yesterday... I thought it would be fitting to post a link to the following article from today's New York Times.

Guantanamo Comes to Define U.S. to Muslims
By SOMINI SENGUPTA and SALMAN MASOOD

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Paper Wasps and Hornets, a Little Dose of Reality (Please click here to read linked article)

Before reading today's post - please click on this link or the title above to read an article from today's New York Times. The rest of what I have to say will make more sense if you read the article first. Thanks, and please forgive me for bringing this into your day if you haven't already seen this bit of news.

As I sit here watching these wasps after reading the linked article, I remember that they are only here because, in the first hour after their discovery, my girlfriend and I felt something tapping timidly on the shoulder of our combined consciousness asking us to show them mercy. The initial decision to allow the wasps to live was not the most obvious choice, but it has proved to be a rewarding one. Right now I'm very glad that we both listened to the little voice whispering in each of our minds... but if we had chosen to ignore it, I might not even remember today that it ever spoke to me about a group of wasps on the balcony.

The National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects and Spiders has this to say about paper wasps: "Paper Wasps are much more tolerant of people and minor disturbances than are hornets and yellow jackets." This is a good thing. With this knowledge, a healthy bit of curiosity, and a lifelong fascination with insects whirling around in my head... the decision was made to let one group of the colonizing wasps continue building. The others would be sprayed with a water spray bottle, (for days!) until they decided to pick up camp and go off in search of a more hospitable location - (one in which a precisely aimed barrage of "Smart Squirts" wasn't constantly bombarding their construction projects).

My girlfriend and I made the decision to let those wasps live on the balcony. Strange as it may seem to some of you, I feel responsible now for their fate. That nest is what it is today because of a decision that we made together. Would anyone else care if I killed those wasps tomorrow with a brick? Some of you who have read this blog might... if I told you about it; but my neighbors probably wouldn't mind at all - in fact some of them might be wishing that they could do that right now. I think that the argument can be made that I would have been justified had I chosen to have these wasps exterminated the moment that they were discovered; but I think that there can also be an equally compelling argument made that it would be unethical for me to kill them now.

These wasps are not a true threat to me. I have stood on a chair less than a foot and a half away from their nest, and while they have taken a defensive alert stance looking me right in the eye, letting me know that they'll defend their nest if necessary, they have never attacked me. They look very much like hornets, they sound very much like hornets, they even have the ability to sting just like hornets if provoked - but the very important difference is that they are not hornets; and what may be more important to the moral issue here is... whatever they become, they become because of a choice that I made which allowed the vast majority of them to come into existence in the first place.

I am responsible for the conditions in which they now find themselves. I am responsible then, to some degree, for my treatment of them... no more and no less so than I was on the very first day that the first few wasp royals arrived. If I choose to kill 25 wasps today, I will have allowed 21 lives to come into existence, in order to satisfy my curiosity and to relieve my boredom, only to destroy it when it no longer suits my fancy. That option is simply unacceptable in my view. It may have been morally acceptable for me to exterminate the wasps when they first arrived, when they may have truly been perceived as an unavoidable hostile threat to be dealt with - but now I've made the decision to let this group live and thrive. They exist in their current location because I wanted to watch them and learn from them. I am responsible for allowing this society of wasps to form in this fashion under my supervision. Would it be right for me to destroy them when they're no longer of any use to me? Would it be any less unethical for me to allow this particular colony of wasps to die if I discovered that an exterminator would be spraying the entire apartment complex tomorrow, and did nothing to protect them?

If they become hazardous to me, I will put their nest in a gallon jar in the middle of some dark, cool night when they are docile and less likely to become agitated. I will transport them and their home to the swamp and try to set it carefully in some nook of a tree, where the wasps can decide what to do with their traumatically altered, but sustainable lives. I can say all of this with confidence because I know a lot about wasps; I guess you could say that I have an in-depth understanding of my potential adversary, with whom, for the moment, I happen to share a very unique, albeit tenuous, relationship. Because of this I am able to deal with them ethically and without fear, from a place of compassion and humanity, without endangering myself.

Could I go up to their nest and "shake it up a bit" just to see what they'll do? Of course I could! Would people laugh at me and shake their heads when the wasps go into a mad frenzy and swarm around me to defend their nest and their way of life, stinging this once tolerated, supposedly "superior" and more powerful observer into submission? Of course they would! These same people would also most likely eventually come to my aid and help to bandage me up, repeating over and over with a pitying look that I should have known better. They probably would say something like: "Didn't you know that you were playing with fire?"

Humans can do something that paper wasps can't: they can change their programmed response to a particular stimulus. If I were to decide to smash that wasp nest, and those wasps had the ability to transform themselves instantly into hornets, I believe that they would transform before my eyes into the most formidable horde of hornets ever seen. If you saw someone torturing someone you love, and you had the ability to become some sort of super hero with super-human abilities capable of bending steel and moving mountains... wouldn't you do it to protect that special person? I bet that most of us would; and I doubt that many of us would take time out to show the torturer any mercy. Even these paper wasps, who can only ever be the more docile, less aggressive members of their order, could teach me a lesson that I'd never forget if handled carelessly.

Our country has made a multitude of choices in the past that has helped create and mold the world in which we live today. We have created situations and tensions globally that are not completely unlike this relatively harmless wasp nest, with individuals alerted to our presence and watching our movements closely for signs of hostile activity. There are innocent people being tortured and killed in many different locations worldwide. There are unknown, and unidentified, "suspected terrorists" being held against their will and without charges in prisons around the globe. People suffer and die without much explanation and without enough publicity. Their families are force-fed questionable justifications and terse statements which resemble too closely the blanket clause of "collateral damage" that has been used to decree the end of life, posthumously, for countless fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters over the last 4 years.

The enemies of freedom and democracy are not the only ones committing moral and ethical crimes. The more we stir up the nests of those who, for the moment, mean us no harm... the more sworn enemies we are sure to find, transformed versions of the relatively peaceful, rightfully suspicious, co-inhabitants of this planet, (our communal "sacred space"), that we see today. Who will be at fault if they choose to fight back against what they see as an unjust attack on their basic human rights? Is it any use to ask these kinds of questions when you're being chased by a massive coalition of enraged enemies that you've brought to life? I think that it "wouldn't be prudent at this juncture" for us to wait to find out. I think that we would be well served to ask these questions now, while some of our potential enemies in this world are still merely adversaries poised in a defensive posture, watching to see what will happen next.

If the man described as the victim in this article was, in fact, innocent of any crime - I sincerely hope that whoever is responsible for his treatment is punished to the full extent allowed by law. I doubt that the maximum allowable punishment will be sufficient to suit the crimes allegedly committed here, but I do hope that whatever that penalty is, it will be imposed. Even if the man described in this article as the victim was a terrorist of some sort, I still think that it is unjust for us to be treating prisoners of war, (and that is what they should be considered), in this manner. I fear that it is entirely too possible that nothing in the way of justice will prevail in this case.

If it is now acceptable for us to do this kind of thing to other civilians who we suspect "might" be a part of the opposition, then what can we say in our defense when the real members of the opposition do the exact same types of things to our uniformed soldiers, who are without question their declared enemy? What message are we sending to the more docile, less aggressive element of other societies if we allow this kind of thing to go unpunished? Shouldn't we be doing all that we can do to ensure that this kind of thing doesn't happen in the first place? It is a moral question. Each one of us has to listen for our own answer. Inaction is an action. Is allowing this kind of thing to continue acceptable?

I wonder how many of us truly understand the facts of this "War on Terror" that we are fighting. How well do we really understand our enemy? Do we, as a society, truly know who are enemies are? Do we know well enough how to deal with those who may not want to share our way of life in every detail, but who nonetheless do have a desire to live peaceably, (or at least non-aggressively), with us on the same planet? We are playing with fire all over the world today. If there are other worlds out there, with inhabitants observing our actions from afar, they may be getting ready to enjoy a hearty laugh at our expense. Unfortunately I don't think they'll be running to our rescue when we feel the stinging begin, and there is nowhere for us to hide.

Paper Wasps Over My Doorway 19 May 2005


Here is a picture of my paper wasp nest.
If you're interested in learning the differences
between paper wasps and yellow jackets...
Please follow the links below:


Yellow Jackets

Persistence of the Wasps - Part 1

There are wasps living on my balcony.

They live their lives like any other ordinary paper wasps... but these are no ordinary hymenopterons. These wasps are special. This particular group chose the short overhang in the wall just above the sliding glass door that leads out onto my balcony. They are alive today because they made that decision; and I am richer for it.

It was a sunny day in April when the wasps invaded my apartment complex. The trees were already shedding the petaled lingerie of their lusty spring orgy; and the pollen which flowed over the asphalt in rivers of gold just days before was now concentrated in thin lines along the gutters of the streets and parking lots. Scorned lovers, Dear John letters from one blossoming tree to another were lying dishevelled in grubby clumps mixed with dirt, bearing witness to the inequity of life.

Walking groggily out into the warmth of the sunlight, I stretched and yawned, and revelled in the beautiful reds and greens that met my gaze... when suddenly, from out of nowhere, I was buzzed by an obviously disgruntled co-inhabitant of my sacred space. My first reaction was to hop backwards through the sliding glass door and slide it very quickly shut. Then I looked swiftly all around me to make sure that whatever it was hadn't come even further into the place that I consider to be mine for the moment. He... it... she... hadn't.

When I looked out the glass of the doorway - I saw a captivating sight. There were wasps working on their nests. Yes... nests. From the doorway I could see 2 distinct groups of wasps clinging to the roof of my balcony and clustering around central points that I knew would soon become the anchors for their new colonies. A bit more investigation proved that there was a third nest anchored just outside and just above my sliding glass door. This discovery was a bit alarming, but a tad exciting as well. It's not everyday that multiple groups of wasps decide to change the zoning of your balcony to prime residential real estate.

It is fascinating that these individuals, each a princess who had survived the winter in solitude, had chosen this day, this very hour, to join forces and strive together to build what nature was inspiring them to build. There were, at that moment, immediately outside my apartment alone, four separate groups of wasps working diligently, (the fourth group was discovered less than a half an hour later trying to create an anchor just under the eve of my front door). How many thousands of other wasps were doing exactly the same thing all over in at least the local area? Had some great trumpet call echoed throughout the trees all around me, resounding in a frequency range beyond the grasp of human ears, signalling to the wasps in each of their individual locations that the moment for action and social cooperation had arrived?

However it came about, it was obvious that the time for solitude was over. Whatever was to come next was completely new for these, the oldest surviving paper wasps of this species now living in this, their world. Did they wonder, as they arrived at this unknown location with an overwhelming urge to create something new together, whether conditions had been like this for their great-great-great grandmothers on that long ago forgotten spring day? Had their mothers told them fables, passed down through the generations, which told of their distant relatives and the challenges that they overcame a whole year ago?

Had these wasps ever seen each other before the moment that they arrived, literally at my doorstep, to start doing what the Universe asked of them? Did they all just come to what looked to be a safe harbor, drop anchor, and hoist some secret, unrevealed flags to let the others in the vicinity know of their intentions? How did they all get here? How did they decide who would work with who? Why was it that this has been happening every year, for eons, and I was just now getting to see it in action?

I wonder what life would be like if humans were able to discern every one of nature's trumpet calls that sound out every day with unfathomable regularity. I wonder how much differently we would chose to live our daily lives if we were actually able to understand, with clarity, what is really going on all around us. Why do they get to know, without a doubt, what they're supposed to do, and how they're supposed to live, while I'm left wondering about my purpose? Perhaps it's yet another sign of the inequity of life.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Messenger - Part 1

One year ago I had a spiritual encounter. I don't know if it was as much an awakening as it was the sudden awareness of a doorway standing directly in front of me, which I could walk through by just making the decision to do it.

It was a beautiful sunny day with hawks and vultures flying high above the lush green mountaintops. The yellow grass was rolling gently and rustling in harmony with the soft sound of the breeze. On a mission offered to me by my chosen spiritual guide, I was sitting on the ground in a valley next to a dirt road and a wooden fence, waiting for some sort of clarity.

I was waiting to receive some kind of message, not expecting much, when all at once I saw a multi-dimensional picture in my mind which has since helped to redefine the way that I see my life, my world, and my role in it. I had been doubtful that my quest for meaning that day would bear any real fruit; but what the Universe chose to give to its seeking inhabitant that day was quite profound.

For the next 2 hours I tried to put on paper what had been revealed to me in an instant. What I wrote that afternoon was an allegorical description of my life as it had been and how it could be. Everything around me became part of a living parable, full of deep symbolism and wonderous new meaning.

The message received from the Universe that day was as crystal clear to me as it may be cryptic to anyone else. My whole life was surrounding me in the form of the grasses, the animals, and the plants, which were speaking to me in ways that I was hearing for the first time since I was a child.

The fence to one side of me became a small barrier in my life which I had chosen not to cross. The path leading up into the rich, green, unknown dark places on the mountainside was now a direction in life, which I could choose to take in order to arrive at a place where my spirit could fly like the eagles and the hawks. The yellow grass to the other side of me had now become my past life, which had led me to this place where I was sitting. This is where I met my messenger who promised that all I had to do was take it with me on my journey, and care for it until we reached the top of the mountain. There it would grow strong in the place of its chosing. "There I will show you how to soar with the hawks and the eagles." it said.

My messenger that day, just over a year ago, was a very young pine sapling, growing near the place where I was sitting beside the road, in front of the fence, facing the mountain of choices ahead.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Ahab's Quest

Today I decide once again to speak out about those things that have meaning to me.

Today I attempt to face down my demons while allowing my spirit to soar.

Today I rejoice in the wonderful miracle of the Devine Universe, in a way that is meaningful and suitable for a reality which has given me the gifts of life, awareness, reason, and emotion.

Today I remind myself that I am just one tiny part of that gigantic Universe, and that I have within me the power to change all of history for the better or for the worse.

Today I will remember that there are others who would sacrifice much of what they have to experience all of the opportunities and luxuries that I take for granted.

Today I will remember that there are people being killed, and others killing in my name so that I can experience all of the opportunities and luxuries that I take for granted.

Today I seek a way to have an impact, to make a difference, to be a voice of sobriety in a world drunken on excess materialism, fascinated with our own amazing ability to create, and largely ignorant of our incredible legacy of destruction.

Today I will defend the poor and fight for the voiceless and the weak.

Today I speak for the life-giving earth, for the spirit of mankind and the true meaning of life which has been lost behind a smokescreen of greed and commercialism.

Today I will not cheapen who I am by succumbing to messages about who I should be, what I should wear, how I should act, or what I should say in order to "fit in".

Today I will remember who I am, find real meaning in the world, do things that are really important, and recognize those that are mere distractions.

Today I will willingly give love and will open my heart to receive it, unashamedly, and fully.

I choose this day to walk the walk of a man, and not that of a slave to the dictates of society, tradition, and expectations.

Today I have the power to change my future and that of the world in which I live.

Ahab