A welcome to readers

As a resident of this planet for more than four fifths of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

It'll never get well if you Tippett..

It's always exciting to come across a kindred soul. It's even more fun if that soul is a thinker and writer you didn't even know existed. When I began this blog,  I promised that I would pass along the titles of books and great movies as I came across them.  I also figure that since you are fellow searchers, you  might profit from an introduction to a new soul mate. So I'm going to nudge you in the direction of several web sites which have provided me with tons of FREE food for thought. And you know how I am about food of any kind!

Here's the first web site. Last year, my daughter Kate suggested that I check out an NPR weekly program that she liked featuring a woman I had never heard of,  Krista Tippett. As I probed into her life and interests prior to listening to her program, I discovered that we had a lot in common--including time spent studying with some of my former professors at Yale, an inquisitive searching mind, a sense of humor, directness of approach, intellectual honesty, wide-ranging interests, and a relentless unwillingness to settle for fuzzy thinking and half-truths.

I listened to a recording of one of Tippett's programs and was immediately hooked. Not only did I find Krista Tippett herself a font of food for the brain and soul, but she has, in her interviews and writings, also opened  (in some cases re-opened) my eyes to other writers and thinkers who share many of the interests and values that I do: Annie Dillard,  Barbara Brown Taylor, Joan Chittister, Scott Russell Sanders, Kathleen Dean Moore, Terry Tempest Williams, Wendell Berry (the old Kentuckian), Donald Hall and his Jane Kenyon, Mary Oliver, Bill Moyers, and dozens more. Tippett is, I suggest, a good place to start: either with her recorded NPR programs (Onbeing.org) or her book, Speaking of Faith.

However, be careful. Once you enter the intellectual universe of Krista Tippett (populated by bright, sensitive, articulate, profoundly thoughtful and sapient colleagues and mentors),  "it (your soul) will never get well." She and her ideas will become irritating existential itches which require constant scratching. Calamine lotion doesn't work, and I know of no other antipruritics (other than total immersion in the waters of spiritual literature) which will bring any comfort. Don't say I didn't warn you.

More sites and suggestions to come.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


This has been a week during which I was reminded of my mortality (as if I needed it) and which consequently flew physical facts in the face of my suppressed longing (yes, I'll admit it) for MY kind of living forever.

On Monday, I took a planned excursion to Porter Hospital here in Denver where my wonderful cardiologist, also named Mark (Sheehan), performed an electro "cardioversion" which shocked my heart and returned it to normal sinus rhythm. Why do that? Back in December when I was in the hospital for a few days with breathing issues, the docs discovered that my pneumonia (diagnosed then) had probably been the cause of an atrial flutter in my heart. In short, my heart was beating with an abnormal rhythm and, in so doing, losing about 30-40% of its efficiency. Blood was not circulating through my heart's atria or my body very well.

I was immediately put on Coumadin (warfarin--I used to sell this stuff at Mark's Agway as a very effective rat killer!!) to reduce the likelihood of clots developing in my atria because the reduced flow of blood was not clearing out my heart's upper chambers. Coumadin, an effective blood thinner (causes rats to bleed to death internally when ingested with water), is very tricky to titrate in humans so that an appropriate dose is given to stabilize the blood's ability to coagulate exactly as it is supposed to.  Too much Coumadin reduces coagulation and produces a test result of over 3.0, while too little Coumadin increases coagulation and the likelihood of clotting and produces a test result of less than 2.0. Getting the dosage just right, week by week, is more of an art than a science because much depends on what I am eating, drinking, the extent of my daily activity, and probably other mysteries from the ether, etc.

For more than a month, the pharmacists at Porter's "Anticoagulation Lab" have busily adjusted my dosage each week until, about a month ago, my Coumadin level finally reached the desired result: between 2.0 and 3.0, and then maintained this level, tested weekly,  for a month. This made it safe for the cardiologist to zap me without fear of loosening up clots to wander through my system lodging wherever it was convenient for them to take up residence (e.g., brain, heart's blood vessels, lungs, etc.).

It will come of no surprise to those which know me that just being in a hospital setting makes me apprehensive and subject to rampant feelings of dis-ease. Last Monday I recalled some slightly different feelings I experienced as a divinity student during my summer vacation after my first year at Yale.  A friend of my family's was in the hospital dying of cancer and I was sent by my senior minister to comfort him.

As I entered the hospital, I became acutely aware that I was in no way singled out as a "special" or trained professional minister/helper/ spiritual healer. I had no uniform (white jacket) , accoutrements (stethoscope around my neck), or other badge which indicated that I was anything other than someone's visiting son or best friend. As a low church Protestant, I didn't even have a "turned around collar." Being surrounded by the appropriately garbed and confident medical professionals made me, in contrast, feel a little like a medicine man (in the presence of real SCIENTISTS) but without the identifying feathers. Much to my discomfort, I realized that outside of the institutional church, there are few manifest signs or symbols that identify spiritual healers as such.

This past Monday, I had that same discomforted feeling as the white and pastel dressed medical professionals did their duties, manipulated their computers, asked probing questions, and with careful competence inserted an IV, took vital signs, and then finally attached all sorts of sensors and conductive pads to my chest and back, and then gently, through the IV, conducted me on a brief tour of La La Land.

The point of this digression is to emphasize a host of feelings I had before and after the procedure: e.g.,  some anxiety, a modicum of fear (after all they do stop the heart for an instant), disquietude, and most significantly, a profound realization that I controlled virtually nothing about my medical treatment (once I was in that Haute Couture, paisley, open-back gown);  never mind the issue of directing or controlling my life in general. I had become, indeed, a "medicine man" in my own life! And still no feathers!

Furthermore, the people who held my life in their hands did not give a whit about my fine Southern upbringing, my academic degrees, my many friends in high(ish) places, my teaching career, my wonderful family, my cornbread recipe, or my outstanding retail career at Mark's Agway! What they seemed to thrive on was data, numbers, bell curves, and the like.

Being almost totally out of control of my life, as I was for part of Monday, is unnerving at best.  However, truth be told, I am mostly not very much in control every day. Thinking that I am is convenient, but probably only an illusion if considered metaphysically. An occasional trip to the doctor or to the hospital is sufficient to remind me of the limits of my control over my inner workings.

In the Roman Colosseum, before gladiatorial bouts in which most would be killed,  gladiators greeted the Emperor with "morituri te salutamus," or "we who are about to die salute you". This is a fitting salutation from all humans, especially me today, to those in the medical professions who accompany me, like shepherds, on my/our journey.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dating Liz Taylor +/-

When I was a senior  in college, Liz Taylor spent time in Kentucky's Bluegrass region filming Raintree County. As luck would have it, the stand-in chosen for her in the film was none other than a Transylvania co-ed I was dating at the time. Gorgeous? You bet? A soul mate for Mark? You bet NOT. 100% looks, decent personality, smart enough, but very full of herself (as I would have been under similar circumstances had I been picked as a stand-in for my "look-a-likes"--e.g., Robert Redford or Paul Newman).

Liz II, as I'll choose to call her, was so good looking and resembled Liz Taylor so closely that she literally turned heads when we walked down Main or Broadway in Lexington. On the one hand, I felt proud and complimented by the attention people, mostly men, gave her; on the other hand, I felt comparatively inferior and intimidated in the physical looks department, especially when I compared my image in the mirror to the reality of my "Liz look-alike."

Those who knew me then will remember me as a pretty geeky-looking red head with dark horn rim glasses. Rather than resembling Redford or Newman, I more closely had the non-musical attributes of an auburn haired Buddy Holly. I'm sure that strangers looked at Liz II and me together and wondered what the heck she had in her mind to be going out with me. I was clearly not the owner of a White-fenced Fayette County horse farm with Secretariat standing at stud; nor was I the next star of a VistaVision film, nor was I stud material myself.

Irrespective of the perceptions of others, I was able to bask in the heat and glamor of the real Liz as reflected by my college coed look-alike for a few short months. After that, the best I could do was to send "Liz I" Taylor an imaginary letter asking her to put me on her list of men to consider when  her current relationship petered out. Clearly, as events would prove, there were lots of pretty talented, rich, and famous guys who got on the list ahead of me. Oh well!

Still,  sometimes, in the dark of the night, in my senescence, I  wonder what the "real" Liz might have been like as a girlfriend or live-in, or life partner, or roommate. Given the evidence in"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" I suspect that she was more than any man could handle, including (especially) that red-headed point guard from Louisville.

So, tonight, on the evening of her funeral and burial in Los Angeles, I pause in my own busy lives (real and fantasy)  to raise my hat and champagne glass to her beauty and talent. I guess my name will never come up "next" on her list. Probably just as well.

Plagiarizing my singing hero Frank Sinatra,  here's a epitaph about her life:  she lived it her way.

And so: Atque in perpetuum, sorore, ave ateque vale.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hoops Between the Ads

This weekend has presented the world a veritable avalanche of high profile basketball games on TV (to confuse a couple of metaphors).  Seems like the NCAA tournament people have finally figured out how to spread their images across multiple networks simultaneously. I hardly have time for a nap, or to read the Sunday paper, or to get a snack from the refrigerator, or even race to the loo. I have discovered that if I keep the volume up loud, I don't miss that much while I am out of the room.

I intentionally try to miss the ads by hitting the mute button when I am quick enough and can find the remote, or by spacing out when the TV's volume is low after taking a phone call. I especially like to use the mute button to trash the Dodge truck ads which feature an announcer who has a low, masculine Western cowboy-like voice and sounds like he has marbles in his mouth (Liz's observation). I wouldn't have or drive a Dodge truck (named "Ram" as an assertion of all activities masculine) if someone gave me one.

Then there's insurance. Having just spent way too many hours trying to get my local State Farm agent to approve the repairs of a minor body dent (even though I pay the first $500 of a total bill of less than $1000), I take especial umbrage at the ads which feature people singing or saying the signature ditty, "Like a good neighbor...etc." upon the completion of which a comely agent or Bob Barker (with orange makeup that puts Speaker Boehner to shame) suddenly materializes and then causes anything from a new car to a hot tub or Panda Bear to magically appear and satisfy a policy holder. My agent has a phone answering machine for his three incoming lines, and one secretary to man them when he is otherwise indisposed. I resent having to make multiple calls to my insurance service provider, hearing that "Your call is important to us," and then having no more contact with them until the next time I speak with their machine. Just once I'd like to hear my agent's actual voice, in person, have an adult conversation, listen to him make some sense and allow me to get my car fixed at the local body shop; I don't need fancy stuff like bears and hot tubs, I just need to know that "...State Farm is there," really there when I need them.

Don't get me wrong, many of the tournament's games have been exciting,  and displayed young men who are talented and well trained, in incredible physical shape, and large of both body and spirit. I still have one hometown favorite (Kentucky) in the running, but I am not particularly optimistic about them making it to the Final Four, especially without the services that young red-headed point guard from Louisville who can hit one hand shots from anywhere around the circle
+ + + + + +

I hope that our current intrusion into Lybia, ironically on the 8th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, doesn't become another Tar Baby for a Br'er Rabbit America.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Home cookin' for the soul

A couple of years ago I ran across an interesting, well-written, beautifully designed magazine whose home is the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. I have a strong liking for Arkansas because I visited there a number of times when my sister was being treated at the Arkansas Cancer Research Center in Little Rock.  During those visits, we had a fair amount of free time to drive around, and Conway was one of the places we stopped--for lunch, I think-- at a Cracker Barrel restaurant or the equivalent. At the time, Conway seemed like the middle of no where, and my memory is mostly of logging trucks and pickups and the ever present decals and flags supporting the "Hawgs," the Arkansas Razorback football team.

Imagine my surprise when, a year or two ago, I ran across a high class magazine published through the auspices of the University there. I subscribed for a year because the topics were interesting and diverse, and included special editions which featured such subjects as Southern food, music, and writing. I was pleased by my decision, but did not renew my subscription for economic reasons (mine).

Yesterday, I got an Email from the magazine,  celebrating its first place finish in a national competition including video presentations.  They won out over some elite competitors including the New York Times. The article referenced a link to a web site which contained about a dozen of the award winning videos about "Southern life." Since the NCAA basketball tournament was still a day off, I watched all of the first page of these videos over dinner.  Each one features a different topic, personality and location, not unlike Charles Kuralt's show On the Road.

I was enchanted by the 5-9 minute vignettes, each taking a different subject, but all of which chosen to illustrate various facets of contemporary Southern culture.  There are clips about restaurants and juke joints, a home grown factory and store which designs, makes, and sells high fashion clothing in a small Southern town; there's plenty of folk and rock and roll music, and there's even a clip featuring the last company in the US to produce and sell cast iron cookware, the Lodge Company of southern Tennessee (I have four of their pans in my kitchen right now).

If you're a student of American culture, or simply an interested, occasional observer, I recommend that you check out these visual chapters about American life. Then head for the old fashioned cook stove where you'll find cornbread, collard greens, fried chicken, and top them off with an RC cola and  a Moon Pie. You bet; finger lickin' good.

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The Oxford American today won the National Magazine Award in the Video category for its original video series, SoLost
"The National Magazine Award is the highest honor in our industry," said Warwick Sabin, publisher of The Oxford American. "This recognition not only confirms our standing among the best magazines in the nation, but it also demonstrates that The Oxford American is a leader in presenting content across multiple media formats." 
This is The Oxford American's third National Magazine Award.  Previously the magazine won for Best Single-Topic Issue in 1999 and 2004, and it has been a finalist in numerous categories over the years.
Sabin accepted the award at a ceremony held today at the Hilton New York.  Sponsored by the American Society of Magazine Editors in association with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, the National Magazine Awards were established in 1966 and have long been recognized as the preeminent awards for magazine journalism. 
In winning the award this year, The Oxford American triumphed over four other finalists: The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Entertainment Weekly, and Chow.  This is the second year in a row that The Oxford American's SoLost series has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award in the Video category. 
"When we first outlined the concept for SoLost in 2009, we wanted to translate the mission and sensibility of The Oxford American to a video format," Sabin said.  "That meant creating a series that would be serious, bold, irreverent, playful, and most importantly, an accurate and honest portrayal of the South as it exists today.  If this National Magazine Award is confirmation that we succeeded, then the credit largely belongs to our videographer, Dave Anderson." 
SoLost is directed and photographed by Dave Anderson, who has been recognized as "one of the shooting stars of the American photo scene" by Germany's fotoMAGAZIN and named a "Rising Star" by Photo District News. A multi-talented image-maker, Anderson worked in the Clinton White House and at MTV before discovering photography. His acclaimed first project, Rough Beauty, was the winner of the 2005 National Project Competition awarded by Center, Santa Fe and was published with an essay by Anne Wilkes Tucker. Vince Aletti of The New Yorker has called his work "as clear-eyed and unsentimental as it is soulful and sympathetic." Anderson’s work has been featured in magazines from Esquire to Stern and can be found in the collections of prominent museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans; the Musée de la Photographie, Charleroi; and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Please amend my comments about professional athletes. Here are some good ones

Players chip in to save coach’s life after Clippers decline medical coverage

Seven years ago, former Los Angeles Clippers head coach Kim Hughes was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and the ensuing aftermath will change the way you feel about several NBA types significantly.
Up until Tuesday afternoon, the only functional knowledge I had of former Los Angeles Clippers head coach Kim Hughes was that he was, in fact, a former Los Angeles Clippers head coach, and that he once touched his elbows on the rim in a lay-up line at a high school tournament in Illinois, which really impressed my father.
Beyond that, nothing. Until Tuesday afternoon, when Howard Beck brought this column to Trey Kerby's attention, and he brought it to our attention. And now we're passing the feel-good savings on to you, in the form of an anecdote that reveals that NBA players Corey Maggette(notes), Marko Jaric(notes), Chris Kaman(notes) and Elton Brand(notes) all chipped in to pay for expensive life-saving surgery for Hughes, after the Clippers organization (read: Donald Sterling, noted worst person in the world) declined to cover the costs.
Declined to cover the cost of a surgery that would save their employee's life. While playing rent-free in an often sold-out arena in America's second-biggest television market. Unyieldingly evil.
Gary Woelfel has the original story:
"Those guys saved my life," Hughes said. "They paid the whole medical bill. It was like $70,000 or more. It wasn't cheap.
"It showed you what classy people they are. They didn't want me talking about it; they didn't want the recognition because they simply felt it was the right thing to do."
Hughes said he will be forever grateful to Brand, Jaric, Kaman and Maggette. In fact, Hughes said every time he runs into any of them, he thanks them from the bottom of his heart.
Maggette said that was indeed the case, laughing how he has repeatedly told Hughes over the years it wasn't necessary.
"Kim thanks me every time he sees me; he does that every single time," Maggette said smiling. "I've said to him, 'Kim, come on. You don't have to do that. You're good.'
No, you're good, Corey Maggette. You're pretty fantastically good. And so are you, Marko Jaric, Elton Brand, and Chris Kaman.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pity Party

The Japanese quake and tsunami have given some perspective to my life this week.  Prior to the weekend, I had spent an inordinate amount of thought and worry on the various ailments and aches and pains I experience every day as a natural consequence of the aging process. There's the lingering, yet persistent sacroiliac twinge when I bend over to pick up the newspaper; there's the rough raw skin developing on the inside of my nostrils where my oxygen cannula fits each night; there's the sore feet bottoms and weakness in my legs which makes every walking episode a less-than-pleasant and increasingly deliberate act. And on and on.

Then, on Monday, to add insult to injury and further fuel my splendid little pity party, I awakened with a very sensitive upper molar; eating anything harder than yogurt or a hard boiled egg caused measurable distress.  The thought of going to the dentist for an emergency visit made me cringe for a variety of reasons, but I finally took the big step, called and found myself in the chair, bib placed neatly over my  old "wear it on Monday shirt." The doc's hastily reached conclusion was that I had a slight infection up among the three roots of my molar where the gum and bone tissue had, like my hairline, receded. A prescription for Amoxicillin and a cute little syringe to be used to irrigate the area with salt water were given to me as a guaranteed 4 day cure. The cure has mostly worked, but relief is far from total on this, Day Two.

I returned home to ponder this new deterioration in the state of my physical being, enter it into my list of physical complaints to ponder, and, as is my wont, checked out the news on the Internet. Front and center were videos of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami captured as they happened, caught in the act, as it were, by just plain Japanese folks who happened to have a video or phone camera handy. I was absolutely astounded, bowled over, ripped apart emotionally and psychically--I was reminded of what I felt like when I first saw the videos of 9/11 or Katrina.

I have not recovered from my first impressions of the Japanese tragedy-- the shelves in the grocery store shaking themselves empty of their contents, sheet rock falling from ceilings, the dark gray wall of water, many feet high. rolling over everything in its path, destroying little homes and massive buildings.  I saw hundreds of cars being picked up and then deposited in a pile with a giant ship thrown right on top of it all. I saw villages wiped out and bodies coming ashore in the tide.  And then there was the added fright of witnessing an atomic power plant explode and knowing that radioactive material does not lend itself to being swept up with brooms or moved with dozers.  The whole tragedy, spread out there for me to view, with the situation continuing to self-destruct as I watched, was almost more than I could bear to watch.

Sitting at my desk I mulled over what I had just seen.  I was reminded of the one experience I had had with a natural disaster when three small tornadoes joined forces in the little town of Cornwall, Connecticut the first day I was Headmaster of a school located there.  Fortunately, no one was hurt in the event, but the little village lost dozens of hundred year old specimen trees, a stand of ancient white pines alleged to have been there in Colonial times, roofs, shingles, signs, and one cat. My school was severely damaged: a new addition to the dining hall, half completed, disappeared. The Italian tile roof of the main building was damaged beyone repair. Beautiful trees, some as large as 3 or 4 feet in diameter, were uprooted.

But, unlike Japan,  the damage to Cornwall was limited in scope to the dwellings of a hundred or so residents, my school, the the little clapboard post office, and an abandoned private school. It took months to clean up the mess. Across the lane in front of my office were piles of wood chips and sawdust higher and longer than 15 Greyhound buses. All summer the air was filled with smoke reeking of pine pitch and resin as the locals tried to make the piles burn and disappear. The smell and the burning, their mere presence, was a continuous reminder of the event, out "little tragedy."

Watching the gravity and dimensions of the events in Japan, and seeing the suffering and displacement of people, the loss of many thousands of folks of all ages who never had a chance to run away (never mind live out the rest of their lives), made me sick with sadness and feelings of futility.  Who would do the cleanup? Where would they start?  Who had enough heavy equipment and fuel to accomplish the task--never mind the spunk, will, fortitude, skill required. Where would they put the broken buildings and cars and boats, not just a couple, but hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands and thousands. Who would feed the workers, the remaining residents, the medical personnel?  "Fixing Japan" will require a super human effort and a massive infusion of money and determination and sweat.  And it will have to be done while working under the very real threat of the consequences of a nuclear reactor meltdown, of radioactive contamination, and of lost electrical power formerly furnished by the damaged facilities.

I became increasingly uneasy as I sat  in my comfortable desk chair in my heated apartment (with a beautiful view of the Rockies), smelling the dinner roast being prepared by one of my neighbors, watching the cars moving easily on Colorado Boulevard past gas stations and restaurants, thinking of my earlier encounter with the dentist--and then with the druggist who had Amoxicillin in stock ready to dispense-- and I was blown away by the contrast of my situation with that of a Japanese "Mark Johnson san" who stands, in 30 degree weather,  in the rubble of Fukushima or Senda wondering if he or his people or his country has any future at all.

It was obviously not the right time for me to have or continue any sort of party, especially a pity party, so I gratefully picked up my Denver Post from the floor, put a little lube in my nose, plugged in the oxygen generator, and walked with my sore, bare feet across the soft Oriental carpet to my warm, soft bed.

I hope my dreams will allow me to sleep tonight; they didn't last night.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March Madness, er Insanity

I have probably watched 50 hours of college basketball  the past couple of weeks.  Love college hoops although they are bearing an uncanny resemblance  to the pros--at the level of individual morals and rampant self-centered avarice (ego plus bucks--the era of individuals dealt with as a commodity: bought. sold, traded. Loyalty? A forgotten virtue by all sides). I wonder what the real dollar cost of college basketball and football programs really is. How about the message sent to all constituencies about institutional priorities?

Can't stand professional basketball games these days because of the players' outrageous commercialism and their inability to stay on the right side of the law--and often able to get away with it.  [For examples see Melo and Kobe.] I could  level the same accusations at pro football players, of course, but somehow my naive mind wants to accept the illusion that football (by its nature) draws a rougher, less disciplined, and minimally law-abiding cast of locker room warriors than basketball.  My idealism combines with my cloudy memory to call up adolescent visions of basketball as a "true" sport played mostly by gentlemen (more like cricket vs. rugby, for example) and mostly for the love of the game.

I guess my thoughts are thoroughly  tainted by vivid memories of those long humid afternoons (even after dark many nights) on Dundee Road when I shot baskets by myself, from a series of places just outside the foul circle, over and over, until I could "hit" regularly from specific points marked in chalk in a half circle on the asphalt. I used to pray that Adolph Rupp would drive by and spot my talent as I sank a 25 ft. one hander (no jump shots then). Of course, Rupp would offer me a full scholarship to play at UK and join the Fabulous Five (later, in keeping with today's game, that team was indicted and had its season suspended for throwing games). During practice hours I amused myself by delivering a mock radio announcer's coverage of my game: "Mark drives in, shoots a one hander from just outside the circle,  and tickles the tassels for two!"  The silent applause was deafening--at least in my ears.

Alas, since then the sports world has changed, even faster than I have. Lately, we're accustomed to watching millions of dollars in salary and benefits and bonuses be dealt out to professional "players"  who seem very comfortable with conspicuous consumption of luxuries, the company of hot sleazy women, homes with 10,000+ square feet, and the worshipful plaudits of the masses who try to identify with their heroes by wearing their numbered jerseys and $100  "sneakers." All these appear to be more important to the "players" than enjoying the sport they are playing. (And I thought I'd seen it all when corporations paid people, mostly men, to fish from sleek fast boats and pull in as many big bass as possible to stuff in their coolers in a measured amount of time. Whatever  happened to my old metal Shakespeare casting rod, my Pflueger reel (back-lashed every cast), and Heddon lures [remember the River Runt?]). Mom probably gave them away, along with hundreds of my comic books, when she and dad left the house I grew up in for a more commodious dwelling in Cherokee Gardens.

As a Bronco fan, for months I  have been watching  the NFL owners and players fight over how to split up proceeds measured in the billions, yes, billions of dollars.  Civil discourse and backroom deals produced no results. Apparently, the issues will have to be adjudicated in the courts, and orchestrated by attorneys; accordingly, I have little hope of there being a pro football season 2011-2012. I hope I am wrong because I have come to love the game, especially as played by our Denver Broncos--where the excitement of the games is matched, often exceeded,  by the off-field shenanigans of the owner,  players, and coaches. I relish the high drama and will miss it if there is no season this year.

Yeah, and what will I do Monday night? Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights? BI guess I better re-subscribe to Book of the Month Club and Netflix. And put away my orange #15 Tim Tebow jersey with some mothballs until the new season begins, whenever that is.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Virgin Territory

In the beginning...logos AND pathos

Book recommendation:  just picked up Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder. Workman Publishing Company, 2005, 2008.

Here are a couple of quotations which Louv uses to preface chapters;

            "There was a child went forth every day,
      And the first object he look'd upon, that object became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
            Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

             The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass and white and red morning glories, and white and red clover,
                  and the song of the phoebe-bird,
          And the Third-month lambs and the sow's pink-faint litter;
                           and the mare's foal and the cow's calf..."

-Walt Whitman-

Whitman's words remind me of me and my experiences as a little boy, and the words also bring to mind the many gifts that Nature has given to me, as an adult,  and also to  my family when we created a little farm ex nihilo in suburban Connecticut.

Here's another of Louv's quotations, this one from John Muir, which pretty much describes my state of being here in Colorado:

                               "I am well again, I came to life
              in the cool winds and crystal waters of the mountains..."

Hmmm,.. An observation and reflection.

As I write this blog, in contrast to Whitman's observations, I am watching the destructive part of Mother Nature, the earthquake and tsunami, which have just devastated Japan.  Mother Nature displays her Shadow side and reminds me that She is controlled by no one.  This is a good reminder to me that I also have a Shadow: that balancing (sometimes overbalancing) my jocular,  empathetic,  compassionate side is my also uncontrolled Shadow-- my myriad complexes, selfishness, and destructive impulses.

Thus, as I look around me, and even at myself, I am amazed that what initially seems so simple (whether something like Nature or like me)  often  proves to be incredibly complex. I am equally astounded at my almost instinctive propensity to reduce complexity by ignoring it--so that it will be more easily manageable.

I need to keep remembering old lessons.  For example, in the old days, when tackling problems that someone suggested would be easy or a piece of cake, my father-in-law would say emphatically: "Nothing is simple;"  How right he was!  Richard Niebuhr, another of my mentors,  often reflected that "if you think any problem or situation is simple, you have failed to understand what is really going on." He was right as well.

I have to keep reminding myself that what I perceive initially as "simplicity" is more often complexity in disguise! I also need to keep in mind Niebuhr's words:"On the back of every good rides and evil, and vice versa." I'll try to think of Nature and of the Japanese disaster that way.