Thursday, January 27

Last Summer

Last Summer
Sitting together
on the banks of the Truckee
My best friend Shelly,
ageless wisdom beaming
from her fifteen year-old eyes, 
“You really can, you know,
tell by the sound of it,
that is,
whether a stream is 
happy or sad.”
Sitting in silence together,
on that warm summer day,
waiting,
watching 
the sunset
over Donner Lake. 
Thirty-seven years ago.
Shelly’s words, spoken in one of those timeless, powerfully subtle, almost deniably so, life altering moments, awakened me. I answered the ringing phone, and listened. A compelling conversation between me and the natural world. The writer, photographer; as witness, was born that day. 
The deeper the passion 
the more resounding the 
crack 
when hidden chasms 
finally open. 
That ominous, 
hideous, marvelous rumbling crescendo 
as the high mountain dam

bursts. 
Words and ideas 
as free as the once trapped waters,
gushing, swirling, 
violently crash onto the paper.
Our parents, district attorney, stockbroker, gynecologist, aerospace engineer(s),  geologist, veterinarian and corporate executives all generously shared their frugality with us. Weekends hiking in the Sierras, fueled our dreams. While aluminum cans and old newspapers got recycled into precious gold. We funded our own adventures.
High
Above the tree line
Raw stone, earth, rock and pebble
reclaims its dominion over
green, sprouting and living things
yearning to send their roots 
deep. 
Darkness
Contrasting tones of
earth and sky
separateness now
illusion.
In the thin air, giddy at reaching our base camp, we imagine ourselves as Queens and Kings of the hill. Delirious in our belief that we have conquered the high ground, we dance at our own, fleeting coronation. The mountain knows better. It laughs at us. Mere court jesters, pitching our tents, in the blackness. Stars smile at our naiveté, before the moon-rise. 
Huddled tightly around three white gas stoves. Their deafening static-like hiss, serve us one final time, by intensifying the quiet, that folded in around us, once the stoves were finally silent. It seemed like hours passed before anyone spoke. For nine summers, and nearly every weekend in between, my friends and I hiked the Sierras, the Grand Tetons, and the Rocky Mountains. In both summer and winter months, canoed and rafted the American, Truckee and Snake rivers. When not planning or preparing for our next adventure, we rode our bicycles, like mad fiends, everywhere. Here at some 8000 feet, above the tree line, at the base of Mt. Victoria, we had reached the beginning of the end.  
North of the Wikwaxys
East of Yoho
a dozen old friends
dream our last 
summit together.
Tomorrow
4000 foot vertical climb
Baseball sized shale,
soccer balls of granite
in a deep salad bowl gorge 
of loose gravel. 
Laughing, holding hands and running down that last mile
passing Cedar and Hemlock. Hundreds of startled elk,
bolt away from us.
Wild, rapturous 
beginning. 

Tuesday, January 25

You Know Me, Right?


You Know Me, Right?
Two pithy statements come to mind at this point in time.  The first one goes something like this “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” and the second, “if you didn’t learn anything today, you’re not paying attention.”  So in my head, when these two modern-day Koans mash together, I am left with the result that says, “if I’m paying attention, and I am, I have learned something, and what I learned is that I’m outraged about a great many things.”  Looking under the surface a little more deeply, at the subtext of my life and my own inner world, I find I am less than satisfied. My ideals haunt me. Listening to the news broadcasts, and talking with my friends, some of whom I’ve known for the better part of several decades, and I can’t help but think that those of us who helped create and participate in that original Earth Day celebration, and other important milestones of my generation, have missed the mark. The powerful idealism that shaped my generation, has been lost over the years and I regret that. We baby boomers, even before most of us could vote, we were already a Brand-name. Collectively and all to conveniently we were lumped together, as if manufactured, into a force to reckoned with. What have we become?
I look at the people that are in office, my elected officials. You, who are supposed to represent all of us, and responsibly control, monitor and fairly distribute the resources that are meant to look out for our collective well-being. You claim to represent the best of service in this country, but I find myself disgusted by your actions. And yet, if I am genuine, if I am sincere, then when I look in the mirror, I must also be disgusted with myself. The Boomers. Society has bound us together, but are we really cut from the same cloth? Our generation, that was so concerned with the environment, so concerned about creating peace on our planet, and so greatly interested in the welfare of our fellow human being, has become horribly corrupt. The generation that held so much hope, has really failed to deliver on all the promises that it made to itself, to each other, and to our world. I awaken each morning to the realization that the most powerful and influential members of my generation have abandoned our ideals. The lust for power, the desire for more, more money and honey, has turned the promise of the summer of love, into a cold and harsh reality, that has become the winter of greed. 
I find myself, not unlike the fictional movie character, Howard Beale, in the 1976 movie, The Network, who entices his audience to get up out of their seats, walk over to the window, open the window, lean their head out the window, and yell at the top of their lungs “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  This kind of inner rage that I experience when I look at the world around me, has a paralyzing effect on my ability to understand, and to reason a way through the morass of issues, problems and difficulties that this world has to deal with on a regular basis. More importantly, it makes it extremely difficult for me at 53, to find a way to contribute in some sort of lasting and meaningful way. Is this too, part of your malicious misdirection?
I look at our democracy and I find myself outraged. I look at the state of the environment, the world that we have created, abused in the most essential ways, and have the audacity to leave the cleanup to our children’s, children’s children.  This, too leaves me outraged. Finally, I look at how wealth is distributed in this country and issues related to the poorest of us. Those who do not have healthcare, do not have a safe place to live, do not have appropriate clothing, and the large number, way too large in fact, of people that go without food every single day in this country. And, again I am outraged. So, I asked myself, am I up to this challenge, am I ready to face my own inner demons in such a way that I can adequately face the outer demons that affect my country and the world that I live in? Do I have the courage to speak?
Closing my eyes, it doesn’t take long for me to see the vision of the world I once thought would soon be readily available to everyone. As a child of the 60s, I envisioned a world of peace and harmony, a world where technology was both a thing of beauty and a reliable servant (flying cars included). I certainly expected, that the world of the 21st century would be a one of global harmony, abundance, and a world where we had come to understand that we are partners with each other in this world. I believe, that we as human beings must form a sacred partnership with our planet, the plants, the animals, the mountains, the rivers and the oceans, or we will perish. 
I would like to address my so-called, public servants. So many of us depend upon your actions. Yet, at a local, statewide, and federal level, I find the lot of you to be a huge disappointment.  Given the opportunity to express to each of you, face-to-face, what I generally feel about your performance in your selected positions, I would have to say that I would spare no amount of vinegar and vitriol in your collective and individual directions, in discussing your abysmal performance. While you claim to be representatives of the people, your actions would tell us, that you are far more invested in being the servants of big corporations, and their paid lobbyists. Each of you, Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, red or blue, seem far more concerned about the rightness of your own ideas, the wrongness of your oppositions ideas, and for how much media coverage, and the number of all to glorified soundbites, you and your compatriot toadies can amass in a single day. All this, in order to promote your hateful and narcissistic version of democracy.
I would like to call your attention to one recent example, that I think aptly illustrates your selfish behavior, your lust for power, and your love affair with the media. Your recent grandstanding and bizarre spectacle, of having each member of Congress read five or six words of the Constitution of the United States. Not only does this behavior prove how little you understand about the nature, the heart, and the seriousness, of those who wrote our founding documents, but it shows how little you respect the work, the effort of daily toil, the sacrifice, and the hard-earned dollars and cents of each American that paid for this most heinous spectacle of yours. (nearly $400,000.000) I ask you, what leader of a large organization, would take an entire day, to cease all production, suspend all sales efforts, postpone all meetings, and put all phones on voicemail, so that each and every single employee, From CEO on down, could interrupt any and all productive labors, for the sole purpose, of having a public group reading of the employee manual?
I suspect, that were you to present this cockamamie scheme of  yours, to any of your buddies in big business, I’m sure they would tell you what a huge waste of time and money this kind of  parlor room stunt would be.  Go-ahead call them and ask, I’ll wait. I’m sure you have them on speed dial. Oh, one more thing, let us not forget the members of the military who put their live’s on the line, that day, and every day. Who even, perhaps died, during your little tea party. Since you took the time out of not just your busy day, but mine and all Americans as well, and chose to get no work done at all during the hours of the reading of the Constitution, I propose that you should also not be paid for that time. After-all, most of us don’t get paid, when we don’t go to work. I would like to suggest, that you take the hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money, that was wasted on your combined salary and your overly privileged benefit package, and write a personal check out of your own bank account to the nearest homeless shelter or food bank that is in the closest proximity to your own private residence, in your home district. Further, I insist that you not mail this check, but rather under the power of your own two feet, using only public transportation, that you hand deliver this check. By yourself. No aides, no limos, and absolutely, no media.
Why is this such a big deal? Because while you were busy wrapping yourselves in the Constitution, you completely ignored the hard work and sacrifice, of the people who wrote it. Not to mention, the people you swore a solemn oath
 to represent. The men who wrote our Constitution, were stalwart men of of character, at time when those things meant something. One of those men, Benjamin Franklin, suggested that members of congress should actually receive no pay for their service. Merely reading the Constitution does not make you a better person or more qualified to lead this country. It does indicate that you prefer media attention over doing a solid days work. Your collective behavior is at best, reprehensible. More befitting a gang of common scoundrels, than that of esteemed leaders of a great and powerful nation. You know me, right? I am Veteran. I live below the poverty line, I pay taxes, and I vote!

Crack!

The deeper the passion,
the more resounding, the

crack,

when the hidden chasam finally opens.

That ominous, hideous, marvelous rumbling crescendo as the high mountain dam,

bursts.

Words, as free as the
once trapped waters, gushing, swirling,
violently crash onto the paper.