Since my stroke back in 2014, I have been struggling just a little bit harder with a number of mental health issues. Mostly they have centered around organization, planning and memory, but sometimes, it’s a little more overwhelming.
The last couple of months have been a case in point. I’ve had the pleasure of travelling around North America since the spring, a chance to take my eyes ‘on the road’. I’ve spent a fair bit of my life travelling, and it has always been a combination of inspiration and pleasure. But like life, things never remain the same.
I was way out of my comfort zone without knowing it, and it took some time to figure out what was going on. Not having a reliable routine, or stable expectations were far more important than I thought. The constant press of new situations were difficult to process and internalize.
But most of all was the building sense of loss – of mobility and resilience and skills. Things that were once easy were now hard. That I was proud of were now gone. That I owned were now lost. And the grief was hidden and hard to control.
Thankfully I am blessed with a caring and wonderful partner, three dogs and a program of recovery that has given me a life filled with grace. And I’m not sure that I have any words of wisdom other than to say, take time to love those around you, spend more time with nature and make sure to be good to yourself.
I learned that before water flows, it must fill all the hollows and this is good enough for me to know for today.
Glad to be back – and many thanks to those who have continued to follow, you have often been in my thoughts.
“Most people can find the beauty of a garden self-evident and breathtaking. How many look at the heap of plucked weeds; the rubble and stumps of areas being cleared? How many look at the fallow-fields or the storm wrecked fallen tree? How many look at the hedges and dense thickets that have been left to grow as they will? These areas are no less beautiful than the tenderly cultivated flower bed simply because they are not accomplished in the glory of perfection. Rather, they are perfect in the glory of possibility. In them is a single basic lesson: that the earth is constantly fecund; that earth takes back anything, no matter what it is; that earth is the receiving ground for every aspect of nature and human life.” Deng Ming-Dao
The past number of months have been a perfect storm of events. Like massive black storm clouds that tear across prairie and open water; recent experiences, changes and travels have flung me far from my comfortable daily beaten path. With the rumble of thunder receding towards the horizon; I have begun to pick my way across the rain drenched landscape back to the regular postings and commentary on this blog.
There is something spectacular in looking at the world afresh after a tumultuous storm and it continues to occupy much of my attention. The wet scraps of dirt and grass still cling to my bare feet as they slap through puddles, mud squishing up between my toes.
Sodden clothes have not begun to dry in the revived heat of the sun. The air still thickly humid and damp.
Droplets sparkle on gossamer filaments dangling between leafy twigs. Insects begin to show themselves and resume their march across branch and stalk.
There is still much to take in and sort before returning to my own bi-weekly posts. But in the interim I would like to share a series of lectures that have forcefully diverted my attention and occupied a sizable part of my attention and thoughts.
The hope being of course, that in the sharing there rests a a common road to traverse and a conversation to join in at the next settlement along the road of life.
My heartfelt thanks to those who have continued to check in, and until I return full time in September I hope the combination of posts I do manage to make and the links I will post one at a time will help to bridge the span of time.
Just a short update and a link to set the scene as I leave town for a week away.
The past spring has taken it’s toll and we’re not into summer yet. Our house is dry and a ten minute bicycle ride from the river but the impact of this years runoff from the roughly 150,000 square kilometre basin that drains into the 1,100 kilometres of river has been a nasty surprise to all those who believe we can profit from and manage our risks.
With a solid week of heavy rain, the mood is pretty somber. And it’s not a joke to say that I’m looking forward to greener pastures.
So a discussion yesterday brought me to an impasse that I have tried to negotiate off and on for the past decade.
Over the years I have managed to build a very small library of books. Nothing incredibly astounding, but one that I modestly believe could serve a small group or community with enough reliable wisdom, insight and information to sustain them in posterity.
There were no computers or reliable and accessible storage technologies beyond memory and books when I began this collection. The work on a McLuhanesque world had just begun and was poorly understood, if understood at all, and the idea of our truly inhabiting the noosphere was laughable science fiction.
I was a young student that had moved from a ‘largish’ urban centre actively trying to envision a better future to a small rural community that even outside radio waves still did not reach. There was no national or connected anything. Our community was defined by the daily funeral reports on the radio and the social pages that included who had out-of-town visitors on the weekend. People made their peace with one another and right or wrong, accumulated wisdom was share.
The hard-won work of Ruskin and the Mechanic’s Institutes had started to pay heavy dividends. The most recent meddling and pompous Tory program of turning back the clock had just begun. willful ignorance in the name of excessive profit enjoyed a brief period of success and had not yet started to undermine the solid foundations of daily life. A growing restlessness had begun to question dogmatic authority in a search for a meaningful and active spiritual life.
The ongoing war against the banner of the working class – indigo dyed denim – had just begun. The idea that modern technology could co-opted it into a multi-billion dollar enterprise that would include using prisoners to provide free labour was still several years away.
The threat that the shallowest of hacks and idealistic belligerents could blow up the world was a real and present danger. Subtlety and questioning was disobedient, punishable and unpatriotic in very direct ways. A clash of historic forces was under way and about to be subsumed in a tidal wave of technology that would wash many things out to sea. The resulting tumult has made it hard to recognize our surroundings and returned us to informational peasants.
I have no illusions that the technology we enjoy today will be here tomorrow. History will bear this out. However, my early interest in the late middle ages led me to understand how very tenuous our accumulated wisdom and gains can be. And that writing most likely has a certain edge over oral tradition. In short, the physical written word is incredibly important.
Unfortunately this idea is not widely shared. Especially by those who control the purse strings and direction of institutions responsible for nothing else. No one in any kind of power wants high quality thought to be freely exchanged among the populace at large. Hiding, burning, limiting and guarding it has always been a prime directive. Good, reliable and useful information is always costly and hard to come by. It produces competence and sufficiency. Neither of which you would want your subjects to have.
The long-standing problem ..it’s preferable to wipe out all knowledge and have direct and perfect allegiance is preferable to any tyrant.
This and more is what I’ve learned from my library.
Books on history and culture. Faith and thought. Architecture and meaning. Medicine and horticulture. Craftsmanship and Skills. Inspiration and Cautionary Tales. Advice from the ancients. Dreams of our best. Each and all as Picasso liked to say, hammering in another plank on our life raft adrift at sea.
The impasse I spoke about earlier is in what to do about it?
More than once this library has been an excessive burden and yet I know in my heart the slender thread that we hung upon in the period of Charlemagne’s Capitulary or even earlier in Iona. Not to mention the gratitude I bear to Bagdad, Cordoba, Cairo and the Studium Generale. To the transmission and recording of the Rigveda. To King Wen and the Lǎozǐ and to all the People of the Book
And so in the spirit of the times, I am trying to crowd source an answer as to what I should do with all these books. Right now I have some time to arrange for them. At best I want to avoid rashly abandoning them at the side of the road.
I can attest to the power of a small library. Personally I would want to keep it together. At best, to avoid institutions or being institutionalised. That it be used and held in safekeeping. It is something of value that far exceeds it’s worth, especially assembled. Situated so that it is open and accessible to those who could benefit, and free from profiting and control.
In many ways it’s not all that special to the hundreds if not more private collections like this that will disappear with this lapse in judgement that is our contemporary world.
If you have any thoughtful ideas, I’m very interested. Personally I’ve run out of them.
So consider this an invitation. It’s an impasse I’d very much like to solve.
“The more the things change, the more they stay the same. It may be a different age, but I’m on the same page. But there’s one thing that I’ve found. I still be diggin’ on James Brown.”
I was a little shocked to find that these guys are still playing and are better than ever. I discovered the world of jazz with bands like this and they connected the past with the rest of the world and brought it into the present.
I am only jealous that I don’t live near Ft. Lauderdale where I could watch them play on April 20th at the Parker Playhouse. These giants of jazz have been behind so much music it’s incredible. From the San Francisco summer of love to Santana, they have underscored my life.
No I haven’t left the planet, run away from home nor vanished into the ether. The short answer is that it never rains but it pours.
February has kept my hours more than filled with a major commitment to this years incowrimo-2017. While normally I devote my time to writing letters, I decided to become much more involved at the organizational and support level which turned out to be both time consuming and extremely rewarding. It’s a fantastic project and the hiatus and focus on handwritten correspondence is always a welcome experience.
In addition I’v been locked in a struggle with Nvidia hardware since the recent build of a dedicated graphics computer for photography. Simply put, Nvidia is very explicit about not playing well with others and probably the less said the better. There has been a large loss of data involved and an even larger loss of time.
But most of all, we have welcomed a new member into are family in the recent weeks. And while the internet is full of curious and unnecessary dog pictures, it can stand to have one more.
At 11 weeks and nearly thirty pounds, Bruno is like an overexcited three year old with teeth, high speed mobility and a propensity for non stop chewing. He wakes up bigger than when he went to sleep and is a joy to everyone.
“For this was on seynt Volantynys day – Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make” 1382 Geoffrey Chaucer – 1382
“Sveti Valentin prinese ključe od korenin, zato so v nekaterih krajih na ta dan začeli z delom v vinogradih in vrtovih”
Despite the high cost of postage Britain was sending 60,000 valentine cards by post in 1835. Fancy Mechanical Valentines (cards) were available for a price. Produced with real lace and ribbons they could be signed with one of the many sentimental verses found in the ‘Young Man’s Valentine Writer’ that had been published nearly 40 years before.
But it was by inventing the postage stamp and reducing the postal rate in 1840 that Britain gave birth to the popular practice of mailing a valentines card, often anonymously, that has lasted to this day.
With 400,000 cards sent the first year alone the Hallmark Holiday was born.
Today this mostly commercial celebration has expanded to include roses, chocolate, diamonds and almost any heart-shaped piece of plastic you can imagine. Not to mention the untold millions of e-greetings and animated gifs.
And so ..in honour of the saint of good health, the patron of beekeepers and pilgrims, we wish you the warmest of Valentines Greetings.
“Until people found a way to light the darkness, they could do little once the sun went down …Gaze up at the stars that fired the imagination of your ancestors. In that darkness, in that quiet, you can hear your heart beat and your breath move. After you let time pass leisurely, light one lantern — that lantern that welcomes the spirits, that is brave in the darkness, that welcomes people home. That light is the beginning of the human.” Deng Ming Dao
Whether it’s Bhodi, Rohatsu, or Laba day for you – it’s a good day for a little housecleaning and avoiding anything else except maybe a delicious bowl of Laba Congee to represent our common prayers for harvest, happiness and peace. Happy Laba Day.