Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Rumi poem

Rumi was a 13th century Persian and founder of the Mawlawi Sufi order, a leading mystical brotherhood of Islam.

I like this poem because it offers a different sense of eternity than most western religions. Christians believe in heaven, that an intact consciousness, a spirit, remains after death and goes some place else. This poem offers an alternative hereafter that stresses humanity's interrelationship with nature. This poem is... acquiescent.

I am part of the load
Not rightly balanced
I drop off in the grass,
like the old Cave-sleepers, to browse
wherever I fall.

For hundreds of thousands of years I have been dust-grains
floating and flying in the will of the air, often forgetting ever being
in that state, but in sleep
I migrate back. I spring loose
from the four-branched, time -and-space cross,
this waiting room.

I walk into a huge pasture
I nurse the milk of millennia

Everyone does this in different ways.
Knowing that conscious decisions
and personal memory
are much too small a place to live,
every human being streams at night
into the loving nowhere, or during the day,i
n some absorbing work.

(Mathnawi, VI 216-227) Rumi, 'We Are Three'

Monday, March 26, 2007

Another favorite song

I've been a Suzanne Vega fan since her one hit "Luka" back in '87. I heard "Penitent" on Pandora today and the lyrics really spoke to me, again... Like most of Vega's work, this song is melancholy and hopeful, typical outsider stuff. "I look for you in heathered moor/ the desert and the ocean floor/ how low does one heart go?"

"Penitent" by Suzanne Vega

Once I stood alone so proud
held myself above the crowd
now i am low on the ground.

From here i look around to see
what avenues belong to me
I can't tell what i've found.

Now what would You have me do
i ask you please?
I wait to hear.

The mother, and the matador,
the mystic, all were here before,
like me, to stare You down.

You appear without a face,
disappear, but leave your trace,
i feel your unseen frown.
Now what would you have me do
I ask you please?

i wait to hear
your voice,
the word,
you say.
i wait to see your sign
would i obey?

I look for you in heathered moor,
the desert, and the ocean floor
how low does one heart go.

looking for your fingerprints
i find them in coincidence,
and make my faith to grow.

Forgive me all my blindnesses
my weakness and unkindnesses
as yet unbending still.

struggling so hard to see
my fist against eternity
and will you break my will?

Now what would you have me do
i ask you please?
i wait to hear
your voice,
the word
you say

i wait to see your sign
could i obey?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Great Movie

I watched A Man For All Seasons earlier this week. It is a movie about Sir Thomas More, who chose to be executed rather than condone King Henry VIII divorce and remarriage. Great costumes, setting, dialogue, a compelling moral drama, Orson Welles in a bit part, and a mercifully restrained depiction of Henry VIII's lunacy.

Check IMDB for more great quotes. This is a good teacherly one.

Sir Thomas More: Why not be a teacher? You'd be a fine teacher; perhaps a great one.

Richard Rich: If I was, who would know it?

Sir Thomas More: You; your pupils; your friends; God. Not a bad public, that.

A Man For All Seasons won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1966. Most of the actors, including Paul Scofield (who won the best actor Oscar for his portrayal of More), with the exception of Welles, are virtually unknown today. I hadn't even heard of the movie until I posted all the Best Pictures I hadn't seen on my Netflix queue.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

latest personality profile

The rage with me lately is to use lame-o scientific surveys to validate what I already know about myself. I wonder if I took on an "asshole" persona, would the surveys call me out as one or portray the results in some flowery way? "You are highly independent and work well in unstructured environments" translates to, "You're a surly bastard and no one can stand you."

Here's the results of the latest.

You are an EXPLORER/negotiator

You are a highly spontaneous person who always likes to try new things. Novel and unpredictable situations don't bother you; instead you find them challenging and exciting.

You tend to be focused and resourceful and you are able to juggle a lot of projects at the same time; as a result you are sometimes a whirlwind of activity.

You have a firm grip on reality and enjoy living in the present tense. But you have a keen imagination that enables you to lift off from time and space to be remarkably creative.

You are humorous. You are able to laugh at yourself, and you like entertaining others.

You have a deep sense of compassion. You can show genuine insight into the needs of others; you are good at listening and talking; and you express a genuine desire to be helpful.

Yet you are easy-going. Your tolerance for others and their beliefs, your lack of prejudice, your ability to compromise and your occasional antics make you popular with others and a great companion.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Arizona Trail journal (Dec. 16, 2006)

I’m lost. Nah. That isn’t quite true, though I’m not exactly sure where I am.

Today has been one misadventure after another, but I made it. I’m now sitting by a fire near a dry creek bed, full of food, warm, and at peace. But it hasn’t been easy getting here, wherever here is.

I camped last night a ½ mile off the Arizona Trail at Bear Spring. By ½ a mile off the trail I mean ½ a mile straight down the mountain. Bear Spring is a beautiful place, but is popular with illegals and littered with trash. I found a flat spot beneath tall pines and built a fire.

[Note: The nights are really long. Dusk is around 5 p.m. Sunrise around 7 a.m. Last night’s fire was an extended affair, as will be, no doubt, tonight’s.]

n I was surrounded on three sides by mountains, so gave a few whoops for effect. I wasn’t disappointed.
n Son Jon was really in my thoughts today. I can sense his presence now, smell him almost, and look forward to the nights when we can sit and talk by a fire together.
n Yesterday’s hike was an S.O.B. – over 3,000 feet of elevation gain. I’m not used to the altitude and stopped every 100 paces or so to catch my breath.
n Garbage is everywhere! On the half-mile side trip to Miller Peak I found a stick of pineapple chewing gum. I ate it. On the way down I found a bag of beef jerky. Ate that too.
n I saw 7 people yesterday. Four National Park Service trail crew who met me at Montezuma Pass and later on the Crest Trail. The lone female of the crew gave me a spoon. I saw two other backpackers on Miller Peak, but they didn’t see me, and a dayhiker on my way down.
n I saw no one today because most of the day was spent off trail bushwacking. Remember? I got lost.
n This morning, huffing back up the mountain from Bear Spring, I was almost to the ridgeline when I remembered I left my soap back at camp. Back down, down, down….
n Then I took the wrong trail down the mountain. The guidebook says to take a left on the Sunnyside Canyon Trail about a mile and a half after Bear Saddle. The trail came to a T (of sorts) on a sadde. I went left. Down, down, down through thick brambles and menacing agave spears trailside. Steep, steep trail. And by the time I think, “This ain’t right” it’s too late to turn back. No way could I fight my way back up through the thickets.
n The social, illegal alien-created trail I was on petered out at a grassy saddle. I consulted the GPS, which told me I needed to go a mile north to rejoin the trail. I headed cross country in that direction, downhill, which leads me to misadventure #3.
n As I headed downhill, I did a butt scoot to get through a series of low-hanging branches. The Velcro came loose on my camera bag and my camera went tumbling down the mountain. I watched helplessly as the bag disappeared from sight and listened AS IT KEPT GOING! I tried to follow its path as close as possible until I came to a dry creek bed. I took my pack off to use as a home base and spent the NEXT 2 ½ HOURS looking for the camera bag. I roamed up and down the creek bed, followed a closing perimeter pattern, climbed to the place where I lost it and “became the camera,” following the contours of the landscape to where I thought it might go. I went up from the backpack in a straight line, scanning my eyes from right to left. I found it on my way back down. It was less than 15 feet from my pack, still together, all its contents in one piece and none the worse for wear. Such relief! My plan, if I didn’t find the camera, was to hike down the creek bed for water and camp nearby, resuming my search in the morning. I’ve got a days’ extra food.
n I brought a radio for the first time ever on a backpacking trip. Last night I listened to UFO freaks tell abduction tales on “Coast to Coast,” a national radio call-in show. No FM stations came in.
n I found water at another creek bed, an algae-covered pool with yellow flowers clinging to the rocks above it. I thanked this sacred, cool, hidden place for sustaining my life.
n All this ‘schwackin’ has scraped me up. I count more than 20 lacerations on my right arm and hand. Once today I just put my hand to my side and suffered a puncture wound on my finger from a yucca spear. None of the wounds are deep or even hurt. I just look like I got in a fight with a cat.
n Not once during all of today’s craziness did I panic or lose my cool. Sure, I got pissed when I lost my camera, but, in retrospect, looking for it forced me to pay closer attention to my surroundings.

[POST-SCRIPT: I remember the bushwacking was a lot of fun, despite the scrapes. I followed many dry creek beds and tried to head, whenever possible, in a westerly direction. I knew that if I got hopelessly lost I could bushwack west a few miles and come to a road. I also found an old mine shaft and at one point had to backtrack because the golden sunshine hillside covered in long grasses I was descending stopped at a 30-foot tall sheer cliff. I also found my camp site – complete with fire ring, cow patties, extra wood, and a pool of water about 200 feet upstream – right at dusk. It was one of the most comfortable, peaceful nights of the entire trip. All of the day’s hard work wore me out and I slept about 10 hours that night. I slept so much this entire trip. There wasn’t much else to do during those long, cold nights.]

One more Jonny picture

Esther and Jon were going to come over at noon today, but arrived a little early because Jon threw up all over the backseat of the car. He also threw up once in the apartment, but Esther expertly caught the vomit in a diaper. They stayed awhile to do laundry, and despite feeling warm and the vomiting, Jon was in great spirits, roaming around the apartment exploring. He also begs to play on the bed. He stands up in bed, all wide-legged unsure stance, and waits for me to push him over. Sometimes he pushes with his legs and dives into the mattress. I put pillows up for cushion, and he loves it.

This picture was taken playing peek-a-boo. I love the smile, his stance, the colorful pillow, and the way the harsh winter light reflects off his face.

This semester's visit schedule with Jon is a lot like last sememster. I visit him regularly on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons for about 3-4 hours. This gives Esther a chance to do chores around the house or run errands. I also visit on Fridays, but not as regularly. At least every other weekend I spend 3-5 hours each day with them, but lately its been every weekend because they have been around.

In May I plan to spend a couple days each week taking care of Jon alone while Esther is at work. What is easy, old hat instinct for Esther will be a difficult challenge for me. I have never spent more than a couple hours alone with him. He is still so dependent on his mother, and he freaks out if she goes to the bathroom alone. It will be an adjustment for all of us. But he is moving to the toddler room at the daycare by the end of the month, so when May rolls around he'll be used to being apart from his mother during the time of day I'll care for him.

Up-to-the-minute update: Esther called as I was writing this post and said when she and Jon got back home he had diarrhea up to his neck, and it got all over his clothes, coat, and the car seat, all items that had just been washed. Babies are a messy business. I wonder if I have the fortitude to wipe off a body covered in puke or poop. All I can do is breathe through my mouth and hope I don't gag from the sight.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Finally, a journal entry from the Arizona Trail

At long last, I am transcribing journal notes from the Arizona Trip I took over winter break. Enjoy!

Dec. 15, 2006

8 a.m.
Present moment. Present time. I am at Montezuma Pass. There’s a picnic shelter here with bathrooms and an overlook to the Huachucas to the north and the treasured Sierra Madres south.

Highlights from the past 24 hours (in no particular order):

Still in awe that I am surrounded by desert mountains again.
Saw my first illegal this morning, just a black-shirted back and head retreating into the brush. I felt sorry he had to flee on my account. I smelled his cologne before I saw him.
I camped last night on a saddle off the Joe’s Canyon Trail. Nothing much. Just a rocky flat spot big enough for me to sprawl out. Slept fitfully, but because the night is long I feel rested.
I think I like the idea of backpacking than actually doing it. I’d forgotten how much work it takes to hump 50+ pounds over these mountains.
The climb up the Joe’s Canyon Trail was a tough, switchbacky mo-fo. I begged for mercy with gasping breath.
I reached the U.S./Mexico border at dusk. I stashed my pack a mile back at the intersection of the Joe’s Canyon Trail and the Yaqui Peak Trail. I had a nervous moment at dusk, back at the intersection, when I couldn’t find my pack.
Monument 102 is bigger than expected. I thought it would be like the obelisk at the Canadian Border on the Pacific Crest Trail – about 3 feet tall. M102 is 10 feet tall. There’s a trail leading it from Mexico as well.
Mike, my driver from the World Shuttle Service, has a mullet. He talked the entire 1 ½ hour ride. I could hardly string three words together against his onslaught of verbiage.
Woke before dawn and saw 3 shooting stars – zip, zip, zip – quick like that.
I write this at a picnic table. I just got to use a privy. Life is Good!
All my planning and double-checking before I came out here leaves me prepared for whatever the weather gods can deal. But I forgot my spoon! Luckily, a National Park Service trail crew just parked nearby, and one of them had an extra spoon.
I left my trekking/ski poles at the California Street L stop in Chicago. I found them in the woods in northern Wisconsin more than seven years ago, near Butternut Lake. In all those years I never used them.
I have three books in my pack. The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho, The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by B. Traven. They’re too heavy. I have to finish a couple by the time I reach Patagonia.

Here’s a few quotes from The Pilgrimage.

“When you travel, you experience, in a very practical way, the act of rebirth. You confront completely new situations, the day passes more slowly, and on most journeys you don’t even understand the language people speak. So you are like a child just out of the womb. You begin to attach more importance to the things around you because your survival depends on them. You begin to be more accessible to others because they may be able to help you in difficult situations. And you accept any small favor from the gods with great delight, as if it were an episode you would remember for the rest of your life.

At the same time, since all things are new, you see only the beauty in them, and you feel happy to be alive.” (35)

“That the Road was one along which any person could walk, that its significance could be understood by even the least sophisticated person, and that, in fact, only such a road as that could lead to God.” (52)

All things bald and beautiful

I haven't had my camera for a few weeks because I left it my parent's house, but got it back last night when they came down to see me teach. I like this picture because it is one of the few of the three of us together. We are STILL family, despite divorce. No judge can break the bonds of blood, love, and mutual respect. Jon is losing the baby fat, as evidenced by this photo. He still has very grabbable cheeks, but his arms and legs no longer look like the Michalin Man. This is a lousy shot of me, but the most recent of Jon and I.

Jonny's an eager little stair climber. Esther stands behind him because he has this dangerous habit of standing up to look around. Could there be a little bit of the mountaineer spirit in the lad?

Yawning boy!

This is one of the best pictures of Esther. And Jon looks peaceful and rested after his nap.