Sunday, January 27, 2008

Growing Healthy Roots

So my wife has left me.

Oooo, don't that get your attention. She left for a week in Anaheim for business. And she'll get to spend time with her sister and her family who lives down there. And some of her other sisters and her mom are going down to visit as well. So that will be fun. For them.

Me? I get a week of self-perpetuation. It's a struggle living with me. I don't know how Suzy does it. But she does it a whole lot better than I do.

Nonetheless. Life is good. Always remember that.

Had a nice weekend, as my parents came to visit, and they brought the latest addition to the family-- Blue, a Steffordshire Terrier that my dad adopted from the pound. She's a real sweetie. So well behaved, just wants to be loved... if you're sitting on the couch, she'll trot up and try to ease as close to you as possible, so that you will pet her. And if you pet her a few times and then stop, she raises a paw and places it on your lap, and gets this pleading look on her face like "C'mon, PLEASE! More petting!" She's very mellow, rarely barks, and is very loving. Nice dog.

Anyway, Mom and Dad came down Friday night and stayed with us-- we had dinner and then visited into the night. Saturday, after we went to breakfast, Mom and Suzy went to a Stampin' Up! event and Dad and Blue and I hung out at home. Had a really great discussion with Dad about permaculture and sustainability, inspired by the book we're reading together-- Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. Dad hasn't been one to get out and "mosh" with nature, but now that he's retired, and he has a large back yard to work with, he's been researching and planning just how best to interface with it all. I've always enjoyed "working in the yard" for some reason, and the opportunity to share my experiences and discoveries with him is exciting. Kudos to you, Poppy, for being willing to explore new terrain with me.

The book was recommended to me by a Grinnell colleague that I reconnected with last summer. Suzy and I had a wonderful conversation with some other Grinnellians, one of whom was recounting a conversation she had had with Mary Lou, the woman who ended up recommending the book to me. It reminds me-- going back to Grinnell and interacting with all of those wonderful, thoughtful, caring people really, really replenished me. Inspired me anew to have faith in the transformative power of wisdom and education. Even though we weren't able to find the time in those few days of Reunion '07 to "catch up" or fully discuss our common interests, we exchanged contact info and found a way to open the channels of communication. And now I've extended that opening to my Dad, and it's great to know that he's right there engaging in the benefits with me.

Gardening, Landscaping, working outside with the "natural elements"... I'm spiritually inspired by the act of engaging Nature... There just seems to be so much to be learned from observing the "primitive" life-forms that survive in such harsh conditions from day to day. From plants to insects to rodents and birds... the grand interaction of all creatures and organisms is an epic symphony of glorious, inspiring perfection. Whereas we humans struggle with what to do with our waste, there exists no such entity in nature-- detriment is recycled into nutrients for other organisms that convert "unusables" into "usables." There seems to exist a natural balance that the human race is in constant struggle with.

But so is all other life, I guess. Surely it's not easy marching through the environment as an ant, especially when a sudden down pour of rain erupts... However, although there follows some tense moments of frantic activity in dealing with the sudden onslaught of the forces of nature, stability seems to be approached and maintained in a much more efficient way by the "primitive" culture of the ant colony than by the more contentious human element in the throes of the same predicament. So much more drama, disdain, and suffering is calibrated in catastrophe on the human level.

And so, to this point in time, it seems to me that our capacities for judgement and calibration of the daily struggle to make sense of the natural progression of life are challenged at the very least; and to attempt to surmise a preliminary scenario that explains the variegated permutations that would purport to characterize a "meaning of life" or a grand theory of explanation would be not only under-representative and inherently limiting, but insufficient and wrong.

In my humble opinion.

Uh, I dozed off there-- what were we talking about?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Long Overdue

What in the world has been going on that could justify such a lengthy absence from contributing to my blog? Well, truth be told... nothing. There is no sufficient justification for my non-production.

I opted for other projects, I guess. Somewhat, anyway. I mean, yes I am alive and doing things... but my most common chore of late has been avoidance. Lots of video games, naps, watching sporting events or movies... All part of avoiding the work that I supposedly have such passion for...

But enough already of the self critical and self mutilation. Onward!

I had approached this blogging endeavor as a means for regularly developing my "story." My book. My memoir.

But as much as I enjoy the act of writing and recounting events and thoughts in my life, I resist the regular practice. Routine is just so confining, unnatural, bland.

Whatever. Excuses, elaborate or not, they all amass and conspire to allow my procrastination.

Again. ONWARD!

I'm overwhelmed by the project of recounting my experiences in Greece. Where to start? What to include from my background-- the shared background of my college friend and myself; the experimentation and exploration of developing world views and maturations that we shared.

Again. More non-specific superficial speculation that avoids the task at hand. Good gravy, it's such a pervasive habit!!!

To recollect... I can remember considering the trip to Greece as a "once in a lifetime" sort of experience. And now, I only hope that it's true, at least on the subject of manic episodes... But so many things converged at that point in my life that I think my recollection and the diagnosis of what happened is a watered-down, simplified "theory" of the truth.

Going back to a time when I was living in Sacramento with my college roommate, in the early 90's, I can remember a time where I was struggling with my future direction, my focus, and feeling the stress of impending debts that I had no income for. I sunk deeply inside myself, searching for a course of action. I had experienced a similar situation soon after leaving college and relocating to Sacramento with a friend from high school. I was groping around in the dark with my eyes closed, so to speak, trying to find my calling, my passion. I did a lot of writing then; writing for writing's sake. And I started to build some confidence. But the chink in my armor was that I didn't have a steady income.

I had the opportunity to spend some time at a Squaw Valley resort around this time, and did so enthusiastically. Among some of the things we did while there was hiking some of the surrounding nature trails. I can remember going out by myself, retracing some of the hike that we had been guided along earlier, my mind filled with deliberation and quandary about what I was going to do with my life when I returned to "reality," mainly how was I going to find a job to pay my bills. I stopped along one of the trails and found a rock about the size of my fist. I picked it up, without words analyzing my actions or surroundings. There was just a feeling of purpose, of something more profound than the sum of the parts-- my mind, the rock, the trail, nature, life, economic forces, etc. I crouched and placed the stone at the edge of the trail, in a little cranny that seemed to have been waiting for exactly that size rock to be placed there. There were still no words of significance dancing in my mind; only a significant feeling of purpose, of meaning, of righteousness.

It was soon after returning to "reality" that my life changed significantly-- I got a job through a temp agency which led to a permanent position, and I was off and running.

So later, after I had been laid off from the job, my unemployment benefits were running out, and I took a job that I soon realized caused me more distress that I could handle, I got in my truck and drove. I had no destination; I was just searching for direction. I drove for hours, ending up in a remote area east of Yosemite Valley. I pulled over and got out of the truck. The lack of noise was significant. No vehicles on the road, no planes in the air, no distant highway noise or urban landscape machinations.

On the side of the road, there sat a large boulder, roughly the size of a conventional washing machine. It's surface was pocked with divots from years of erosion. I knelt down and picked up a pebble and placed it in one of the small pockets at the top of the boulder, in much the same way I had done on the trail back in Squaw Valley. Again, it was all action and no conscious thought, at least in terms of verbal commands or premeditated and vocalized actions inside my head before acting. The pebble fit nicely into the pocket, and I felt a peaceful justification in having placed it there. I then returned to my truck and drove back home.

Soon after, I would change my life dramatically by moving back to the Bay Area to live with my parents, and found a job with the City of Santa Clara.

So. As you may have already guessed, I had a similar, unrehearsed, and unconscious but significant "ritualistic" occurrence while visiting Greece.

About this I will write more soon.