January 28, 2015
Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
last week in January, 2015
Residual snow and ice almost completely gone.
Mud is drying up – temp is in the mid-40’s.
Brilliant Jupiter is the evening star.
Coyote choir practice across the valley last night.
To be helpful, I should have put up a road sign here.
A yellow one with a crooked line across it – the kind my children called
“warning - snakes ahead.”
Actually meant to indicate that the road ahead was winding and slow.
This posting asks you to tag along on the trip my mind took last Sunday,
knowing in advance that the line of thought is not linear – it winds around.
Besides, in life the best route between “here” and “there” is seldom
a straight line . . .
Bear with me - there is a destination point at the end the essay.
You may need to refer to my Facebook page to connect with the photographs I’ve posted there – and explained here: (link:https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum)
And I’ve also included some interesting links to sites you might like to look at during and after the initial mind trip.
(My search engine is Google, by the way – it works best for links to images.)
* * *
WAY OUT AND WAY IN BEFORE FEEDING TIME AT THE ZOO
My wonder-wander began when I followed my Sunday ritual.
On the Sabbath, I try to forego my mundane tasks and the news of the world as delivered on the web and radio – put all that on hold until Monday.
It’s a pleasurable relief to leisurely consider the news of the universe instead.
The Astronomy menu on my web browser is the gateway.
I want to consider the long, deep view of the cosmos.
Every week astonishing new photographs are posted on the web for viewing.
On my Facebook page I’ve posted a picture of a galaxy that caught my eye.
This is NGC 1398 – a galaxy 65 million light-years from Earth.
It spans approximately 135,000 light-years in diameter.
That’s 35% larger than our own galaxy (100,000 light-years across.)
NGC contains about 300 billion solar masses like our sun – part of which is
concentrated within 100 billion stars.
It’s quite beautiful, don’t you think?
But it’s always hard to get my mind around the sizes and distances.
So I turn to subjects closer by and more comprehensible.
The photos of objects in outer space always remind me of jellyfish - Medusozoa.
There are always new photos of new varieties, so I check from time to time.
And I posted one I liked on my Facebook page.
Here comes a sharp turn in the road.
While I was wandering around on the web, I thought I’d take a look at mites.
My interest was provoked by the current issue of National Geographic.
It features an article on mites, with photos taken by an electron microscope.:
Intrigued, I punched up more images of mites on the web.
And found more than I bargained for.
(Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum)
Every night I sleep with these tiny forms of life that scavenge my dead skin.
I can’t feel them or hear them or see them – but they’re really there.
Other specialized forms live on my face, in my eyelashes, in the hair on
my head, up my nose, in my ears – in fact, all over my body – working away, having sex, reproducing, and excreting waste.
In short, I am inhabited – a condominium for micro-life – a zoo of exotic forms of life beyond my imagination – colonized by creatures that belong to the Cambrian Age – the domicile of tiny scavengers, squatting and crawling on me.
And that’s just what’s on the surface.
So . . .If all that’s going on outside, how about inside?
There must be photos taken by electron microscope?
Another turn in the road.
Working on down the scale of life, I took a look at the photos of the bacteria that inhabit my gut.
(link – Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum)
This stuff is ALIVE!
And there’s a war going on with these creatures – some fighting for me, some against me – but mostly my side seems to be winning because I’m in good health.
Science says that without all this microbial life, my body could not function.
Without the positive work of bacteria – in my gut, for example – I would die.
They need me and I need them.
I feed me and them – and they mop up and clean house for me.
I am not a single living creature.
I am a cooperative of creatures.
More than the number of stars than I can actually see in the sky.
My tenants are not aliens – they are me.
We are a co-op.
As mysterious as the outer reaches of space.
There – that’s it.
link to this story
Maybe I’ve told and showed you more than you wanted to know.
The winding road I began down has not come to a dead end.
The way goes on, without end – still expanding.
Like the universe “way out there,” the universe “way in here” is beyond my comprehension.
At this point, I’m too overwhelmed to continue wandering around the web.
More adventure next Sunday . . .
It’s easier now to focus on going up to the house to do something simple.
Making bacon and eggs and toast for Sunday brunch.
It’s feeding time for the zoo.
January 22, 2015
\Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
Residual snow and ice just about gone.
Increasing mud and mushiness and road ruts.
The Great Horned Owls have started their horny mating calls.
“Who, who – who-who.” – a late night sign of early spring.
I never hear a response that sounds like “Me, me – me-me.”
But I assume the messages that are sent are received, and owl
hide-and seek-is going well in the trees down by Pack Creek.
Here’s a line of thinking as a follow-up to last week’s posting about using the right crayons to color inside or outside the lines of a picture.
It’s a re-considered and revised version of a story that was added
to the 25th anniversary edition of my Kindergarten book.
It seems relevant to our current cultural churning.
In the summer of 2010 I learned that I am now “White.”
Awakened from an afternoon nap by my wife’s voice talking to someone on our front porch, I called out in sleepy stupor:
“Who was that?”
“A lady from the Census Bureau of the United States of America.”
“Did she ask about me?”
“Yes. One question was: ‘Does anybody sleep on our couch?’ and I told her that would be you – and she could view you in place at the moment if she wished.
“You might be interested to know you are White now.”
“No. White. Caucasian is not a racial category anymore.”
This is good news. I never really liked being Caucasian.
That’s someone whose racial roots are in a mountain range in the middle of the former Soviet Union - the Ukraine, maybe.
Not me. Never was.
I feel better being declassified by the government.
But not so good about being re-classified without my consent.
That’s a color, not a race.
I know. It just means ‘of European ancestry - Europoid.
But Europeans aren’t White, either.
The last time I was in Europe, I looked around..
Mostly pinks and browns and grays and yellows.
If skin color means something, we ought to be accurate, don’t you think?
The next time the census people go to work they ought to bring a color chart like the ones used in paint stores.
You could pick your color by holding your hands and face up to the chart.
That seemed like such a fine idea that I made a special trip to a paint store to test the method and check me out.
(I emphasize here that just considering hands and face won’t do.
They are the color most affected by sun and use.
They don’t really match the rest of you.
Next time you’re naked in front of the bathroom mirror, check you out carefully.
The truth is that the area most original in color is your butt.
Even that’s not White, in my case - more the pale color of aging vanilla yoghurt.
Overall, my skin coloration could be a pattern for nursing home camouflage.
But in the paint store I just looked at matches for what could be exposed in public - hands, face, legs, backside of arms, and cautiously, my stomach.)
The paint samples most like colors of me ranged from “Walnut” at the dark end to “Candle Light” - with areas in between of “Vegetable Patch”, “Melon Cup”, Cappuccino”, “Orange Creamsickle”, “Honey”, “Rose”, “Ivory”, and a few spots of “Aubergine”, “Magenta” and “Pennies From Heaven.”
That news ought to impress the census taker next time.
My wife is a professional artist, and when I asked her what colors she would mix up to paint me, she looked me over and said, “Umber, yellows, reds, blacks, blues, and even a touch of green.”
“Well, that would be the base to start with, but there wouldn’t really be much white showing when I finished. I don’t care what the census lady said. You’re not White and never will be.”
In truth, I am a Colored person - a mongrel mutant - mostly blotchy beige.
Easily mistaken for lumpy pillows on the couch.
And it was just as well that was the case when the nice lady from the Census Bureau of the United States of America came to call.
The category, “Colored” is not in her manual.
And I don’t think she would have been open to the reality of me rising up off the couch to express my argumentative opinion.
Even if I showed her my butt.
As for race, we know now from DNA and genetic testing that most of us are
a mongrel mix.
The categorical imperatives of the Census Bureau just aren’t accurate.
Despite their good intentions, some further revision is required.
I’ve lived long enough to remember being alive and aware growing up in the South
when there were separate restrooms and water fountains and entrances
marked “For Colored.”
For the sole use of those forced to live their lives inside the lines drawn by the law and cultural discrimination.
We were segregated and separated by color as an indicator of race.
Things have changed – improved a lot – but the work remains unfinished.
Essential to progress is a personal mindset:
I think of myself as a colored man now.
All of us – all of us - are colored.
In the many shades of the human race.
I repeat – I am not White – I am Colored.
If you want proof, I’ll drop my pants for you.
link to this story
January 18, 2015
Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
Snow still melting – an ongoing warming trend makes for red mud and black ice.
Yet, out of the mush, the willows pull life up and out into buds.
It’s still cold and clear at night – but the pussy-willows are in a defiant mood.
NO BORDERS . . .
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who would not color inside the lines.
She was supposed to do that – but she did not.
She could have failed kindergarten.
Her teacher handed out white paper with line drawings on them.
For example: a picture of cowboys and Indians and horses and buffaloes.
“Neatness counts,” the teacher said. “Be careful to stay within the lines.”
She added: “And use the right colors.”
The little girl’s colors obeyed no lines or borders.
One color blended into another – colors were even applied in layers.
Indians melted into buffaloes - as did cowboys and horses.
The sky was shades of green - fading into turquoise plains.
When the teacher came around to collect the assignment, she asked the little girl, “What’s this? What have you done? What were you thinking?”
The little girl was too young to know the words to explain her art.
She could only smile.
This went on for weeks.
Line drawings of boats and trains, dogs and cats, even the American flag.
Colored outside the lines – in colors outside the borders of rules.
Her sky was always shades of green.
The teacher also noticed that the little girl had scratched out all the names on all the crayons in her box.
“Colors don’t have names,” she explained.
The child’s concerned parents and teachers considered the possibilities:
Maybe she had some kind of psychological disorder – a mental syndrome.
Perhaps there was something wrong with her eyes – a vision problem.
Or just maybe she was rebelling against authority in a very subtle way.
None of this applied – and there were no other signs of deviations from the norm.
The parents and teachers accepted what they could not change or understand.
Wisely, they chose not to interfere with the little girl’s style of art.
They decided to wait and see – they waited – and the child continued to see – all
coloring assignment as an opportunity to express herself in her own way.
So it went - all through elementary school.
She remained the little girl who did not color inside the lines.
She never said why.
I know this story because the kindergarten teacher told me.
* * *
It’s OK to be different – but being different is never easy.
Especially if you want to keep your difference inside yourself.
Keeping secrets in a private life takes strength of character.
I think of all those who grew up knowing they were gay or lesbian, for example.
Who had to live inside the lines in a world that could not accept or understand.
Knowing you are not quite like everybody else can be a great sorrow.
Or, perhaps, a secret pleasure – as with the little girl who would not color
inside the lines – and only smiled when asked why.
Who can say how she privately thought about herself and the world?
Her inner solitude was a safe refuge from the tyranny of lines.
* * *
One September afternoon in the years when I was an art teacher, a young woman came to see me in my office at the end of the school day.
I had not seen her before – because, as I learned, she had just enrolled.
Nothing particular in the way of her dress or appearance set her apart from the rest of the student body.
But if I could have seen inside her mind, I would have known she was not the standard high school sophomore.
She said that because I was the Chairman of the Art Department, she had a proposal to make – especially in light of the school’s requirement for credit for courses taken in the Fine Arts.
She did not want to take art courses because she thought art was not something that could be taught.
(Really? Please go on . . .)
She said that she had always loved drawing and painting – but she did that on her own, and didn’t want to have to submit her art for judgment or grades.
She did want to know more about the work and life of some famous artists, and she wanted to have suggestions about artists to study that she didn’t know about.
She proposed a tutorial – in the style of English universities.
She would talk to me about her views and understanding of artists who interested and inspired her.
And she would study the artists I recommended and discuss them with me.
She did not want to write any papers – because she thought most of what was written about art was meaningless.
(Really? Please go on . . .)
She wanted me to give her course credit based on the quality of her thinking as expressed in our conversations.
She realized she was asking for special consideration, but she was willing to do the work, and I could be the judge of the quality and merit of what she did.
If she deserved course credit, fine – if not – well some things don’t work out.
(I remember feeling that my work, too, would be evaluated – by her.)
Her proposal was a worthy one – and a challenge for both of us.
I agreed – yes – I was willing to give her proposal a try . . . .
As she was leaving she said that one of her elementary school teachers knew me, knew that she was coming to Lakeside, and thought I would approve of the tutorial plan she requested.
Her teacher told her to ask me if I remembered her story about the girl who never would color inside the lines.
“Yes. Do you know her?”
“Yes, I do know her. That’s me.”
(Oh really? . . .Well . . . this is going to be interesting.)
* * *
“Is this story true?” - you well may ask.
Simply said, Yes.
As an acknowledged story-teller, I often write fiction or embellish facts.
But not this time.
Of course, the process of memory over time has polished and shaped what I know.
And there are gaps in the story that I have filled for lack of knowledge – gaps filled by reasonable assumptions - so noted.
But the little girl who would not color inside the lines is real.
Sadly, for me, the young woman and I never engaged in the tutorial.
She didn’t even finish the first term – perhaps an academically rigorous curriculum
was not a good fit for her?
I heard that might be the case.
Perhaps she did not feel at home with her peers?
Or perhaps it was because her parents were moving away because her father had been transferred.
That was mentioned as well.
I never got to know her.
And I never saw her again.
A great disappointment for me.
I feel I could have learned a great deal from her.
So what became of her?
I imagine that she took responsibility for her own learning all her life.
A formal college degree?
I doubt it.
But is she well educated?
And I am sure that her life has been a work of art.
I wish I had known her well enough to be an ongoing witness to the blooming of a flourishing life.
I tell you this story because I was recently in touch with a former student who knew the girl I’ve been telling you about.
He asked me if I remembered her.
Of course – what became of her?
He said he heard she had long been a senior administrator on the support staff of Medicins Sans Frontieres – Doctors Without Borders.
Now she was in Africa – Sierra Leone - in the fight against Ebola.
A very risky, dangerous place to be.
He hoped she was all right.
I guess she still uses all the colors in the box.
And some of her colors are not in the box.
They are in her mind – in her imagination and soul.
She’s still coloring outside the lines.
Her sky, like her life, is still shades of green.
link to this story
January 11, 2015
Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
Snow melting – a warming trend makes for black ice and red mud.
Cold and clear at night
New snow on the way over the weekend, so the weather shaman says.
Saturn is the morning star, rising just at dawn.
Jupiter is the evening star, rising after sunset.
The American Astronomical Society is meeting in Seattle this week. It’s called the “Superbowl of Astronomy” - because the event hosts more than 2,600 scientists from all over the world. All the big astronomy news from of the past year will be on review - along with all the proposals for going deeper into space.
How I wish to be there!
Just to see and hear all the men and women who spend their lives looking way up and thinking way out.
Seems like that hardly a week goes by without some startling news in astronomy.
Just a few days ago it was announced that two new planets have been discovered orbiting stars in the “goldilocks zone” where conditions are favorable for life on a planet like ours – even life just like ours. . .
Walking around outside last night, looking up and out into space, I imagined this:
LOOKING UP – THINKING OUT . . .
When I opened my e-mail this morning, I found this message:
!ereH no su morf sgniteerg, olleH.
The e-mail continued:
“No, there’s nothing wrong with your eyes or your computer.
This is a message from a representative of one of the new planets your astronomers have just discovered – labeled Kepler 438b by your scientists.
We speak the same languages you do, but we write and read from right to left.
So our message translates as: “Hello, greetings from us on Here!”
We call our planet “ereH” – that’s “Here” - because that’s where we are.
It’s only polite to say Hello – we use another word, but it doesn’t translate well.
It sounds something like ooowah or wahoo. (hawooo – oohaw)
The only other substantial difference between Earth and Here is that we are several hundreds of years further along the turning of the Wheel of Change.
It’s somewhat like our being identical twins – which are never perfectly identical because the fingerprints differ slightly, and over time, differences exist because of life experiences and environment. The older they get, the more twins differ.
This is the case with Earth and Here.
Because Here is older than Earth, our science and technology are much further advanced, so that we just recently have developed the ability to observe Earth in real time at a speed you cannot even conceive of yet – faster than the speed of light, actually.
Our present time and your present time are almost the same for us.
Granted, it’s exciting and a also a little scary for us to be able to reach out to Earth, especially knowing that Earth cannot reach back to us yet.
But we have decided to accept the possible hazards of the adventure and see what happens.
You would do the same, right?
Our planet and its history is so identical to Earth that if you could have been here hundreds of years ago it would seem just like home to you in every way – except for the way we write and read, of course.
(Even we don’t have a good explanation for that.)
Don’t be too surprised or skeptical about what I am telling you.
Do the math – your Milky Way – galaxy - has at least 200 billion stars in it.
The odds are that there are at least 11 billion habitable earth-size planets.
And the odds that some of those are just exactly like Earth and Here are very high on a probability scale.
I write to tell you that it is not just probable, it is true.
The e-mail continued:
Being so far ahead of you we thought we would first give you the benefit of some of our experience that might be of use to you as you move into your future.
There’s way too much to share in one message, but here are ten thoughts for now:
1. The evolution of everything continues – change does not and will not cease.
Climate, culture, civilizations, living things – change is at the heart of the universe.
2. Life is everywhere in the universe, and always in flux.
Everything that is – is compost – part of the Great Cycle of Being.
3. On the other hand, basic human nature changes very slowly – we on Here are not all that different than we were hundreds of years ago.
4. Things will always get better and worse – often at the same time.
But every difficulty contains opportunity.
5. Earth and people can cope with evolutionary change, no matter how radical, because you and we have – for 200,000 years or so.
6. We have learned to “never say never” – but these things seem ever more improbable: Time Travel and Space Travel. There is no way to go backward or forward in time. There are limits to technology and resources. We are also limited by our physiology. But, we also say “you never know” because there still seems to be no limits to our capacity to wish and wonder and imagine and adventure.
7. We still are not in agreement about the existence of God in any form – faith and fact still conflict, but the good news is that we no longer try to settle our differences with violence. It’s likely that will happen in Earth, as well.
8. You might wonder about what lasts as time goes by. Love, sex, poetry, music, justice, laughter, dreams, hope – continue. AI - artificial intelligence - doesn’t and can’t replace these.
Of course, greed and corruption and ambition and violence are still in business, too, but we have a better handle on how to minimize and control those things.
9. Speed does not increase the quality of life – being on the receiving end or giving end of the fire hose does not enhance our humanity – (Yes, we still think of ourselves as human – namuh is our word.) We’ve learned that slow is better. The same is true for size – smaller is better, too.
10. All things considered, you will not come to visit us or we visit you. But we want you to know that there are already people just like you way out in space.
We think about you when we look out into space at night.
You are there.
We hope you will think of us, now and then.
We are Here.
And I bet you already know all ten of these lines of thought – we’re just confirming that some things hold true – so, be not of faint heart – going onward is worth it.
Enough for now – more later . . .
signed:. Muhgluf A. Trebor (coincidence! – almost the same name as yours)
* * *
So – could an e-mail like that really appear in my in-box?
Well . . . you can imagine . . .
* * *
This journal entry is not all my doing.
My son, Hunter, is an electronics engineer in his early fifties.
His lively mind and world experience make him a worthy companion when it comes to tossing ideas around.
He’s smarter than I am and knows a lot of things I don’t.
We collaborated on this piece of writing.
For some relevant photos, see my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum
link to this story
January 04, 2015
Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
4 January, 2015
Snow still covers the ground . . .
Cold – down to zero last night – clear sky -
Full moon tonight.
Note, this web-journal depends on your having seen some photos introduced by a link posted on my Facebook page. Go there before you read on.
THE PEOPLE OF THE EDGE
Question: What’s the scariest physical thing you ever did on purpose?
I don’t mean the crazy things you did when you were a stupid little kid and didn’t know any better.
I mean the scariest thing you’ve done as an adult – on a dare or for a thrill or just for the bloody hell of it..
The question is a good for after-dinner conversation with guests – I’m always surprised to learn about the chances taken by people I think I know well.
Really? You did that and lived to tell the tale? Wow!
When I first saw the photos of the space-jumping-web, I sucked in my breath.
No way I would get out there, much less jump.
Catapedaphobia is the word for being afraid of jumping from high places.
I have that.
In truth, I was actually suspicious of the authenticity of the pictures – they could be a well-crafted photo-shop hoax.
But I asked around Moab at places where the hard-bodied, risk-taking adrenalin junkies hang out, and was told that the space web was the real deal.
Nobody wanted to talk much about it because there might be some problems with BLM permits and legal rights to the video.
Besides, the people who were involved had all left town for the winter – for warmer climates and new thrills.
When I asked where it was because I wanted to go see it, I was told that it had been taken down and probably would not be constructed again in the future.
Nevertheless – the event happened – the photos are for real.
And the images stuck in my mind – set me to thinking . . .
What’s the scariest physical things I’ve ever done as an adult – on purpose?
Most took place many years ago in my younger days.
Mountain climbing free, without safety ropes.
Rafting through big rapids in a kayak.
Sky diving – just once.
Bull riding in small-town rodeos.
Jumping off a cliff into the sea.
I can’t believe I did those things – but I did.
As I say, all that was years ago.
What have I done recently that’s scary?
As one ages, thrill-seeking diminishes in its attraction.
Just driving a car on a crowded freeway at 70 miles an hour is sufficiently scary.
I’m finally old enough to be wise about what’s dangerous and why.
It’s not a matter of fear – but of appropriate anxiety based on experience.
That line of thinking slides into the next question:
What am I afraid of?
Death? – no.
Spiders, snakes, the dark, the boogie-man under the bed? No
I do have emetophobia – the irrational fear of vomiting.
I say I have that fear, but apparently my body does not, because it does it when necessary, despite my pleading. No. . . No . . . please No . . .
And I’m mildly claustrophobic – ill at ease in small spaces and big crowds.
But that’s about it.
I’m old enough to know that life is scary, and that it’s all mind over matter -
If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter all that much.
What are you afraid of?
Go to this web site to find a name for your fear: http://phobialist.com/
Whatever you fear, there’s a name for it – and you’re not alone.
Sometimes giving your fear a name and confronting it helps.
Remember the little boy in Sendak’s story, Where the Wild Things Are?
He looked into the yellow eyes of the monsters without blinking – and they did him no harm, just danced around his bed.
I took another look at the photos of the web-in-space again.
Those I’ve talked to about the photos all had strong responses:
“Fabulous, where do I sign up?”
“Insane – those people are crazy.”
“Too bad all that creative energy couldn’t be better put to use.”
And, surprisingly, some of those in the extreme-sports category did not approve.
“It’s using the out of doors for circus acts.”
“Exhibitionists – they should have done it and kept it to themselves.”
“A nurse I know volunteered to go to Africa to fight Ebola – that’s the only kind of scary I respect.”
One friend said the web-in-the-sky photo connected him to the way he felt when he got out of bed some mornings – stepping into a hole in space – into the emptiness of his mind, his life, and the New Year.
What’s your response to the web-in-the-sky adventure?
* * *
Well enough . . . I leave this human conundrum in your hands.
There is no moral to this story.
No slam-dunk piece of profound wisdom to put the human race in perspective.
No advice, either – just a question:
Why is there no limit to what human beings will think of do next?
There’s no consensus on that.
So leave out the “why” -
And the question becomes:
Is there no limit to what human beings will think of or do next?
We don’t know – but so far, probably not.
So all that’s left is a simple declarative sentence.
There is no limit to what human beings will think of to do next.
There, that’s the truth about us – for better or worse – the truth.
link to this story
We are the People of the Edge.
And we can’t seem to see the edge from where we are.