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JOURNAL

The Great Wheel

Wishing

Hard to Ignore

Rules of Thumb

Hand Jive

Eight Pieces of the Puzzle of the Week Just Past

The Museum of Small Wonders

Snapshots in Summer Light

Crossing Guards

Bicycle Sex



Finally, the English Edition!
Third Wish
A NOVEL IN FIVE PARTS

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Please Note: This journal contains a wide variety of stuff -- complete stories, bits and pieces, commentary, and who-knows-what else. As is always the case these days, the material is protected by copyright. On the other hand, I publish it here to be shared. Feel free to pass it on. Just give me credit. Fair enough?
August 26, 2014

Seattle, Washington
The last week of August, 2014
An ongoing string of clear skies, warm days, and cool nights.
Some early morning fog and clouds.

THE GREAT WHEEL

Our city decided to construct a spiritual monument.
Something large and imposing – along the Elliot Bay waterfront.
A significant expression of peace and tranquility.
An image of universal process.
To be placed alongside one of our busiest traffic routes.

Its purpose would be to remind the citizens of the larger context
of existence and the place of human beings in the universe.
The monument would balance the stress of mundane daily life with an image of the mystery of eternal truths.
Drawing on images out of deep history, we decided to construct a Great Wheel.
A moving mandala – a metaphor for the Circle of Being, the Wheel of Fortune,
and the Wheel of Time.

*(see “images for the Great Wheel of Life” – http://goo.gl/lXLprV )

Ours would be three dimensional, 175 feet tall, turn slowly, and be brightly lit at night so that it might be seen from far away.
Passengers would enter its compartments at ground level, rise slowly to the top, float on around and down, and at the end, get off where they got on.
While riding they would get a look at the frantic traffic of the city, then the sky and sea - sometimes sunrise or sunset - sometimes the phases of the moon, stars, and usually the far Olympic Mountains.
The riders would be connected with the motion of everything that goes round.

Our Great Wheel would be a metaphor – standing for sanity and perspective.
It was hoped that the slow, graceful ride would be calming.
It would give passengers a sense of the wide world and their place in it.
It was hoped that the riders would walk away a little bit enlightened.
And so, two years ago, the Great Wheel was built, and is operational now.
You can see a photograph of it on my Facebook page –
Please take a look at it before you read any further.

( https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum )

* * *

“It’s just a Ferris Wheel,” you will say to yourself.
Well, yes, I suppose you can think of it that way.
Or - you can see it as I have – as a spiritual monument.
A positive example of the Law of Unintentional Consequences.

Ferris Wheels have been around for a long time.
They first came to prominence at the World’s Columbian Exposition held in
Chicago in 1893.
George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., was the designer.
He intended it as a source of entertainment and amusement.
And since that day Ferris Wheels have been built all over the world.
Most major cities have one now.
The largest one is in Las Vegas – 550 feet tall – The High Roller.
An even larger one is under construction in Dubai- 610 feet high.

*( see “images for the Great Wheel” - http://goo.gl/XMh6Ki )

Some people are devoted to roller coasters.
Some say a roller coaster would be a better monument to existence.
And there’s some merit in that.
But not for me - I get my share of terror just driving on a freeway.
I don’t need to be reminded how scary life can be.
I’m a Ferris Wheel man – devoted to slow rides.

My all-time favorite is the small one at the carnival that set up rides at our county fair every year at the end of August – in a field near Waco, Texas.
I went at night when the dust of the day had settled and the air had cooled.
The two-person cars were open to the sky, and if the timing was right the wheel would stop while I and my date were at the very top, gently swinging back and forth to calliope music, with the colored lights of the midway far below, and the stars far above – and us in between.
I was never scared up there – never thought I might throw up.
I felt like flying up and away into the sky.

Looking back, I realize now that it was a small taste of infinite forever.

As I write, the words of two songs come to mind.
One sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary:

Take your place on The Great Mandala
As it moves through your brief moment of time.
Win or lose now you must choose now
And if you lose you’re only losing your life.

And the chorus from a song written by Tom Dundee:

And it’s all such a delicate balance
Takes away just as much as it gives,
To live it is real, to love it is to feel
You’re a part of what everything is.

And it’s all such a delicate balance
As it turns through the circles of air,
To worry does nothing but steals from the loving
And robs from the pleasure that’s there.

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August 21, 2014

Seattle, Washington
The third week of August, 2014
An ongoing string of clear skies, warm days, and cool nights.
with a few days of welcome showers to cleanse the air.

WISHING

Once upon a time ago, there was,
or may have been . . .
A man, a woman, a child . . .
Who went out to seek . . .
They met a frog, an old lady, a wizard . . .
They were given three wishes . . .
Stones and wishbones . . .
Little did they know . . .
And then one day . . .
Come to find out . . .
Three times three . . .
A year and a day . . .
From that time on . . .
Until this very day . . .
They lived, ever after
Sometimes happily . . .
Sometimes not . . .
But well enough . . .

It’s been a long time since I was told a story.
And almost as long a time since I told one.
But I remember the enchantment:
Evenings around a fire at summer camp – ghost stories.
Bed times before a child fell asleep – fairy tales.

In my novel, Third Wish, Alice is a teller of stories.
She is on the Greek island of Crete.
She spins tales to enchant her friend, Alex.
Like this:

“I have a surprise for you – three wish bones.
They contain wishes, but you must think of them only as metaphors.
Alas, if we actually pull them apart, one of us will get the lucky long half and the other one will get the unlucky short half.
It’s too risky to chance it – one of us will be disappointed.
Just keep the bones as symbols of the trickiness of wishing.”

As they walked along the beach, Alice picked up three smooth stones, and rolled them around in the palm of her hand with her fingers, as if conjuring something from them.

“Alex, would you like to hear a story about wishing?”
“Yes, Tell me.”

“Well, then, as you would begin: The day after once upon a time, not so long ago and not so far away, there may have been an island in the sea much like this one. So people say.

One day a small sailing boat landed on a beach much like this one.
A young woman got out. People went to meet her.
Where do you come from, they asked?
The Coast of Tennessee, she replied.
But Tennessee has no coast.
Really? I could have sworn it did. I was misinformed.

How did you come here, they asked?
From out there. Through three doors:
The Door of Desire, The Door of Confusion, and the Door of Possibility.”
But there are no doors on the sea, they said.
Really? Well, I must be confused.

What can we do for you?
Take me to your king.
We do not have a king. Never have.
Really? Is this not the Island of Any-Where-But-Here?
No.
Oh dear, not again, she said. And she began to cry.
Why have you come, they asked?
I was given three wishes.
I wished for a boat. I wished for a journey. And I wished to see the king.
I’m not where I wanted to be. And I’ve used up my wishes.”
Ah, well, you have been deceived. Or you deceived yourself. But all is not lost. Actually, you are only misguided about the nature of wishing.
What do you mean?”

Long ago we stopped making normal wishes. We found they only led to trouble and disappointment. Especially when employed in threes.
Now we trust only in retroactive wishes, one wish at a time.”
Retroactive wishes?

Yes. When you find yourself in a fine place having a fine time, you might remember a time when your life was awful and how, back then you would have wished you were here.
But, you are here now. Look around you. It’s a wonderful place to be. Where you are is exactly what you would have wished for, had you known. It’s a retroactive wish come true.
Choose three pebbles from this beach to remind you of what you found.

“And she did that,” said Alice –“three pebbles like these.”
Alice placed the smooth stones into Alex’s hand.
“And she lived happily ever after?” he asked.
“Oh, no, nobody ever does that.
But she lived happily for the time being, and that was enough.
Throw the pebbles into the care of the sea.”

And he did that.

(See my Facebook page for photo of the wishbones and stones)
http://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum

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August 18, 2014

Seattle, Washington
The middle of August, 2014
An ongoing string of clear skies, warm days, and cool nights.
with a few days of welcome showers to cleanse the air.

HARD TO IGNORE

Monday morning perspective:

While I don’t do political or social blogging or comment on the daily bad news of the world, sometimes what happens in public close by me is so significant that I can’t really ignore it.

Hemp Fest opened three blocks away in the waterfront park last Friday, for a three-day run.
This is the festival’s 23rd year.
As you may know by now, Washington State voters legalized the sale of cannabis. Hemp Fest has been the mainspring of the energy behind that new law (http://www.hempfest.org/about/history/)

About 25,000 people at a time were allowed into a very well organized venue focused on marijuana and personal freedom.
The event featured non-stop music, countless shops and vendors, impassioned speeches, and political dignitaries.

That same evening, at the other end of the waterfront, the Seattle Seahawks played their first home game since winning the Super-Bowl. 70,000 fans went to the game – and the TV screens in all the sports bars in my neighborhood were jammed full of more fans, who spilled out onto the sidewalks to cheer an exciting win.

Not a few people combined the two events into one – peacefully migrating from the Hemp Fest to the game at the stadium.
As far as I have been able to tell, there were no incidents of criminal behavior – no fights, no shootings, no fires, no looting, no violence in the streets.
A policeman I talked to this morning said it was a very mellow evening downtown – nothing out of the ordinary.
The Hemp Fest went on through the weekend and closed last night at eight – and the waterfront venue was being scrupulously cleaned and tidied this morning by industrious volunteers.

I try to write about what I know, and try to notice what’s nearby.
So, then, for what it’s worth, that’s what happened in my neighborhood over the weekend.
However one judges it, it was what it was,

Hard to ignore . . .

* * *

The masked fiddler was back busking in Ballard on Sunday morning.
A little girl disguised as the Lone Ranger – playing her violin.
(http://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum)
Many of the photos on my Facebook page have been taken at Seattle’s Ballard Farmer’s Market this summer.
I go every Sunday morning.
To shop for fruit and vegetables and flowers.
To eat breakfast with friends.
To enjoy the sounds and courage of street musicians.
And most of all to stand still and notice the graceful ways of the merchants and customers as they interact with one another over the abundance of the summer’s harvest.
It’s like watching a slow-motion dance form.

Nothing extraordinary or dramatic about this.
But I always leave in an upbeat mood - feeling I have been in touch with something decent and good and elemental in human affairs.
It’s my private spiritual response to a public secular event.

On my way home I sometimes detour through a cemetery and walk a little ways through the final resting place of those who have gone on before me.
Just to keep my existence in perspective.

When I do, I go away thinking thoughts like these:

The good of the world rests in the lives of ordinary people going about their daily-ness in a spirit of social decency – doing unto others the right thing in the right way because civil society depends on that.

I desire that I be counted among their number. . .

They live a life faithful to the common good, not realizing how heroic their contribution to the human enterprise is.
Some smoked weed - some did not.
Some watched football – some did not.
Most practiced a live-and-let-live approach to the human race. 
No monuments are raised over their quiet graves – but they are the noble majority who make this world livable.

Hard to ignore . . .

I suppose that’s a naive position in light of the news of the world this morning – all the trauma and disease and bloodshed and violence.
The good news and the bad news exist side by side – always.
One cannot turn away from any of it.

I understand that one must go on without being stymied by what seems to be so contradictory – that the world is a horrible place and a lovely place at the same time.

Hard to ignore . . .

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August 10, 2014

Seattle, Washington
The second week of August, 2014
An ongoing string of clear skies, warm days, and cool nights
Full moon tonight – August 10th.

First, a sheepish apology:
A photo recently posted on my Facebook page offended some people.
It showed my hand, palm toward the viewer, middle finger held up to display its worn and crooked state, as referred to in the journal essay.
I only intended to say, “Look at this.”
As I would in conversation.
It was not intended to be an obscene gesture meaning “Up Yours.”
In that case, the hand would be shown in the reverse position.
Subtle difference, I know, but important.
Forgive me for being naive.

Here’s a continuation of my thinking when considering my hands –
focusing down on my opposable thumbs:

RULES OF THUMB

In the same morning semi-stupor-before-caffeine, I rummaged around
in the drawers of odds and ends in my mental clutter for thumb stuff.
Here, in no particular order, was what I found:

The song, “Where is thumbkin, where is thumbkin?”
The story of “Thumbelina” by Hans Christian Anderson.
The ability to thumb my nose in disdain.
The idea of having a green thumb
The memory of sucking my thumb as a child.

(In the spirit of open-mindedness, I tried it again – BLECH!)

The idea that the opposable thumb is the mother of technology.
I twiddle my thumbs when bored.
Thumb gestures are emphatic.
Thumbs up is an affirmation – meaning yes, good, excellent.
Thumbs down means no, bad, reject.
Thumb out at an angle means I want a ride or “You’re out!” in a sporting event like baseball.
Thumb and finger in a circle means OK or perfect.
The nursery rhyme of Little Jack Horner, who stuck in his thumb. . .
Thumb at a 90 degree angle means move it over.

(By the way, thumbs up in Greece is an obscene gesture, as is the thumb-to-index finger circle – sorry to bring this up, but there are Greeks who read this journal and I didn’t want to leave them out.)

And then there’s the notion of a Rule of Thumb.
Wikipedia puts the definition succinctly:

“A rule of thumb is a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. It is an easily learned and easily applied procedure for approximately calculating or recalling some value, or for making some determination.”

For example, my thumb at the first knuckle is about one inch wide.
And I often use that rule when rough-cutting wood.
From the tip of my nose to my outstretched arm at fingertip is a yard.
With my shoe on, my foot is twelve inches long.
My usual walking stride is 3 feet.
I can’t put my foot in my mouth . . . not literally.

(At this point in the meditation I got up and found a tape measure to see what other parts of my body might be a reference. My wife caught me doing this, and she didn’t say it, but I could read it in her eyes that maybe I should measure around my stomach while I was into research.)

Beyond the actual thumb, there are other general references I often use in an active way:

There are about six glasses in a standard wine bottle.
For the best buy in tasty wines, choose blends.
If your feet are cold, put on your hat.
If you don’t like waiting for a doctor or dentist, make the first appointment in the morning.
Coats: If you don’t take it with you, you can’t put it on, but if you do bring it, you can always take it off.
An acre is about the same as the size of a football field minus the two end zones.
If you are out on any kind of tightrope, keep moving, don’t look down.
If the black dog of depression assaults you, don’t feed it or pet it.
If you want to know what the weather is, go outside and look at it.
When taking a long trip, take half the clothes and twice the money.
One hour nap equals two hours of night sleep.
Everything looks better at a distance.
Most things are not as good or as bad as they first seem.
Two’s company, three’s either a crowd - or a small party.
Measure twice, cut once.
Dogs that bark, don’t bite – dogs that growl, will.
Look both ways when crossing streets.

Now I realize I’m getting into aphorisms, maxims and life directions – bordering on all I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.

In a more alert state after coffee, I consulted the web.
There is a site called rulesofthumb.com.
With 5,537 entries. http://rulesofthumb.org/
I read up to 2,160 of them and began to go mind-numb.
They can be viewed by categories, if you want specific rules.

While it was fascinating to have a glance into the workings of lives so different from mine, many don’t apply to me – I don’t own cows or run a dairy, fly a plane, or do complex calculations involving math.

There were a few rules of thumb I filed away under the category of “good to know just in case . . .”
For example:
Run in a zig-zag pattern when fleeing from a crocodile.
Run downhill when fleeing from a bear.
Veer right when running from a polar bear – they are left-pawed.

There.
That’s enough, don’t you think?
And you?
Add your rules of thumb to my Facebook page.
Onward . . .
http://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum

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August 05, 2014

Seattle, Washington
The beginning of August, 2014
Clear skies, warm days, cool nights

August 5, 2014
Walking out on my deck at dawn, I noticed heavy fog on Elliot Bay.
Nice. Fog makes for a welcome soft beginning to a summer day.
Walking back inside, I realized my mind was befogged, as well.
But that’s the normal situation for most early mornings for me.

Slumping into my favorite easy chair in a pleasant state of stupor, I waited for First Aid in the form of First Cup of Coffee provided by my wifely nurse, who is adept at assisted living.

Since there was nothing I must do this morning, stupor and coffee were a compatible combination.

In this condition, my mind is free to roam as it will, or rummage around in the mental drawers where odds and ends are dumped.

With my chin resting on my chest, my eyes focused on my own hands.

Hands . . .  I seldom notice them or consider them . . . .
So I did that.

In random order, here’s what came to mind:

HAND JIVE

If it is true that all the cells in one’s body are replaced every seven years, then these are not the same identical hands I had in 2007 or before that.
Why is it, then, that the big scar on my left index finger keeps reappearing in exactly the same place and form?
How do the outgoing cells pass on the instruction to the incoming cells?
Is my body keeping the scar as a reminder that accidents happen?
Am I being reminded that stupid use of sharp tools is trouble?
Are these dumb questions?
Probably.

When I consider my right hand I note that my middle finger is peculiarly crooked – evidence of injuries acquired from amateur bull riding when I aspired to be a rodeo cowboy – back when I was young and even more of an idiot than I am sometimes now.
Good to have an ongoing reminder of that.

Hands . . . bear history.
Mine now are splotched with big brown patches – the sign of sun exposure – plus wear and tear and use – the marks of aging.

Memory: A summer street Fair in Copenhagen once upon a time.
A tent with a sign with a big illustration of an open palm with lines and numbers on it.
A gypsy fortune teller – a reader of palms?
Never been to see a gypsy.
Out of curiosity, I went inside.
No gypsy.

Just a matronly blond Danish lady sitting at a table covered with a dark green cloth. Without speaking she held out her open hands to me.
Without speaking, I sat down and placed both my hands in hers.
For the longest time she gently and carefully examined them, top and bottom – tracing lines, touching scars and studying my nails.
Then she spoke to me thoughtfully as if creating poetry.
I have no idea what she said.
She spoke in Danish.
I do not speak or understand Danish.

Nevertheless, my memory of the event is strong.
The image of her considering my hands is vivid.
I had never done what she was doing.
I remember thinking that if I had to help identify my own body in a morgue by describing my hands, I might not have been able to do it.
But now, thanks to the Danish palmist, I could - and still can.

Hands . . .

The first big Beatles hit song was “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”
It might have been, but wasn’t: “I Want To Kiss Your Lips.”
– or even “I Want To Suck Your Toes”?
(Try singing the song using one of those phrases instead of the original.)
The Beatles had it right.

What’s the most intimate and serious first gesture in a love affair?
The first kiss or the first time you hold hands?

If you keep holding hands even after they get sweaty, that’s love.

Hands. . . .

Why do I have five fingers on each hand?
Wouldn’t three fingers and a thumb do as well?

Before you read on: With your right hand, point at something across the room as if you were calling someone else’s attention to it.
Hold that position and look at the shape of your hand.
Index finger extended straight out, the rest folded into your palm.
No other creature makes that gesture.
Apes and monkeys and lemurs don’t point.
And humans don’t do that when alone.
Because pointing implies the presence of another person and the existence of language.

Though most of us don’t know American Sign Language as used by the hearing-impaired, all of us can talk with our hands in an eloquent way.
Think about the game of Charades.
Think about the performances of professional Mimes.
Think about how much you can convey across a noisy, crowded room to a companion. “Me. You. Finish your drink. Let’s split this scene. Yes.” All done with hand signals.

Watch other people talking when you cannot hear their words.
Look how vividly they use their hands to communicate.
Or, just for fun, have a conversation with your child or spouse without using any words – notice how much you can convey.
The Vocabulary of the Hands is not only eloquent, but almost infinite.

I can stand on my hands, even walk on them – not far, not long.
But I can still do it . . . I think . . . but now’s not the time to check.
Sitting up is my strongest move at the moment.

Wish I could use my feet like I can use my hands – as apes do.
Even more I wish I had a prehensile tale I could use to swing from trees.

When I see people holding hands it always gives me a good feeling.
Friends, lovers, old and young, little kids and parents – in touch.

Basic rule taught to us from the first day of school:
“When you go out into the world, hold hands, and stick together.”

Factoids:
There are either 27 or 29 bones in each hand.
Hair does not grow on the skin of the palm.
The fingerprints of each person are unique, but some people are born without fingerprints – born anonymous, in a way.

Hands . . .

I am right-handed. Why?
One of my sons is left-handed.
And a grandchild.
How and why did that happen?
Handed-ness has been studied in depth, but it’s still unclear why some of us are left-handed.

I remember checking the web once and finding out that there was an on-line store for Everything Left Handed, an international Left Handers Club, and an International Left-Handers Day – sometime in August, I think.

(Yes, I checked again – the web sites intrigued me – take a look – http://goo.gl/E8nEEt – the date is August 13 – celebrate a lefty or yourself if you are one.)

One of the problems that occurs when all left-handers get together is the awkwardness that comes from having accommodated to living in a right-handed world. Consciously shaking left hand to left hand still doesn’t feel quite right.

Hands . . . focus in closer . . .
Thumbs – the unique mark of our species.
Rules of Thumb come to mind.
That’s a whole other topic for another time.

Hands . . .

The only joke I know involving hands:
A man says to another man,
“So I hear you had a fight with your wife.”
“Yes, but I won – she came crawling to me on her hands and knees.”
“What did she say?”
“Come out from under the bed, you coward.”

* * *

Wait, I know one more:
A ship is passing a small island.
A man is seen alone on the shore, frantically waving his hands and jumping up and down.
“Who is that,” asked a passenger.
The Captain replied, “I don’t know, but every time we pass he waves like crazy.”

As, in a way, I am doing now, to you.

* * *

Enough.
The fog is lifting on a sunny day.
And the fog is clearing in my mind.
Coffee has come, the antidote to stupor.
Onward!

I leave this topic in your hands . . .
http://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum

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