Monday, October 31, 2011

Bewitching on Halloween

For several days now I have been thinking about Halloween. Of course, that is no surprise. Like a magic pollen, its intoxicating fragrance invades the swirling fallen leaves on my front porch and its corn candy scent wafts through the brisk Autumn air seeping into the cracks of the now dried flowers of my yard. From my office window a mirthful pumpkin-face across the street has transformed into a loyal friend who, at this moment, is witnessing approvingly the neighbor's diminutive pirates scurrying on the walk. It's also a time when I recollect that I once I dressed up as a pizza for a party at the Uppertown Pub and also recall driving my own masqueraded children, undaunted by a torrential downpour, along Youngs River Road to town in pursuit of adventure and sweet treasure.

On a different note, I considered this week more complex issues regarding this holiday. Thanks in part to my dearest friend Jenny, who related to me that the celebration of Halloween had been removed from her son's school and then, later by Tapirgal ,who shared with me that an employee had asked for personal time to be with his family out of religious convictions, I embarked on a serious questioning spree. I began to examine the term "witch", which (ha ha) was spurred on my memory of the yearly decorations in Astoria of hags on brooms smashed into lampposts. I asked myself whether these characterizations of old insane women may inappropriately perpetuate ancient prejudice in our society toward followers of Wicca. I had often voiced to friends that aetheists were most likely the most discriminated group in America until I weighed the chance that a declared Wicca follower being elected to office. This prompted me to learn more about this group and looked for information in "Wika"pedia. I also asked Raksha's opinion who shared generously both history and common ideas about Wicca and witchcraft.

I thought I heard a knock in my mind right now and opened to find before me both a real phantom and a play one holding hands. I gave them both a good looking-over and then dropped the words of this post into their orange-lanterned bucket. They have now receded and disappeared into the night but I expect to see them revisit next year. The hour is late and the wizard of sleep is spreading his vapor over the house. Before turning out the light, I eye the left- over candy. Eating one morsel could be like finding the fountain of youth. Mmmm. Now that's a rare treat!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The World is going to the .........!

When looking for unique photo opportunities while walking the riverwalk at Bend's Old Mill District, the following idea occured to me. How about taking a series of pictures showing the techniques, including facial expressions, of socially correct people picking up dogshit? This scatological thought precipitated in me the following questions regarding dogs and dog owners.

Have you ever tried to have a serious conversation with someone who has a conspicious bag of crap attached to a leash?

What is this with therapy dogs? Dogs are being trained as loyal companions for lonely or distraught people who then receive preferential treatment to take them into restaurants. Could this also apply to a disconsolate pirate with a parrot on his shoulder? I understand the value of seeing-eye dogs, but aren't dogs generally loyal companions to lonely people who normally leave them at home? I'm sorry you're depressed. So am I, especially because the presence of your dog is ruining my dinner.
Is it worth it? the barking, the chewing, the itching, the whining, the shedding, the spraying, the fleas, cleaning the piles, the escaping, the vet bill, the slobbering, the pulling, the biting, the misbehaving, the climbing up on people, and living under the gross misconception that everyone thinks your dog is cute?

Have you ever lived near an incessantly barking dog? It can drive the most docile person crazy and has been the object of many murderous thoughts. It has awakened even the most resolute sleeper. I know someone who in dreams slashed the neighbor's dog in the throat. Why should such noise be tolerated over the neighborhood? Maybe I should play drums loudly all night long and see where it gets me when I tell the police of my rights.

I am happy for individual differences and people can do what they want as long as it isn't cruel. Yet isn't it difficult to consider a person really sane who puts a dog in fashionable clothing? I know it is cold outside, but really, I think for the most part, its a conversation piece more than anything. What's next? A bathing suit when dogs goes swimming?

As a now retired real estate broker, let me share with you an old adage tossed around the business. "If it smells, it don't sells." Can you imagine how much energy is spent tiptoeing around sensitive sellers to tell them, as discreetly as possible, that the home has a "slight" pet odor? Can you imagine how much money has been spent repairing or replacing carpets or chewed moldings? Do you know how many customers fail to offer or offer less because the odor may not go away? In some areas angry fleas seek vengeance on unsuspecting buyers and realtors when the home becomes vacant. More than once either I or a buyer have stepped in a pile while admiring the yard. One time I failed to discover this casuality until I climbed back into the car and ground my shoe into the gas pedal. What has been even worse is receiving a seller's showing instruction. "Don't let the dog out". Either Little Lucy yaps its brains out during the entire visit or you squeeze the knob carefully to open the front door to let yourself and the customers in when suddenly a hyper-active chihuahua shoots between your legs down the front steps and out into the street and plants itself under a parked car.

What are people thinking who confuse dogs with humans? Now I understand that dogs serve as surrogate children for owners. Just listen to the complicated jibberish which is told to dogs and the incessant orders which are often not heeded, They speak in conversational English to an animal, as if it were about to learn the alphabet. These doting parents share with everyone who is willing to listen, how smart their dog is becoming. My aunt would often urge her dog on a walk to now go and do its business and then would report to the family any successful accomplishment. I am sure there are already some kind of doggy diaper on the market.

I am well aware that most of my blog readers have dogs and are dog lovers. I want you to know that I had two dogs, Jewel and Zeke. Jewel was run over because she insisted on chasing cars and attacking the tires. Zeke had a penchant for roaming in the middle of the night 3 to 4 miles to visit females and constantly required being retrieved. I hated leashing him up and he hated feeling captive. He was a great companion until the children were born and then became a most problematic family member for all the characteristics mentioned above. Our relationship with him deteriorated. We ran him less, paid less attention to his needs, as we were preoccupied with taking care of the children. Of course, the children liked having a dog, but it was a never-ending complicated responsibility. I have seen this pattern occur in lots of families and is best summed up in The Lady and the Tramp in the classic line by Scotty while comiserating with Lady who ends up on the street. "When the baby moves in, the dog moves out."

In any case, I may have barked a lot here. I am sure that my readers now have something to growl about, since I know you love your pets. You may want to attribute my littany as just the musings and complaints of a crabby old man, who might ease his loneliness with a trusty fido. I don't know think so. My saltwater fish like me and I like them, and they don't go crazy when the doorbell rings. Then again it is awfully quiet here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

On the Road Again

I have been back in America for a week and have had a nagging cold. I am told, as usual, the tedious information that colds have been going around and this person and that have had one. Nonetheless, I have managed to see a few relatives and friends and, when asked about my adventure, I have been hard-pressed to talk about my trip at all. Like before, when I returned from my global trip of a year and a half ago, I find it so difficult to talk about my feelings or thoughts or mention much about what I had seen. As expected, most people are primarily interested in hearing lurid details of my scrape with revolutionaries, exactly the kind of information which taints and distorts the positive message I had wanted to convey.

A number of folks have asked me what I have planned next. Although I have toyed with idea of going next year to Argentina and then cruise to Antarctica, my most immediate plans are to drive next week and visit a sick friend in the SF Bay Area and then travel to LA to clean the smog-soiled gravestones of my parents. Somehow though, the thought of racing along I-5 for hundreds of miles depresses me. Perhaps I can find alternative routes, but still, the thought of touring this part of the country at all leaves me hardly exhilirated. If I could magically turn back the clock and drive the highways of my childhood, when the landscape was rich with localism, then that would be stimulating and enlightening. Unfortunately that time is over. Now there is a hideous hodgepodge of strip malls and repetitious placement of oleander cheapening the vista. Sure I might find unusual highway signs like the ones above that might have redeeming value as photos worthy of comment, yet such messages, although amusing, fall short for me the stimulation I derive from experiencing a new, refreshing turf.

Oh well. My journey will take me down a well-beaten, degraded path, one which might ellicit both sad and cynical comments. For sure, I can start off feeling upbeat and seek the positive in being alive. Yet, is there way to protect myself from being beaten down by the overcrowded, unaesthetic, totally tense, toxic environment I am entering? I am open to suggestions or will I hear from you, what was called in debate, "a significant silence" because you are in as much of a quandry about this aspect of modern society as I am.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Airy Thought

I'm flying in a plane somewhere between Dallas and Portland on the last leg of my flight back home from Cali, Colombia. This morning, I was still riding with Emilio, as I had for the past month, It wasn't that long ago that I was still on my adventure. After all, it was only hours ago. As usual, we were racing through clogged city streets and magical countryside. We chatted casually. I gawked out the window at the South American people, their quaint buildings and breathtaking landscape. He was taking me to the airport, but I hadn't yet felt the magnitude of the day, that my trip was ending and that I might never be in Colombia again. I realize now I could go back, but know with certitude, that it is impossible to recapture the exciting freshness of the experience.

As I glance out my passenger window into the vast darkness before me and hear the monotone rush of the droning engines, I sense that my recent vivid days are like the ever-thinning jet trail behind me. I am hurtling forward in space and time, but soon to leave behind ever-fading memories.

What made this trip so valuable was that I had been fully absorbed in a mind consuming project which not only flourished during my month's stay, but also began during the previous 6 months with the planning, fantasizing and, of course, tedious studying of Spanish. I had a destination which kept me from feeling neither empty nor disoriented, nor lonely, nor obsessing excessively about my eventual mortality.
So what lies ahead? Well, at the moment Portland! But beyond that, who knows? Like a dazed airborne pilot, who has no map and feels the victim to an uncertain future, I too must make a new descent from the unknown and hope to survive by finding solid ground. Its just that I dread the turbulent route of tumbling and feeling lost in a maelstrom of disorienting saddness and self-rebuke. Sure I know, with tenacity and time, I'll pull her out, spot the horizon and bring her in. It is just the ETA that I can't predict.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sitting on Top of the World

Tonight I realize I am telling you about a 400 page book by reading to you pages 17, 237 and 336. That's how inadequate I feel in describing my daily adventure. Nonetheless I post to you anyway and hope that you may get a flavor of the style and the plot.

I snapped the above three pictures day before yesterday when I visited the paramo at Otun Quimbaya Reserve in the Central Cordelleras. The paramo is a relatively flat length of terrain sitting along the top of this Andes chain at 12, 600 feet. Even though this spot is located at 3 degrees above the Equator, it stands above the sweltering heat and jungle and is perpetually icy cold, foggy, rainy and has even moments of snow showers.

Not surprisingly it has its own strange flora and fauna, an amazing ecosystem that can be found no place in the world except in Colombia and a small part of Ecuador. On this desolate landscape, if you are lucky, you can spot a weird-looking Paramo white-tailed deer, incredibly furry rabbits, bumblebees that can withstand bitter cold, the spectacled bear, and highly endangered mountain tapirs, a smaller and furry relative of the unusual animal with a funny nose I posted about several weeks ago.

The ground is wet and soggy and has beeen described by some as a living sponge. The top photo is not a bush but is taken at my feet. It is a bright green carpet consisting of thousands of individual plants interspersed like sequins of tinier colorful plants. Every inch exudes life including a variety of daisies, a kind of Indian paint brush, and the strange looking column-like plant Espelitia, from which burst vibrant yellow sunflowers.

When I leave Colombia on Friday, I think I will miss the paramo the most. I may have other opportunities to be in tropical jungles, but not as lush as those here. I may see quaint villages and other indigenous people, but not like here. I may be in other bustling and chaotic third world cities and hear the songs, ideas, and voices of a different culture, but not those as complicated as here. All those things being said, there is only one paramo and it is a hearth of life. I loved being part of this harsh, but also gentle landscape and to see it growing magically out of the frozen depth of time. I am humbled and in awe. It saddens me to say adios, but I have learned so much and hope to remember that I was once sitting on top of the world.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A bouquet for you

Over the past several days my adventure has taken me again to places so amazing and remote. I have criss-crossed the mountain ranges of Colombia from the hot, wet, steamy Pacific slopes just above sea level to the 12,400 table top in the Central Cordelleras. My desire to photograph and identify lovely plants and animals along the way has been fostered by the expertise and patience of my guide Emilio.

The above photos are only three of over 2000 pictures I have snapped so far. Rather than ramble on and write about a myriad of subjects that come to mind , I'd rather make this post more visual. Click on each picture and see how you feel about yourself, the world around you, about conservation, or about art and beauty.

For me, this trip has been about all those subjects. If these pictures bring you some joy or knowledge or peace, then you will be in touch with the vibrant positive life source I have been experiencing these past weeks. There is a time when the expression "smell the roses" is best taken literally. I hope that, for a moment, this may be that occasion.