Friday the 13th

I’m not superstitious by nature, I’m too much of a rational materialist for that sort of thing.  Math and science have more impact on my mind than rabbit’s feet and black cats. I was born on a Friday the 13th (November 1959) so I tend to think of it as my lucky day. But luck is like beauty as it’s in the eye of the beholder. If wildfires wipe out your neighborhood but leave your house standing, that’s good luck for you and bad luck for your neighbors. So I prefer to think in terms of random variation.

If you hit .400 for a month you stand a good chance of hitting .200 in a different month. Guys don’t hit .400 for a season very often and they don’t hit .200 for a season very often, either. They tend to swing back-and-forth between those extremes and even out somewhere north or (mostly) south of .300 for the year. That’s random variation. If you bat ten times in any weekend series and hit five balls as hard as you can you might wind up with five hits or five outs. It’s not entirely up to you or your skill level. Once the ball leaves the bat you have no control over it and the baseball gods take over. That’s random variation.

We don’t like random variation. We like to think we make our own luck. That’s true to some degree. A batter has to practice and keep improving his skills, and he has to make good decisions in the games he plays. He has to swing at pitches he can hit and he has to make solid contact. But he can do all that and still go 0-for-10 and be the goat.

In America if you are down on your luck you don’t get much sympathy. Poor people are considered weak and foolish. Their lot is their own doing and has nothing to do with luck. If they were just smarter or worked harder they would see their lives improve. The American success ethic has no place for randomness. You are a winner or you are a loser and that’s that.

But nature is not like that. And we humans are as much a part of nature as the birds and the fishes and the trees. When a volcano erupts and spews gas and lava over the landscape some living things get buried and some escape. That’s mostly a random phenomenon. The village or forest that gets immolated is not lacking in courage, fortitude, brains, or heart. It’s just unlucky. Your genetic package is not under your control. The assortment you get from your parents is the result of random variation, the outcome is not anyone’s doing.

With so much randomness around you’d think we’d be more focused on process and less focused on outcomes. But we are an outcome-oriented people. We like to assign credit and blame for things even if those things are too big for any one person to get the credit or the blame. Presidents get credit for a good economy or blame for a poor one but they may have nothing to do with it either way. Economies are very big systems with a lot of inputs and despite all the Nobel Prizes folks really don’t understand them. It’s not science as you can’t run proper experiments and thus you can’t test your hypotheses. And when economists get tangled up with politicians all bets are off. Politics is about as irrational a business as humans can come up with and people who are good at it know that feelings and attitudes are way more important than facts.

Facts are over-rated anyway. We are believing and doubting creatures. We believe some things and doubt others and most of the time it has little to do with actual events. We are products of our upbringing and environment and it is really hard to see the world in any other way but the way we’ve always seen the world. Prejudice, or perhaps I should say bias, is more important than objectivity. In fact objectivity is impossible for humans, as no matter how hard we try at least some of our preconceived notions will be part of our world view.

So what is one to do? I think the key is to recognize our inability to see the facts in a situation and accept that we are opinionated as hell. What we can do is try on some of those other opinions and try to see where they come from. They come from somewhere, they are not entirely random or without foundation. If you put yourself in someone else’s shoes you might see the world a little differently than you did before and that is, in my mind, progress. I think the most beautiful thing in the world is empathy. When you can feel what another person might be feeling even if you’ve not had the experiences of that other person you become a larger version of yourself. You enrich your own humanity.

Empathy can only come about through humility. We have to recognize our own weaknesses and limitations. We have to accept that sometimes it is luck that gave us what we have and not our checklist of virtuous behavior. The mystic believes that god is in everyone and that anyone who accepts that fact cannot hate another person or be indifferent to their suffering because that would be an affront to god. I think that might be the hardest thing in the world, to see god in everyone. Too hard for most of us I expect.

For us ordinary mortals, those of us without the necessary spiritual equipment to see god everywhere, we could try something a little easier. How about seeing that the process is more important than the outcome? That random variation doesn’t discriminate and thus we are all subject to it. That bad luck could be just around the corner no matter who you are, and that most of us don’t “deserve” it when it happens. How about letting go of opinions? That’s all they are, opinions. They aren’t universal truths or bits of wisdom or guidelines for ethical living. They are just opinions. We love our opinions and think they define us. They don’t. They come and they go and we change our minds and then we rail at others for changing theirs. Seems pretty stupid, don’t you think?

One thing I know is true: we are all the same. Forty-six chromosomes made out of the same stuff, DNA. We are different, the DNA says that too, but the differences are not as great as the similarities. That’s one of those things worth keeping: what divides us is a lot less than what we have in common. That’s biology, man, and you can’t argue with that.

8 yards

That’s what the concrete truck—technically an in-transit mixer—brought today. We had three yards poured yesterday and we’ll get three more yards on Friday. Eight cubic yards is 216 cubic feet. That helps, doesn’t it? If you can imagine a block, a cube actually, two yards (six feet) on a side, you’ll get the idea. (Two cubed is eight, six cubed is 216.) I don’t want a cube of course, I want a driveway. Yesterday we got our new sidewalk, curb, and gutter. (You have to pay for these things even though they are used by the public. Your tax dollars NOT at work!) Friday we’ll get the walkway that connects to the porch. That’s the last of the concrete projects.

Bare ground doesn’t stay bare long. The plants come in whether you want them to or not. So you have to do something with the ground. Decorative gravel and stepping stones. Drought-tolerant ground cover. Perhaps a garden.  Or maybe a lawn. But you have to manage the space or you’ll have dust, mud, and thickets of hardy weeds. A weed is just the name we give to a plant we don’t like. If we liked dandelions and wanted them around they wouldn’t be weeds.

Around my neighborhood we have lots of cats. Not the kind of cats that live inside but the kind of cats that roam. They like my big back yard because I don’t have a dog. They see my open space and think “now THAT’S a litter box!” They see my wife’s beautifully tended raised beds and think “LUXURY litter box!” If a dog craps in your yard you go talk to the owner and say “hey please keep your dog in your yard” and they (mostly) say “OK, sorry, will do.” But you can’t use that argument with cats. I used to have a bird feeder. Lots of finches, man. Very cool. But the neighborhood cats would all gather in my back yard watching the feeder, hoping one of the little fellows would fall. If one did they’d pounce on the poor bugger and make a sort of meal of it. Really they’d just kill the bird and maybe gnaw on it but these were well-fed cats. They didn’t do it out of hunger. I know a cat is natural-born killer so I didn’t hold it against them, they were just doing the cat-carnivore thing. Perfectly natural. But I did not put up the feeder to provide cats with recreational hunting opportunities so I got rid of it.

My neighbors, I’ve no doubt, are salivating over my new driveway. They need a place to turn around, after all. This big wide slab of new concrete will beckon them. They won’t use their own driveways and they won’t go the other way on the street. No, they have to turn around in front of my house. I don’t understand it. I can go west on my street and get to where I’m going or I can go east on my street and get to where I’m going. I can enter my property whether I’m going west on my street or I’m going east. That does not seem possible for my neighbors. They have to turn around in my driveway.

I don’t think the city will be happy if I put in one of those tire-puncture devices along the edge of my new driveway. You remember these things from the drive-in movie theaters. Fee-based parking lots have them, too. You can drive one way over them but not the other. Obviously I’d have to get a retractable one, and just my luck I’d forget and drive my vehicle over them and get four ugly flats in one fell swoop. So I guess that’s out. There’s always a gate. They have these cool remote-controlled solar-powered gates that will swing open for you and close behind you like a garage door. But I’ll be broke after this project and I can’t afford that. Plus it seems like a lot of expense and hassle just to express irritation at my neighbors. I’ll probably just park one of my vehicles in the driveway and that will discourage them. My fancy new concrete cost a lot of money—if they want to chip in I will change my tune.

Last night a couple of dogs nearly ran on to the still-wet freshly-poured sidewalk. I did not want dog prints in my sidewalk. It isn’t really my sidewalk, I have to let other people walk on it. But I paid for it so I wanted it free of rocks, initials, falling leaves, hoof prints, foot prints, or shoe prints. We had barriers and cones up to warn people but dogs don’t read. One of my neighbors lets her dog out to run around freely and he nearly left his mark. But we chased him away. The other dog was unknown to me. Someone on a nearby street also lets their dog out to run freely. Doesn’t seem like very responsible dog ownership, but what do I know? I was worried that the deer that march with impunity down our street on a regular basis might step in the pour. I sat outside at twilight but I didn’t see them come by. They have a much bigger target this evening, but they seem a little spooked by the barriers and the yellow caution tape.

My new driveway will cut down on a lot of mud, dust, and weeds. But I’ve still got lots of bare dirt. You can’t concrete everything, unfortunately. Some of it you have to manage. I don’t like lawns so those are out. The cats don’t like lava rocks, for some reason they are reluctant to walk on the small pumice stones, so I’m sure I’ll get some more of that stuff. We like rock gardens and xeriscapes and such. We’ll get to that at some point, but for now I’m going to watch my concrete cure. It beats watching paint dry.


Anomalous water

I live at the bottom of a hill on top of a big pile of gravel. They call it ‘alluvium’ on the geologic maps, but that’s just fancy-talk for rocks and sand that have been washed off the hillsides. A veneer of dirt sits on top. I hesitate to call it ‘soil’ because it’s barely that. If you want to grow anything besides juniper or star thistle you have to add nutrients and other organic matter. When you irrigate the water that doesn’t get retained by the soil percolates through the alluvium until it hits a clay layer. We call that clay layer ‘hardpan.’ It’s impermeable. It causes tree roots to turn sideways. When the rains come the water hits this layer and flows underground. We used to have a cellar that was below grade and it flooded every winter. In fact it would flood if my upstream neighbors watered their lawns.

It’s mostly desert around here. But there’s more water than you think. It’s just underground. I can dig a hole in my yard and a couple of feet down it’s saturated. Or not. It seems random. Dig a line of fence posts and there’s nothing. The next one over and you hit a pocket of water. When it really rains, and that happens sometimes, the hardpan will block the downward flow and the yard will fill with standing water. Over the next few days the water will soak into the ground and move on. I suppose it shows up in the creek beds below me, or joins an aquifer, or something. I don’t really know. It’s pretty damn dry around here, it’s not like this mysterious underground water is feeding a forest.

We had some digging done the other day for a concrete project. At one end of the dig there was standing water. Just a few inches, but it was there. Where did it come from? I don’t know. After spending all day panicking that I had another leak in my water line (we just had that fixed after much hassle and expense) I came to appreciate that it was perhaps just more of that anomalous water that regularly bedevils us.

I’d be willing to bet that if we could peel off the street and look beneath it we would see a web of rivulets. Capillaries of trickling water. Pockets of the stuff trapped in the aggregate sitting on top of the clay and just waiting to be freed. And a few feet one side or the other, not a drop. It’s vexing, this anomalous water. It’s not predictable. The gravel the town sits on is not uniform. It’s thick in some places and thin in other. Some spots are mostly big rocks and some spots are mostly pebbles and fine particles. It’s all jumbled up and mixed together. The hardpan varies as well. You can’t expect nature to erode mountains with any kind of regularity. It’s a big random conglomeration and that’s why we get this whack-a-mole water stuff.

My contractor is a very exacting fellow. He does not like surprises. When he forms up a concrete pour he does not want to worry that one end of it will be a soupy mess. And I’m writing the checks so I’m all for his careful approach. I want my concrete to last. So neither of us like this anomalous water. It appears here and there but not everywhere. It appears in odd places and at odd times. This is the first day of fall. That means we’ve just had summer. Why are there pockets of water under my feet after months of hot, dry weather? I don’t know.

Richard Feynman was quoted saying “I can live with doubt and uncertainty” and other stuff like “I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things.” He was usually talking about big problems in theoretical physics, not little problems like anomalous water in my yard. But I think the same attitude has to be applied here. I don’t understand what’s under the ground, but I guess can live with it.


Our Atomic Future

I remember well Our Atomic Future. After The Bomb, it was the promise of peaceful uses. Uranium would power our homes, factories, and business. No more smelly oil or coal, no more air pollution, just pellets of enriched earth silently and invisibly glowing, making steam from the heat and making electricity from the steam. Then shit happened. First came a probing jab with the left hand, easily fended off, but ominously named: Three Mile Island. The right cross that followed was a doozy: Chernobyl. Our Atomic Future, now staggered, was no match for the left hook: Fukushima. Down it went.

I miss Our Atomic Future. I wish I could still believe in it, but futures that never happened don’t seem belief-worthy. Our gigantic carbon experiment will continue even if we revolutionize ground transportation with electric cars and biofuels. Diesel engines running on heavy fuel oils power our shipping fleets; kerosene-based fuels power our commercial aircraft. We’ll be sucking on our hydrocarbon-rich basins for many years to come, don’t you worry, we love blasting the ancient reservoirs of fossilized life into the sky for all to enjoy.

The sun and wind make up our new dreams. It’s very cool to imagine such a thing: Our Renewable Future. That future crowded out Our Atomic Future to the point where only a handful of adherents remain. Yet the atom was split to save all mankind and no one is going to take that away. A new nuclear age is an easy one to envision thanks to that noted futurist, Steve Jobs. This fellow made everything pocket-sized, and slick to boot. Cool look and feel, solid performance, cutting-edge features. Design was paramount, tech became the new aesthetic. Our Atomic Age could never be revived in such a marketplace. Nuclear power plants are just slicker versions of the old-style power plants. They weren’t new so much as improved. And everyone knows that Americans expect new and improved.

Imagine Steve Jobs redesigning Our Atomic Future and setting in motion our new nuclear age. Palm-sized devices for extreme places. Suitcase-sized power plants for running a village. Generators the size of beer coolers giving communities off-the-grid energy. All of them smooth, silvery-surfaced, with simple and intuitive interfaces. Hell, a child could run one. Or perhaps that other mythologist— George Lucas—could chip in with atomic cars and boats and planes that have friendly personalities and colorful appearances. In fact I think we should build an AI of those two consciousnesses and have it spew out possible nuclear futures.

Everyone could have their own personal nuclear pile, like a key fob. It could run all sorts of things. You wouldn’t have to be tethered to the nearest AC plug to keep your phone or laptop charged. Just charge it up with the little atomic box. Forgot to pay the power bill? It will keep the fridge running and the water heater going until you can scratch the cash together. That’s real energy independence.

I suppose folks might be squeamish about all that fission. But big problems need big answers. When we are all living in vast beehives in the currently uninhabitable parts of our globe, or in enormous termite mounds in earth orbit or on the moon, we’ll need lots of energy. Something will have to supplement the sunshine. Maybe by then we’ll have unlocked the secret of the sun—fusion. It worked in Back to the Future, right?


Plutonium dreams, Zoloft nightmares

Forty years ago we launched Voyager and it’s still out there, just past the edge of our Solar System and nosing its way into interstellar space, its nuclear heart still beating. Plutonium-238 (not the Pu-239 used in bombs), in a gizmo called an RTG (radioisotope thermoelectric generator), powers our longest-traveled spacecraft. Atomic power was the last to be harnessed in our earth-bound vessels but will be some time before (or if) it ever replaces our carbon-based engines. Our fossil fueled jumbo jets can shrink time and distance at 600 mph, that’s ten miles a minute or one-sixth of a mile per second. A furlong is one-eighth of a mile at 220 yards, so one-sixth is a few paces short of three hundred. I can walk that in a few minutes.

Voyager has gone thirteen billion miles or so in its four-decade journey, that works out to about eleven miles per second, or sixty-six times faster than a 747. Every significant gaseous orb, ball of rock, or hunk of frozen goop out there got a flyby and the information is still coming. Voyager’s electromagnetic voice takes nineteen hours to reach us and it is expected to keep sending its data for three or four more years. And despite all the magnificent science being done we are still faced with the fact of the vast emptiness of space.

We aren’t getting anywhere near another star, let alone a habitable planet. The further and faster we go the less ground we cover. The post-war era was all about shrinking the earth as our transportation web grew in size and speed. The space race showed us our tiny earth and we’ve since surrounded our little blue marble with constellations of our own satellites. But we still dream of exploring the unexplored places. Unfortunately space is too big for our puny dreams, un-explored is perhaps better said as un-explorable.

All of our science-fiction stories rely on some miraculous faster-than-light scheme for their characters to traverse the mind-bendingly huge interstellar distances. Otherwise they would just be studies in despair as generations of humans would yearn for the stars but be unable to reach them. It would take Voyager tens of thousands of years to come close to a star other than our Sun. We’ll have to content ourselves with Martian probes or even perhaps human astronauts exploring the red planet’s surface. Anything beyond that is science fiction—fantasy, really, as no one is close to figuring out how to go faster than a rocket. And a rocket is a pea-shooter in the big scheme of things.

So our plutonium dreams have gotten us no closer. We still stand on the edge of the black emptiness. The abyss still yawns before us. It would give us nightmares if we thought about it too much. Lots of substantive, temporal things give us nightmares, we certainly don’t need any cosmic ones. Humans have medicated themselves with all sorts of creations throughout our history and today we have an enormous pharmacopeia of possibilities.

Some of those possibilities are called anti-depressants and we’ve been taking them at ever-increasing rates. One in six of us here in the States takes psychiatric drugs, that’s just the prescribed ones, and that’s over fifty million people. I’m not ant-drug or anti-pharmaceutical by any means, lots of folks need this stuff to function, and I’m not one to argue with how people get through the night. But I came across a story that gave me the creeps. It’s here, at the SUNY Buffalo campus, and it says they are finding antidepressants in the brains of fish in the Great Lakes.

Now that’s what they call an unintended consequence. As far as I’m concerned people can take all the Xanax or Prozac or Celexa or Zoloft they want or need. That ain’t my concern. But I’m pretty sure no one wants to dose the fish with it! I’m all for targeted drugging. When I knock back a whiskey or puff on a pipe I’m aiming at me and hoping I don’t hit anybody else.

Seems we’ve gotten pretty good over the years at treating our waste streams for excess phosphorus or nitrogen and we kill the pathogens and whatnot but there is stuff in there now that we can’t yet handle. We’ll have to figure it out at some point. Right now the fish are still edible (we don’t typically eat fish brains) and that’s cool but you have to wonder if the fish get screwed up by all this stuff. It works on our brains, I expect it will work on theirs, too. But no one has any notion of the impacts, at least not yet.

What it tells me is that we have to re-imagine the meaning of waste. Stuck here as we are on this ball of watery rock in the midst of uninhabitable nothingness, I say we ought to make good use of things. You grow something or dig it up and turn it into something cool you would do well to get more than one use out of it. In fact what happens to our coal or oil, or our textile fibers or construction materials, should be just as important as their first-use. Products should be designed with end-uses in mind so that we don’t have waste at all, just a resource being re-purposed. We thought we had a handle on our piss and shit but now we find we are washing our drugs into the heads of unsuspecting creatures we share the planet with.

We will still dream about the stars. And we will still wrestle with our terrestrial nightmares. Everything we see out there in space only makes us seem more remote and more isolated than before. Not that I want them to stop, mind you, I dig all the groovy science. And I’m OK with cosmic nothingness, it forces me to focus on the everyday things. And we need our meds, man. Sleep doesn’t always come easy and a human being that can’t get a decent sleep is a goddamn mess. But our nightmares belong to us, we don’t need to foist them on the fishes.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

We got a bit of a respite from the smoke this morning and now we are anxiously awaiting the predicted rainfall. While the smoke here in our little bowl has been thick and persistent we are fortunate that the fires are not closer. Some here in the State of Jefferson have had to evacuate, others are preparing to do so. Here in town we are relatively safe even if we are gagging on the ashfall.

It’s the new normal for us in the rural West, these smoke-clogged summers, and this year we’ve shared our experience with the millions who live in urban areas like Seattle, Portland, and Denver. Los Angelenos are well-versed in this annual ritual; the city has been spreading its tentacles into the wildlands for decades, more and more contemporary Californios live within shouting distance of wildfire country.

I get depressed when the sky is blotted out by the smoke and everything smells like the inside of a Smokey Joe. I love the high desert twilight and I haven’t seen much of it lately. There are days when Butcher Hill, a mile at best from my homestead, has been almost completely obscured. It’s not just the itchy eyes and scratchy throat and genuine unhealthiness, it’s the feeling of helplessness. I keep hoping for a good stiff breeze and then when one comes it just dumps more smoke into our little nook. Yreka sits in the northeast corner of a broad river valley, butted up against the remnants of a large mountainous complex to the west. The hills act like a trap and hold in the foulness until some significant meteorological event comes along and scours out the basin.

But I ought not to complain. Some folks around here have it way worse. And as a fellow I heard the other day say, “complaining is for those folks in Houston.” Yeah, that disaster makes ours seem paltry. But it is a disaster nonetheless. Life in the West is mostly a mirage. There’s no real water to speak of, except along the Pacific littoral, and even they have issues. Southern California is home to the great hordes but they can’t live there without the gigantic plumbing apparatus that delivers water from the mountains. I remember trying to explain our climate to my Irish cousin: she did not believe that we can go six months without rain. The reason they call it the Emerald Isle is because three days without rain is unusual!

But the skies have opened as I type this and glorious rain is coming down. Whether it will do anything lasting about the smoke is hard to say. With the summer rain there is thunder. With thunder there is lightning, and lightning sets fires. I think they call that a Catch-22. But I intend to enjoy this fresh precipitation as much as I can. At some point later this month the climate will start moving toward the autumnal cooling and the fires will abate somewhat and the smoke will clear. Then we’ll get our lovely clear winter. Sadly, we’ll do it all again next summer.

Stay safe out there. Here’s a little Jo Stafford to make you feel better:


She can really sing, eh?


in umbra lunae

It was just a week ago that we were bathed in the shadow of the moon. They say these things stick with you. Uh, yeah. I’ll go with that. We live on a big ball of rock hurtling through space. Another big ball of rock got exactly between us and the sun. And I mean exactly. Eclipses, occultations, conjunctions, and syzygies happen all the time. Perhaps “regularly” would be more precise. But a total solar eclipse, especially one visible across a large swath of inhabited space, is an infrequent event.

The apocalypse of crowds and traffic and shortages of essentials did not really happen as many expected. Sure, there were car jams and lines and empty gas tanks. But for the most part, people got to where they were going, got to see the eclipse, and got to go back home. It was amazing, really. Oregon and the many agencies and organizations involved did a hell of a job, I think. I feel fortunate that we experienced none of the chaos that was predicted. The small towns along our journey looked no worse for wear afterwards. I saw a semi-trailer loaded with port-a-potties awaiting a tractor in Prairie City on Wednesday morning. In John Day there were swarms of tourists but we found a parking spot on the main drag and got a table at the brewpub at lunch time. There were rooms at the inn in Burns. It was busy, but not so different than most summer days in a recreation-oriented place. I sent a note to the District Office thanking the USFS personnel who obviously stepped up big-time to handle the influx of campers. We even got a visit from Ranger Dan at our campsite!

Here’s a bit from the Malheur NF website:

As visitors depart after their Great American Solar Eclipse experience on the Malheur National Forest, officials would like to thank users for their cooperation. With the great influx of forest users in the past week, few illegal campfires and no human caused wildfires were reported. The vast majority of users abided by regulations in place, providing for an extraordinary eclipse experience to be had by all.

This seemed to match our own adventure. We encountered other people but folks were pretty cool overall and determined to have a good time. There was enough space for all of us and we didn’t burn anything down. I love a good campfire, but you’d be nuts to light one this time of year. It seems they will be extending the no-fires policy even into hunting season, and they are also restricting off-road travel. That’s a good idea. There were plenty of excellent roads up there—access was not a problem.

the gang

I shared the eclipse with a gang of good friends. And made some new friends as well. Things that happen on an astronomical scale are both humbling and eye-opening. Quotidian concerns slip away. The trick is to keep that outlook going. Packing up and heading home and re-joining the world makes some of the magic rub off. I don’t want that to happen. I want to keep that place that I found myself in with me all the time.

We are all in this together. We are on the Ark and we have no place else to go. We can go around arguing and complaining but that won’t get us anywhere. The only thing that matters is that we work together to solve problems. Perhaps the right thing to say is work together on possible solutions. No one has all the answers. We are a social species. We have to have each other to survive and thrive. We won’t get there if we don’t listen to each other and try to get past our differences. The things we share and have in common far outstrip the things that separate us.

It’s the great existential dilemma: we crave uniqueness and individual autonomy but those are impossible without a society. Our rules and regulations herd us together and force us into compliance and conformity.  But it is that very stability that gives us the opportunity for creativity and personal expression. We want freedom but we can’t get it all by ourselves, we have to have laws and social order to claim that birthright. I suppose the anarchist will argue it differently, but history suggests that people have to come together and make compromises in order to have liberty. It seems oxymoronic, but the longer I live the more I accept and embrace contradictions and seeming absurdities.

I find solace in the mountains and the forests. Camping is so oddly complicated, all the goddamn stuff you need just so you can simplify and get away from it all seems crazy. Why does it take all that energy and effort to learn what ought to be easy to grasp? I suppose when you are in the maelstrom of things you are just paddling to stay afloat. It’s only when you beach the boat that you can reflect and learn. And it seems like we have to re-learn the same things again and again. Nothing really meaningful, I suppose, is truly simple. It may be simple to express, but not simple to put into practice.

After I recovered from my moments in the moonshadow I told myself not to forget what I found out. But it doesn’t work like that. You have to keep at it. It’s like muscles—once you build them up by working out you have to keep working out or they won’t be built up anymore. In those two minutes the sun was eclipsed I knew everything. But that can’t last, and it didn’t. But I got a look. And I can remember.

We’ll see what sticks.