There is a grandeur in this view of life...while this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a begining endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved
Charles Darwin
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Chronicling The Legend Of Jackson Wood: Year One

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Precociously “taking the initiative”, JW arrived early, and continues to engage. Like all legends, there are surreal shadowy myths weaved into the perfunctory, blurring veracity—and, as Dave, my son in-law has counseled, truth shouldn’t obstruct a good story; and so, the saga of JW begins.

There is a hint of a parallel with Rudyard Kipling’s character Mowgli in the short story Rukh, which JW personifies. For those who are not familiar with the moral laden anthropomorphize Jungle Book of Kipling, where a child is lost, orphaned to  the Indian jungle during a tiger attack, and, fortuitously a wolf, Father Wolf, happens on the bedraggled, trepid man-cub and corralled him back to the den to be nurtured by mother, Raksha (protector) wolf. Father Wolf promptly and aptly assigned the moniker Mowgli, which translate to frog, because he was furless and in an incessant kinetic. Let me be unequivocally and litigiously clear, JW was not lost in the Blue Ridge Mountains; however, he has as his constant companion two dogs: a Golden retriever, Gatsby and a Labrador retriever, Lucy. This canine comradery will profoundly, in my, GOBY, humble opinion, influence his life’s filter of insights.   

Temporal progress of munchkins is assessed in terms of: modes of mobility, mastication and articulation. He did not conspicuously display any virtuosity in the categories of movement, eating, or talking; bidding his time, I presume. Chillin’ with normalcy, he cooed, cried, and dispensed excrements at will; and then, there was a sighting of purposeful movement: he willfully completed a spatula turn of supine to prone. His self-propelling progressed; where, in ten months he was crawling, and thirteen, walking. These triumphs of portability were accomplished in evolutionary increments. The maneuver of crawling, at its inception, he exhibited a faulty motor skill transmission; it was stuck in reverse, he would push himself backwards to get to his destination. He finally found forward and his acceleration speed tripled. Walking, a two-step stratagem; required that he implement the gravity defying feat to stand upright and balance; then, commandeer the assistance of his pudgy legs to take turns moving forward. The goal was not to stumble and fall: pain was a consequence and incentive. His initial gait emulated his Hominidae cousin, the chimpanzee, with their pendulous sway. His stumbling and chimpanzee sway were tweaked and corrected with repetitive excursions of bipedalism. 

Mastication is still in its infancy; progress is inextricably linchpin to dentition: The current count of teeth is six. He combines a gumming, teeth tearing employment to reduce morsels to a digestible aliquot to slide down his water-hose esophagus to preclude an obstructing choking episode. He has an inordinate fondness for chicken, smoked salmon, and strangely enough, cat food, to be followed by a beer chaser.  This implores a summoning from the deepest recesses of my hippocampus, the idiom “you are what you eat.” That reference is attributed to Antheleme Brillat-Savarin in Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante, 1826:

“Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” [Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are].

What exactly can we adduce about JW from his eclectic eating proclivities? Possibly, a budding genius, yea, I’m going with that assertion; after all, he is my grandson.

His articulation, a confounding complexity of the anatomical communion of lung, vocal cords and articulators: tongue, palate, cheeks, and lips; which engender his nascent garrulous gibberish with the random recognizable word that has us squealing with exuberance, parroting the sacrosanct verbiage with a dog decibel pitch hopefully enticing an encore. His current exhaustive vocabulary is: Dada, Mama, Lucy, Gatsby, and debatable cat. Yea, I know what you are thinking, how do I explicate the precocious phonation of the dogs names? If you listen carefully, you will hear in the distant background a humming loom weaving the canine conundrum myth; the dog man rapport compact, a contractual pack that transpired, “came to light”, in the dark, dank caves of dawning Neanderthal: the answer lies there; the codified mystical incantations evoking permission to surpass the world’s natural laws of physics, chemistry and biology. The dogs, Gatsby and Lucy projecting the personification of father wolf and Raksha innately petition the ancient rituals of the esoteric covenant. Hence, in compliance with the antediluvian compact, JW adroitly enunciates the family’s dogs’ names.

Generally, all conversations regarding human ontogeny, usually, address the issue of the brain; which invariable splashes over into the intransigent debate of nature vs. nurture: the dichotomy construct that purportedly contributes to the IQ. I overtly dodge this contentious topic because, “it aint’ easy to assess” especially within the flippant format that I presently contrived here in this essay…a lot of authors use the expressed cop-out of, it, the subject that is cumbersome, is beyond the scope of the story line, and clumsily throw the reference grenade—I just pulled the pin. However, beyond the ravaging prickly thorns of the briar patch debate that assigns ownership to the agent of brain power potentiating reasoning, that is uniquely Hominid, exclaims another higher mental prowess that Homo sapiens possess: moral judgment. The source of this lofty gray-matter endowment is scaffold with hormones (oxytocin), and the plausible innate and heritable impulse to imitate empathetic behaviors. JW’s parents, Melissa and Justin, love animals and the altruistic, respectful kindness, which is demonstrable daily to the family pets has not escaped the scrutinizing attention of my grandson who precociously emulates. Empathy is inextricably implicit to moral judgment and watching my grandson gingerly pet our cat Copernicus suggest that were ever his brain’s epicenter of empathy resides, it most assuredly is hypertrophied.

Chicago’s Consummate Carnivores, Criminals, and Conflagration

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At first sniff, Chicago’s history is suggestive of a brewing caldron, wafting odiferous conflicting legends of the origin of its name, mystery of who and what started the great fire of 1871, and what was the meteorological source of the allege tree bowing wind. The etymology of Checagou [Chick-Ah-Goo-Ah], of the language of the Potawatomi tribe is loosely translated as “bad smell”, alluding to a pungent smelling and tasting plant of the Genus Alluim.  The debate is attributed to bad botanizing and misreading of the journals of Henri Joutel who assiduously describe the natural history of three species of plants of the same Genus prevalent of the Illinoisan landscape; they were: A. ceuum, A. canadense, and A. tricoccum.  A critical assessment of Joutel’s journals lays culpability to A. tricoccum, the wild garlic, as the eponymous plant for evoking the nose twitching repugnant reeking bouquet, not the wild onion implicated in the Chicagoan’s museum display cases.

I will continue to address the beguiling historical folklores of Chicago, as one would ply condiments to season their food; selectively interjecting the narrative with peppering hindsight critique—but, I should probably now disclose the impetus of this sojourn. It started with a phone call from our eldest daughter, the gametophyte, (see essay, New Mexico’s Mountain Sirens Entreat Antipodes, http://roysreflections.throughroyslookingglass.com/) she floated the whimsical ideal of flying out to Chicago for dinner—I’m not kidding, just, fly out to Chicago for dinner. Well, there you go, once that seed was planted; like the proverbial, pervasive weed, it would have taken legions of pesticides to evict and eradicate this seeded suggestion; and still, there would have been one lone evolutionary mutant individual that would have elude the barrage of toxic chemicals and survive. It was futile, she was going. I was later enlisted as an escort. Apparently, we are a package deal. The restaurant that siren beckon our gametophyte daughter was the renowned Alinea, that offers a 23 course meal, a fusion of modern art and exotic morsels, which blur the lines between an Art Museum and restaurant.   

One of the many talents Mary wields is that of a logistician: impeccable planner. Game on! Transportation, hotel reservations, funding, daily agenda; check, everything is a go. We were fortuitous, in that, a long lost, elusive relative, her brother Chris, a Chicago home-boy, was located and enlisted to take advantage of our impetuous dinning plans with a possible visit. Chris up the ante with the magnanimous offer to pick us up at the airport and taxi us around the city; to include, brunch, and a lunch at a local establishment Obama frequented (disappointed though, didn’t serve beer). We all indulge in an incredible Italian dinner, where our child of the currents was in attendance to share wine, beer and pasta. In the interim of the punctuated meals, we visited the historical benchmarks of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago and the site of the 1929 St Valentine’s Day Massacre, where the Moran gang was executed by machine gun happy associate of the Al Capone gang in a garage that is no longer there, only a weedy lot. We did a drive-by of Obama’s residence, which is an imperative must for staunch liberal democrats—and, obviously tuff to endure for a fiscally conservative republican, which Chris is. We leisurely strolled through the History Museum, which was satiated in Lincoln memorabilia, and chronicled the etiology of the blustering winds myth, “Wind City”, a derogatory moniker for blow-hard politicians soliciting favor to host the World’s Fair, not inclement weather. The saga of the culpability of the 1871 Chicago conflagration was expounded on, still smacking with reasonable doubt of whether Mrs. O’Leary’s bovine kick the lantern that started the fire that engulfed the city of Chicago leaving 100,000 homeless and 300 dead, or was the perpetrator Peg leg Sullivan. Like a batter who had just hit one over the fence, a home run, we circled the home of the Cub’s Wrigley Field baseball park. Chris exhibiting the attributes of any successful business manager took full advantage of car time as a multitasking opportunity to espouse a litany of recommendations to insure a meaningful visit to the “new” N.Y., the great city-state of Chicago; and finally, dropping us off at our hotel. Thank you Chris, and to reiterate our humble offer, we would love to extend you the same courtesy when you visit Charlottesville, the home of the Founding Fathers.

As a part of Mary’s package planning, her diligence to detail included a Starbucks directly across the street from our hotel; literally, minutes from our room. The next morning with Chris’s suggestions and my book, I drifted across the street to an already beehive of activity to order the routine Americano and strategize the day, beginning with my perfunctory hour of reading. In reality, my strategizing was to relegate/consult the master planer to direct our day’s activities. She did. The agenda was mapped out; times and places indelibly inscribed:  We were to initiate our carnival ride tour by starting 1000 feet up on the 94th floor of the Hancock Observatory Tower, descended to the subways tunneling to the Field Museum to pay respects to the consummate carnivore, Sue, Tyrannosaurs rex, and then, bread crumb retracing back down the anthropomorphic rabbit-hole to wash up on the strand line of the Chicago River Architectural tour, ascend again, the Donald Trump Terrace to drink-in another vantage point of the Chicago’s architecture and meet Heather and friends for libations. Then again, descend to our final destination and primary objective of this world wind trip: the restaurant, Alinea’s.

Starting at “Big” John’s observatory was a propitious initiation of the grand overview of the “City State” Chicago: it afforded us the opportunity of a turret 360 of the city, four states and over 80 miles, which was aided with a surrogate concierge multimedia system explicating what was observed through the staged  telescopes. As enthralling and stupendous the gravity defying towers were my attention kept drifting back to the natural landscape of the shimmering Lake Michigan; its vastness and perceived placidity was mystically alluring. Satiated with the enchanted bird’s eye view, we decided to descend our vantage point and immerse ourselves in Chicagoanness. We were off to see Sue.

Mary is enamored of city life and prides herself a quick study when it comes to mastering the catacomb transportation of the subways, which we availed ourselves to, making our way to the Field Museum. Natural History Museums are candy stores to me; banks of scientific curiosities, and Field, had an exceptional repository. It was well represented in the conventional disciplines of Anthropology, Botany, Geology, and Zoology and glitzed with manicured show cases and a towering fossil: Tyrannosaurs rex, a dinosaur 42 ft. long called Sue name after the paleontologist, Sue Hendrickson, who exhumed its skeletal remains. Time was of the essence and like a funneling wind in a corridor, we breezed through consecutive displays pausing at Sue and looking to the ceiling to appreciate in its entirety, the best preserved sample of an extinct ancient marvel—and yes, pictures were snapped. Reviewing the digital pics, it’s competitive on who had the biggest grin. The second pause was awarded to the insect displays.  I contrite an inordinate fondness for the invertebrates, specifically in this case, a mind numbing collection of Coleopteran, the beetle, whose elytra, front wings, of some of the species were metallic florescent green mimicking the attributes of a precious gem…we had to dash, and with hurried gait we descended to the city’s catacomb and were whisked-away by the train to another venue of transportation: a boat, that sluggishly navigated a one hour cruise of the historic, notoriously polluted, and now, engineered to a state of environmentally salubriousness , Chicago River.

Once the mooring lines were casted, and we, the tourist, seated in the uncomfortable little chairs, and I, had a firm grip on my bottle of beer, we were graciously greeted by the guide. She was well poised, articulate, and historically erudite we were soon to learn. There was a laminar confluence of her greeting with the spiel regarding the 40 plus landmarks of modern American architecture we were to view sauntering down the aortic waterway of Chicago: The cruise went down the main branch of the Chicago River, up the north branch to the East Bank Club, and then south. The charming guide called out the names of looming buildings abutting the shore bank that cast long shadows, and their renowned, talented architects; to include, Mies van der Rohe, Skidmore Owings & Merrill, and Helmut Jahn, whoever they were. The lecture had filler topics, such as, the Great Fire of 1871; which, like the mythical birth of the sphinx from fire, so to, did the modern architecture of Chicago. The boat ride was fun and entertaining and I am almost positive that the beer had no influence on that laudable critique. Once we disembark, we meander back to our room of slumber to rejuvenate and prep for the evening escapades.

We agreed to meet the instigator, our darling daughter, of this vortex sojourn at the Terrace at Trump, which the owner, it might be redundant to intimate, but still giggling fun to say, and yet, concomitantly scary considering how much money he has and its wielding influence; the eponymous owner is also recognize as the preeminent political birther, crazy bastard! On the sixteen floor patio of the silvery-blue skyscraper of Trump Tower, we met Heather and friends for libations. We were drinking, not only our beer in, but the sights: besiege by fingers of steel and concrete celestially pointing, and then, ratcheting our vision down to the horizon, the vista of Lake Michigan beckoned. I raised my beer in a deferential salute to the architectural panoramic grandeur. Drenched in wonderment, we parted to our final destination, the restaurant, Alinea. Mary, Heather and I crammed into a taxi.

The climax of the journey was upon us, we entered Alinea. The Restaurant is located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, unmarked? Was this an air of humility or arrogance? There was a two door entrance; the first open to a long corridor, the second, to the restaurant, the surreal world of the owner and Chef, Grant Achatz, where conventional cooking is as extinct as the dinosaur, and food preparations are under the influence of the trilogy of art, gastronomy, and empiricism. Let us be clear on the impetus of this event: it was to commemorate the ritual bonding of mother and daughter. I played the dual role of chronicler and escort: my evaluated station was no more than a side dish or appetizer. We were seated and the exalted exhibit of the advertised 23 (it should be noted, that our menu had listed only 20 course) acts commenced; and, like any rehearsed play each course was punctiliously executed and delivered with a peroration from each server. I will let a food enthusiast qualify the size of each serving, “average bites per serving were 4.14 and total bites for the entire meal was 116”, which was published on an online food forum. This type of cuisine, molecular gastronomy, entreats eyes, nose, and tongue to collectively assess each morsel; relying heavily on retro-nasal olfaction: nose detects thousands of odors conversely the tongue is limited to five discerning tastes and the eyes are easily subjected to deception. I truly would be remiss, if I were not to comment in detail on the general presentation of the multiple courses of the meal. There were times the exposition of the course was so ostentatious the delectable morsel was hidden from sight; then, there were displays and foods indiscernible from each other and, we had to be counsel on what to eat; and, some arrangements had several skews piercing incongruent layers of something to something, which would lead one to deduce they had an acupuncturist on staff.  This chimera ambrosia seduced the taste buds to realms of delight and distraction; the complexities evoked confusion.  T. rex’s paragon status as the consummate carnivore was in jeopardy by a ritual bonding of mother and daughter at the mythical Alinea. I can say without reservation that Alinea is like no other restaurant, and in spite of my best effort to describe the unconventional uniqueness, one needs to experience it themselves; especial, if there is bonding involved.

With the Chicago winds to our back and a mother-daughter relationship sealed, we leisurely left the surreal city-state to board the rails of reality.   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

 

An Old Man’s Opinion

I like this story—even though, at the end I, with an interrogative crescendo, head tilting Scooby doo rendition, articulated to myself the Freudian slip of where is Waldo, quickly recovering with the proper Pronoun of Mark?  I suspect my tendentiousness toward this story line is attributed to the evolutionary psychology theory of Patternicity, where there is a proclivity to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise: you see animals silhouettes in the clouds, beatified countenances in pizza toppings, and hear voices in electronic equipment. The suspected proximate cause is the priming effect, in which our brains and senses are prepared to interpret stimuli according to an expected model: life experiences and genetics dictate: the synergistic forces of nature and nurture!

The cognitive perceived commonality, or affinity thread of types of story lines, that you write, which I luxuriate in reading are set in the corridors of academic institutions: UVA, and now, Ralph Waldo…was the omission a projected subliminal… ”Emerson” Elementary. ???

 

I think you should have follow through and not supplanted the name sake with Elementary for two reasons: 1) alliteration effect, you know how I enjoy my alliterations, and, 2) Ralphie Emerson was the patriarch of the transcendentalism; an implicit supernaturalism spin (philosophical religious dogma bickering with the Calvinist about self) in literature—and, the eu-mazing Mark is enigmatically shrouded and foments the air of the ‘spiritual’ transcendental.  You will probably retort that it was too obvious and trite—maybe…

Afflicted with patternicity, I envision a conspiratorial alliance of the janitor that has Willard-like mesmerizing control of small mammals with the precocious maze crafter and expositor, the a-mazing boy, Mark.  The conspiratorial fraternal kinship seed was sowed between boy and janitor with your emphatic fleshing out of the toilet cleaner’s exaggerated behavioral tics: At the waning of saga, I was expecting that Mrs. Hewitt and his dad would find Mark in the company of the janitor.  Unfortunately, there is no absurd or wacky detection network in the brain to discern true and false patterns. We have no error detection governor to modulate the pattern-recognition engine; hence, the use of the filtrating empirical science; therefore, natural selection will favor strategies that make many incorrect causal associations in order to establish those that are essential for survival:

a father’s endearing, unconditional love for his son regardless of the reasons he publicly sports purple hair horns and draws freaky mazes…    

One does wonder if there was purposeful subliminal projection of the schools name to evoke the Turrets syndrome –like outburst of, “where’s Waldo?” I like this story line it has all the potential of a stem cell…

Beach Blusters: Old Men and Hurricanes

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In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, the opening sentence introduces the narrator with an air of self-deprecation and humility by simply identifying himself: “call me Ishmael”; which, appeals to me, and if it’s good enough for Herman—-so, with as much modesty as Ishmael, call me Roy and I would like to share with you a Cape Hatteras Tale……………….. The annual beach trip was prematurely terminated due to the high velocity, violent winds forecasted to trounce Cape Hatteras. The true vector is still under investigation: a single source, Hurricane Earl; or a synergism of “blowhards”, old men reminiscing with the concomitant window shattering gust of wind of a meteorological squalor.  The general conditions to engender the inception of these inimical tempests are warm surface water temperatures, and low pressure difference; wherein, the lower the barometric pressure the faster the wind blows; however, the propitious conditions of loquacious blowhards putatively are chairs and beers: thrones and the elixir of truth and wisdom, which can, and did, catalyzed into an explosive chaotic vortex of farcical tales. This is not to infer that this was a man’s only club, because apparently, the women, Mary, Kathy, and Jamie were doing their best rendition of The View with assorted wines and Margaritas: salted and unsalted.

The beach stay was punctuated with activities of marathon reading, surfing, plankton tows, frequent jaunts to the local fish market for fresh seafood and a purported golfing foray.

The commencement of every morning was living the lyrics of George Harrison’s song, Here Comes the Sun:

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

And I say it’s alright

Mary and I would at dawn, the harbinger of sunrise, brew coffee, grab a cup of jo and beach chairs, trek over the dunes, and with each step bare the titillating cool morning sand oozing between our toes before arriving at the ocean’s strand line, where we anchored ourselves firmly in the sand, careful not to spill the ink black, caffeinated elixir.  All comfy in our beach chair sipping the piping hot nectar, enraptured by a balmy brine zephyr during the twilight diffuse light, we would witness silhouettes of the shore break denizens engaging in a game of tag with the swash; the mole crabs were swept up on the beach and when the cloak of the foamy white swash receded back to the ocean, she, predominately female because males are small and parasitic to the female, quickly dug for cover to flee the grasping tong-like beaks of the rapacious team of the willet and sanderling; ubiquitous shore birds, which constituted one willet and two flanking sanderlings. Why that particular combo, it’s an enigma. Inevitably for Mary and me to reach our desired designation, the strand line, we had to trespass with a tippy-toe negotiation through an “archeological dig” of holes excavated by the fleet footed ghost crab.  While we sat besieged by innumerable shaft sites, the indefatigable decapods would fastidiously shovel dirt from their burrow-shafts, which can reach depths of four feet. Not to be distracted from our original intent of the sublime sunrise experience; which incidentally, is a misnomer because in actuality, it’s the earth’s planetary axial tilt and rotation that gives the illusion of a sunrise…..but I digress, it was gorgeous, as was the woman sitting beside me.

Surfing was an escapade in humility; I did more paddling than actual wave riding. With the oncoming hurricane, the waves were cresting from chest to head-high manifesting a plunging break: the break is from top to bottom forming a barrel or tube of air as it collapses. This particular type of break is fast and punishing to the hoary seasoned surfer who deliberates a maneuver; conversely, the sinewy youth who engages instinctually is recompensed with dividends of a long ride and spared the embarrassing crest smacking, and subsequent tumbling plunge to the wave’s trough. Regardless of the countless wipeouts, I was still out there paddling. When I’m too old to do that, it will be time to lie with Davy Jones locker; however, with contemplative reflection, there is a good chance, I might be a touch premature, hasty if you will, and besides, I still have my books, microscopes, beer and coffee: I will adapt and adjust.

The brains of the group, the women, were enthralled in lofty cerebral pursuits: a book smack down of how many books can be read in three days. Two strategies were observed: the sprinter and marathoner reader.  The sprinter would burst read: intense interludes of book consuming; conversely, the marathoner would leisurely luxuriate in an immersion of the extolled written word: Kathy excelled in this strategy, wherein, she would stroll down to the water front, stake out the beach terrain that suited her capricious fancy and decorate it with the eclectic shore line furnishing of a towel, chair, and the “bag” of assorted incidentals; to include, the book. Whereupon, she would assume a Yoga-like body alignment conducive to sustain lengthy motionlessness, which insured assiduity to the book’s content at hand and precluded a potential loss of place on the book’s page by repositioning. With sunglasses and lotion, she endured the oppressive heat, and completed the book/s.

The politically charge juggernaut issue of global warming that is inextricably linked to anthropogenic fossil fuel retrieving processes; mining and ocean floor drilling, and ‘energy gleaning burning’ has resuscitated my passion for bio-indices monitoring techniques to ascertain water quality: Sampling the zooplankton communities with plankton net and the aid of the microscope for taxonomic name tagging, afforded me a venue to harvest  the plankton population, miniature, body- transparent arthropods, reveling diversity and species dominance, which is indicative of water chemistry, and a reflection of its health. “The Plan”, still in its embryonic phase, and myself dubious of how to proceed, I solicit James assistance for the first boat run and plankton tow. Once a reliable, economical, small watercraft was secured— James and his long time Coast Guard friend had engineered several convoluted plans to insure that I would readily have a boat at my disposal, an exerted effort immensely appreciated but, beyond the conceptual ecological project: and, violating the edict KISS: keep it simple stupid; a Henry David Thoreau philosophy recapped by the Marine Corp.  I adjudicated to renting a Jon boat, which placated to my principles of KISS and a personal responsibility to support the local small businesses; providing a crutch of currency for a gimp economy.  After a cursory what is and how to of the outboard motor by the proprietor, James and I were off; careening turns, increasing and decreasing speed with wrist flipping executions, and barking out communications to override the droning incessant roar of the propeller twirling outboard that left a signature trail of rippling waves whose ephemeral life spans were terminated by the proximal shore.  Paraphrasing George Harrison’s lyrics: if you don’t know where you are going, then any and every road is the right road, as it was for James and I, plotting our course to “somewhere” in the estuary.  In the same capricious fashion lottery numbers are chosen, we selected a drop site for the initial plankton trial tow. Empirically we toiled to improve our plankton-net towing method with our gut as quantifying calibrators; by tweaking the boat’s speed corollary depth adjustment was achieved, and striving for expediency and efficiency James’ broadside retrieval strategy of the net was employed. Once established, we were no longer sampling the substrate detritus (estuary’s mud), but the water column where the elusive zooplankton jerked and flittered in their anemic, feeble attempt at mobility. I was interested specifically in the group of marine water fleas: Podon and Evadne, which does not have the same canonical status as the great white sperm whale of the 1851 literary classic Moby Dick; however, I do feel, as established in my open sentence, a kindred relation to Ishmael, the autodidactic, philosophical narrator of the nautical tale of Captain Ahab and the leg chomping leviathan—and, James does harbor demonstrable manifestation of the character Starbuck , the level headed, conscientious first mate of the maritime saga. After bagging the planktonic prey; which was neither ominous nor thematically Moby Dick evil, we headed back to shore.  In our zeal to disembark, I failed to make a mental note of a shoreline benchmark of our docking site, and hence, cruised right by it. We finally recognized some landmarks and made it back to port safely avoiding the finality fate of the Pequod.

The Colonel had intimated to us he had scheduled T-time at a local golf course. So, early one morning, he busied himself with the logistics for this endeavor:  Apparently, he had his golf paraphernalia stashed in his car; this strictly was an assumption because his frenetic animation was expended on rifling through the cooler for beers and the refrigerator for rations. Now that I mentioned it, I never did spy any golf clubs. What really transpired is an alleged golf foray. No one can really vouch for the Colonel’s absent time: espionage, maybe, and naturally, he had countless alibis of golf tales to corroborate the truancy. A Sherlockian caper is a foot. Speaking of tall tales, the Colonel is a gifted story weaver and when we three brothers get together there is an anthropogenic engendered barometric pressure drop and blustering spurious epics are spunned: one knows to shutter the windows of veracity when the Colonel prefaces a yarn with, “you might not remember this”…..henceforth, gusts of winds, and as my son in law Dave, said, “one shouldn’t let truth get in way of a good story”.

With all this wind, and riding on its currents, ‘family love’, reminds me of another George Harrison song ,”Blow Away”:

 

All it’s got to take is some warmth to make it

Blow away, blow away, blow away

Winds blowing clouds dispersed

Rainbow appearing, the pressures were burst

Breezes a singing, now feeling good…

New Mexico’s Mountains Sirens Entreat Antipodes

NEW MEXICO’S MOUNTAINS SIRENS ENTREAT ANTIPODES

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Mary and my visit to our daughter’s home in Angel Fire New Mexico revealed a confounding conjugal of incongruent concepts; opposites do indeed, attract: the attractant agent, be it magnetite or myth, appeared to be of a profound, formidable force. Heather and Dave had purchased a home in New Mexico and Mary thought us delinquent in parental obligations, and a visit was way overdue; and besides, neither of us had ever visited New Mexico. With the precursors of love and curiosity, we flew into Albuquerque on the eve of the Christmas holidays; rented a SUV packaged with a SIRIUS XM Radio and GPS, which concomitantly engendered a lyrically lulling reverie and a robotic compliance to the episodic, punctuated monotone road directions committing us to I-25 Hwy North. The long drive in the desert imbued our optical senses to a Georgia O’keeffeian-like harmonious arrangement of line, color, and notan (the Japanese system of lights and darks) artistic appreciation of a duplicitously austere environment peppered with succulents armored with spines, random swaths of sage, and lone sentries of pion pines and junipers. The collective landscape of N.M. was of a Grecian framing with Pythagorean perpendicularity of a horizontal desert and abruptly vertical mesa edifice. The week visit in the enchanted state was to corroborate a ubiquitous Numina essence and a conspicuous converse duality: our daughter’s livelihood is of the sea, yet her residence is fortified in the mountains; geographical juxtapose Bandelier National Monument and the Department of Energy Los Alamos National Laboratory, home of the Atomic bomb, suggest a compass landscape distance that is emblematic of a science continuum with the technically enhanced northern ‘moderns’, scientists in a lab splitting atoms, and to the south, the technically deprived ‘ancients’, troglodytes, The Pueblos, were splitting rocks in their caves; and, the “high desert” in spite of its austerity and paucity of life it evokes a reverence that is generally remitted to rainforest and reefs teeming with life.

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Heather, our eldest, is a child of the currents; where her residency induces morphs of plankton- pollen archetypes, enabling her to drift and waft in two glorious realms of nature: the azure seas of the Caribbean, soup dense with microscopic crustaceans, and the blinding white powdery snow, conifer laden, mythical mountains of New Mexico. With the wind to her back, she has become the proverbial citizen of the world, where she either is landing in an airport or docking in a harbor, personifying the lyrics of Alanis Morissette’s Citizen of the Planet: I grow from a special seed…I linger in the sprouting/ Until my engine’s full/ Then I move across the sea… 

We arrived!

Heather, our eldest, is a child of the currents; where her residency induces morphs of plankton- pollen archetypes, enabling her to drift and waft in two glorious realms of nature

We were greeted by The Pritchard Company: Dave, the South African import; the metaphorical pollen grain gametophyte, Heather; and, George, the mute philosopher.   With eyes wide open, the sublime mountain landscape was blinding; the ground was blanketed with snow and breeched by the perpendicular pagoda hierarchy limbs of the diverse species of conifers.  Their home, our bed and breakfast for the following week was incredible. It had the vantage panoramic view of a light house; where— when we would position ourselves on the back deck, a promontory into a sea of snow and evergreens, we were imbued in mountainous splendor. The floor plan was open and spacious with a décor that accounted for their enthralling international travels of Africa, Caribbean, and now, the mythical mountains of New Mexico.  

 

George, The omniscient

 

I meet George for the first time. He was [still is] a three foot orangutan fashionably donning a brown Mountie Hat and sunglasses. Folklore has it, that George was Dave’s wing man when sextant navigation [the instrument was first invented in 1759 by John Bird] was in vogue. Incredulous yarns were spunned of the dynamic duo’s carousing Caribbean cantinas: presumably, in search for the perfect beer. George is a listener; epitomizing the deportment of a bartender, or maybe, a psychologist in session, which if one was to entreat his attention, one would perceive a subtle, authoritative head-nod implicit of erudition. It was his “body language” nuance that recommended Dave’s ideal Christmas gift, the wheel barrel.

We had one short week to be immersed and baptized into New Mexico’s occult. Heather, with the lofty aspirations to have us visit as many NM historic benchmarks as we possibly could endure, assumed the roles of concierge and taxi driver. With the verve of New York City taxi driver, she careened curvy mountain roads with no hint of apprehension; fearless, to Taos, Santa Fe, Chimayo, and Bandelier National Monument. Once we arrived on destination, Heather morphed into the gracious concierge fulminating with NM tidbits of esoteric facts, which held us spellbound and entertained for hours on end. One was compelled to acknowledge the religiosity that suffused the culture of NM with the ubiquity of the European Christian and Pueblo icons of Latin crucifixes and Kokopelli caricature of a hunch back flute player, the fertility deity, adorning the walls and shelves of countless retail enterprises. It confounds me that, even though, we are in the 21st century there is still the head nod of approbation towards religions of the paternalistic ancients, whose supposedly god inspired scripture condones genocide, bigotry, slavery, and chauvinistic misogyny—and, comments absolutely nothing about science; yet, it, like the ignoble weed, perseveres.  According to the Hostetter’s sages, ma and pa, the evolutionary meme, religion, mere survivability reflects its relevance. People, the parental sages, of faith wielding the bludgeon instrument of reason, with much to my chagrin, does, evoke pause: damn the perspicacity of the elders. I am philosophically conflicted, not with the questions of immortality or the existence of god/s, for I am confident and resolute in the answer to those questions; however, explicit in the First Amendment is a litigious guarantee tolerance to all religions, as it should be, but herein lays the contention. Tolerance is, with some respect a complicit condoning, and religion has become so politically vitriolic and anti-science; confusing Genesis with Evolution, the incomprehensible perplexing ignorance of a fetus anatomy and physiology with that of a new-born, and the imbecilic denial of global warming attributed to man burning fossil fuels; in that, turning a blind eye and deaf ear is no longer an option. The wall between church and state has been blatantly breached and reason has been compromised—what to do? Oh, look Mary at that colorful Kokopelli.   

Heather personifying all the attributes of Job, patiently entertained all our whimsical wishes to visit historical benchmarks that may appear on the surface antithetical to our life philosophies: Mary and I are of the atheistic persuasion, formerly of the Catholic hood, paradoxically visited with delight iconic Catholic chapels espousing its supernatural dogma defying medical science with claims of miraculous salubrious healing rights….We, the boss lady and I, had bared witness to time worn Catholic missions, cacti, and coyotes inextricably of the desert with double entendre: simple but complex; stratified with perplexity, personifying the duplicitously simple poem, The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams. 

so much depends

upon

a red wheel

barrow

glazed with rain

water

beside the white

chickens

…what can we surmised from Jesus taking refuge in the desert for forty days; George intimating to me that the perfect Christmas gift for Dave is a wheel barrow; and, an atheist referencing the bible, could it be, sirens actually do exist and entreat antipodes… 

 

 

Past Is Prologue In A Letter To My Grandson

 

Dear Jackson:
You entered this natural world a touch earlier than expected; apparently, you had a pressing undisclosed agenda looming and the confinement of a uterus was impeding its initiation. Temporal prematurity aside, if by chance, you have some answers, LIFE strategic solutions to the troubles we, Homo “sapiens” (debatably wise) woe: a sagacious consult/guidance would be immensely appreciated. As you settle in and become acquainted with your parents; your assessment might very well accede to your “gobby’s”, that’s me, (you will get to know me soon enough), your mother is the spitting image of your nana, brown hair, chocolate brown eyes, an uranium isotope of energy who lights up a room when she enters, emanating scintillating venues of possibilities; your father, the complimentary harnessing nuclear plant facility to your mother’s raw energy is of a sound alloy character, who is of deliberate, resolute conversation and exudes in confidence: He has recently finished his graduate course work for a MBA. We are expecting big things from him.
Now, your gobby, me, I’m a very peculiar man; 57 YO, balding with pony-tail that sports “John Lennon glasses (a reference you will learn about latter), who revels in the perfunctory routine of a early morning visit to Starbucks for coffee, writing and reading. Euphemistically, I’m characterized as a Liberal Democrat, naturalistic[ism] (all phenomena can be explicated mechanically and devoid of purpose, human needs and desires) monist (demure the supernatural), but pejoratively as a Liberal Atheist; which defines me as what I am not, conversely to what I am: since the prefix “a” means not or without. Trust me when I admonish, that for the sake of initiating dialogue, “the conversation”, embracing Atheism as a perspective venue to sway a philosophical position is singularly anemic. A less offensive, but tolerable, sophisticated engaging tactic to challenge indoctrinated childhood convictions are an impartial study of nature and human societies, which, as I have found, would avail a vast continuum of innumerable considerations to liberate falsifiable observations that obviate the God of the gap ruse by the faithful in palatable terms, not acerbic atheistic jargon. As you will soon academically discern, the nano-cyber techno 21st century standard of living has and is ascending and advancing at light speed, its civilization enhancing successes are a putative portend pronouncement of the irrefutable testimony to the power of the scientific method as prima facie elucidator of gleaning truths from facts wrung from the natural world: no divine intervention! My political affiliation is of the New Deal-Great Society persuasion; where presidents F.D. Roosevelt and L.B. Johnson instituted policies that produced and protected a middle class; and, with my academic studies rooted in marine biology and my protracted amorous relationship with the Atlantic Ocean, have engendered a concomitant passion to embrace and politically support public policies that direct an environmentally responsible renewable energy harnessing stewardship.
I am who I am, as you will be, for the most part, because of parental protagonist tendentiousness: Your parents will have a predilection to readily share their opinions; make no mistake, this is not advice, but an edict; especially, if the counsel is coming from your mother. Refrain from your initial reflex to recoil and rebel; trust your gobby, for if you were to winnow their mentoring insight, you will be pleasantly commission with a kernel of erudition.
There has been three life junctures that have had a pronounced indelible stamping of my core “character signature”: Catholicism, Theory of Evolution, and military service. Your great grand parents have been integral in all three; your parents too, will have the same life tooling impact on you! Catholicism’s dogma of “you are your brother’s keeper” birthed fraternal twin life tactics of the humanist philosophy, where the ownership of responsibility for the welfare of children, elderly and the poor, is ultimately mitigated through community and self sacrifice; and, the Liberal Democrat politics of egalitarian pluralism, environmental sustainability of natural resources and safety, affordable schools and health care for all citizens, and a fair and equitable progressive tax system that maintains the infrastructure of this grand country. My military stint imbued empathetic leadership, integrity, comradeship, and loyalty; all sterling attributes every young man should have the good fortune and opportunity to experience, which was bequeathed to me through the regimental training of Officers in the Marine Corp. The Theory of Evolution liberated me from the shackles of sectarian doctrine that promulgated Divine creationism with the advent of the 1859 publication of the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace explicating by natural means how all species on earth could be the product of ancestor descendant relationship. To extol the Theory of Evolution as the regal scientific theory of all time would still fall short of its justly preeminence; for, it is more important than Copernicus’ heliocentric, Gamow’s big bang, and J.J. Thomson’s et.al. structure of the atom theories: it flings man back into the natural mix; where we are not supernaturally special and designed in God’s image. The recognition of biological evolution invalidated how humans think about themselves and their place in the universe————————-and yes, I have all these life experience baggages, three to be exact, because of your great grandparents. Your great grand nana was insistent that my spiritual core should be properly manicured, she sent me to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School. Your great grand pappy was concerned about my external shell and strongly advocated military service. Both great grand ps’ wanted to insure that the anatomical nexus of core and shell was properly wired, and jointly conspired to robustly promote higher education, the university life——————and there, amongst the books, there were so many books, I was taught to think critically, logically—and it was in this milieu laden with the “book” I supplanted faith with reason and was instructed on how to employ the scientific method, whereupon all life questions are addressed with a hypothesis, experiment and verification; and the solutions all reside within the natural realm.
So Jackson, I hereby bestow onto you our family doctrine of traditions [PAST], as muddled and mired in contradictory hypocrisy as it may boldly appear: Your parents love you unconditionally in spite of their judgmental admonishments and tone; you are your parents, your parents are you which is a direct reflection of genetics and parental rearing [there is a subliminal imbuing of their idiosyncrasies]; and unfortunately for you, this subliminal contagion transcends to the second generation readily [a little bit of me and nana], sorry dude; family gatherings are not optional, they are obligatory; we debate religion and politics while we imbibe coffee and beer; and the [PROLOGUE], your queue, is the Act of the Shakespearean play you are attending University and all that is you and us will be put to the test…
Good luck with that, I am sure you will do fine, lov’ Gobby

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