A Walking Parlez … ‘Like I’m Walkin With a Talkin Machine’

As I topped the hill and started into the next curve of the trail, a voice hailed me from back down the hill a ways. “Hey, wait up!” Words from an authoritative, distinctly-female voice. I turned quickly to see a woman slight of stature, short-cropped blonde hair and a wiry frame with a light sweater tied around her neck, rapidly approaching. An older woman … maybe around my age. Unaware that she had been behind me, I wondered how she so suddenly materialized out of thin air. No bother, just curious.

True to my politeness training (thanks, mom), I stopped and waited, almost obediently. The waning day lingered just above the far west horizon like a young kid getting a last taste of fun before scurrying home to dinner. I was in no hurry, having knocked out most of – and thus, slowed down on – my 5-mile walk on this off-bicycle day of cross-training.

She of the commanding voice soon caught up. Noticeably, she was rambling quick words even as she approached — noting the maturing sunset, the wasteful running of water from a truck-tank pipe left gushing precious agua below us, “here, of all places, in the desert!”

“Yes,” I responded as I turned to resume pace. “I called 9-1-1 to get help or permission [city property, I thought], but they were of no help and seemed quite disinterested.” But she interrupted.

“Idiots!” she yelled. “They don’t care, they just don’t CARE!”

“How to change the subject?” I fished in my mind under my breath. “I love this area!” I outwardly enthused. “So much to do, so many places to enjoy recreation, the mountains, the walking trails, lots of road cycling lanes.”

“Oh, you cyclists are crazy!” she screeched in response. “You take your lives in your OWN HANDS!”

My mental response, which I could not squeeze in edgewise, was, “Of course! Don’t you? You’re out here walking and flagged me down without any earthly idea who I am. What if I’m a serial killer? What about the snakes? Muggers? You got out of bed this morning risking a heart attack that is most likely – according to medical science – within the first 30 minutes of arising. Why? And why are you ranting to me, a total stranger, about the risks I take?”

But she had moved on to another subject even before my thoughts fully developed, and she was seemingly devoid of recognition that she had hailed down a human being with a different viewpoint.

An old James Taylor song popped into my mind. First verse:

Me and T-Bone on the road to town, it’s like I’m walkin’ with a talkin’ machine. Just as soon’s he thinks of somethin’ else, he won’t wait to interrupt himself. Must be somethin’ that he can’t quite say, he just doesn’t wanta leave it that way ….

We walked on together – I was near home and had no need to be deterred  — as she rambled about women having no chance in this world, etc. The varying subjects over the next six minutes rose and fell like waves on a stormy beach, relentlessly pounded by the next. I went into brain-auto-pilot with an occasional “um-hm” until she exclaimed that she is a “very smart woman” because her “mother told [her] so!”

“That’s what mommas do,” I suggested with a smile. But her monologue overrode the thought and skipped away. I took the turn toward home, turning back over my shoulder with “Nice talking with you! Have a great evening!” No inkling in my mind that I had helped.

Predictably, she didn’t hear the farewell and never broke stride, still gushing like a talk show host as she blended into the settling dusk like coffee into hot chocolate.

That ‘taking your life in your own hands’ idiom? I recalled a card bought when I reached Vilano Beach in St. Augustine, Florida on my bicycle – the culmination of a 3,555-mile ride across the continent – apparently a DANGEROUS adventure I shouldn’t have taken. LOA-1 You’ve probably read it before:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~ Mark Twain

Twain should have added: “Take your life in your own hands.” Life is to be cherished, not held close — or closed — in fear.

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© February 6, 2018, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

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Deer Hunters

AMERICA’S HUNTERS

A blogger recently added up the deer license sales in just a handful of states and discovered there were over 600,000 hunters this season in the state of Wisconsin …

Allow me to restate that number: 600,000!  That means that over the last several months, Wisconsin’s hunters became the 8th largest army in the world.  Hunters 2

That’s more men and women under arms than in Iran. More than France and Germany combined.  Deer hunter

These hunters deployed to the woods of a single American state — Wisconsin — to hunt with firearms, and NO PERSON WAS KILLED.

hunter 8Moreover, that number pales in comparison to the 750,000 who hunted the woods of Pennsylvania and Michigan – 750,000 hunters, ALL OF WHOM RETURNED HOME SAFELY.

Toss in a quarter million (250,000) hunters in West Virginia, and it literally establishes the fact that the hunters of those four states alone would comprise the largest army in the world.  Then include the total number of hunters in the other 46 states — millions more.

The point? ________

America should be forever safe from foreign invasion with that kind of home-grown firepower! Equally important: those gun-owning hunters don’t go out to kill people. Many (most?) have had at least one firearm safety course (many are military veterans) and know how to avoid accidental shootings of their fellow human beings.

Hunting… it’s not just a way to fill the freezer.  It’s also a matter of national security.  hunter-with-a-rifle-gun

That’s why all enemies, foreign and domestic, want to see us disarmed.  Food for thought, when next we consider gun control.  Overall it’s true, so if we disregard the assumption that hunters don’t possess the same skills as soldiers, the question would still remain…

What army of 2 million would want to face 30 million, 40 million, or 50 million armed citizens?

For the sake of our freedom, don’t ever allow gun control or confiscation of guns.

AMERICA!  Designed by geniuses. 

Constitutionally-armed legal citizens are not the problem!

This blogpost courtesy of a friend who shared it with me. Author unknown. All photos are from the public domain, worldwide web.

Christmas Attitudes

City life, any year: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, ….” ~ Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

Christmas, any year: “A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us, every one!” ~ Tiny Tim Cratchit from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843)

Christmas. A time for celebration, for joy, for giving and receiving. Yet for some, a time of special pain: memories recalled, sickness suffered, loved ones lost, physical, emotional, financial or spiritual pain.

Maybe part of it has to do with attitude? Preconceived notions? Stubbornness? But maybe not. Maybe it’s the circumstances that seem to control, whether outward or inward.

Regardless, I join Tiny Tim in praying that, for my friends and family who suffer pain of any sort, they shall experience jubilation at the Advent. For those who endure torturous physical pain or illness, I pray for your healing and comfort. For those who encounter the harsh memories of the past, of the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job or financial difficulties, I pray for the security of faith, the gift of God, Who knows your need and supplies, even if “just in the nick of time.”  And for those who struggle spiritually for any of many possible reasons, I pray for your self-forgiveness, even as God has forgiven you. May you breathe deeply and drink from the Water that quenches all thirst.

I saw a big man yesterday, standing in line in a sharp business suit perfectly tailored to his fit, lots of nice bling on his arm and hands. Yet he scowled at the inconvenience of waiting, the “lower people” who waited on him. Purchase complete, he walked to his Maserati and drove away with angry power.  Maserati Quattroporte

On my morning walk today, I had to abandon the sidewalk momentarily for an immigrant worker who was trimming trees with a small chainsaw and loading the offal in his old pickup truck. He had a shirt wrapped around his head to catch the sweat and dirt.

David Bacon photo_migrant worker
Photo by David Bacon

Yet he paused as I approached so that I wouldn’t be inconvenienced by the noise and flying chips. As I came even with him, he politely said, “Good morning sir!” with a cheerful smile of uneven teeth.

Attitude does matter.

 

“God bless us, every one!”

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© December 6, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

Timeless Insults from the Top

Churchill and Trump, among a host of notables, are well-known for their ability to toss out insults about their political opponents at convenient — or inconvenient — moments. Just a few thoughts on that timeless topic here.

“He is a monkey just put into breeches.”

John Adams
John Adams

“Half-envoy, half-pimp.”

gouverneur morris
Gouverneur Morris

Trump tweets? Not at all! These are descriptions of, first, John Adams (then vice-president to George Washington), and, second, Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816, author of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution and called “Penman of the Constitution).  The insults were written by Senator William Maclay of Pennsylvania (1737-1804).

Second U.S. President John Adams (a brilliant intellect, but said by some to have been a misanthrope) called Alexander Hamilton “a Creole bastard,” and said of Hamilton, “That bastard brat of a Scottish peddler! His ambition, his restlessness and all his grandiose schemes come, I’m convinced, from a superabundance of secretions, which he couldn’t find enough whores to absorb!” (Hamilton, a brilliant man himself, was one of several illegitimate children of his mother.)

Alexander-hamilton-5615
Alexander Hamilton

In the presidential campaign of 1796, two of the four candidates, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, said of each other:

Jefferson’s campaign:  Adams has a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

In return, Adams’ men called Vice President Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

It appears that the Founding Fathers of our nation, great men though they were, were no more above berating others, when the tactic was deemed expedient, than any of the politicians of our lifetime who use such derogatory statements as “I like people who weren’t captured,” or the “basket of deplorables,” etc. Nastiness is not time-bound to any unique period.

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© December 4, 2017 by Michael E. Stubblefield.

Always Teach, Always Learn

“Nine Techniques to Restore … the Beauty Way”

by a Navajo healer

portraits-edward-s-curtis_Many Goats Son_1904 Navajo
Navajo boy, son of “Many Goats”

First

Dedicate your sleep to gain knowledge. Dreams can reveal a great deal about what troubles you.

Second

Close your eyes and you see better and hear better.

Third

Ceremonies can remove obstructions. And ceremonies do not have to be elaborate, just something as simple as taking time each morning to feel the dawn.

Fourth

Rise before sunrise and bathe in the coolness. It will help wash badness away, and you’ll be able to handle any situation.

Fifth

Smile about the problems you receive; they build muscle. Serendipity is around every corner and life detour.

Sixth

What’s important is not what happened, but to rebuild.

Seventh

Life is great, life is good, especially when you share it with someone.

Eighth

Teach all the time, and learn all the time.

Ninth

The final technique to restore one to the Beauty Way is prayer. When you pray long enough, you will find shortcuts to the best path to take.

__________________________

Navajo_medicine_man
Navajo Medicine Man “Nesjaja Hatali”

Photo of (1) Navajo boy, son of “Many Goats” (1904), and (2) Navajo Medicine Man Nesjaja Hatalic. 1907 (1907) by Edward Sheriff Curtis, American photographer & ethnologist who documented the lives of the American Indian tribes in photos and recordings. He was known to the American Indians as “the Shadow Catcher.”  Of him, friend and supporter Theodore Roosevelt wrote in the foreword to Volume I of The North American Indian:

“In Mr. Curtis we have both an artist and a trained observer, whose work has far more than mere accuracy, because it is truthful. …because of his extraordinary success in making and using his opportunities, has been able to do what no other man ever has done; what, as far as we can see, no other man could do. Mr. Curtis in publishing this book is rendering a real and great service; a service not only to our own people, but to the world of scholarship everywhere.”

For a fascinating probe into Curtis’ career, I heartily recommend “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher” by Timothy Egan, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2011). 

Those Birds

Almost magical is the bachelor’s night song from high in a tree

Then the lilting symphony of morning trills as

He and his new-found love pipe forth to

Awaken the brilliant mountainside dawn.

Those talented Northern Mockingbirds.

HsFin (1 of 1)
House Finch male

 

Late afternoons in the dry, cracking heat of summer

As the faltering breeze dessicates all in the desert

I hear scratchy hooting that sounds like a hoarse owl

When no self-respecting owl is out.

Those blue eye-shadowed White-winged Doves.

 

WCSp
White-crowned Sparrow

Mother called us to the window, Come quietly, she’d say

Listen. Can you hear that piercing high trill of notes?

They are busy little moms, feeding their young

All day long, they are. Watch for their flitting.

Those tiny little Jenny Wrens.

 

In a winter blanketed by a sudden snow the bushes sometimes

Come alive with the chick-chick-chick-chick-dee-dee-dee

Sounds of hordes of winter winged acrobats

Who dart and flutter among the frozen red holly berries.

Those lightning-fast Black-capped Chickadees.

 

And on those lazy summer afternoons as the sun lingers late

In its low-angled final stretch of western sky, we hear

The clarion call of cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheer up from the pine trees

That signals night is falling, time to rest.

Those loveable American Robins.

© October 3, 2017 by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

 

 

I love the wisdom of Rumi:

Oh, bird of my soul, fly away now,

For I possess a hundred fortified towers.

And then, Victor Hugo:

Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.

“Creed”: Thoughts too good to hide

I love this poem by Adrian Plass — “Creed” — put to music in the wonderful “City of Gold” soundtrack. Enjoy!

I cannot say my creed in words.
How should I spell
despair, excitement, joy and grief?
amazement, anger, certainty and
unbelief?

What was the grammar of those sleepless nights?
Who the subject? What the object? –
of a friend who will not come,
or does not come,
and then
creates his own eccentric special dawn:
A blinding light that does not blind.

Why do I find you in the secret,
wordless places where I hide
from your eternal light?
I hate you.
I love you.
I miss you.
I wish that you would go
and yet I know that long ago
you made a fairy tale for me

About the day when you would take your sword
and battle through the thicket of the things I have become.

Your kiss to life…my Sleeping Beauty
waiting for her Prince to come.

Then I will wake
and look into your eyes
and understand.
And for the first time
I will not be dumb
and I shall
say my creed
in words.

Carpe diem. Life is eternal.

Different Dances

Dancing is an activity enjoyed around the world. And for the dances of the world, diversity is a descriptor that springs to mind. The word “diversity” is a noun that denotes or means the state of being diverse; variety.” The connotation for that word these days, especially in the press, is narrowly limited to trigger points of ethnicity, gender, race, political and sexual preferences. But the broader connotation of “variety” is much more helpful.

When I think about diversity, friends and family come to mind. In my immediate family, there are physical characteristics that mark us as being kin, yet the talents, interests and outlooks represented are much broader. And although my extended family and friends include racial and ethnic diversity, the differences that bind us together go way beyond that.

JTK-4Take a look at this photo of 1st graders at a Fall school festival and think of the amazing range of talents, sizes, skills, experiences and families represented in the group. The kids in the class were circled, singing and cheering in their face-paint and flower garlands. There were high voices and low voices, some with obvious musical talent and others who seemed to be tone-deaf or, at least, equipped with ears untrained to distinguish various pitches.  Some exuberant, others shy and tentative. Some were clearly leaders who will likely mature into leadership positions in life. Others will become artists, mathematicians or scientists, business leaders, teachers, engineers, etc.

Narrow the group to two individuals with very different personalities who, nonetheless, are very close friends. Who knows what they may someday be and do? JTK-6Both of equal human value, both with definite inclinations and abilities that already show, yet both accepting and ENJOYING each other. That’s how friendship works.

Break it down to an individual level, and one may begin to see the potentials represented in each small human. Or do we really only see the tip of an iceberg that gives small hints of reality yet to be? There’s much yet to be discovered about individual personalities, talents, interests and development.

JTK-7Diversity is a wonderful — and wondrous  — consideration that goes way beyond the dumbed-down concentration on the physical traits of gender and skin color. We cannot begin to fathom the range of differences that each child or person brings to the table until we get beyond the surface and spend lots of quality time in interaction with, and appreciation of, each person’s unique gifts, qualities, thought patterns, physical and mental skills, emotional makeup, and preferences in an infinite number of realms and qualities. How do they see their way to meaning in life? What do they like to do most? Least? What do they want? Aspirations? The list goes on and on.  JTK-8

I think about so many amazing people I’ve met in life — children, school friends, neighbors, colleagues at work, artists and musicians, politicians, clients, students, professors and teachers, and family members — with such a huge array of differences, yet all enjoying and, more importantly, CONTRIBUTING to make life and the world a better place to live.

Here’s to my friends and family who make my world a better place each day; who challenge me to change for the better, to be a better friend and family member, to offer what I can offer to the world without hesitation, knowing that I am enhanced by the sharpening effect of those around me. THANK YOU!

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© September 25, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

Leaning

So much to say
Why shouldn’t I say it?
Things need to be said
Why not leave them alone?
Things sure need doing
But I don’t want, can’t do them
That thing should be done
Why not go it alone?
Have skills to do it
But never enough, see?
By gosh, I’ll not do it
But who, if not me?
Fact is, I’m some nice
‘Cept when I’m selfish
And I could sacrifice
‘Til it feels self-defeatish
So where now, what’s up?
What if I leave it alone?
If I avoid the pain
And skedaddle on home?
© July 18, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

Rough Road in Cochise Country

A cold, wet wind swooped in, so I took flight eastward on horseback through the valleys, up across hillsides thick with low forests broken by patches of native range grasses, down washes and draws and into country once “owned” by the Chiricahua Apache. No land deeds necessary, physical dominance sufficed then. Cochise, Geronimo and Mangas Coloradas — who gave mortal hell to the U.S. Army in over a decade of raids and warfare to defend their traditional lands – leaders in the Apache Wars of 1861-1872.  Another angle of view of southeast Arizona.

The horseback was only in my mind. Mid-February had found me wanting a new view. My Lovely was away in Washington, the Phoenix metroplex was tiresome. Then two near-perfect days watching birds at Patagonia Lake ended abruptly with rain and high winds. But I had spotted and shot several firsts in my bird photo collection, including –

Red-naped Sapsucker (Yep! They really do “suck” sap. Look it up); Ladderback Woodpecker; Gilded Flicker; Vermilion Flycatcher (what a showy fellow!); White-throated Sparrow; Pyrrhuloxia; and White-winged Dove. And there was a huge plague (official label) of Great-tailed Grackles.

Birds may not like storms any more than humans do, but I reckon they don’t complain about it. (Due to the wind, these photos are a bit blurry.)

As said, I lit out for the remote Cochise County, Arizona’s extreme southeast corner. Stopped first, though, in the funky-but-literary town of Patagonia for coffee and a quick browse at their public library, which I’d visited before and found good local color – old-timers spinning out verbal yarns real-time. No disappointment this time, either. Walked away from listening to some fun conversations after a bit and passed a lot of western nostalgia along the road.

The 30-mile stretch of Highway 83 to Parker Canyon Lake from the wide-spot town of Sonoita doesn’t earn the “highway” designation. It’s a contorted, climbing, plunging and primitive route that cuts secretively into the rolling mountains as if trying to escape. Only a slight departure from that time in history when roads often snaked through ranchland and farmland in 90-degree turns made along owners’ boundaries to avoid bisecting a rancher’s or farmer’s grazing lands. “Hit weren’t allowed.”

Antiq-2
A time almost gone.

Sliding through a funnel, narrower and still narrower, mile on mile, the pavement was mostly free of markings – just choppy, tooth-rattling surface through beautiful steep-rolling foothills, grasslands and forests of juniper, manzanita and scrub oak with a spreading habit like live oak. A refreshing departure from the desert terrain of most of Arizona. In winter months like February, the grass stands golden at about two feet high, thick and swaying with the winds … unless covered by snow.

Deer bolted across the road in front and then stopped to stare as I passed. Their coats had an almost sage green hue – either my imagination or their adaptation to local habitat with lots of rocks and lichens of similar hue and the Hairy-seed Bahia, Common Mullein and Desert Marigold plants that abound.

I got there about an hour before dusk. Parker Canyon Lake, Cochise County, about 10 miles north of the border with the State of Sonora, Mexico. Heavy clouds got there first and soaked the place, and rain was still pelting down with a vengeance. Finding the most remote site, I began dinner prep as thick, falling snowflakes caught my attention out the window. No worry. Forecast was for temps hovering at 42, even at this elevation of 5,375 feet, so I dug in to my meal like a ravenous wolf. Only, I had a glass of good red wine.

Inclement weather can cause one to default to a too-rare solitude. There’s a reprieve from “city campers” who in good weather shift their urban way of life to lakeside with electronic gadgets, dogs and noise that spoil the serenity of remoteness. As dark fell, I shortly fell soundly asleep in the Coronado National Forest south of the Dragoon Mountains (where Cochise hid with his warriors) and west of the Chiricahua Range that borders with New Mexico. The stormy night was so dark that I could scarcely see my hand in front of my face. No stars, no outdoor lighting. Perfect for camping.

* * * * *

On the way out next morning, I happened upon a Border Patrol officer sitting off to one side of a 90-degree turn. I remembered the highway signs I’d seen on the way in an afternoon earlier, about every three miles — “Caution: Rough road next 4 miles” — and just before I’d run out of rough road, another such forecast appeared. Exaggeration, but not by much. The rutted washboard macadam could beat a vehicle and its driver to premature death.

But since morning traffic was nil (same as afternoon), I stopped in the middle of the narrow road and opened my driver’s window. The officer took the cue and rolled down his.

“Hey,” I smiled, “you may want to tell the ADOT folks they’d save a lot of money on highway signs if they just put up signs that say, ‘Watch out, smooth road surface for two miles ahead.’ They’d have to make and maintain a lot FEWER signs!”

He gave an exuberant thumbs-up and “Great idea! Have a great day, sir!” Big smile back. Folks in the countryside are relaxed, independent attitude notwithstanding. Most of Arizona is welcoming. The first smile is easy to come by, and if you return it freely, you’re welcomed back.

Then, in another 90-degree turn, I dropped into another time warp. A roadside sandwich sign absent the day before told of a Sunday rodeo at the Canelo Cowboy Church.

A cold morning mist stung the face, bad enough weather to keep a lot of city churchgoers at home. But hardy ranch kids, girls and boys, were out with parents in well-worn western gear complete with spurs and chaps, riding steers and broncs out of the chute for time and competing in goat-tying contests. The simple, physically-challenging fun of rural life exceeds the wildest imagination of urban indoor electro-kids. I found a pullout, hiked back along the road and took some shots of the folks having Sunday fun being bucked off faunching animals poked with hotshots while clowns in ridiculous attire cavorted all round the enraged animals. Pretty easy to classify those folks within Will Rogers’ humorous depiction:

There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. ~ Will Rogers

Sometimes those forgotten, back-corner, out-of-the-way places of life deliver wonderful unexpected entertainment – the refreshment we need.

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© May 6, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.