Thank you for visiting!

You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, the first novel in my fantasy adventure series. Visit the Edge of the World! Come for the view, stay for the adventure!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The 1960's-

The 1960's. A decade often referred to, especially by those of us who lived through them. Most particularly persons such as myself, whose formative years were the 1960's. It was a decade in which the "generation gap" was recognized, touted, over-worked and made-fun-of. It was a decade of change. It was a lot more than a decade ought to be required to be.

Mythical, that's what it was. Yet something real. I, being now an old person (at 57 venerable years of age,) can look back at that decade and see it as a demarcation line for a lot of stuff. My parents still live, and are doing pretty well. I still see them as different from "us."

"Us," of course, being "we" who were formed during the 1960's or those who came later. I just don't sense the difference between myself and my children that I sense between myself and my parents. Oh, we are not the same, my children's generation and mine. Perhaps the big difference is that I recognize that, and I think it is fine. We should be different.

I don't expect them to automatically adopt my values. Neither the corporate values (whatever they might be) of my generation or my personal values. With the people who were formed before the 1960's there seems to be that expectation, and shock (even after all of this time) when those values are not adopted and held in high esteem.

Perhaps that is the difference. I accept fluidity and flux in all aspects of life as the normal way things are. I don't really have an idea of "how things should be," so I am not shocked when they aren't that way. It is strange that the generation that survived the huge fluctuations surrounding the Great Depression and World War II aren't flux-oriented, but they aren't.

One commentator I read (and of course the name of whom I don't recall) noted that a significant part of that generation served in the military or some similarly regimented system adopted to meet the demands of a world-spanning war. It might be that. They had a war to fight, a war for survival that was really about survival.

We had Viet Nam. A dumb-ass war that had no real purpose, except for the anti-communist ideologists who tried to put communism in the same world-threatening basket as Hitler and Hirohito. Yeah, right. Not to denigrate the very real sacrifices of my brothers-in-arms who actually fought in Viet Nam. Those were real sacrifices, but sacrifices for what? I am still not clear on that matter.

True, I have had Vietnamese friends who benefited from the events there by eventually coming to America and participating in the American Dream. Still, the sacrifice was considerable and the gain negligible. But, this post isn't about Viet Nam, per se. Nor is it about the current lot of dumb-ass wars we are involved in.

It is about a very real difference in generations demarcated by the decade called the 1960's. The world began changing at an increasingly rapid pace in that generation. We grew up with change as the normal way of things. Many of us embraced change. Most learned to live with it and not be shocked by the fluidity and flux.

This shall be posted into the blogosphere via Blogger, and into the even more fluid place called Facebook. It will be read by (perhaps) a DOZEN people. Few of them will have been formed before the 1960's. There is some vague possibility that someone will make a comment. Even less likely, but still possibly, someone will be impacted by my prose and their lives will change.

What is my hope? I am not entirely sure, but I would love for some of my word-stones being cast into the flux and fluidity to cause the kind of ripple that makes someone think. It would be lovely if I changed a life for the better. It might be fun if it went viral, as well, but that isn't likely and isn't really important to me.

Mostly, I hope that should a reader have to deal with a dinosaur from the era before 1960 they will deal gently with them. The flux and fluidity is threatening to them, and they might be a bit afraid. Be gentle, and listen to the stories they will tell. Listen, as an act of kindness.

Change is...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wisdom, and other fables-

In my youth I hungered for Wisdom, or whatever I thought might constitute wisdom. I have to admit, after all of this time I am not sure what I envisioned when I thought about wisdom. I figured it related to Truth (the capital T is very important) in some profound yet mystical way. I held Truth in high esteem, as well, though I had no better idea of Truth than I did of Wisdom.

Many years later my tag line on my work related email (an internal system predating our access to the Internet in the jail in which I worked) related to wisdom. "For over forty years I sought wisdom only to learn it is one of the least valued commodities on Earth." It earned no comment, good or bad. Perhaps that underlines what I thought I had to say.

During the course of that forty years I often longed for a venue through which to share my wisdom, and even experimented with some. Now, some years later still, I have that venue. The Internet. Wow! What power!

What deep profundity wishes to burst forth from the depths of my being? After all, seeking wisdom for so many years should have provided a well of great thought. I should have so much to share!

I do. However, the greatest gift my quest for wisdom has given me is the ability to recognize that few seek wisdom from a venue such as this. The pathway to that little guy sitting on top of the mountain is not a broad and beaten path. Nope.

Pretty much whatever wisdom you are going to acquire will be beaten into you along the way to just living your life. There really aren't that many wise men or women out there, just some who have learned to contain their inner fool. I hope that I have at least learned a little of that.

I tend to believe that living simply is better. I consider the greatest gift we can give to others is to leave people alone and let them live their own lives. I hold that the best interactions are catalytic rather than analytic or well-intended. In other words, just bumping up against one another is sufficient to sharpen and polish. Too much attention or intention just screws up the process.

Indeed, the tyranny of the well-intended is no better than the tyranny of the profoundly self-interested. It is still tyranny. Political despots or meddlesome old ladies (of any gender or age) differ only by degree.

In reviewing my journals I realize that the things that confused me in my youth largely still do. However, I have grown to better accept my limitations in understanding. I valued sunrises and sunsets then, and still do. I valued new horizons and new vistas then, and still do.

When I was younger I saw humanity as flawed, and I wanted to fix it. Now I see people as flawed, as I am flawed, and beyond my ability to fix. That is what grace and redemption is all about.  If you want to know about those, there are many books on the subject. Better yet, ask God to show you. Even if you don't believe that there is a God, you can ask. Interesting things may happen.

I have come to believe, and perhaps always have, that reason and mysticism are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Life is not one color, or one texture, or one note. It is not just one flavor, or just one scent. It is not just one size, either. It is infinitely large, and infinitely small, yet just the right size to embrace. Touch it with all of your senses, and your mind, and your heart.

Even fear and anger are a part of life. However, neither should define or limit life or how it is to be lived. They are simply parts of the palate from which life is painted, components from which your being is constructed. The art of composition can be applied to more than art, and should be. Paint with your whole being.

I have learned that laughter is valuable, even in difficult times and in dark places. Especially in difficult times and dark places. It is most valuable when I have learned to laugh at myself. Others will, so why should I miss out on the joke?

Is any of this wisdom? I don't really know. It doesn't hurt to call it that.

Got Wisdom?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Serendipity, revisited-

Some time back I thought about and wrote about a thing I called Serendipity Scholarship. I used it to describe and somewhat justify my free flowing and undisciplined approach to learning. There are merits to serendipity, some of which are noted in the linked article. However, more and more I have reexamined my disdain for formal learning.

The difficulty I have had with formal learning has not been the structure itself, nor the formality. It is my own sense of my mortality and a selfish longing for ever more knowledge. Time devoted to deep and formal study of one subject or one set of subjects takes time away from all of the other things that might be learned.

Over time I have also come to recognize some characteristics of my intellectual self that preclude success in formal learning environments. I don't retain information well, at least in detail. I retain what I am currently calling "notions." In this case a notion is a set of feelings and vague intuitive associations related to an idea or subject. I can see or sense relationships between notions, but regarding specifics of what that notion relates to I must constantly refresh my mind by looking things up.

In essence, I better understand the relationships between ideas than the ideas themselves. I don't know if any other brains work like this, but I do know that institutional learning is not presented for this kind of thinking. School is a constant struggle for me. After all, testing tends to be regarding specific content and not the relationships between ideas, and the rule by which learning is measured is the results of such testing.

Granted, with discipline most human brains can be taught something with the standard teaching methods. Additionally, tailored teaching is just not practical for teaching the masses. The existing system gave me valuable tools and I have actually learned a few things along the way.

The mortality issue applies to serendipity scholarship as well as any other way of learning. I shall live only a limited time. As diligent as I might be at study, I can only learn so much. Serendipity can provide for a broad experience of learning, but at the cost of depth.

What I realize I miss most with my solo wandering through the world of wonders is shared learning. Having a guide and peers is helpful, because real discussions and debates can take place. Such interchange sharpens ideas and grinds away falsehoods. It also provides more than one perspective on any matter being studied and discussed.

I have to suspect that most readers, if you have even read this far, won't really understand what I am talking about. The current modes of learning are sufficient for them. That is good. However, some of you will understand because the existing modes of teaching and learning don't fit your own experiences.

My mind is constantly filled with questions. These questions often beget more questions rather than an equal number of answers. Without the mortality issue, this would not be a bad thing. However, there is a time limit. I had a professor who once noted that I was good at framing the right kind of questions. That is probably due to the fact that the larger content of my mind is questions on all sorts of things.

The concept of life after death, of eternal life, is comforting. It offers something beyond the time limit, a place where answers may be sought and time enough is available to seek them. The belief system I adopted long ago allows for that. The bit of comfort is a good thing.

Of course, eternal life and life after death is a concept related to a whole lot of questions. A great many questions.

It would probably take forever to answer them. : )

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

On the Road Again-

Thanksgiving brought my daughter, Beth and her family down to Santa Cruz, California for a visit. She, her husband Dave, and my four grandchildren (who are coincidentally their children) came down in Dave's small truck and with an assist from my son, Matthew. He carried the larger portion of the clan in his Jeep SUV. They had moved to Medford, Oregon, ahead of us, anticipating the sale of our house and the rest of us following shortly.

They are residing in temporary shared housing of my extended family. Unfortunately, the home sale fell through at this end, protracting the temporary situation. The kids are in the process of moving into a rental that will carry them through until we finally sell the house, get moved and find a new place for everyone to live happily ever after.

So they came, we visited, had Thanksgiving. Did family stuff. It was good. Then came the return. Winter travel in most of California does not face some of the challenges of other parts of the country. However, between Santa Cruz and Medford lay some truly challenging mountain passes. How would we get everyone back to Oregon?

The small truck was going back, anyway. The other vehicle would be my van, named The Mobile Man Cave. The camping components were reduced to what I would need on the return. The rear seat was returned to the full upright position, and we loaded up. Lots of room in the middle for cargo and general stuff.

A weather check defined the coast route to be the better choice, though the total mileage came to 548 miles. A lot of miles for one day, but we had only that much time for the return. The up side was that the kids had not traveled that route. Well, Beth had, but she was so little that her memory of that trip would largely be composed of the view of the back of the front seat in a Mercury small car of some forgettable name. I think we called it "the blue car" back in those days.

So, off we go. Surprisingly good weather. The passage through Oakland and across the toll bridge to Marin County was relatively uneventful. We did In-and-Out Burger in Oakland for lunch. Some nice guy in the parking lot offered to sell me a new laptop computer. That was nice of him, but I didn't need one right then.

So, North we go. North. Highway 101. Wine country. It was beautiful, but we had hundreds of miles to cover. No stopping for pretty. Small towns the highway still actually passes through in places. North. Into the northern redwoods. Getting foggy. Getting dark. Passing sights to see in the darkness. We could have been anywhere. North. Ever north.

So, we get to Medford in the very early morning. 548 miles. Long drive. Pleasant enough. The kids travel well, and did not fuss and generally were well behaved. Except at the point when one of them hit the button that lays the seat down flat under the power of an electric motor. I had visions of the kids cut in half by seat belts as the motor ground away into the down position, but it simply turned into a short yet funny interlude.

Now I am in Medford, and it is a good time to spend with family. I got to see everyone, and it was pretty nice. I also met the real estate agent my Dad had engaged to help us when we got sold and were ready to buy. We looked at property, and he put me in touch with a finance officer who might help with the money thing once we were sold and ready to buy.

Time to go home. Watching the weather, looking for a good departure window that would get me safely over the mountain passes. Monday, January 6th, looked like the day. I left late, around ten in the morning, to allow the ice on the passes to become just water and thus no particular problem. We took that time to do some final checks on the van.

Two days before departure I had started it, backed it out, and started down the road to run some errands with my daughter and the grandkids. Smoke had poured out of the heater vent. It was exciting, but not in a good way. I shut it down and checked it out. Turned out to be leaves that had gotten into the heating system and been ignited by friction. Fortunately, no damage and the offending leaves apparently burned up and blew away.

So, I roll out and head south. I was going the more direct I-5 route. Ashland is along the way, and I always stop and drink a bit of Lithia Water at the plaza fountain. I grew up, in part, in Ashland, and always had some of that bubbling mineral water whenever I passed that way. The taste is at best a unique experience, but it has become a tradition with me.

Now, souther. I went over the pass with no problem. I passed by the first rest stop without stopping. I usually stop, but I needed to get some drinking water in Yreka. I took the route through the town, looking around and generally seeking a Dollar Tree or something. I found a Walmart at the end of town, got my water, and hit the road again.

My target at this point was the rest stop at Shasta Lake. Hence, I did not stop at the Weed rest stop. The weather was closing in, Mount Shasta was robed in clouds and I was into some steady rain from Dunsmuir to the rest stop at Shasta Lake. It was still raining when I got there, but not very heavy. I had lunch at that stop, and then I was on the road again.

I dropped out of the mountains and into the Central Valley. The clouds cleared to partially cloudy, and it was very nice weather as I continued south. My next stop was a planned visit to the Rolling Hills Casino. I wanted to look at their RV park (which was mostly an extension of the parking lot) and get some free coffee. I walked around the casino, watched the games a bit, but placed no bets this trip. I took my coffee out to my van and got back on the road.

My final goal for the day was the Pilot Travel Center near the I-5/505 interchange. I didn't make it. At sunset I spotted a rest stop and decided to rest. I pulled in, recognizing the spot as the beginnings of a short story I wrote in my head on a previous journey. That story sits now in a file, awaiting publication. It fell out of my head at some point, and I caught it in my digital net.

Putting the van in camp mode, I settled in for the evening. Being tired, I elected to sleep a bit. I awoke a couple of hours later, and did not really want to get on the road again. In the dark. Traveling in the dark is generally not that great. It is hard to see the vistas I am so fond of. Dark is just about the same everywhere, but vistas are special. Each and every one.

So, I read a bit. Then I laid down and did some thinking. That put me to sleep, because I am an apparently boring thinker. I awoke at about two, and did enough thinking to put myself to sleep until a bit after six. I got up, used the restroom, generally prepared to get moving, and got moving.

It was a really nice sunrise. By the time I got to the Pilot Travel Center the sun was well up. I stopped for gas and to look the place over. It would have been a decent over-night, but the rest stop was better. I got a discount on a cup of coffee with my gas purchase. That was fortuitous, as I was quite ready for coffee. I got my coffee, and was again back on the road.

My usual route would have been to take the 505 cut-off and go through Vacaville and the Bay Area on my way home. It would have been very busy at that time of day on a week day. I elected to continue south on I-5. My hope was for less traffic, and some vistas I had not often seen.

As I drew closer to Sacramento, my hope for avoiding traffic diminished. Yep, city traffic. Busy. Lots of trucks and cars and plenty of stupid drivers. However, the duration was nothing like I would have had to endure (for hours) on the other route. Then, fog. And traffic. Hmmm. I began to wonder if my decision was a good one.

The fog and traffic broke just south of the Sacramento area, and the highway stretched before me. We moved a bit west, toward rolling grassy hills. Yes, there were vistas. Hills, farm lands, pastures, and a huge valley stretching into the haze that covered the distant mountains. It was nice. Very nice.

It continued to be nice for quite some time. All of the way home, for that matter. At Highway 152 I turned again west, and passed through passes that were beautiful. Rocky outcroppings, oak trees in abundance. Grassy meadows. Lakes. Farm lands. Then, in the distance, the Pacific Ocean.

Along the way on Highway 152 is Casa de Fruta. I had passed it many times, but never stopped. It was always too early in a journey, or too late. I most often passed it late at night. This time I came upon Casa de Fruta at a time I could stop. I had planned this, and unlike my plans for word domination, this plan bore fruit. Ahem.

Casa de Fruta has a pretty nice RV park, a motel, and some fruit related retail outlets along with an amusement park in miniature. It is pretty, well presented, and quite over-priced. However, they have some very nice culinary contributions to make to the traveler's shopping experience, and the price might be worthwhile. I definitely recommend the stop if it is not too early, or too late.

I took the Highway 156 route through these coastal mountains in order to enjoy the valley around Hollister and to cross Highway 25. I hope to eventually travel that little highway and add it to my list of complete highways traveled. But, not today. I passed through San Juan Bautista and Castroville on my way home.

Then the familiar lands around Watsonville and Santa Cruz.

Home. Yet, while traveling in The Mobile Man Cave, I was very much at home every mile of this particular journey. I still wonder if I could travel endlessly in this fashion. Who knows? That future might be mine, or it might not. However, I can look forward to many more such adventures, long and short.

It was good. It was fun. The highways still beckon.