Wednesday, 18 April 2018

WW: What is this?


(One of several found in two wooded parks in my hometown. Hint number one: It's not modern art. Hint number two: it is the sort of thing you'd expect to find on the West Coast.)

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Hummingbird Sense



"I will do what I can, even when there is little chance of effect," is an unwritten subvow of my Rule.

I think of it often. I have to; my natural inclination in the face of unsurmountable opposition is to give up.

But surmounting things is not why we're here.

Now I find that internationally-recognised Kenyan academic, activist, Nobel laureate, and convicted uncontrollable woman Wangari Maathai also embraced this principle, though her interpretation was a little less… dour?

For even though hummingbirds aren't present in Africa (they're New World fauna), having known a great many of them, I'd say they are in fact the woodland creature most likely to employ such logic.

Because hummingbirds don't sit things out well.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

WW: Pounding brass

(Me at the controls of my beloved Tentec 580 Delta. Nearly forty years old, it's still the best CW [radiotelegraphy] rig ever made.)

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Blogger Kyôsaku

Water calligraphy Peking 03





"When I talk I am telling my story and also the collective story."

Claude Anshin Thomas









(Photo of the original Zen blog courtesy of Immanuel Giel and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

WW: Home port


(Open in a new window to see it larger.)



Thursday, 29 March 2018

Family Problems

Albrecht Dürer - Cain Killing Abel (NGA 1943.3.3671) Last week a sangha sister drew my attention to a dramatic event in the Zenosphere: Adam Tebbe, founder of blog hub/online magazine Sweeping Zen, outed himself as an Evangelical Christian on that organisation's Facebook page.

Details are convoluted, but there's been much calumny heaped on him by earnest advocates of "don't know mind" and "radical acceptance". Which is also par for the course.

In the meantime, the principal is spewing Bible-babble in the Zen forum he built, in that tone-deaf way some Christians have. (When a former colleague muses that the account may have been hacked, he's told, "It's been hacked by Jesus Christ. Have a blessed day!")

As some comments under Adam's confession of faith attest, none of this has endeared him to his erstwhile co-travellers,

I've spent a week sleuthing the thing out – in classic institutional-Zen fashion, public acknowledgement has been nil – and have since developed a throbbing discursive headache. The brother in question is not uncomplicated, and Sweeping Zen has never been uncontroversial. I myself have serious reservations about the way some members use that podium to call down violence on individuals they judge deviant.

With Buddhists like that, who needs Christians?

So I'm not going to pronounce. I take the Ancestors at their word: if a behaviour isn't hurting you, and you have no objective evidence it's hurting others, do nothing. Wait for insight before drawing your own sword and hacking away.

But as regular readers will have divined, I do in fact have a few observations to offer on the phenomenon of Zen re-un-conversion.

First off, it's nothing new. Western Zen is a convert religion. Virtually all of us – 99+%, I'm dead certain – got here under our own steam, as seekers. Necessarily, many of us will continue straight through and out the other side. I confess that sometimes the behaviour of others in the Great Sangha prompts me to ponder doing the same.

Then I remember that nowhere else is better. Enlightenment (and salvation) is about me and what I do, not others or what they do.

Anyway, this is not the first come-to-Jesus the Zen community has seen, even of the ordained. (Among us "true people of no rank", of course.) The brass swept (no pun intended) those under the tatami too, but they happened and I saw them and I so bear witness.

Because hermits don't cover for institutions.

I'm also deeply sceptical of any self-proclaimed religious awakening that expresses contempt for former paths. You often see this in Zenners – we're a convert religion, remember – who smirk and jeer at Christians, Christianity, and even Christ.

Except for the Jews. They're very different. They smirk and jeer about Jews, Judaism, and the rabbinate.

By that measure, Adam has been remarkably even-handed, especially for a Christian. His rambling testimony includes a single brief sneer on Zen, toward the end. I've seen other recently former Zenners exhaustively call down the Lord on us, preaching incessantly about the Devil. (And so reminding me why I'm not a Christian anymore.)

However, he has apparently not done what ethics require and turned over his creation and dependent projects to former collaborators, giving them everything he has of value to those undertakings, and wishing them success and happiness in this life and the next.

The Christianity of our time is so perverted with contention and enemy-think that such loving sentiment is condemned as apostasy, even by mainstream churches. It simply will not do to help, or even fail to hinder, members of another faith.

The notion – indeed, the truth – that all authentic walkers of all paths further everyone's understanding of God; that the work of all honest seekers is vital and good, is buried under a mountain of triumphalist doubletalk.

So fie on the Holy Rollers, right?

But let's be careful not to look too closely at ourselves while all of this is going on. Certainly, let's not look deeply into the way some of us respond to this unexpected (on our path that misdoubts expectation) turn of events.

Sweeping Zen has been criticised by sincere, disciplined Zenners – including Your Servant – for the self-satisfied way it sometimes reacts to inconvenient humanity.

And now that humanity has happened again.

Brothers and sisters in the sangha: may I respectfully suggest that this is just the break we need to stop talking about Zen and start doing it.

(Photo of Albrecht Dürer's Kain erschlägt Abel courtesy of the US National Gallery of Art and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

No-one suspects... the 1970s!


(Until it's too late. #thingsbuddhistmonksdontneed)

Thursday, 22 March 2018

UFO Sighting

When I started writing Rusty Ring, away back in 2011 CE, one of the first fellow bloggers I connected with was the keeper of WillTaft.com, a site dedicated to environmental and lifestyle issues. I don't remember who found whom first, but for a while there much ping was ponged between our fora, as each made regular appearances in the other's comment sections.

And then Will stopped blogging. The Internet is an object lesson in Zen; what's here today is gone tomorrow, and by gone I mean "vanished as if it had never existed." As do all things, of course, but online the effect is instantaneous; whereas the analog world generally offers a cushion of time to watch things fall apart and process the changes, the Enlightenment Superpath blanks everything, immediately.

Anyway, Will's blog is still up and worth a visit, but hasn't been updated for some time now.

Which is why the message I received from him this week was especially exhilarating.
"Believe it or not,"
wrote Will,
"after all these years, I still occasionally read your blog. Even more of a 'believe it or not', I still make and hang fudos when I place a geocache and sometimes when out on a hike. So I guess my comment musing on this post many years ago, wondering if my initial attraction would remain intact, turned out to be yes.

"Anyway I thought of you a few days ago when on a hike with my daughter and we came across the fudo in the attached photo. It certainly does not compare to the ones you create or even the ones I put out, but what else could it be?

"I choose to believe that it is what it seems and as it is the first one I have ever encountered put out by someone other than me, I found it strangely moving.

"Below that photo is a picture where, if you look closely, you can see one of the fudos I hung while on a hike several years ago, still surviving well. [See end of this post – ed.]"
Everything works about that email. First, I heard from Will, about whom I have often thought in the intervening years. Second, he's still making and hanging fudos. And third, marvellously, we have evidence – however tenuous – that someone else may be trekking the mountains of Oregon, tagging trail for the Good Guys.

Will's right. Check out that photo; unless it's been Photoshopped, that's a fair-dinkum Unidentified Fudo Object. Why else would someone hang a rusty ring in a tree?

Let's just say that, while it wants substantiation, this may yet be a sign of intelligent life.

He adds:
"And you know, I have found something in the process of making them in addition to hanging them. I do really hope to come across another put out by someone else someday, as that moved me in a surprising way."
That is also my greatest ambition: to happen upon a fudo I didn't make, nor anyone I know. As it was for Will, such a sight would be deeply emotional.

Any road, as I've often said, I may have few readers, but you're the cream of the crop. This-here is just the latest proof.



(Look carefully; can you see Will's fudo, hung years ago and still on-post?)

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

WW: 8-strand flat kumihimo

(In the process of making fudos I generate a lot of scrap cordage. When the quantity gets too unmanageable, I knot it together into one long string, cut it into 8 lengths, and spend a week or two braiding up a spool of flat 8-strand kumihimo, to be used to various ends. [No pun intended.]

The photo above is a single 24-foot example, wound on a wooden frame. The braid is about half an inch wide.

If nothing else, this photo demonstrates how much red yarn I use in my fudo practice.)

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Tuesday, 20 March, is Bodhisattva Day

Mr. Rogers Ofrenda Detail (1805130790) It's happening, droogies! This Tuesday the time comes again to emulate Mr. Rogers and throw down for Bodhisattva Day.

So:

ALL TROOPS BREAK OUT YOUR CARDIGANS!

That's pretty much it. No need to wear a colour-coded ribbon or do an interpretative dance or march about in the streets chanting "Hey-hey ho-ho!" or sing a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walk out.

Just wear the wool of compassion.

Or the acrylic. Your call.

Because enlightenment is its own movement.

Again, that's THIS TUESDAY, 20 MARCH. All over the world. Boys and girls. Buddhists and non-Buddhists. People who are legitimately cold and those who are just posing. Crunchy and smooth. Waterfall and window shade.

Tuesday.

20 March.

Cardigan.

Gassho.


(Photograph of Día de los Muertes ofrenda to Mr. Rogers at Carmichael Library courtesy of Albert Herring and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

WW: Stained glass

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Addiction

If you'd told me when I was 22 that the day would come when I would cherish my ex-girlfriends, I would have called you mad.

As a young man, I did relationships like a drug. Heroin, to be specific. I loved hard, like diamonds, and lost harder. I wore rejection like a crown of thorns, bled from it like stigmata, dragged it across the earth like the Holy Cross. Cowardice, caprice, indifference, were feminine vagaries I could not forgive.

I was the ex-boyfriend from hell.

I don't know what changed. I didn't hear from my ex-girlfriends for years, and then I did. And I was ecstatic, like a pilgrim who falls to his knees on the far edge of the desert, weeping for the pain, and laughing for the weeping.

No-one was more surprised than I.

So perhaps, sometimes, even I grow up.

Perhaps even heal.

My ex-girlfriends are interesting, caring, engaging women, and a gift to my life. They have great husbands, brilliant children, and there is nothing I wouldn't do for any of them.

There's no word for this unexpected love. It's not possessive, like a lover's, or exclusive, like brother's, or conditional, like friend's.

It just is.

And whatever it is, it brings me endless joy.


(Adapted from Rough Around the Edges: A Journey Around Washington's Borderlands, copyright RK Henderson. Photo courtesy of Peter Dowley and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

WW: Morse code key

(After ten years fighting off my ham radio addiction, I recently dug out my old station and set it up again.

This is my classic brass straight key, the one I first used to get on the air.

Been in storage for a decade. I've missed it.)

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Good Book: Cat Attacks

I didn't want to read this book. And I really didn't want to keep reading after I started. But as I've often said, denial is an unskilful response to danger.

Most of my life has happened in cougar country, much of it in the woods, where I prefer to practice Zen when possible. A few years back I sat 100 Days on the Mountain, an ancient Buddhist ritual, in Washington's coastal jungle.

The cat threat there, of which I was generally aware, comes up several times in my book. (Which is now finished and seeking a publisher.) But if I'd read Cat Attacks: True Stories and Hard Lessons from Cougar Country, I wouldn't have slept once during those more than three months.

Authors Dean Miller and Jo Deurbrouck are careful to point out that human-cougar encounters are extremely rare, and physical contact a tiny blip in that statistic. But they are also conscientious – downright didactic, in fact – in recounting, second by horrific second, exactly what happens in a mountain lion attack.

And though it's apparently impossible to escape a gruesome death if you're alone when the stats turn against you, your chances of avoiding that actuarial convergence drop to zero if you've no hard data on your predator's habits and methods.

Some of which, thanks to Miller and Deurbrouck, I now know:

•    Cougars prefer silent, lightning ambush from behind and above, after extensive stalking at close quarters. When in the woods, turn and look behind you, thoroughly and often.

•    Your predator's single-minded intent is to kill and eat you. This makes your bear-mollifying skills guaranteed death. Instead, if one atypically shows itself before lunging, go big, mean, and criminally insane. This may convince the cougar to go back to just stalking you for now. If on the other hand you make yourself quiet and small and avoid eye contact, you've green-lit a kill.

•    The charge, when it comes, is supernaturally fast; witnesses uniformly report a "brown blur". And its dump-truck impact is instantaneous. So even if you see a lion crouching to strike (which they take great pains to conceal) you have no time to raise or aim, much less draw, a firearm.

•    Though they'll attack groups, particularly children in the midst of one, as readily as they'll strike a loner, cougars rarely turn on rescuers. (It's bizarre, un-prey behaviour that evolution has not prepared them to answer.) So if a companion is hit, come in hot and hostile and fight hard at close quarters, with feet and fists if necessary. Once engaged, a lion may cling stubbornly to its quarry, but they seldom or never accept third-party combat. So keep on hammering until you completely weird it out and it withdraws.

•    Solitary humans have no chance of survival.

This is just a smattering of the practical, unromantic intelligence Cat Attacks contains. The authors' steely pragmatism, while traumatic, gives the work great strength. Particularly valuable is their bullheaded refusal to get sucked into either of the silly postures – "kill 'em all" or "poor persecuted kitties" – one usually encounters when the topic is raised.

To counteract the first, they illuminate in equal detail the harsh reality of a cougar's life, which is astonishingly brutal and getting crueller by the day, thanks to overweaning human arrogance.

As for the second, well… in the same instant a cougar touches you it rips your face off. This allows it to begin eating you without waiting for you to die.

That image brings me keenly in mind of Meditation in the Wild, wherein Charles S. Fisher points out that early Buddhist monks – originally all, and then most, of whom were hermits – had a tendency to enter Asia's primordial jungles and never be seen again. Tigers are even bigger than cougars, and not one whit more sentimental.

These are the conditions that forged our nihilistic Zen world view.

So if you live or travel in the northern and/or western half of North America, read Cat Attacks. Get schooled. Be prudently terrified.

Because when I think of all the times I've been afoot in the rough at dusk – including every day of ango – I break into a cold sweat. One unmoderated by the knowledge that cats also attack people in broad daylight. (Even housecats creep me out now.)

So be safe out there, brothers and sisters.

As safe as this existence allows.

(Note: a slightly updated release of this book came out in 2007 under the title Stalked by a Mountain Lion: Fear, Fact, And The Uncertain Future Of Cougars In America.)

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

WW: Thunderheads

(Thunderstorms – and their accompanying cloud formations – were rare here when I was a kid. Over the last few decades they've become much more common; yet another effect of changing climate patterns. But I've never seen a conga line of anvils like this one. Here or anywhere.)

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Ownership


"This is not mine, this is not I, this is not myself.”
-the Buddha



(Photo courtesy of Max Pixel and a generous photographer.)

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

WW: Dirt road satori

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Food For Thought On The Occasion Of My 56th Birthday

Moon on Earth horizon.png From the Shasekishū:

When Shoun was old he knew his end was approaching. He asked his disciples to gather around him in the morning, telling them he was going to pass on at noon. Burning incense before pictures of his mother and his old teacher, he wrote a poem:

For fifty-six years I lived as best I could,
Making my way in this world.
Now the rain has ended, the clouds are clearing,
The blue sky has a full moon.

His disciples gathered about him, reciting a sutra, and Shoun passed on during the invocation.



(Photo of full moon above Earth atmosphere courtesy of International Space Station Expedition 10 Commander Leroy Chiao; NASA; and Wikimedia Commons.)






Wednesday, 14 February 2018

WW: Ghost shrimp


(Neotrypaea californiensis.)

Thursday, 8 February 2018

You Damn Well Can Do Something About It

This week I encountered a piece of apparent fluff from The Stranger, Seattle's edgier (or maybe just more sophomoric) alternative newspaper. And as often happens in The Stranger, it turned out to be hard-hitting insightful fluff.

A Playlist for the Brokenhearted is a Valentine's Day laundry list of good hurtin' songs for the damaged, courtesy of Sean Nelson. (By the way, Sean, if you see this: pretty much the entire Magnetic Fields catalogue. Not just Smoke and Mirrors. I Don't Want to Get Over You. I Don't Believe You. You Must Be Out Of Your Mind. I Don't Believe in the Sun. Seriously. Throw a dart.)

Seems like a throwaway premise, until you start the half-page preamble, which turns out to be an extended Zen contemplation on a "little morsel of non-insight" that crushed people are often thrown:

"The past is past. Nothing you can do about it now."

Regular readers know that facile responses to suffering are one of my detonators. And the writer goes on to vivisect this one with literary power, even citing at one point an early work by Alan Watts. (Is Nelson a Zenner? He writes like one. Not a Baby Boomer Western Zen "When Things Fall Apart" mandarin, but a gritty younger guru-sceptic "Hardcore Zen" type, from our invisible-but-still-next generation.)

The text amounts to a didactic consideration of the philosophical ramifications of love – something the Buddha suggested we'd be better off just not doing. But we're gonna do it, since it's our nature. It's also about forgiveness – of others, of ourselves, of love itself. To which end he offers his mixtape, as a means to revisit and reanalyse the reader's specific train wreck.

So I'll just let you savour it yourself. There's much to appreciate, even if the playlist itself turns out to be beyond your tastes or knowledge. (Again, you'll find the Stranger article here.)

In the meantime, I'd like to drop a bomb of my own:

You damn well can do something about it.

As William Faulkner famously said, "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past."

Yeah, the events – and often the people – that hurt you have fled into the past, where you can't reach them.

But the suffering is right here and right now. Where you can totally kick its butt.

The fact that Zen is all about here and now leads some to imagine it means ignoring the wrongs and wounds of the past; to insist they're not alive, not important, not still banging around out there causing suffering in all directions.

If that were so, Zen would be a pointless New Age pipe dream.

So let me be perfectly clear: You damn well can do something about the pain, regardless of what caused it or when. You can make it bearable, which is the same as declawing it. You can even turn it into insight, forgiveness, fulfilment, contentment. And in a very concrete sense, you can go back into the past, to the place where the past lives, and pull it out by the roots.

Many paths will take you there, but I advocate zazen as a good start and the foundation of a lifetime practice.

I also advocate Zen and Buddhist insight into the origin and nature of emotional pain.

Most of all, I advocate awakening to the fundamental nature of reality and our own existence.

It works.

Peace and progress to all brother and sister seekers.


(Art from Sean's article in The Stranger.)

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

WW: Sea dog


Thursday, 1 February 2018

Street Level Zen: Delusion

Cup of tea (High Speed Photography)-MJ

"First you get mad, then you go crazy, and when you combine the two, you've gone mad."

Eddie Joe Cotton


(Photograph courtesy of Najwa Marafie and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

WW: 1970s time capsule

(Recently found this old school box of mine amongst my father's things; he'd stored loose hardware in it. I believe this dates to Grade 5 or 6; about '73 or '74. You can still see the old Pay'n'Save price tag, which establishment hasn't existed for 40 years now.

Never thought I'd say this, but I miss the bright, fun, outrageous aesthetics of that era. So what if everything was impractical? It made you happy to look at it.)

Thursday, 25 January 2018

The Dangerous Path


The hermit path is dangerous. Much more than the teacher path. Because you are the deluder. That makes it hard even to see an error, let alone correct it.

You can leave a master. You can leave a monastery. But you're stuck with yourself.


(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Balázs and Pexels.com)

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

WW: Pu'er tea


(A friend recently gave me this fine tea. To make it, the Chinese pack specially-fermented green leaves into a tangerine rind and let the whole dry hard. That gives the leaves a subtle orange flavour when brewed alone, or, for more direct tang, it can be brewed with bits of the dried rind. Interestingly, the dry product is said to get better with age.

Tea-wise it rates either a strong green or a light black, but either way it's good. As they often do, the Chinese infuse pu'er three times, with the second round considered best. In true Scottish fashion I steep it one good time, then add a drop of milk to the cup. And it stands up well, I must say.)

Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Tyranny of Positive Thinking

My sister recently sent me a link to Morgan Mitchell's The 'Tyranny' Of Positive Thinking Can Threaten Your Health And Happiness, courtesy of Newsweek.com.

In it, Mitchell abstracts recent research suggesting that human denial has no effect on external phenomena, and that insisting it does might be an ineffective strategy for meeting challenges.

I know. You could have knocked me over with a feather. And it only took 70 years to confirm this basic principle of physics.

In fact, according to Actual Researchers, who were probably wearing lab coats at the time, not only are things that are outside of you, uh… outside of you, but systematic denial of that fact can harm your mind. And on an authentically positive note, contemplating dependent co-arising can improve outcomes.

Says Mitchell:
"The study [...] concluded that when people acknowledge and address negative emotions [...] it helps them adjust their behaviour and have more appropriate responses."
Gosh. Do you think that would work in offices, too? Or countries?

The scientists in question imply that forcing people to pretend everything is heavenly is an act of violence. Mitchell's article also sidles up to what that means on a societal level, but sadly doesn't mention that power routinely wields Positive Mental Attitude as a straight-up weapon, to beat underlings into silence or even deprive them of their livelihoods.

But its central thesis – that accepting unpleasant mind-states and ferreting out their external stimuli is healthy, and may lead to greater satisfaction for everyone concerned – is, to borrow Brad Warner's catchphrase, hardcore Zen.

Zen also teaches that suffering arises in the mind, but our prescription for it is diametrically opposed to PMA's: we say, "I am miserable." Then we explore every aspect of that misery. In fact, we analyse that mofo – the causes of the effects of the causes of the effects – till our mind is sorry it ever brought it up.

This is called "looking deeply".

Years ago I read another study that further implied individual human beings have personalities. (I know! You could have knocked me over again, with another feather!) It said cheery people tend to be cheery. If something makes them un-cheery, they tend to recover quickly and return to being cheery. By the same token, dour people are dour, and no matter how much good fortune they enjoy, they eventually return to their dour baseline.

As a student of human evolution I'm sensing a survival value in there, but I can't put my finger on it.

No wait; that was negative. Now I really can't put my finger on it, because I said I couldn't put my finger on it! Saying something makes it true!

Oh, no! By saying it to others I've prevented them from putting their fingers on it, too!

Oh, God! Now I've said nobody has their finger on it! I've made it impossible for my entire species to put its finger on it!

I broke the Internet! I'm worthless! WORTHLESS!!!

STOP ME BEFORE I UNFINGER AGAIN!!!

Yeah.

Let's keep our butts on the ground, brothers and sisters. That's the only place problems are solved.


(Photo of especially heavy feather courtesy of Pixabay.com and a generous photographer.)

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

WW: Fried-egg jellyfish


(Phacellophora camtschatica)

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Himalayan Hermits

Hidden monks of the himalayas

I recently came upon this photo on Wikimedia Commons. According to the uploader, one Pranav Kumar:
"If you leave the well worn path and wander off into the Himalayas, you will find monks practicing here and there, in very inaccessible places. Not that off-beaten after all. Wonder how they get their food though."
Sounds like another vast outdoor hermit monastery, like the Zhongnan Mountains. I would like to hike that ground and meet some of these brothers and sisters.

One gets the impression that eremitical practice isn't as unheard-of in modern Asia as some Western descendants would have us believe.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

WW: Winter night

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Happy Kerstboomverbranding!

As the 2017 holiday season softens into memory, we North Americans might pause to consider whether we've finished the job.

We're pretty good at initiating our great annual solstice commemoration: it starts cleanly on the first of December (American Thanksgiving weekend in the US). Then we slowly build through the darkest month, drumming on themes of fellowship and good will, revering the season's natural beauty and that of our decorations, celebrating family and childhood, and invoking Christmas past.

That's all excellent practice, as I've opined before. Christmas Eve and Day – one of the few moments in our cultures when quiet intimacy with family is upheld – crown these worthy preparations. Some engage in the equally hushed and moving ritual of Midnight Mass.

Then we wisely stand down for a week to digest, literally and figuratively. It also helps us rebuild strength for the final assault: our salute to the dying year and our survival of it, in a gay but determined vigil to the bitter end.

Whereupon Guy Lombardo sounds keisu, and Solstice Ango is over.

And that's always found me aching for closure next morning. For New Year's Eve is a lament for people, places, and conditions we can never see again. It's a very healthy reflection – especially for Americans, who oblige a kind of adolescent nihilism the rest of the year – but it's only half the truth.

The other half is the new people, places, and conditions that are evolving at the speed of life, and our lot and luck to carpe the crap out of that diem. Before it too passes and is mourned on another New Year's Eve.

Therefore, I advocate Kerstboomverbranding. That's the early January rite of Dutch and Belgian communities, who create an epic bonfire from the mass of their dessicated Christmas trees on which to cremate the bones of the past. Children jump up and down in the searing light while neighbours mill about, sharing New Year's wishes, leftover Christmas cookies, and warming libations.

It's a brief-enough party; dry conifers burn violently, and fast. The whole ritual takes about an hour of early seasonal darkness, leaving folks plenty of time to put the children to bed and sweep any residual needles out of the front room.

Similar things are already going on in a few places here; at Ballard's Golden Garden Park, for example, where participants are supposed, in theory, to burn their trees individually in picnic ground fire rings. But where's the fun in that? To the best of my knowledge, the City of Seattle has yet to shut down the spontaneous combustion that tends to result instead.

But wouldn't it be great if this sort of thing happened in neighbourhoods across the hemisphere: small local initiatives, informal and fleeting, to provide runway lights for the in-bound future. (And before the eco-puritans launch into their Barney Fife schtick, no, this would not have an appreciable effect on the planet's health. Just one factory – one – pumps vastly more particulates and toxins into the air in an hour of operation. Or a mile of freeway. Or a jet airliner. Or a single forest fire. Scale, folks. Use it or lose it.)

Anyway, that would be awesome.


(Photo of Kerstboomverbranding in Berchem, Belgium, by a local photographer.)

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

WW: Beaver pond


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