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Sunday, April 27, 2008

My Reluctant Return from the South Coast

Compare and contrast these two portraits.
The first is an orangutan kept captive in a zoo.

The second is me, a lab technician who has demonstrated a record of reliable attendance.

Oh wait.

One advantage I have over the orangutan is my relative freedom to get in my car and take a road-trip (whenever work and finances allow).

We hominids have done some useful things with our brains. We’ve built shelters that protect our things, our work and even ourselves from the environment. But with our usual shortsightedness, we didn’t anticipate that the subliminal hum of ballasts and the flickering hellish green cast of fluorescent lamps would drive some of us bonkers.

Every once in a while I miss the sky.

Careful observation has revealed that in our universe, generally, everything is progressing from order to disorder. But there are lots of eddies - places were energy gets sucked into swirling vortexes - where, briefly, order can arise from disorder. Everyday, most of us make some small contribution to order, but we are inefficient, and the order we create costs dearly in resources and energy. Our biggest product appears to be waste.

It may be a side effect of getting older, but it is hard to keep hoping that something good is just over the horizon.

It feels like a storm is coming.

Even so, when presented with a dense, dark forest, we continue to hack our way through the underbrush and take stabs at cutting out our own spaces and trying to make something we think is beautiful. (Of course when I say ‘we’ I mean somebody besides me, because I’m pretty sure I haven’t made any beautiful gardens.)

Cape Arago - Shore Acres - Seasonal Garden

Cape Arago - Shore Acres - Seasonal Garden

Over the course of my life, I’ve occasionally tried to keep various fish alive in water filled glass tanks. It always seems that something goes out of balance, and by the time I recognize it, it is too late for the fish.

The lesson I suppose is that once one starts a garden, it is crucial to monitor it and maintain it.

I have no illusion about road-trips being some kind of escape into the wilderness. They’re not. I utilize an extensive system of roads and trails. I carry with me sophisticated equipment for survival. I eat packaged foods that are safe and sometimes even nutritious. It’s clear to me that I’m not exactly a free, self sufficient mountain man.

So I guess what road trips do for me is remind me that our hard or tedious jobs, red tape, bureaucracies, and FDA audits are the gardens we’ve made to protect us from the heartless and harsh economy of the wilderness.

North Spit – Coos Bay

Approaching the last vestiges of wilderness puts us in touch with the natural garden that shaped us.

North Spit – Coos Bay

Stern section of New Carissa – North Spit – Coos Bay

We can be reminded of lessons the ocean taught us…

…how wind and waves have formed us. . .

…how evolving brains have brought us the phenomenon of self consciousness and self reflection…

…to learn the rhythm of the tide…

…and explore an instant of geologic time…

Devil’s Punchbowl – Devil’s Punchbowl State Park – Oregon Coast

This Week's Song explores some of the possible consequences of continued short-sighted gardening.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Basalt monolith
Basks in prodigal sunlight
Dreams of bikinis

Rigid magma spine
Keeps talking ‘bout glory days
Not so hot right now

Maybe men did this
Built a highway in the sand
Turns out they didn’t

Bipolar vandal
Breaking in two times a day
Ransacking the bay

Elder trees once said
It’s time to set down some roots
Timing’s everything

Broken in upheaval
My hidden faults revealed
Too sediment-al

Defiant posture
Land intimidates the sea
Look at my mussels!

Sediments tilted
Up and down are east and west
What the hell happened?

Multi-lane highways
Time crafted for nobody
And not meant for cars

Rocks dissolve before
The universal solvent’s
Twice daily licking

The sea sets forth its
Restless liquid arsenal
Per lunar command

Millennial war
Battered ramparts stand between
Order and chaos

Floating continents
Bump and jostle each other
Sometimes get upset

Wind and waves persist
Earthen fortifications
Bow to gravity

Bits of history
Recorded in sand and stone
Lost in the telling

A short speculative clip about plate tectonics. Probable original source is National Geographic...I think.

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