Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Road To El Dorado: flats happen

Anyone can be positive when they're winning, when the chips are stacked around them. Anyone can be perky and bright when they live with certainty of basic needs being met and exceeded.

When the chips are down, when your car develops a more than bald tire or two and your slowing your travels to make memories with friends...

When you wish you had something to give your friends to show how much you love them and how grateful you are for everything they are and do.

When you hike a trail you can't wait to reach the top of the mountain. It's tedious. Each step burns. You count them sometimes. Sometimes you take breaks on the way, prolonging the muscle burning ache. It's hard to smile. It's hard to laugh. Faking easy, when you need to give yourself rest and your dripping sweat is impossible .

The vistas are never at the top, they're usually near the top. You look out and suddenly there are miles of landscape where moments before there was just your feet, your sweat and a dusty, narrow trail. The colors and vast panorama are overwhelming. Other mountains with blankets of deep green deciduous trees, emerald evergreens, peridot saguaros with different shades of earth from grays to browns, oranges and stark reds. All the sudden you become small. You realize how much world is out there. You realize how tiny your path is. That there is no map. 

I chose to step off the proverbial trail after walking away from the proverbial road. I passed Frost and ran into Gidot, who was waiting for someone else long forgotten.

Now and then I hit vistas, feel the ache and discouragement of the full pack hiker anticipating real challenges ahead and just having navigated others. I know it will pass, the next day I will skip down the trail watching for more excitement. Wildlife, tourists, gurus, rare plants and natural splendor of geology in 4D.

One would think elation, a sense of achieving but in reality, the experienced hiker first hits the lows. The pain, the exhaustion, the soreness. You don't stop, but you don't offer a fake smile. You don't waste breath on politics or platitudes. You share water, shake the sweat out of your eyes and continue. You breathe.

I've been an experienced full pack hiker since I was a teenager. I've hiked in the New York including the Adirondacks, state parks throughout Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona, Oregon, Ohio, and California. I love trails. Granite mountain, Bagby hot springs, bridal veil falls, Indian pass lake colden loop, the Susquehanna trail. All amazing.

I find my approach to life often mirrors hiking a tough trail. You take care of your team and your gear,  you politely treat those you pass, if you have nothing positive to say to someone you stay out of their space rather than feed negativity or unnecessary drama, stay focused on moving forward, appreciate the views, listen, look, use common sense, smile when you can but express feelings honestly don't bury them or let them fester. Don't carry Extra burdens. Put the past down, you can't really carry it and trying only hinders you. Pack in pack out. Leave no trace, if you don't need it give it to someone who does. But fatigue happens. I'm real, I'm not happy every day.

Common sense is worth more than alphabet soup.

What? Soup, you say?

Soup. An education is great, it doesn't hold a candle to common sense, a fast mind, focus and good listening skills. Today I did laundry at the Lost Dutchman Laundry. Pat and Amy Adams were there, as they are seven days a week with their bright smiles.

Amy told me that she was an accountant by trade and training, she worked and learned physical therapy assisting a licensed practitioner. They run the laundry and groceries on Delaware ave in Apache Junction now. She recounted how she herself had a stroke and insurance wouldn't cover therapy or big hospital bills. She related an important lesson. She, without a fancy piece of paper, learned the exercises for helping someone gain skill and strength after a stroke. On her own, she did her therapy. She set a goal to dance in three months. Her left side had been mostly paralysed. She successfully danced the foxtrot in the pool at three months.

She did it, on her own. She is amazing! Her shared wisdom was right. It's in your head, no one else's.

When life kicks you in the teeth, stand up. Brush yourself off, give a nod and deal with it. You won't get far if you lie there. Life isn't fair and sometimes it hurts. Learn, deal, go forward. She's right. Emotions are a luxury, wallowing in martyrdom or self pity gets you no where. But get it out. 

She made another important point. Take time to figure out what you really enjoy doing before committing to secondary education. Guessing wrong is expensive. It's your life. You have to figure it out, not your parents or friends.

A degree doesn't give someone a right to be rude, it doesn't indicate skill or intelligence; it means someone followed directions andctested well. Some exceptions: pilots, neurosurgeons, bomb squad technicians, paramedics, fire fighters, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some.

I've got the most respect for those who work to improve lives, the least respect for those claiming to do that while doing nothing or negatively impacting people.

I hold the world and its ecosystems as the most important. Without them we don't live. We create jobs to boost the economy yet we don't prioritize and create them to benefit nature and maintaining a healthy world.  Depression and anxiety symptoms decrease with more outdoors activity, Vitamin D anyone?

Today we hike to the top of the Flat Irons. It's another one of my favorite hikes.

A Pause for Life Lessons

No matter how old we get, how experienced we become there is always something to learn or relearn.

Prioritize your time. Spend it with the people who reciprocate as much as you can. Accept that sometimes you give affection or attention to people who haven't learned to reciprocate or to value the finite time you have to share.

It sounds cheesy to say "make every moment count" but it is true. The future is uncertain, take time to focus your attention and affection on making high quality memories. In the end, it's what you get to keep, not money or material goods.
Ask a dying person what they value most or wish for more of. Time with the people they love. Good time, good memories.

Lessons we've mused on this week:

1. Listen. Listen carefully. If you're friend isn't enthusiastic about a venture that you are, don't drag them. You could be missing quality time with other friends, in other places, and putting stress on that friend through pressuring them. Listen.

2. Prioritize. Take time to seek out the people who work to stay connected with you. Life is like an ocean. Currents pull us in a thousand directions, if someone cares enough to throw you a line return the favor and value the gift of their connection.

3. Even the free do not always have free time. Friends love you, but schedules happen. Don't resent, accept and move forward.

4. Check your gear in advance. Communicate rather than assume. It's not rude unless it's not done.

5. Watch how people treat the people around you. It's not attractive or cool to have someone ignore or belittle your friends and loved ones to butter you with compliments. Focus away from that toward the sincere friends around you, or have fun putting them on the spot by complimenting and including the person(s) they'd rather not. It could be a good lesson for them.

6. Appreciate the people who care, don't belittle them. Nurture them the way they nurture you. Appearances can be deceptive- like biting a chocolate confection only to taste kerosene inside- skip it.

7. Accept and move on, if someone doesn't value you like you value them. Quit wasting your energy, give it to the people jumping hoops to see you smile.

There are words you never say unless you want an argument:
"You're so negative," "you argue...," "you always" and "you never."

Guaranteed Bickersons episodes will follow. Not sure who they are? Google it...

The people around you are mirrored glass. You can see and hear how you interact and how you prioritize by who is there and how they act.

If you want to see beauty there, you have to put it there. If you want light and trust, communication and value, you have to put it there. If you want to see a friend smile, give them care. If you want to see them wilt, put them last or criticize them, or put them in situations that make them uneasy without support. Support the people who support you.

Choose wisely who is there. Some people aren't worth the effort of trying to teach- and some are downright toxic, pushing away and trying to undermine healthy relationships you have.

I always wish I could give my friends perfect stories, perfect lives, that I could give them the most valuable gift.

Then Danny reminds me I do. I value them and I love them. I listen to them. I care. It's worth more than gold.

Lessons. Learn, relearn.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Absurdity of Adopting Identity

Ethnicity is a touchy subject. We all have ancestors, we all come from somewhere. Every ethnic group has culture, heritage and should have pride. Caucasians lately have had to resort to borrowing other ethnicities to express pride as white pride is synonymous with prejudice and it's out of style.

I'm asked what are you? My response: human or half cartoon. Looking at me a fortune teller once said I am painted, but the artificial color is the one on the surface. She said the painters are really just bringing my true colors out. I am red, yellow, orange, green, blue, Gray, Brown, white, pink and purple. I am a cacophony, and when painted I look like a rainbow threw up on me.

The complex answer, my ancestors were horny. They fell in love with people and had children, they weren't focused on heritage or lineage. They came from many countries: Sweden, Germany, France, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the US. Most were Irish.

I was raised going to wakes, knowing that the key factors in my family history on both sides were tragic and humiliating. My Irish great grandfather died of emphysema working the railroad. I've had to go through the railroad museum in Sacramento and read plaques belittling and stereotyping Irish workers. I don't know of Cliff Magee fit those stereotypes. I wanted to hit someone by the time I was ready to leave I was so tired of reading plaques ragging on Irish workers, it was all about the amazing Chinese workers. Hats off to them but I say also hats off to the others who worked and died.

Yes, I have feisty family members who drink too much, tell fancy tales and get into fights. I've been one more than once. I'll stick with fancy tales and weaving words.

I look at it differently.

My great uncle Grubby was Irish. He drank too much. He started fights. More than once his reckless behavior endangered lives and caused harm to others. No Irish story is a happy story. His life was like that. He didn't cry out label me, he didn't tag out. He kept going. Most of his twelve siblings hated him, I did mention he was Irish (stereotyping says he had to have an army of siblings). When he died, the family gathered for his wake to trade the stories of his life.

My cousin Scott and I were hours away. In Irish style we drank Jamison's in his honor and memory. I called my grandmother who was at the wake to have her share my story. Most of my generation did not have Grubby stories, he was too cartoon and too volatile. I spent a lot of time at my great grandmother's house. Alice Magee had one of the most beautiful hearts and the loveliest garden in the county. She read tea leaves and could see your future in a ring spun on thread. Did I mention she was Irish? Sometimes a stereotype is based on average perceived character or behavior. It's not always meant as offensive.

Alice let me get away with my shenanigans. I was rambunctious. I heard the adults. No one liked Grubby or that he went to visit his mother. Somehow that was bad? He had to be using her.

I was there this time and I was antagonistic toward him on behalf of the opinionated adults who were not there.  He told me not to swing on a macrame plant holder. I swung for all I was worth. I hit a table and my great grandmother's prize vase fell to the floor and shattered.

Until then, I had never upset Alice. I upset my parents often and was used to getting screamed at and told how worthless and terrible I was. Alice did not do that. She accepted it. No chastising, just acceptance as we know Irish stories are full of loss and sorrow.

Tears filled her eyes, she sighed and said it was just a vase. Grubby could see the hurt, he could see that I was crying now too. It hurt me to hurt her. I would have done anything to take the moment back. He did not yell either.

The deplorable scoundrel, he quietly went for the broom. He got a newspaper and a magnifying glass. He got super glue. He got two chairs. He taught me the second most profound lesson I learned that day. Her reaction taught the first. My world changed, I changed because if their choices that day.

It's not the accidents that count, it's what we do to make things right.

He spent hours with me piecing the vase together carefully, as if we were paleontologists putting prize relics together for a museum. She stood in the door with a beautiful smile. Tears of a different sort in her eyes. I knew why she loved him so much. I loved him too.

That was the one memory I really had to share with him. When my grandmother relayed the story, his siblings and friends grew reflective. Few of them had known him like that. Few had gone beyond their loathing to see the guy inside the Irish caricature he was. It was his one good story. The family remembers now. The memory shares forward in story.

My great great grandfather on my father's side was Cherokee. He lost his land in the land drives twice. He skipped the trail of tears. He rode north to New York state. He met an Irish immigrant girl, Alice Padden. They married in great scandal. They had two kids. His name is different on each census, always Hunter being his last name. He left to apply for the Dawes act. He was denied because he left Oklahoma. He was not heard from again. He cautioned my great great grandmother to raise the children as caucasians.

He insisted they be protected from the color of their skin and the negative connotations of being Cherokee. My grandmother chastised my grandfather when he even mentioned his ethnicities. Prejudice is still out there, ironically it's often held by those who want you to know their a little bit of something or other on so and so's side.
I wish I could find Hunter's grave to put a flower there, to let his spirit know one of his descendants wanders as he did but without the anger. Maybe he knows though.

He was like a coyote, he came fathered two kids with a pretty lady and vanished with a name made up of letters-much like those I use at work?  Who was he? Who am I today? What name should I sign? The joke is on us both.

Isn't it enough to be you? Do you need an impressive lineage to feel important?

Can't you be impressive as yourself?

I don't need to buy overpriced tourist gook that has stylized stereotypical designs. I wince at New age hubris and posers claiming to be Native whiter than I am talking with Brooklyn accents. I wince just as much seeing kids run around with their pants hanging down below their butts "prison style" trying to look tough like black or Hispanic gangsters. Somehow it radiates "weak" "pathetic" and "moron" rather than dangerous, strong, or badass.

It's the old saying I'm starting now, if you have to stand in the shadow of a mountain to point out how impressive your shadow is, remember it is not your shadow your claiming- the shadow is still that of the mountain and to those around you, you look like a fool. Make your shadow tall by being who you are. Be proud of your strengths, your flaws, be aware where you came from.

My heritage was written on air, woven of words and hearts. My ancestors were people who were not perfect. They lived, they died. They live in the stories still shared. None of them were famous, they didn't need to be. They lived their lives, they made their mistakes and celebrated their successes. Many of those moments are forgotten, as most of us will be in a hundred years.

It is alright to be Caucasian and proud of your heritage. The Scottish know that, so why not take a note from them?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Memory Lane: Patrons now?!

Here we are in Apache Junction. We are right next to a Renaissance Festival that we've both worked at for years as entertainers. This year life has nudged us gently but firmly toward greener pastures and away from a festival I've considered home for nine years.

It feels alien to carry a ticket. To walk in a gate you've rarely seen the front of, to watch friends deal with crowds that you are now a part of it was surreal. What name to introduce friends as? Character or real? How to compliment dear friends without costing them tips or sales?

It doesn't matter that we aren't there, other faces and performances are rippling the waters we once sailed. It won't be long before faded paint on a few benches is all that recalls the untold hours and love shared.

I prefer to thing instead of being a pair of beautiful rocks plummeting to the bottom of a fetid pool that we are comets. We aren't falling- we are flying and as we do we pass slowly through the orbits of the lives of friends giving them wishes, love and cartoon color memories of priceless audacity which we seem compelled to live out. Even those who dislike us, find reasons to tell stories about us. We inspire, we believe, we try even knowing that risk can lead to failure and we don't work with safety nets.

I watched Geoff Marsh, it's been a few years since I got to see his show- he's been working hard and he really is and ace on stage.

I watched my friends Shannon and Dana do comedy as Hey Nunnie Nunnie laughing at their vibrant personalities.

Nostalgia hit watching Don Juan and Miguel do their Weird Show, hearing Doug play music on a balloon always makes me think of autumn in North Carolina.

The antics of the Wyld Men and Senior Jimi kept a smile firmly planted on my face.

The hugs, the hugs, the hugs were the best though. Seeing the friends I call family and having them recognize me despite my cowgirl look was the best. The slow hug from my rock n roll Friar Larry will keep me smiling for days. If I started listing all the beautiful hearts I got to hug today I could still be listing names tomorrow. Instead, we're going back again to watch more friends and to appreciate another round of hugs!

In the renaissance world, a lot of the folks working may be living life without a net. They wouldn't trade their freedom, their laughter, or the tent they live in for four walls and electric- well, okay, maybe for a few months!

Not everyone working faire lives in a tent, many commute, have RVs or trailers. Some have quonsat huts, tipis, or yurts with impressive set-up that can even include wood stoves inside them.

A lot of rennies work multiple festivals, saving money as they can, they live as they choose- many making goods during the week that are sold or weekends. I've made jewelry, painted signs, painted wooden swords and wooden shields and made garlands as week work at different festivals. This beyond being painted on the weekends while telling stories to patrons of all ages for nine years!

I've definitely picked up a wide range in skills, from throwing hatchets to selling wax hands. I figure that makes the tail of my metaphorical comet flame all different colors.

Are you a comet? I'm not a shooting star, an ephemeral whisper that ends almost before it is recognized as being. I'm a comet, centuries past I would have changed the perception of those who saw me in the sky. Maybe I am doing my best to try for that now.

I think we all have the capacity to live brightly. Within us we are incandescent, we have intensity that we can choose to freely express. We can choose to connect. We can choose to be the wonder, the miracle that each of us needs to thrive. We have to be brave enough to fly.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ghosts of the Past & Not so Wild Goose Chases

When we went south to Tuscon we passed the Tom Mix Memorial park. Who was Tom Mix? Why is there a wash named after him?
Tom Mix was a major star of the silver screen, a silent movie cowboy. One of the most successful and popular cowboys in the early moving pictures. His publicist claimed he was a real cowboy, reality claimed no such history. He was well liked and did well until the talkies came out. Apparently his voice didn't match the imagined voice audiences had given him in his silent roles. He was accepting of the change. He died in a freak accident on that road. The wash where he died has been named after him, with the park honoring his memory. I wonder how many drive by unaware of who he was, who may not recall his name later for a Google search.
Casa Grande Ruins
On our way back toward Florence we stopped at Casa Grande Ruins. The ruins of a Hohokam settlement. The Hopi and Zuni tribes both are among the tribes whose ancestors lived there. We saw the walls, looked at the displays and watched the movie on the history of Casa Grande. There were footprints in the hardened earth, even though they were recently made you could see a man from centuries past walking through the settlement.
Back visiting Apache Junction, attracted by the closeness of friends and the Superstition Mountains we are staying for a few days. 
We travel with a Canada Goose Hybrid and a kitten. The kitten, Sadhu loves being with us and rarely ventures where he can't see us. He's a Hemingway Maine coon mix and he has six toes on his front feet- he has thumbs.
Gracie, the goose is graceful in the water. Gracie does not believe she is a goose, as a baby she imprinted on Danny. She isn't potty trained, she dislikes bicycles and loves blue cheese and refried beans.
Geese aren't known for common sense for good reason. She likes to watch cars drive around her, she is certain she can intimidate predators, and she doesn't fly back to you. She does take grass from your hand, grooms your hair, and sleeps peacefully by Danny's feet. No wonder more people choose cats, dogs, ferrets, parrots, rats, mice, snakes, potbelly pigs than geese as pets. She doesn't like being touched or petted. She is a no pet pet.
It takes an amazing level of devotion. You never know when your going to have to climb a six foot fence to throw your big goose back to your side of the fence, while a confused dog watches. You never know when she's going to fly down the block, resulting in panicked bike rides and shouting so she calls back and ends the frantic hide and seek while you notice every loose dog and hungry looking pedestrian on the street. 
Danny Lord and Gracie

Before we let her out there are many considerations, you see everything eats a plump corn fed goose. Everything has to be considered, from dog owners that assume leashes are for other people to dangerous fences and highways. The Secret Service has it easier than goose watch. The President has some common sense and survival instincts, or so we assume.
Yesterday she stretched her wings and we did not see which way she banked to land. On foot, bicycle, and motorcycle we searched and called out. We sounded like a disturbed flock of geese. No answer. Worry built. We went through this anguish when Rumor vanished only to turn up having been hit by a car. Rumor was our cat before Sadhu. The worst fears were gaining ground. We searched all the roads, asked everyone we saw, still empty handed. Hearts heavy, anxiety high, haunted by the loss of Rumor.
That was when Danny suddenly turned into a driveway. There she was, with a sweet woman trying to read her tag to find the number to call us. She had given her water in the hopes Gracie would let her catch the last mystery number on that tag. Sheri was sweet, we had a nice visit with a kind hearted neighbor who really did goose chase to try for the numbers on the tag. I think we're going to adjust the tag for readability. Sheri had all but one number written down.
Gracie is relaxed and her pen is safely set up. The guard can rest a little, she can enjoy the desert weather. Sadhu plays, amused by goose watch. He thinks herding the goose is a game we play, maybe he's right.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Absurdity of Society's Take on Sex

The human body is a natural work of art. Millions of people, all different and incredible. Muscles, connective tissue, organs, hair, skin: this doesn't sound like an appealing list but it becomes one arranged millions of ways across the world. We are a fractal species, subtle variations in genetics offer diversity within our species from eye color to smiles.

Our species has creation myths, many sublime and focused on the wonders of creation while a few focus on the realization of nudity and the dominance of one gender over another.


We determine what is sexy. In ancient societies having curves and a little extra weight was attractive, it was a sign of health. Now we move toward androgenous men and women modeling for us on the verge of starvation, many struggling with bulemia or anorexia. It's even mentioned casually in pop songs, where the singer talks about throwing up in the bathtub.

We villanize pornography, then sneak around the corner to buy it. We say marriage as a tradition should be honored but it's a legal institution. I have found more frequently that unwanted sexual advanced come most often from married individuals.

We decided what is sexy, what "turns us on" so why do we choose sleazy and push to be used? Why not appreciate beauty, honor the temple of a lover's body rather than striving to become a secret bedroom whore or gigalo?

When I edited a literary magazine in college we accepted art as well as poetry and prose. A nude sketch and a sketch of a woman's breast were submitted. They were beautifully drawn. There was controversy. As editor I rolled over the controversy and supported the majority review. We published both. Scandal that wasn't, the readers enjoyed the art pieces.

When the human body ceases to be taboo we can appreciate it. When we stopped labeling sex as base and dirty, then insinuating that dirty and sleazy are "hot" and "sexy" perhaps we will recall the wonder of sexual union. Sex is healing, calming, it is a celebration of love for self and other human beings. It shouldn't be a stigma to be sexually active.

Be responsible, use protection to prevent the spread of disease. Reality is you can't always tell by sight if someone has a sexually transmitted infection. Absurdity is the stigma that we give that, when we don't villanize people who go out passing cold and flu viruses around like party favors.

The human body is a natural art form, explore and appreciate a lover rather than degrading and devaluing one or yourself. It is absurd that many people need to feel used to feel loved. It is a sign we need to choose more wisely the role models of our children. Instead of mermaids giving up their bodies to become what a hot guy wants, why not role models that value themselves as who and what they are?

We seem to think we have the right to belittle other people's sexuality from putting down gay marriage to prejudice against transsexuals. Stop it people. It's absurd, it's as absurd as me telling you you have to have a certain sexual orientation. You have no right to tell someone else what their orientation is. It is absurd for laws to try to enforce sexual preferences.

Prostitution was legal in the "wild west" as well as in modern Nevada. When prostitution is legal, the stigma fades away. Testing, hygiene and responsible behavior make for a professional, safer experience for both parties. High risk behaviors and situations decrease. Less men and women end up dead or missing.

Fear of disease, fear of disloyalty, fear of losing a lover or partner because someone younger, hotter, or more wanton comes along seem to drive our sexual culture. We wish to look like someone else, to please a lover. Why? I think it's far sexier to be yourself. It's far sexier to trust and to appreciate a trust upheld. It's far sexier to have honest communication. It's far sexier to have a partner who isn't just there for the sex, but for you out of love.

It's sad how many broken people I worked with in mental health, who were broken because of how sex was used on them as a weapon or made them feel used like a tool. It was heart breaking to hear the stories of shame, guilt over the body's arousal, confusion and toxic residual aftermath that plagues many as emotional scars lasting a lifetime.

Incest survivors, rape survivors, male and female circumcision scarring for religious reasons and human trafficking- yet people shrug and go on with judgemental memes and attacks on sexuality. Really? C'mon, break the cycles, break the secrets, break the stigma and start healing.

It really is absurd how much our species seems sometimes driven to perversity, apathetic and justifying of the destruction we wreak in the lives of people we allegedly care about.

Next time you feel like you need to debase yourself or someone else, stop. Instead of metaphorical graffiti why not raise them up, beautify their temple? Gift them with love, honor, and demonstrate the value of emotional flowers at their sacred temple, of your sacred temple. Treat the human body as a wonder rather than a curse. Treat each other with respect rather than with derogatory half truths and labels.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Road To El Dorado: Sunny Dei & Windy Prayer

Last night we realized today was the final day of many of the Tuscon Gem Shows. A couple we met hiking came specifically to try for closing weekend deals from snow covered Buffalo New York.
Like all true western New Yorkers we swapped snow stories in the southwest sun, relieved in the reprieve from ice and lake effect snow offered by the Sonoran desert.
There are many nomads legends in this world, like urban legends except pertaining to traveling life. One legend is of the finds to be made in the dumpsters after gem shows. Curious as to whether the myth had veracity and to witness the mad scramble pack up we went back to the gem show.

Danny fantasizes impossible finds... 

Yesterday, we savored a day of tranquility talking with Sunny and smiling Dei in the ruins of the Stone house. This afternoon we watched workers pack quickly and with few words. Cardboard and wooden boxes, pallets and plastic wrap where before shining stones had lured our dreams and wallets. The sparkle was safely nestled away to be born off to another show.

The Stone House, Tuscon AZ

We walked around, bought a few more pieces from our favorite exhibitor. We walked past the dumpsters- if good wood or wooden boxes were needed this was a gold mine. Peering in and looking in discarded cardboard boxes we found several clean reusable grocery bags and no treasure. Dumpster did not equal a red X on our mythical treasure map, but it was fun to poke around to see how true the whispered hippy tales of "a friend dumpster dove after a Tuscon show and found this whole tray of gorgeous stones and two luggage bags and a new displays..."
We didn't dive, so maybe there was treasure in there, we just weren't willing to give it our all. Instead we went for tacos and shaved ice. We tried ordering in Spanish, as the menu was in Spanish and we're both trying to practice. This failed abysmally, the woman seemed to only understand English- although she spoke Spanish. It was the most bizarre moment of total absurdity.
We decided to give up and head home to regroup for tomorrow's adventures. As we pulled off the highway there were tents and tables. There was a closing rock and mineral show right there! Danny decided to give it a go, we stopped.
As we walked into the tents and displays people smiled, they were packing but friendly and unhurried. It was a different atmosphere, a relaxed neighborhood rather than a lot of silent separate entrepreneurs.
A woman called out a greeting, she recognized us from the grocery store! We walked over and visited with her and her significant other. He showed us beautiful stones in his display, talking about where they were from and where some were headed as they were already sold. As we were leaving he showed us a type of flint from Texas, Danny asked if it was for napping. The man brightened up at Danny's knowledge, he gave us some of the flint to practice napping on.
We met a couple from New Mexico that welcomed us to go to a rockhound event in Deming NM in March. They told us where to find good hot springs off the 10 in New Mexico as they casually packed. It was nice to visit with everyone.
As we walked across to see the next table a man saw us. He smiled, pulled his phone and got our pictures. He introduced himself as Chuck. We traded stories and his face lit up in a smile. He walked us to his area and introduced us to his helpers: Windy and Shantih. Windy was watching the sunset, Shantih finished a quick seam seal on their van. The van was covered with a beautiful sunset ocean painting.
Shantih seemed surprised I knew his name meant prayer, properly invoked it should be said three times, which I did then and now. Chuck talked of metaphysics with me as Danny conversed with the others. Chuck said how he'd almost entirely succumbed to losing himself to materialism until he'd found them on Craig's list. They'd worked the show and brought him back in touch with his spiritual values.
We traded contact information, Chuck told me that we need to stop and visit them at Manitou Springs Colorado, and that we are doing Burning Man. Who knows what the year will hold? Chuck immediately upon hearing that Danny is a comedian and I am a storyteller felt something that inclined him to connect us with his path later in the year.
I know somewhat of where I think I will be, where I am planning to be, but it seems just in case the world shifts beneath us that the universe is weaving a net around us. Chuck spoke of the lines of time, I spoke of perspective and the power of truly spoken words as the sun set on the gem shows.
Perhaps it is the journey not the destination. Perhaps true wealth isn't material.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine Retrospective

A year ago, I was poised at the map of my life with ideas and feelings creating a topographical art piece defying comprehension. I wasn't thrilled with a holiday focusing on couples and Love.
My life adventures had at that point brought me many lessons and a lot of ache. Lonely and introspective as to why I was alone. I like being alone but love is something I've always sought. Some people seem to have it easily, I've found seeking it makes it an elusive feeling to hunt. I've realized more than once that others love me, while I am like a blind creature- feeling the shape of their love, only to realize that it wasn't me but love itself, an ideal, or a need drove those around me to a disturbing point where I stepped out. Finding love within yourself is not always easy.
It is the first step to being whole.
A year ago, I went to formal dress lunch with my best friend, Kristi, who I dearly love. We got dressed up in wedding dresses along with my friend Amie and we participated in a show for Tartanic. Nervous as we were, we did a Bachelor Game segment. The bachelor was another friend, we joked backstage.
The show was varied and full of fun. Excellent music, comedy and engagement of the audience. Tartanic put on an amazing show. A good friend, Danny Lord, happened to be in the area. He entertained as a part of the show. It was great to see him. He'd had health issues that had really shaken me after I got to know him doing a Renlightenment interview, after dinner at Josiah's, and the many times we'd traded shenanigan stories in the last eight years.
One of the volunteers asked me at intermission "Well, do you think the bachelor will pick you?"
I said "Probably not, I'll probably end up with that guy they found in the parking lot." That guy was Danny. I was joking.
During the show, Adrian kept mentioning a limousine for the brides. I thought it was a joke, all of us did except Tartanic. Adrian and the group have such beautiful hearts, they knew. They HAD a limousine.
The show ended. Two boys brought flowers for the three of us. We thanked them graciously. One of the guys we joked with all night came up and told us the limousine was waiting. I spent five minutes politely explaining there was no limousine. His wife hid her smile and stopped laughing long enough to promise us the limousine was really and waiting for us outside.
In that moment, ice hit. There was a limousine. If there was anyone in the world I would never want to miss the chance of riding in a limousine with, who would it be? My mind raced through a thousand thoughts and feelings. The crowd shifted. I saw Danny.
I remembered how he's always been kind, thoughtful, respectful, and caring when I'd talked with him. He'd almost died a few years ago. Would I want to go through life without riding in a limousine with him? I called out across the room to tell him there was a limousine. He called back that he hated limousines. I called back me too. In a wedding dress with a long train I regally parted the crowd with a look. I took him by the elbow and walked him to the door. He clowned at struggling to get away, I gave him a look and said "are you really fighting to avoid getting in a limousine with a beautiful woman, with several beautiful women?"
He looked chargrined and got into the limousine. We had an adventurous ride.

I had the most beautiful voicemail message that is long gone, unfortunately. The next day we thought perhaps we'd just been lonely, silly fools. Then we realized we both love hibiscus tea. We both wanted to explore Arizona and the world. Our hobbies and interests overlap. In some ways our minds and hearts gave similar maps, in other ways vastly different.
He spends his time telling stories from his life, teaching me how to remove the barriers to love that have been a burden of a lifetime. I spend my time learning, growing, healing and loving.
We met a couple today at the Stone house from Korea. Sunny moved here and worked every day except two days for forty years. She finally retired and is hiking and exploring the world, she's taking classes and learning English. Her husband, Dei (Sunny and Day) met her on a visit to Korea. They fell in love and she moved here. Can you imagine moving to another country, being immersed in another culture and language? Sunny's smile lit the abandoned stone house. We were honored to enjoy the afternoon with such a great couple!

Two photos of Grants Pass at Sunset, Tuscon AZ

From a limousine to Grant's Pass sunset tonight, what a wonderful year and a priceless adventure.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Road To El Dorado: Tombstone and Bisbee

Late afternoon we rolled into Tombstone, the Sun was hanging low in the sky. A sawhorse blocked off traffic. Men and women in cowboy hats walked in front of the shops, some modern and other in classic western styles.
We parked and walked down the street. It felt like a showdown was coming as five o clock heralded the closing of tourist shops. Bars, restaurants stayed lively. We made our way to the Bird Cage, watching two stage coaches pass in the street.
The stores were all closing in a quiet but quick manner that lent credence to the fantasy of an impending show down. 

We paid the fee and took our time enjoying the collection and history contained in the walls of the famous theater. We took time after the tour to meet "Bill" whose family has owned the theater since the thirties. He told us great stories, my favorite was how he and his sister would stage their own robberies of the stage coaches with their cap guns. He was about seven. The tourists loved it. It was fun to hear the perspective of someone growing up in a place steeped in history.
The discovery of silver and the silver mining that happened there created the town. Different characters made stories that have echoed through the generations, people who've become almost mythical. Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, Big Nose Kate, Johnny Ringo, Bat Masterson.
Their truths differ from the tales. The famous fight at the OK Corral? Actually on Freemont Street, and it didn't go down quite how it's played out in movies. There were no clear cut good or bad guys. Big Nose Kate did have a big nose and was nosy. The nickname hit on both, she wasn't drop dead gorgeous or devoted to Holiday like a chaste wife; she was a prostitute.
There were many prostitutes licensed and working in the mining town. For years the Bird Cage was open 24-7 with gambling, shows, and prostitution for the mine workers.

We left after dark, walked down the street savoring the empty feeling of anticipation. It seemed that ghosts of the past would appear and walk past us on business at any moment. We went into what once was the Grand Hotel. John served us dinner at what is now Big Nose Kate's Saloon. The beef brisket was incredible and I was grateful John made the recommendation.

Big Nose Kate's Saloon, Tombstone, AZ

John came from northern California, he's traveled and lived in 49 states. He's enjoyed his travels and he shared some of the truths versus romantic myths of Tombstone.
We headed south in the dark night, to visit friends and see Bisbee. In the dark we drove past a rusty fence, blackness beyond it. I realized it was where a mountain had once been, now a gaping pit. It was the Lavender Pit Mine, once a large copper mine.
Today, we saw the immense raw wound, the place where much of our country's copper once came from. We read how it was processed and how they address the pollution from the processing techniques even now.
We walked downtown, passing various art shops and tourist tantalizing stores. Olive oil, soaps, jewelry, metal sculpture, gourmet cupcakes, handmade hats, rocks, vintage goods, coffee shops and various restaurants. We admired various art forms from giant flies on buildings to metal sculptures watching over the gates to a house. Murals from the striking Peace wall to the many stops on the 1000 step Bisbee Challenge route.

Bisbee has a stair climbing race event every October where people race around the town up a thousand stairs. We saw signs for Chili and Chocolate tonight by donation at the Methodist church in Warren AZ by Bisbee.
We went, enjoying friendly local company and delicious homemade chili and chocolate desserts. The Boy Scout volunteers were attentive and enthusiastic, the ladies in the kitchen gave us beautiful smiles with our meals. We gave them cash donation as well as a magic show.
After Danny finished eating he got his props together and with the blessing of our gracious hosts, he introduced himself and what we're doing as Barrels of Laughter and Love. He told about us donating magic and stories as we travel.
Danny Lord, part of Barrels of Laughter and Love entertaining at Chili & Chocolate in Bisbee, AZ

He delighted and brought laughs around the room with his magic and comedy. The second disappearance of a small red scarf brought astonishment and applause. When he stole a watch from his volunteer and returned it, the room was electric. No one had anticipated the magic. The Boy Scouts filmed and debated, trying to figure the magic out afterwards.
Everyone thanked us for coming and for the unexpected gift of magic. We thanked everyone for the gift of community, caring and kindness. It was a beautiful evening.
Learning about Bisbee and its history, our favorite part is the interesting stories in the lives of our friends here. Getting to know the family of dear friends, to experience the amazing people in person and in stories and photos who have had a hand in shaping the heart of a friend. It is an honor to hear such caring and real stories, to see in the mind and feel in the heart valued memories. A gift worth more than gold, given in a town known for mining copper.

Lavander Pit Mine, Bisbee AZ- once a mountain now a caustic pit. 

Bisbee and Tombstone, both once mining towns where fortunes were made. Bisbee still has active mines, it is renowned for turquoise, azurite, malachite and of course copper. Many other minerals enrich the rock and earth here as well. Many hippies, once hippies, artists and free spirits live in Bisbee.
A young hippy named Lief earnestly discussed metaphysics with us in the park next to a green statue of two individuals from legend. An old paperback with faded yellow pages clutched in his hand as he spoke. It was a book of philosophy, held the way a Reverend might hold a Bible. His words were positive, he argued that people are becoming less violent. He said in ratio to the number of people in the world, overall violence, especially murder, is down despite media's portrayal and insinuation that it's up. I am not sure whether he's right or not, but I hope so.

I also hope that people aren't choosing to live lives in self imposed unhappiness and prisons of perception of necessity of wants. I like seeing people strive for their full potential, I love seeing people love their lives.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Mount Lemmon Vista Guru

We set out mid afternoon for Mount Lemmon. Danny traveled down Memory Lane, reminiscing on hiking Sabino Canyon to the top of Mount Lemmon when he was twenty one. He recalled fasting while he did the hike, taking and consuming only lemon water for days, no pun intended.
We drove the ribbon of road around the ever climbing mountain. A sign pointed us toward the first Vista. We were eager to get to the top for the view, but what was the point if we missed the sights along the way?
As I took pictures, Danny talked with another older gentleman who stood surrounded by heavy thoughts. I walked up as he said "I've realized the things we have weigh us down. We get so caught up in having and getting things, we forget about living. Everything has a price, we work to pay and the more we work- the more we pay."

Danny Lord and Patrick Kelly

One of many Mount Lemmon Views

He introduced himself as Patrick Kelly, truck driver from Chicago. He's taking a couple of weeks to just explore and decided what he wants to do next in life. He might keep driving trucks or he might do something else. I told him he was the Guru of Mount Lemmon, his wisdom was appreciated. He laughed, said it wasn't original but it felt right in his life now. I pointed at the blue sky. "I could say it's not raining. Danny could say it. Then you could also say it. It is still true regardless of whether it was original."
Danny and Patrick talked at length about changes in politics since Vietnam and their youth. They traded stories and laughter, they shook their heads at a government that is still inept and rife with corruption.
We waved goodbye and left our Guru to continue following the road to the top.
Our next Vista was my favorite. Walking a short oath we found a waterfall view and breathtaking rock formations.
We stopped at Vista after Vista. Desert scrub became oak, which turned to evergreen trees. The air went from hot and lazy to icy and crisp, with a constant breeze cooling the air. Signs warned of bear crossings and potential snow plows. Hard to believe in the desert outside Tuscon, where it had been over 80 degrees only a few thousand feet below.
Turning a corner over 8000 feet up, there was snow! Patches of snow and ice persisted in the shade, as if determined to prove how drastically different the climate was at the top.

We reached Summerhaven, Danny was shocked by the construction of houses and several shops. It had been mostly wilderness when he'd hiked it in the early seventies. We went to the end of Sky Drive. I felt like the end should have led to a Vista beyond compare, a place where the heart beats more quickly as your mind realizes you're surrounded by more air than earth.
The Road ended at a trailhead. We walked past a gate and found a waterfall of icy water. Pussywillows with their soft silver blooms regally stood in the shade on both sides of a winding road. Gray rocks continued up into the sky, I felt small there surrounded by stone at such a high elevation. The sun could not reach us, the shadows were thick and cool like a pudding setting in a refrigerator.
We met a young man who was walking his dogs. He smiled and showed us a fire agate necklace he'd just wire wrapped with copper.
Danny recognized the view from the end of his hike. We decided to see if we could make it to Sabino Canyon before sunset.
It was funny, finding the most breathtaking vistas first, along with the deeper philosophical thoughts while at the top moving more like a rock pendulum swinging back to its start.
Only in America are the gurus at the bottom.
Danny told me if the rock formations and the waterfalls along Sabino Canyon. We got to the park at twilight. Park. Visitors center, bathrooms, marked trails all more recent than the early seventies. Danny recalled driving straight up to the waterfall. Reading history through the windows of the closed Visitors' center we learned that traffic in the seventies had been too much. To protect the wilderness only hiking and a shuttle were allowed to to out into Sabino Canyon.
We saw pictures of the falls and looked at the hikes. At least four miles, it would have to be another day's adventure. We left somber. Such a drastic change, it was for the best but it was unexpected.
We talked of how different the world is now. In the seventies, Danny went to Mexico and slept in Ruins. Ruins that now have fences and are off limits. He did not deface them or leave garbage or steal artifacts. It weighed on our hearts tonight that too many people must do the negative, for the world to have to shift to limit accessibility. The wild memories he had, cannot be had by our generation and for this we grieved.
Sadly, for some absurd reason, people go to beautiful places and litter or destroy habitat or lives without thought. There were garbage bins at almost every Vista yet I saw beverage containers along the sides of the road like invasive weeds.
We learned at Joshua Tree park that mylar balloons and wrappers kill desert tortoises. The bright colors look like the flowers they eat to live. They die eating the balloons. Today an older couple released a group of five mylar balloons into the sky. They were beyond reach. They were absorbed in their selfish moment, filming it for someone or something. I was so angry and hurt by their ignorance and their choice to knowingly do such a thing.
Can we do something great? Can we teach our friends to stop releasing mylar balloons and stop treating the world as our personal garbage can?
It would be great for future generations to sleep in ancient ruins, to see the world with all its splendor rather than a version we've maimed so much that it belongs on a clearance rack.
It was a beautiful day. Mount Lemmon was gorgeous, Sabino Canyon remains pristine due to wise management. These positive thoughts bring me smiles as I head to bed.  

Monday, February 9, 2015

At The Corner of The Road To El Dorado & Memory Lane

Tucson in February, bustling with gem and mineral shows, art festivals and a Chinese New Year Festival. Here we are exploring the present, recalling the past.
Danny lived in Tuscon several winters back in 1970, 1971. He looks at the sprawling streets, the developments that have grown up like mushrooms after a heavy rain. They are everywhere. Tucson was much smaller in 1970.
We went back to the Pueblo Gem show and spent a day exploring the various displays, being astounded by beautiful stones and works of craftsmanship. We picked up supplies to make beautiful jewelry and learned to recognize more types of stones and minerals just by looking at what was being sold.

Jade, quartz dyed to mimic jade, shells, pearls, Amber, labradorite, fossils, apatite, topaz, tourmaline, metaphysical books and pagan soaps as well as water that sat in elegant pitchers with odd straws with wide clear egg shaped hollows full of various rare minerals for the ultimate in infusion.
Late afternoon we wandered down to taste the tantalizing treasures served up by the various themed food truck vendors. The foods were interesting and unusual from Mexian Asian fusion to wicked burgers that taste pleasant but aren't so wicked that they try to mug you.
The best part of the day happened. We sat at a table in the shade, there was a young man with a peaceful smile sitting there. He nodded as we sat. He'd been amused by our antics and conversation as we decided what to eat and interpreted menus. The young man had brown hair hidden underneath his crocheted red mushroom hat. Danny made a joke about mushrooms, noting the variety suggested by the white spots on the red cap.
The young man grinned broadly. His hat was on a pyramid frame made of gold, disguised by the mushroom. His name was Danny as well, he had also come from Minnesota. I thought how wild the odds were against the chance of such a meeting. We had a wonderful conversation on life. Young Danny offered a gift as he was leaving. He gave a resin scene he'd made with calcite, gold, tourmaline, lapis, quartz, herkimer diamond, juniper and more. He gave us the round disc, one to focus and free the mind from interference. I'd seen similar before and was honored.
I was wearing a dragonfly necklace I'd made. I gave it as a gift in return. We parted with hugs and the kind enigmatic man said we it was an honor to meet us, he complimented us highly. I thought of our ridiculous conversation and thought he must have a brilliant sense of humor.
As he left, another you man at the next table offered us half of his gourmet hot dog. Alex, with earth tone scarf over his black t-shirt. He spoke of love and beauty before continuing on his adventures. Both men parted by giving us hugs which surprised Danny. Both men were very open and caring, neither seemed to live by revolving around a cellphone.
We met a couple from Connecticut, conspiracies were spoken of. We agreed that questions are important and media shapes what it reports too much.
We wandered back to finish our explorations of the Pueblo show and decided to go to 4th Ave as the sun was setting.
We slowly drove past where the Ashram had been on 4th Ave. Danny had lived there in 1971, he searched his memory and the architecture for connections and found them.
We passed a park where he practiced and taught yoga. We parked the car and walked the sidewalks. We admired window displays and art that ranged from bicycle parts used to make a garbage can frame to a car titled "the new Lincoln Memorial" with a coffin on the roof, covered in an American flag. Yes, it was a Lincoln.
The New Lincoln Memorial, Tuscon AZ

Most of the stores were closed. The streetcar that had recently been finished was unseen although its silver tracks shone in the streetlights. There was no streetcar in 1970. The Co-op Danny used to shop at was still open and had a line of content customers. I wondered if they'd give him member price because he'd been one so long ago, when they first opened.
We went into the Hippy Gypsy, where we met Seth Foley. Seth is a veteran and as he prepared to close for the night we were delighted by the best conversation we'd had in a long time. Intelligent, opinionated, educated, and experienced; Seth has traveled and set boots down on almost every continent (except Antarctica).
Seth told us about the Mayday PAC, which is a PAC to end all PACs. If you aren't sure what that means, definitely take a moment to Google it. It is good to understand politics. Do you want your legislation to listen to you or to their primary corporate sponsors? If your answer was you, then search for the May day PAC, support it and spread the word.
With the night complete we made our way home.

Day of the Dead Store front display, 4th Ave

Even the garbage was art... 4th Ave, Tuscon, AZ

Stoically standing over 4th Ave, Tuscon, AZ

Mural on 4th Ave, Tuscon, AZ- no matter where you look on 4th Ave Art is waiting to be appreciated

We are honored to be staying at a friend's apartment for a few days. We've gotten to meet Geronimo, the manager who is Sonoran. He told us about Sonoran hot dogs and traded stories with a smile.
Today we went to the Native American Exposition. We traded stories with Ernie, a well traveled Hopi who makes everything from beautiful Jewelry to drums. We admired a woman designing the black pattern on the outside of a clay vase. A man sat carving wood at the far end of the room, while another adeptly wove baskets. The talent and beauty of the work made me wish I'd had a fortune to spend rather than just complimentary words.
One couple from Minnesota had pipestone in their display. We went to the Pipestone Quarry last summer. We've got pieces we have been gradually carving as time and travel allow.
I met Norma who has been selling beads for forty years, since she retired from banking. We traded stories and smiles. She said stories are important, they are valued in the tribes. She talked about life being about change, doing different things and not worrying too much. She liked that I am on a path of chance. She said that it is how life us meant to be lived. Watching her smile was like getting to witness a rose blooming.

Danny did magic and traded tales around the room, we met at the far end. It was a great afternoon.
We kept our momentum and headed toward memory lane again. We went down Speedway toward Grant's pass.
In 1970 Danny and a friend found an abandoned stone house along a wash. They squatted there for several months, carrying gallons of water four miles from Tuscon, then another mile at least up the wash. Danny made sand candles and sold them in Tuscon.
I found information on a trail to the stone house. Was it the same house?
Danny Lord at the Stone House, Tuscon AZ 

We tried using memories forty years gone to recognize the wash. We resorted to a map. We found the road, the trailhead. Danny recognized the wash. We made our way up the trail. He stopped in shock and delight when we saw the stone frame. It was the same stone house! He had lived here. This house inspired him to build his own stone house in Wisconsin.
The sunset was getting close. Shadows stretched over us. We wanted to catch the sunset at Grant's Pass, another place from memory lane. Would it be the same?
We made it to the car in record time, excited to try for the sunset. We drove carefully to Grant's Pass. Danny recognized it, it was the same. We parked and hustled up the mountain.
There were at least twenty or thirty people spread out taking selfies. I wondered how many saw the view.
Angela Hunt at Grants Pass, AZ

Danny Lord at Grants Pass, AZ

Hidden sunset at Grant's Pass AZ 

We climbed to different perches and watched the sky perform its show. Where I sat I could see bats rising and swooping in the dusk. As the sun went down everyone focused on it. Within ten minutes all the cars were gone except four. Five or six of us remained. As night fell Tuscon began to grow brighter. Spots if light appeared, Tuscon became a field of stars.
Danny was incredulous, Tuscon was larger than he'd realized. The lights gave a better idea, desert colored houses that were hidden in daylight now stood out. We admired the night. As we left a coyote walked by the gazebo we'd just come from. I love coyotes. It made the night as exceptional as the day had been.
Wanderers crossing paths, sharing tales and hope. Lighting faces with smiles and creating connections in spirit and heart. What is the purpose of life, stopping assuming "the wallet" and listen to the terrifying beautiful freedom of following the uncertainty of the heart and soul.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Second Entry on the Road to El Dorado

After our Wal-Mart tour through Southern California and into Arizona, we needed a break from sharing our narrow bed in the back of Danny's van.
A dear friend in Mesa gave us a shout out, for a week we rested indoors. We enjoyed the company and tried to find work at the local Renaissance Festival, for the chance to spend time with friends and work. Things did not line up for us, despite the desire and motivation we felt. We were encouraged to move to greener pastures, so we focused on spending the time there with friends.
We hiked to a waterfall outside Superior AZ. We ventured to the Petroglyphs in Apache Junction. We visited with the neighbors where we stayed. I held a thirteen foot dwarf reticulated python owned by a mortuary student who was just moving in. We met a grandfather dealing with a brain tumor. We visited, laughing and swapping tales in the sun. No one focused on a cellphone. It was wonderful.
Realizing the Tuscon Gem Shows are happening now, we decided to explore them. We had new friends from Quartzsite to find again! New friends to make!
Our two vehicle caravan parted from my dear friend after hugs and gratitude were shared again. The warmth and love wrapping my heart with renewed strength and peace.
We drove out to BLM land after sunset. BLM land, for those who are unaware stands for Bureau of Land Management. BLM land exists in each state, there are areas for public use and free or reduced rate camping with a special permit. You can usually camp there for fourteen days, it is primitive and you bring your own water. Pack in and carry out- please do not litter.
We stayed just beyond the AZRF faire site, having stopped for groceries on our way. I met Errol Coder, fellow author and friend at the store. Errol took my jewelry to sell at a social gathering on the faire ground after the weekend. While we were at the store we ran into a handful of friends, got hugs and gave them- unexpected pleasure. We joked that if we just waited long enough, we'd probably catch all our friends there.
We drove onto the BLM land, decided to camp near the road to leave quickly this morning for Tucson.
Danny Lord enjoying our fire on BLM land camping in Apache Junction, AZ

The moon was silver and round as we gathered rocks and built a fire. We watched the flames dance and traded stories. It was an odd sensation to know hundreds for friends were falling asleep less than a mile away and we couldn't walk by to wish them good night. We were amused by three trucks flying American flags that went driving past into the BLM land on a late night off road adventure.
We heard owls and cars, coyotes were silent. We fell asleep to a quiet night.
We woke to sunlight and the sound of vehicles. Danny sat up suddenly. He looked out the window of the van. He said it looked like people were gathering for a race. He was right! I looked out at ten or more vehicles with buggies in tow! About twenty people were milling around talking and smiling.
I walked over and greeted them as a truck with two four wheel ATVs drove by. Two dirt bikes roared in the distance. The world had become off road enthusiast heaven! The large group I met were middle age adults headed to the canyon country to have fun. They joked they'd only race if it was to a plate of pancakes, which made me wish I had pancakes to offer! They were very fun to meet, they were out enjoying a gorgeous day!

The gathering off roaders getting ready for pancakes or adventure! 

We caught the end of the gem show this evening. Danny was stunned by the size of the stones and the variety. We are headed to stay with another friend here for a few days, tomorrow we go back to explore further. Danny lived here in the seventies so we plan to explore Tuscon to find the changes and appreciate what the city has become!

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Absurdity of Extremism

We live in a modern society, we consider extremism to be, well, "extreme." We sit surrounded by plastics and synthetics, swimming in prefabricated food and swirling thirty second advertising sound bites. News stories are all extreme, even the weather. Every day there is a new, drastic weather condition. It is never just a sunny day or a snowy day, it is now a Polar Apocalypse.

In many countries, people have what they need by growing their own food. They may not wear pants or shoes on their feet. They do not spend hours every day online. They do not have smartphones, dumb phones or televisions. Their world is not inundated with glossy perfect smiling models starving for attention. Their world is full of life. Nobody has it easy. Not us surrounded by a cacophony of conflicting rabid views and arguments, nor the boy going without meals in a third world country. Different extremes. The extreme of comfort driven life versus the extreme of survival. While we live in comfort, joking about the odd sudden die off of the bees; other countries have started doing their research.

While we prioritize and set our DVRs to record pabulum shows, people in other countries work on addressing the needs of their people and trying to protect their wellbeing- as well as their environment.

I am not going to be extreme, but I am going to point out some absurdities: first, when at least thirty countries have scientists and leaders denying corporations the right to grow certain crops that are genetically modified it is not something moronic or easily dismissed. When Russian newspapers express confusion about how Americans somehow choose to remain uneducated and make potentially reckless decisions regarding crops and nutrition it seems like "oh, those silly Russians-like they have a clue." Well. Maybe they do. What are the rates of diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease and obesity in the United States? Compare those rates to other countries. Go ahead, google it. This blog will still be here. I want you to take a look for yourself.

Now, I am going to put on corporation shoes for a moment. Tight, shiny, expensive shoes. If I wanted to maximize my profits and they were my only priority I would take these steps:

1. I would put a well paid employee or independent contractor in a position to do irritating, slightly misinformed campaigns against me. I would create my own extreme hater- so that the average joe encountering this venomous creature would feel driven to defend my company and to show support by buying from me just to spite the jerk. This would also get people to ignore any news legitimate or illegitimate about my products or practices. MY PROFITS GO UP.

2. I would use ad campaigns to appeal and insinuate that I support practices Americans want to perceive me as supporting. Those thirty second sound bite ads, people rarely look past them.

3. I would label different types of products under sub company names so people don't realize how large my company actually is. Movie companies, soda companies etc. They all do this. Do you know what seven corporations own most of the products you buy? It is another easy google search.

Those shoes aren't to my liking. I am taking them off.

Why are the bees dying? Why do anti-GMO campaigns in the United States focus on disproving cancer links rather than mentioning the unethical practices against small farmers and the dangerously high death rate of bee populations that other countries have linked to some of the modified crops?

If the bees die off, what pollinates the flowers- your smartphone?

Ethics in advertising. Ethics in practices. We do not prioritize these. We prioritize and justify the profits of the corporations, that are already laughing their way to the bank with the profits we have already endorsed them with. They use the money we spend to buy the votes that are ours. We give them our votes and our voices. It is our choice. We can educate ourselves, we can encourage stores to offer other, small label brands supporting small business. We can choose to vote wisely with that dollar or we can make fun of the people who do while our ignorance shines brightly for the rest of the world to see.

We become a country of Emperors in New Clothes, in a world bemused by our pride in ignorance.

We express anger over other forms of Extremism and of folks with opposing views. We forget compromise and what we should prioritize. We are as extreme in our own ways as the folks we make fun of for being irrational and dangerous overseas. If we want to become world leaders again, we have to choose to educate ourselves and prioritize in a non-egocentric, narcissistic manner. Right now, we sound like overindulged, obese children who have been spoiled rotten. Shrieking and shouting, pouting about how we should treat each other here and overseas.

Abortion. Religion. Color. Weight. Gender. Taxation. Political Parties. Nationality. Guns. Diet.

When do we get back to the grey area of being human and accepting the value of the differences between us? When do we get back to valuing our world and the species on it? When do we get back to valuing spirit and intelligence? When do we get back to valuing ourselves? Perhaps if we get to the point where we can accept and love ourselves, we can learn to accept others. It is our path to choose.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Absurdity of Lame Graffiti

I usually write about heavy topics, as so much of our lives in the United States seem determined to distract us from them or minimize the importance of them. So much of our social world has become digital in an attempt to escape the commercialized society we have allowed to become main stream reality. Nobody plays a game to become a fortieth level Banker with a decent iPad and black leather shoes. That doesn't sound as menacing or sexy as a fortieth level Barbarian Wizard with a light saber and lightening spell does it? It is so much easier to click a button on a square of computer generated land to have "crops" grow or little cartoon figures build a structure than to do these tasks in the mundane world. In a game you can have your character say anything, the most that will happen is your group may ostracize you, kill your character and loot the body. The worst thing could be losing access to your precious game. Your precious, gamers. While we are picking on the gamers, let's not get too hasty. They aren't the only ones living in the world of digital dreams. Selfie addicts, social media addicts, folks who used to think and reason but now only seem capable of staring at a small rectangular box held an arm length from their eyes. Their eye color? The color of their screen reflecting on their face. I encourage everyone to put the little brain drainer down and appreciate the world sometimes.
When I see lame graffiti, I feel let down. Someone just had to pick the wrong place to put a meaningless profession of love.

There is a large, beautiful world outside. It is gorgeous. It is full of life. When was the last time you took time to gaze at the stars, searching for constellations? When was the last time you sat for an hour counting shooting stars? Do you know what phase the moon is tonight? I watched a breathtaking moon rise over Mesa Arizona last night. The moon was a shade of gold so rich that it would have made the most expensive gold ring weep from jealousy. There was a haze around it, as if it were a bellydancer with a gauze floating lazily in its wake. I stared. People went about their lives. I got to enjoy it with friends, we shared a moment of appreciation. It is a memory I will always have and treasure.

Today, we were invited by friends on a hike to see a waterfall in the desert. I am not crazy, there are waterfalls in the desert if you know where to look and you look after a rain!  We met and walked the short trail, climbed the rough rocks using narrow crevices and generous handholds. We found beautiful pools of water with the soothing sound and sight of long ribbons of water sliding down the rocks. I watched a small butterfly, wings appearing white then periwinkle as it danced in the air. A tiger swallowtail swooped down to greet us before continuing its life adventure.

My one sorrow today was the pitiful graffiti where we parked. The "Bobo luvs Bunny" kind, the kind where you are fairly certain that Bunny probably doesn't love Bobo anymore- and if she or he did, they certainly never would have wanted it plastered in shabby handwriting on a rock disrupting a breathtaking scenic view. I decided instead of being brought down by it, perhaps I would encourage better artistry. If you are doing graffiti to profess love, do it with style. Anyone can scribble on a rock, in fact you could take a picture and make your own virtual graffiti without ever committing a crime. Your wooed one would enjoy the picture and the respect for the view or add to the view. Do masterful artwork that everyone will enjoy. It really means nothing to us when you scribble two generic names with a plus sign on a rock. You aren't really memorializing anything, it is absurd for you to assume that you are. It is like getting a tattoo of the word Monday on your face because your birthday was on a monday when you turned 21. It doesn't do a thing to change how mondays are, it only affects the view of your face. You probably would hear the word more frequently, but not in a pertinent manner.

I decided to give examples of "good" graffiti. Good graffiti can be found in major cities; ride the train to San Fransisco and appreciate the view of various artists' work. Beautiful in an urban style. Drab walls become fancy, complex colors and letters. Whether you read the words or become absorbed in the appreciation of styles, shading, and vibrant eye catching details- it is clearly artwork. The artists were mindful to choose urban areas to enhance; so once dingy views are now colorful panoramas for miles. They didn't race to the Grand Canyon with a single white can of spray paint and mark it like some annoying tom cat. They chose their location wisely to compliment their work.

A second excellent example rusts along a trail in a park in Tulsa Oklahoma. On the way down the trail last winter we found a rusted appliance in the middle of the woods. Ron called my attention back to it. He found a quote written on the side of it by Aldous Huxley. He took a photograph. The quote was brilliant and thought provoking. We discussed it for the rest of the hike. I keep the picture as wallpaper on my phone. The quote has had profound impact on both of our lives. The graffiti quote found on discarded refuse enigmatically resting alone along a trail at Turkey Mountain. Brilliant graffiti placed well, not on the trees or rocks but on a forgotten remnant designed for human convenience. Photo by Ron Morgan:

I took a picture of some of the shabby graffiti today and played with my editing application on my too smart phone. I made a bright ocean with rudimentary waves and palm trees; I gave it a bright sky. Very cartoon but far more pleasant than the random names that had been plastered there and in reality are still plastered there.

In short, it may sound absurd but if you are going to add a "statement" to the world could you please choose to make it one worth looking at? It may sound ridiculous, but the sight of Huxley's words resonates within me. Lightly, lightly admire the wisdom and the chosen placement of the statement.