Sunday, May 09, 2021

Mother's Day 2021

This is a different sort of Mother's Day this year in that for the first time in my life, I will not be seeing or speaking to my mother on this day.

Oh, she is still alive.  And I will see her in a week when I head back.  Calling her is...difficult. The phone confuses her now, let alone speaking with someone with whom she has no idea who she is talking to.  It is just easier to speak in person.

As I found out during my last visit from one of her very long time friends (75 years +), she does not really remember that either I or my sister are her children.  We are her own brother and sister.

This is an odd place to be in.

I can physically go and see my mother. I can talk to her. I can recognize her face, the tonal quality of her voice, the facts that she still brings up about people and things that I know.  At the same time, in a meaningful sense, my mother is no longer there.

I cannot bring up things that we did when I was growing up:  She does not recall any vacations that we took.  She does not recall the time when - on a whim - I asked her if I could drive home from the store and she gave me the keys; it was my first time post permit driving and we barely survived.  She likely does not recall any of the activities I did when I was growing up or places we went to church.  And she surely does not recall what I consider my multiplicity of failures over the years.

A lifetime of memories, now a blank field with occasional bright points of recalls, like wildflowers.

This is different than death, as far as I can understand it.  In death, the person is gone - truly gone - with nothing but memories and a gravestone.  Here, the person is here, but the bulk of what made them up as a person to you is gone.

We signed a card and sent it to my sister's (to make sure that it gets there). I am sure she will enjoy it and will thank my sister for it when she brings it (she has not lost her kindly nature).  And hopefully it will sit somewhere in her room, a physical reminder of us even if "us" does not really exist to her anymore.

This, as the hackneyed saying goes, was not the way this was all supposed to work out.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Morning Prayer Of The Optina Elders

O Lord, grant that I may meet all that this coming day brings to me with spiritual tranquility. Grant that I may fully surrender myself to Thy holy Will.

At every hour of this day, direct and support me in all things. Whatsoever news may reach me in the course of the day, teach me to accept it with a calm soul and the firm conviction that all is subject to Thy holy Will.

Direct my thoughts and feelings in all my words and actions. In all unexpected occurrences, do not let me forget that all is sent down from Thee.

Grant that I may deal straightforwardly and wisely with every member of my family, neither embarrassing nor saddening anyone.

O Lord, grant me the strength to endure the fatigue of the coming day and all the events that take place during it. Direct my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to be patient, to forgive, and to love.


Optina Monastary

Thursday, May 06, 2021

The Collapse LXII: Yellow And Red

18 January 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

Young Xerxes was as good as his word: two cans of unopened coffee. I gave him not only the 4 lbs of honey promised, but an additional 2 lbs. They do me no good here, but they very well may get me some additional something in the future.

The cans are a brand that I recognize from long ago – in real honest to goodness metal cans, mind you, not those silly plastic containers that were so commonly available. The plastic wrapper around the can is two toned, yellow and red, and bi-lingual in English and Spanish. “Café Espresso Molido” (Expresso Ground Coffee) it proclaims proudly; “Siempre puro y pleno de sabor, como ningún otro” (Always pure and flavorful, like no other). Roasted in Florida.

Sunny Florida seems a long way from a cold, wintry day here. As, frankly, does roasting.

I pull back the yellow plastic cap. The inside is (thankfully) sealed with a removable foil seal instead of the metal lid; I had misaligned more coffee cans with a can opener than opening them successfully that way. In an extravagance of effort, I pull open the seal (and set it to the side, of course – almost everything now has a potential use or value, even if I do not see what it is at the moment).

I am assaulted with the slightly acrid, almost burnt smell of the roasted coffee. For one brief shining instant, the world of cold and wind and Collapse disappears.

What? Well, of course I made some – after all, it was now open and should taste the fruit of my trading, should I not?

Was it a coffee “like no other”? I cannot accurately tell you that as – since it has been a bit of time since I have had coffee, any coffee was destined to be “like no other”. But it was hot and tasted like coffee.

Yes, I know – I will have to be prudent and frugal in the use of it. For all I know, these may be the last two cans in this entire state. And while I think (and fear) that we will go through a period of scarcity for such things, followed by a period of abundance as such things or traded (or more tragically, they are found in places where people did not survive), ultimately it will revert to being unavailable at all. They are, I doubt, roasting coffee in Florida anymore – and even if they could, who would get the beans from South America or Africa there to roast them anymore?

The open can goes on the shelf, the unopened can goes into the back along with the valuable supplies. And then I sit in front of the fire, luxuriating in my cup and thinking on happier times when such things flowed freely and we had not a care in the world where the next cup was coming from. Odd, as the saying used to go, what a difference a year makes.

I would offer a sip to the rabbits of course, but they are notorious abstainers from coffee so I drink their share as well.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

On Moles And Leading A Double Life

One of the lesser known songs to come from the Styx album Kilroy Was Here (1983; arguably one of the best albums ever in the fact that there is not a bad song on it) was entitled "Double Life" in which the underground hero of the Rock Opera, Jonathan Chance (Tommy Shaw), laments the life he has to lead as a rebel opposing the then all controlling "MMM - Majority for Musical Morality", in trying to bring back rock music:

"Leading a double life
Friends in the daytime, strangers at night
Leading a double life,
Can it be wrong when you know that it's right?"

Claire Wolfe ponders the question from a different angle in her article "Outlaw Moles:  Now More Important Than Ever".

The article (I am summarizing, you would do so much better to read it fully yourself) posits that there are four sorts of "Freedom Outlaws", those who seek to restore freedoms instead of bind them:  The Ghost, who is so far off the grid and buried that they are not visible; the Agitator, who actively works to re-establish them publicly (and not necessarily in the "violent" fashion that the title suggests; agitators can work through the system as well - but they are public); the Cockapoo, those who are effectively beaten down by the system and so choose to live off the system to bring it down the faster; and the Mole, those who essentially live double lives:  appearing on the outside to buy in to and conform to every aspect of the system, but passively preparing, protesting, or even supporting the other three models.

"In the dark so all alone
Slowly reach for the telephone
A message waits just for you
A secret place, another rendezvous
It's not always honesty
That is the best policy
But little lies can give you away
Though you'll deny it if they say maybe you're just 
Leading a double life..."

In reading the article, I (re)discovered the fact that I am a mole.

I am not terribly brave. There are those that might argue that simply posting as I do, under a nom de guerre, at least makes me suspect if not guilty.  True, perhaps - although to be fair, given the world we live in today I am neither rich enough, isolated enough, or connected enough to be "protected" from idiots who believe their right and privilege is to squash all that disagree with them.  And besides that, being in a sense "impersonal" allows me a persona of sorts to discuss and debate things which in real life would only end in shouting, tears, and slammed doors.

But even without that, I am not terribly brave.  I will avoid confrontation wherever possible.  Whenever I called on do something, I will like do it, even though it might be something I partially disagree with (Not completely though.  Even I have my limits).  I do not argue.  I certainly do not fight.  I go along to get along.  I (to paraphrase Claire's article) pay my taxes, cross in the cross walks, drive the speed limit, and to the greatest extent possible, conform to the law (to the extent it drives others crazy sometimes).

And work diligently in the background.

"The other side of the Berlin wall is
Not far enough to avoid the call
Somebody knows, somebody's seen
Somebody knows right where you've been
And that you're just 
Leading a double life..."

I have friends here that are brave.  Glen is brave (although arguably, almost foolhardily so).  STxAR is brave, as ClaireLeigh and Ed are quietly brave.  Reverend Paul is brave, unapologetically so.  And my dear friend, quiet, artistic friend Rain is probably the quietest and bravest of us all.  

And yet - loud or not, they are all doing what they can to live their lives and quietly (or less so, in Glen's case) living lives contrary to the dominant paradigms, both real and imagined.

"Nowhere to hide, though we both might try
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I
Double life, a double life, a masquerade,
You know we all live a masquerade
I know you're out there!"

Two points that deserve consideration:

1)  Being a mole in this circumstance is an "evil" thing.  Merely by living a life which in some way, form, or fashion does not conform to the existing paradigms is not an "evil" thing - although it may be a rebellious things, as those raising chickens or openly gardening in their front yards might tell you.  One can be a mole without intending anything than living a life differently that what is demanded by a society that seeks to effectively control a great deal - the simple act of not living that way or questioning makes you a mole, a potential threat to the system.

2)  Being a mole - "Leading a Double Life", as the song says - sounds like it would be hard.  But if your are someone (like me) that is used to introspection, having interests that no-one else in your immediate group shares, and are an introvert, it really does not feel like a task at all.  Effectively, you have done this all your life:  learned to not speak about that which interests no-one but you, quietly gone about your life even in the midst of people, enjoyed a rich inner thought life (complete with arguments and debates in some cases.  It is just a logical extension to what you have already done.  Add to that a healthy dose of learning to be the proverbial "grey man" (Toirdhealbheach Beucail's Cardinal Rule:  Do Not Draw Attention To Yourself), and it actually interrupts your lifestyle very little.

There was a meme making the rounds some years ago that I used (reused here) that expresses it perfectly.  Be quiet, meet all your requirements and obligations - and go about in your own quiet way, preparing.

Monday, May 03, 2021

The Ranch: A Primer

The Ranch - subject of many of my posts and a rather great deal of my plotting - is an approximately 90 acre property located in <undisclosed location>.  It is a smaller subsection of a larger piece of property that was purchased by my great aunt and uncle and used (then) as a working cattle ranch. The land, or at least the portion of the land, has now been in our family for approximately 75 years.

The property itself is a mix of woods (oak, pine, cedar, madrone) and an open series of pastures that run down the effective middle of the property and are somewhat unoriginally known as the Upper, Middle, and Lower Pastures.  They have been called this longer than I can remember.

The property itself is somewhat removed from the nearest mid sized town by 15 miles and is outside the limits of a much smaller community.  In terms of neighbors, there are few:  my aunt and uncle who live above the property in the original ranch house and a more recent (20 years +) home at the end of the driveway.  Other than that, it is essentially surrounded in a bit of a bubble.

My parents have lived there for almost 20 years, having built a home there (deck above) as well as the barn (seen in the picture above).  My father spent a good many years clearing the property of smaller scrub brush and trees, doing his best to reduce the risk of fire in the area.

There are cattle there again, kept by The Cowboy and his son, who have been keeping them there for 16 years or more along with horses - so in a sense it is a working ranch again, which always made my father happy.  

That we know of, the property is either the home or traversing point for deer, jack rabbits, turkeys, kildeer, quail (although much less frequent than they used to be), hawk,  bear, bobcat, fox, coyote,  mountain lion (I have never seen one, but the Cowboy's son has), frogs, turtles, gophers, moles, rattlesnakes,  skunks, and a bevy of lizards.

 This place is the center of my universe.  This is a place where - still - one can walk and hear nothing but the wind through the trees all day.  If God were to speak, he would speak in such a place.

We do not live there now, having had to move in The Great Hammerfall of 2009, but I have been able to return more frequently during the last year due to working arrangements from The Plague.

If you were to ask me my one purpose in live, it is to steward this property.  Not, ultimately, for myself.  Because places like this are becoming rarer and rarer as we buy up and build up the natural world around us in hopes of spending "more time in nature" and bending nature to our will.

How I will do this, when this will become the full time gig - all of this is in the air at this point.  For now, I go when I can and try to do the best to manage the legacy now passed on to me from my Great Aunt and Uncle and my parents.