Tuesday, February 28, 2023


 Last Friday morning I woke up at 0200.

This is not terribly uncommon when I am at The Ranch.  The change in time zones means that I am always ahead or behind myself both in waking and in sleeping - which makes for days in which one can get a lot done, but nights that can be quite short.  Added to that was the fact that the wind was howling and making the branches of the oak at the back of the house creak and rattling something on the outer wall - the fuse box cover to the HVAC unit?   I lay there after looking at my phone - 0200.  I lay there until I realize I am not going back to sleep, and then get up.

The fire still has active coals in it.  This has not been the case all the time this week; the wood I am burning is the free wood that I got in the Summer.  It is not what we usually burn, oak and pine and sometimes madrone.  It is softer - cedar, maybe?  The advantage is that it will burn with the damper completely closed almost all the time; the disadvantage is that it burns far more quickly than oak does.  This week in general I have barely had enough coals in the morning to coax a fire forth, having to rely on paper and kindling.  My luck this morning; I have plenty of coals to work with

I need more wood of course, and so go out the back door to the firewood.  The wind is still howling, occasionally blowing snow around but nothing is coming down from the sky yet.  There are tracks by the bird feeder; something small ran up to the edge of the house.  What would be out in this kind of weather?  Too small for anything but a fox or even a bobcat as a predator, or perhaps a rabbit if prey.  The tracks do not seem to head back at all; it either ran along the sidewalk or more mysteriously disappeared.  A mystery that will dissipate with either more snowfall or the melting of the same.

I grab several pieces of firewood to bring back into the house.  I am the sort of person that dithers about how much I should bring in at one time and how big the individual logs should be.  This is reflective of my decision making in general:  I tend to dither about everything.  I finally pick out five or six pieces of firewood, one that I think that will burn long enough until the time I am actually supposed to get up.  As I am grabbing the wood, I give myself a little mental victory lap for filling the ricks up when the weather was much better this week; I do not often feel like I think ahead as I should.

I put the wood on the hearth, put one or two pieces in, and shut the stove door.  The fire almost immediately ignites; there is always something reassuring to me when it does without my direct intervention.  At a loss for what else to do, I decide I should probably pray, if nothing else:  Surely I am up for a reason?  Having no idea what else to pray, I grab my phone and in one of my Orthodox apps.  There is a prayer set called The Hours; I open it and there are choices.  Which hour is it?  The First, the Third?  I randomly select one and pray it.  I am not Orthodox, but praying at night seems like something that needs structure.  

Finishing, I settle into my father's chair by the fire and turn off the light next to the chair.  The living room is now lit in flickering light by the blazing fire as the logs I have brought in break forth into blossoming flame and catches the wood grain of the antiques my father had purchased over the years and the glass of the pictures of  my parents' dead (and mine) on the wall.  I remember him doing this as well, gathering logs in the evening to feed to the fire at night when he would wake up from sleeping out in here.  He worried in  later years the fire wood go our; I have apparently lapped him in worrying much earlier in age.

Buried under on of the many quilts that my parents owned, quilts that I have no idea of their provenance or history, I eventually fall back to sleep.  This is the way it can work, if I force myself to do it.  The sleep is never as restful as an actual sleep earlier in the night, but I have learned that if I can somehow manage to gain that extra 45 minutes to an hours, it will make the difference between being completely exhausted from the moment I get up to being manageable exhausted or even possibly refreshed.  The chair is not the most comfortable to sleep in; I am a bit surprised upon waking that I slept.

When I wake up, it is completely silent.  The wind has died and the fire has burned low.  Getting up to feed the fire, I look out the window.  The front that was blowing in has arrived and now the night sky is filled with fat, drifting flakes everywhere I can see.  I close the stove door again and go back to the chair and re-cover myself where I can see the snow falling while the orange light of the fire begins to refill the room.  This contrast - fire, snow, crackling, silence - makes for a pleasure I can almost not express as it is both too private and too sacred to put into words.  It is a measure of contrasts, presented here for me to see and experience, an unexpected gift.

Monday, February 27, 2023

A Walk In The Snow: Part II

One of the amazing things to me about snow is how it turns objects and places I see all the time into bizarre shapes and works of art.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

A Walk in the Snow: Part I

After the first day of snow, Uisdean Ruadh (for whom snow is more novel than I), wanted to go for a walk.  This is the road down to the main road - no words, just pictures.  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Difference Of A Week

What a difference a week makes!  This was Monday:

This was Thursday:

And this was Friday:

Welcome Snow!

Friday, February 24, 2023

The Spirit of Solzhenitsyn: Ideocracy and Totalitarianism Of Belief

 As you may recall last month, one of the books I purchased was The Spirit of Solzhenitsyn by Olivier Clement.  

Clement is the author of Roots of Christian Mysticism:  Texts from the Patristic Era with Commentary which I have freely borrowed from in some of my Sunday meditations.  This book, based on that experience, was something of a selfish gift to myself in that it was hardback, it was not cheap (even at the cheap on-line places), and it was filling a particular curiosity in me that has really nothing else to do with anything that I am doing.

I was not disappointed in my choice.

The book takes various aspects of Solzhenitsyn's works (I only knew him for The Gulag Archipelago; I was unaware he had several fictional novels to his credit) and analyses them through the lens of the different works, his professed beliefs, and his Orthodox faith.  I offer today here a selection from the selection "The Letter to the Patriarch", a work written by Solzhentisyn in 1972 concerning the practice and state of Russian Orthodoxy in the Soviet Union.  In a part where he is discussing the Soviet Union's smashing of the Russian Orthodox church, Clement writes the following:

"The definitive installation of Stalinist totalitarianism, with the great trials of 1937-1939, led to practically all churches being closed, not only in the country but also in the towns, where Christian intellectuals were a particular target.  Any possibility of witness to the peasant masses other than being systematically evicted and forced into the towns was thereby removed.  In 1929, the Church had been forbidden any sort of intellectual activity, and this ban was confirmed in the Constitution of 1936. Ideocracy (A government based on rule by ideologues - Ed.), in effect, cannot afford to be tolerant; from its point of view, Christianity is no more than a hangover from the past who disappearance should be hastened.  Ideocracy, itself, while not a religion of salvation, at least sees itself as a liberating gnosis; it establishes increased rationalism, between total determination of the person by material factors and exaltation of man as a demiurge with unlimited potential. "Scientific atheism" was made a compulsory subject in all its schools, and higher education could not be completed without successfully undergoing an examination in this "subject".  Specialized lectures made regular tours of offices, factories, and collectives.  The mass media, leaflets printed millions, and a systemic campaign in all places of collective activity (including amusements) impregnated the entire intellectual atmosphere with the ruling ideology.  The aim was to show atheism not as a mere philosophical conviction, but as something "scientifically" proven.  The process of secularization in Russia was not only hastened by the extreme speed of industrialization, after recovery from the 'de-industrialization' brought about by the Revolution and the Civil War, but was also psychologically systematized by the almost obsessive implanation (sic) of 'a-theocracy'".

Solzhenitsyn later recorded in the book Stories and Prose Poems the then more modern post Soviet generation viewing the re-establishment of church practices.  Here, he describes a reaction to the Easter procession of Peredelkino:

"Those who stand and make fun of the procession are on longer the militant atheists of the thirties, 'who snatched the consecrated Easter-cakes out of people's hands, dancing and caterwauling and pretending to be devils'.  The new generation is 'just idly inquisitive' - yet how barbarous!  The buy Easter candles and use the to light their cigarettes, they jig about to their transistors.  They are neither violent nor openly blasphemous, yet their whole attitude is a moral outrage: 'Their lips twisted into a gangsterish, leer, their brazen talk, their loud laughter, their flirting and snide jokes, their spoking and spitting - it all amounts to an insult to the passion of Christ (p. 105).

The writer's (Solzhenitsyn's) conclusion from this scene is somber in the extreme: industrial civilization and ideocracy, by preventing the transmission of any spiritual values to these young people, or simply by destroying a respect for dissident minorities, have simply bred an aggressive barbarism in the younger generation, from which all that can be expected is that one day they will 'turn and trample on us all.  And as for those who urged them on to this, they will trample on them too' (p. 108).

And yet...not all are like this.  Some are not smoking, which at least shows some elementary respect.  Some just have 'simple, credulous faces' and 'a lot of these must be in the picture (p. 107).

It strikes me as odd that his words seem to have such relevance to me today.   The same sort of things could easily be written about 21st Century Western Civilization, which in theory defeated the Soviet Union yet seems to have imbibed at least some of its underlying ideology.

To say I am pleased with this book is an understatement.  It is not often I run into such thoughtful writing that leave me with much to think about.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

The Collapse LXXXXII: The Worth Of Things

 29 April 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

Our nights are still a bit too cold for planting to begin. This has always bothered me about living here, that I really cannot get things in the ground until well after I would in my previous dwelling locations. I suppose it is why so many that garden here chose to have greenhouses.

Before, of course, it was useful and productive hobby. Now, it may very well be that “life and death” sort of thing the apocalyptic authors always wrote about.

It strikes me as humorous as I sit here in the morning, writing over my tea (the coffee has gone back into storage to be brought out for special occasions, if at all): I sit in my small house filled with things, many of which have limited or no functionality in the newly reconstituted world.

The refrigerator – it is not mine but rather a dinosaur from another age, the International Harvester unit that my grandparents in their day put here. It has been used seldom enough over the years before my arrival that it continued to function without interruption – right up to the day we lost power for good. Now, it is nothing more than a shelf and storage unit.

Or the other various items of furniture in this house, or the dishes and cookware – functional, yes; thankfully I am not one to overspend on such things so likely their function still matches their value.

On the other hand, things that were readily available – hand tools for example, or weapons, or even books – have taken on a value far beyond what I paid for them. Not just in the their practical usefulness of course, but in the fact that they are in some cases now (and going forward, perhaps all) virtually irreplaceable.

Yes, I suppose one can make the argument that screwdrivers and pliers and dictionaries will still be around in abundance in the years to come. But even then, those things will cost something, and the cost of them will be something of equal or greater value, not just the slips of paper we used to exchange. And unless I miss my mark, no-one will be making such things again, at least in my time left on this earth. The sort of machining required for modern tools and many modern things now lies silent, lacking the power and skill sets to create more materials.

So many missed two things, Lucilius: The nature of true value, and the fact that civilization and the things that maintained it are a dense interconnected web of unrealized and unrecognized contributions. Cut too many string of the web, and it will simply collapse – and without a spider to rebuild it, it will simply remain brokenly, flailing upon the wind.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Old English, A Historical Background: Consolidation And Heptarchy

When we last left the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, they had effectively succeeded in pushing back the then native Romano British Celtic peoples towards the West and the North of Britain.  The Green below represents the conquests of the invaders, the blue and bluish the remaining Romano Celts.

Map of Britain 600 - 650 A.D. (Source)

As this period continued, the Anglo-Saxons made war not only on the Romano British but also on each other.  The history of this period (through the 9th Century) became known as the The Heptarchy, a reference to what emerged as the seven most powerful kingdoms in Anglo Saxon England.
Their names, though changed have come down to us regionally:

West Seaxe (Wessex)
East Seaxe (Essex)
East Engle (East Anglia)
Northumbria (Literally "North of the Humber")
Cantware (Kent)
Suth Seaxe (Sussex)
Mierce (Mercia, or "The March")

Even as these seven kingdoms battle for supremacy (leaving Wessex, Essex, Mercia, and Northumbria), there were a slew of smaller kingdoms and regions that thrived and were conquered - Anglo-Saxon and Roman-Celtic - that have only left us with geographic names.  We know little of the kingdoms of Elmet or The Hwicce now, but these existed and individual territorial units.

Map of Britain 650 - 700 A.D. (Source)

Wessex pushed into Dumonia, the kingdom of the Cornovii, or Cornwall.  Mercia continued to push into the west as well, reaching what was eventually become the modern border between Wales (Old English wealh/wealas, or foreigner) and England; the Mercian King Offa constructed Offa's Dyke either as a defensive work or a potential border in the late 700's.
Map of Britain 700 A.D. (Source)

By 700, the conquest of Britain was largely considered complete - even if not unified, the German peoples had conquered and pushed the Romano-Celts to the fringe of what we now call England.

Map of Britain 700-750 A.D. (Source)

During this period, we begin to see the start of documentation. The monk The Venerable Bede wrote his work The Ecclesiastical History of The English People in the mid-700's.  For the first time, history was recorded about the "English" within a generation or two of being enacted.  Other works - religious, law codes - were also starting to be written down in Anglo-Saxon dialects.

Map of Britain 800 A.D. (Source)

But trouble beyond their internecine warfare was soon to arrive. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 793, we find the following:

Her wæron reðe forebecna cumene ofer Norðhymbra land, ⁊ þæt folc earmlic bregdon, þæt wæron ormete þodenas ⁊ ligrescas, ⁊ fyrenne dracan wæron gesewene on þam lifte fleogende. Þam tacnum sona fyligde mycel hunger, ⁊ litel æfter þam, þæs ilcan geares on .vi. Idus Ianuarii, earmlice hæþenra manna hergunc adilegode Godes cyrican in Lindisfarnaee þurh hreaflac ⁊ mansliht.

("In this year fierce, foreboding omens came over the land of the Northumbrians, and the wretched people shook; there were excessive whirlwinds, lightning, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky. These signs were followed by great famine, and a little after those, that same year on 6th ides of January, the ravaging of wretched heathen men destroyed God's church at Lindisfarne.")  

The Vikings were coming.

Works Cited:

Blair, Peter Hunter:  Roman Britain and Early England 55 B.C. - A.D. 871.  WW Norton and Company:  London, 1991.

Nicolle, David:  Arthur And The Anglo-Saxon Wars.  Osprey Publishing:  Hong Kong, 1984

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Self Control


There is nothing more devastating than disappointing one's self.

No, nothing bad happened and the failure was confined to myself being disappointed in me.  But for all that there is no impact on anyone or any thing, it still leaves me feeling self-conscious and broken.

It strikes me as odd that sometimes my worst enemy is myself - or rather, things that I believe about myself, things that either never had a basis in reality or at least no longer do.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Lectio Divina: Despising Wisdom (And An Update From LindaG)

 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction." - Proverbs 1:7

Why, in a world or at least a culture that in theory values wisdom and instruction, would someone despise a source of wisdom and instruction? What is it to despise something?  

"Despise:  To look down upon with disrespect or aversion; to regard as negligible, worthless, or distasteful."

Do I despise instruction?  No,  I spend hours learning and reading to increase my learning and knowledge.  I invest time and money into this activity as a primary activity in my life.

Do I despise wisdom?  Have I not made a practice of posting of the teachings and sayings from every religion, every philosophy, every culture?  My social media feed is filled with the wisdom of Zen  Buddhists, Sufis, Stoics, Vikings, and a hundred other philosophies and memes in the form of memes because I perceive there is something of value there.

I do not despise wisdom or instruction - except, it seems quite often, when it comes from a result of the fear of the Lord.

Behold the irony:  I too often despise the one thing that will bring me wisdom and instruction even as I say wisdom and instruction are important to me.  Why I insist on doing so is something to dwell on further.

Update from LindaG and her prayer request:

"Praise The Lord!

I don't care what anyone else , the Lord gives miracles.

And massive doses of thiamine made a difference, also.

Thank you Lord."

Thanks to all that prayed and sent good thoughts.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

On Tracking Job Losses

 One of my daily InterWeb stops is Dailyjobcuts.com.  I do not really have a precise idea who runs the site and could not tell you how long I have been stopping by there (it has been some years), but as economic news remains salient to my life, I regularly check in.

From the general format of the site, it is likely that whomever operates the site tends more to the reddish/conservative side.  That is okay, if that is not someone's cup of tea:  the news is confined to the header portion; the actual information I am interested in is below.

There are three columns:  Layoffs, Whose Hiring, and Closing.  For each of these columns, the site is regularly updated directly to the the press releases announcing the news.  

One of the things that the study of history can teach one is to look for trends.  Effects are created by causes, which are themselves then in turn the catalyst for a new cycle of causes.  As one wave crests and retreats, another comes after it.  But it is only looking at things day after day that one can begin to see the patterns beginning to emerge.

I am not an economist and would not begin to suggest that I have any insight into the finer details of economic patterns.  However, it is interesting to watch as some sense of mega-trends occur.

I think most people are familiar now with the layoffs that have occurred in high technology - many that are very big business names, but many also that are smaller (that I would never have heard of prior to this site).  As those have moved on, a logical question is where is the impact to be felt.  It then seems to emerge in the companies that support those sorts of businesses.  Then, as those businesses are affected, the businesses that depend on people being employed and having disposable begin laying off.  Then the companies that supply those business have layoffs.  As they are users of technology (who is not these days) and secondary services (the first two tranches), their decrease in employment then moves back up to the top of the chain.

And so it goes.

Homes are another prime example of this trend.  Mortgage rates are up; banks are beginning to layoff mortgage employees.  With less homes being bought and sold, realtors and builders will be affected.  That will work its way down to title firms and other secondary support firms.  The restaurants they went to, the services they employed, will feel the pinch.

The hiring column also has entries, but they are a fraction of the other two columns, and the numbers that are being hired are in the hundreds, even as potentially thousands are being laid off.

It is fair to say that our economy has always had its share of "creative destruction", and that new things come out of failed enterprises.  At the same time, it has been at least 14 years since we have seen anything like to sort of economic malaise we are currently facing; a whole generation has entered the work force and, like investors or real estate agents in a long running bull market, assume things will only and ever get better and go up.

When cracks appear, they usually start in the places we are not looking.  Look in those places, and perhaps the future, while not being clearly seen, can at least be anticipated.

Friday, February 17, 2023

February Brown And Green

Our weather here in New Home continues to frustrate:  we oscillate between what could effectively be considered as early Summer days and lows at night that remind one that we still remain in the relative depths of Winter.

Our cold fronts, when they come, are not the generally slow moving cold fronts that I remember of my youth, a gradual transition that happens over days.  They are wild sorts of things, violent in their arrival, wrenching the trees from side to side, hurling yellow clouds hither and yon to the detriment of allergy sufferers everywhere.  Even I, who have been largely immune for years to the local versions of pollens, find myself sneezing uncontrollably and reaching for a combination of something to wipe my nose and allergy medication to hopefully let me function without having to close my eyes and restrain sneezes every 10 seconds.

It is undoubtedly frustrating and disorienting to the plant life as well:  our trees, having weathered a freeze that cracked branches and shattered trunks, now find themselves assaulted by the other extreme of heat.  Wind cracks branches already failing but not collapsed and so, a new tunnel of branches along the roads is likely.  This is also our second leaf fall:  beyond the usual sorts of dead leaves that would always fall will be the addition of the shocked leaves that fall and the withered leaves from branches now dead but that no-one noticed until now.  They fall upon the grasses which were sun-scorched and water deprived from the last Summer, leaving everything a dreary, dead brown mess.

Raking - one of my least favorite tasks - yields piles of decayed leaves and dead grass in piles that resemble not the classic red-brown piles of Norman Rockwell but the cinders of burnt out volcanoes, dotting the landscape as if the tectonic plates themselves were creating an island chain in my yard, to be captured into containers before the wind scatters them or simply blows back to cover what appears to be a row of dead lawns down the street, bodies laid in order on the coroner's tables.

There is life still, of course - but it is the life of the native plants that thrive in this environment as they have for thousands of years.  They rise a little every day, green and thriving, almost reaching the point of need to be trimmed, making a mockery of everything that society and social constructs have spent time and money putting in place.  These plants exist not for the benefit and pleasure of the homeowner but for their own purposes, living a life in ordered society of the landscape but at this moment living a life beyond the landscape and its conditions.  The cultivated and cultured struggle and die, while the uncultivated and not cultured seem to thrive in exactly the same conditions.

I watch the the wind swirl the dead leaves and grass even as it riffles the living green into waves that hide and over-run the dead things surrounding it.  Life, as Michael Crichton said, will find a way.  It is those who demand of it to find it in their way and in their confines that are always surprised.

The grasses, of course, always knew that they would grow.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

The Collapse LXXXXI: One Year On

27 April 20XX+1

My Dear Lucilius:

I make note of the fact that, according to my records, it has been a year since I first re-initiated contact with you.

That sounds terribly dry, does it not? It reminds me of the days when we would receive unsolicited mail with “We Have Been Trying To Reach You” scrawled across the front of the envelope as if generated by a real person instead of a printer; the appearance of personalized instead of the actuality of it. One would think that after the year we have had, I could at least approach something more of a colloquial nature.

I laugh silently of course; I do not think that colloquial is in me.

I had not suspected, when I sent that first missive to you, that somehow it would form what has become the effective chronicling of a slow and steady unraveling of everything – perhaps one might argue a sort of foolish luck. It was not quite luck of course, but rather the visit of minor level bureaucrats imploring me to do something I had not considered in some years – actually paying attention to the world around me – that caused me to take various actions including, of course, writing to you.

It does make me ponder the nature of being aware.

The circumstances that we find ourselves in – you with Our Friend and your new love where we grew up, I here far away, both of us in the compost heap of what was a civilization – certainly did not just occur in the course of three months over the Summer last year. The decay had been present for many years prior to that, a rot and decay slowly spreading throughout not just one institution that supported civilization, but all of them.

One can argue that this should have been paid attention to more. And possibly it was, on the level that our society had come to pay attention to such things: big, brash, lurid failures and intellectual wars made the headlines and generated reaction and counter-reaction. The smaller things – the thousand things that make up a civilization – did not merit the same amount of attention even though they, in the end, proved to be the more damaging.

Should we have been more aware? Could we have been more aware? Possibly – but at least for myself and from the conversations we had for you as well, we found ourselves at a period and point in our lives that such issues interested us not at all. We were no longer building careers or families or fortunes and had come to desire only quiet and peace. The ascetics sought out isolated places to find such things and perhaps we, in our way, simply did the same – or as much as we could in the modern world.

Spring is more and more on the horizon here as the days continue to lengthen – which is greatly appreciated, given the fact that this is likely the last Spring that we can count on scraps of our former civilization supplying our needs in a meaningful way. There is much to do – and much I should make a habit of documenting in our letters (as if you were getting these at this point): the bees are coming out more in the finer weather, the quail have begun to lay again (with the knowledge I will need them to reproduce this year for sure), the seedlings have all been started in the greenhouse, and the Winter Wheat is remembering that it is time to finish what it had started last Autumn.

Of course, the other items as well: house rabbits to indulge, books to re-read, and a thousand and one small tasks that continually need completing and now – freed in some fashion from even the minimal trappings of society that I formerly lived with – have at least some time to attend to.

And, I am now reliably informed by Pompeia Paulina, tea on Tuesdays. As apparently this is now a thing.

It has been a long year Lucilius, and one full of both tragedy and hardship in ways that could not be imagined when I wrote you. And yet, I find myself in a strange way more hopeful than ever.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

On Linda's Prayer Request

 [Editor's note: I again apologize in advance for deferring this week's installment of Old English and its history.  As will perhaps become apparent below, circumstances have taken precedence.]

At the tail end of yesterday's blog, I had noted a prayer request from longtime friend of this blog LindaG.  I had referenced the post there yesterday as it was a late notice on my part; I post it here today: 

"I know many of you have seen this on faceless book; but I ask you to pray for my husband.  Ask everyone you can to pray for him.

He is asking me to kill him.  :-(

You all be safe and God bless (insert heart emoji here, something I can never do - Editor) "

This is a shocking thing to read as you are about to close down at 2245 local time - however, something I know a bit about as well as this is the same request my father had made of us near the end.  I will not say the thought stuck with me all night, but it was indeed a restless sleep.

Suicide is not something which I have any idea that "runs" in my family; if there was a member that was anywhere close to it even in a theoretical sense it was me from ages 17 to 19.  In my case it was (likely) less of a serious attempt than a cry for help (which did get answered), although to this day there are likely slight scars underneath years of tanning and melanin to speak of a day where it was a bit more than theoretical.  In my case, some years of counseling as well as learning to find some level of balance in my own life.

My father for many years was never one to discuss his internal workings or fears; the day that he mentioned almost in passing that he had been diagnosed as a manic-depressive in his sixties was one of the most surprising of my life, as well as the fact that he was taking medication for it (likely a serotonin inhibitor).  That was probably the only time that he mentioned it; after that it was just something we both knew but never discussed.

The conversation in question started at some point after July of 2020, when I started going to The Ranch once a month to stay with my parents.  I recall the moment quite clearly:  we were out on the porch, my father was talking about my mother's condition and at some point said "If I get much worse, I want you to shoot me".

These are words I never expected to hear.  Frankly, these are never words that a child should hear from their parent.

I talked it off of course, saying that things were not that bad and we could do something to resolve them.  But that was not the only time the conversation came up, either with myself or my sister.  It was never anything to do with my mother, always with him.  "You can just shoot me" - never "I am going to shoot myself".

We took precautions of course, verifying that any potential items which could be used in that way were locked up and the combination conveniently hidden.  And it certainly was not for every visit, just now and again.

Then, of course, the move happened, and then the stroke right after it.

After my father's initial recovery and in the period of time between that and his second stroke - perhaps 3 weeks - the conversation came up again with my father.  It was my sister this time; at one point she got up, told him she was not discussing that with him, and left.  Then of course the second stroke happened, and most all conversations, whether of that nature or others, halted.

To those that have never dealt with a family member that is inclined - verbally or by action - towards talking about suicide, you cannot imagine the stress of everyday living.  Every call potentially becomes something of a potentially bad event.  And it strikes without warning - my own failing seem to have passed on to at least one child, Nighean Gheal.  What do you say to a seven year old that tells you that she wants to kill herself?

You watch.  You get help as you can.  You try to catch conversations before they spiral out of control. And you worry.  You worry a lot.

So as I write this, I suppose in one way I was "prepared" for the conversation that my father had out of the blue with me, because I had been managing that sort of thing for years before.

Why would my father have wished for this?  I cannot fully say, but I suspect it was a combination of stress from years of being a primary caregiver and the burden of watching the love of your life and companion for 50 plus years slowly fall apart and being unable to do anything to halt it.  It is one thing for tragedy to strike when one is younger, when the wisdom and experience may be lacking but the energy and stamina is there.  It is another thing for it to happen years later when the situation is reversed and the wisdom and experience is present but the energy and stamina is not.  

There is never, I suppose, a good time for tragedy, but the timing does affect how we can and are able to respond to it.

 Why my father said what he said and why Linda's husband said what he said are equally unknown and unknowable to me in the specifics - even if they were able to give a reason, I have had my own experience with that sort of despair to know that words cannot truly express what that vast dark tunnel actually feels like.  It is not a thing I think I could convey except to say that I know.

The practice, cultural impact, and ethics of suicide is one I will not touch here, as it is it's own topic (and by "it's own topic" I mean "not today") and does not do a whit to resolve the situations that people actually find themselves in.  Pray, if you will, for those that find themselves in such situations and more importantly, for those that love and are dealing with those in those situations.  Likely they will not mention to you until something drastic has occurred; in that sense I am grateful that Linda was able to ask what she asked.  Pray if you are one that prays; even good thoughts are welcomed by those enduring such situations (trust me, I know).

"Everyone is going through a battle most know nothing about" said some wise person sometime. And often those battles go on unseen and unknown behind the public facades we often feel we must put forth.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

On A Writing Malaise

 One of my favoritest bloggers on the InterWeb, OldAFSarge, has been going through a writing block over the past few weeks.  He notes, for lack of a better terms, a sort of malaise about the state of the world that is both mentally exhausting and makes writing hard.

I find myself in the same situation.

Writing is, for me, an enjoyable activity overall.  I wish I understood more why that is:  it provides me precisely zero financial input, can be time consuming, and other than the kind and intelligent comments people leave (I really do have the best commenters on the InterWeb), I have little enough to show for it.

I have written regularly in some form or fashion since 1989, when I was at school overseas in The Near Abroad. The habit just seemed to stick with me after that; on one of my shelves are all the journals reaching back into the dust of time:  Pre-children, Pre-Mrs. Toirdhealbheach Beucail, Pre-Full Career Choice - in a lot of ways, pre-everything that I have going on today.  The journaling still happens of course; there is a journaling every morning prior to addressing the blog which deals often in the more personal issues, but sometimes in random things (and occasionally, posts that make their way here).

So why do I find myself in the Authoring Doldrums©?

A fair amount of it, I think has to do with The Current State of Affairs.  Yes, I know, this sort of thing has been going on for a long time now (as Resident Optimist Ed would point out) and somehow things have always managed to swing back around in some form or fashion.  Yet in my heart of heart, this time feels different to me for some indefinable reason that I cannot put my finger on.

Is our leadership bad virtually all the way around?  With some notable exceptions, yes: the U.S. System seems to now promote, both in its bureaucracy and in its politics, a combination of gaming the system to get in and then once in, to ensure that things never change (for others in the Near Abroad, your mileage may vary, but by and large it looks just as bleak).  The fact that we are arguing about whether the idea of an endless supply of money (The Debt Ceiling) is good or bad thing when we personally know from practice that debt is always enslaving and surplus is only enabling is says more to me than anything else of the fact that we are quite close to abandoning all good sense forever.

Add to this basic leadership gap that almost anywhere one looks - international relations, world economy, domestic policy, pretty much anything that government touches one way or the other - something seems to be built on a pile of incendiary materials, waiting to go up in a cloud of fire as easily as using gasoline to "start" the bar-be-cue.  Our leadership gap is not isolated, it is almost everywhere - and almost on a day to day basis now, I feel as if we are one bad decision away from a civilization ending catastrophe (not world ending, but civilization ending).

Still, I try to find balance in things.

One, frankly, is just re-reading history, specifically things like the fall of the Empires.  There is nothing like revisiting the collapse of the Roman Empire or the city state system of Greece or the Fall of Byzantium to remind one's self that civilizational collapse happens and, while not pleasant for most of the people involved, people move on through it to the other side.  Even reminding myself of Anglo-Saxon England and how it emerged from Roman Britain has been a comfort (cold, sometimes) of how new civilizations come out of old.

Another place I find balance is simply in reading the well thought out comments of readers like you and the blog entries I read - my morning is almost always full with the allocated time for blogging in catching up and commenting with many of the fine people you see to the right of this post.  In both cases they give me perspective, remind me that I am not alone in seeing and feeling things are out of whack, and the simple practices of life that go on while we are living through difficult times. I cannot garden like Leigh or build a mechanical things like STxAR (I still understand about 20% of what he says about his work) or work wood like Kev or cook like Rain or write fiction like Sarge or just write encyclopedically like Eaton Rapids Joe, but I can take comfort in their practices and their lives and that people - real people, not those that proclaim to be Our Political And Social Betters (OPASB) - are out there doing their everyday things, the stuff of which life is actually made.

Finally, of course, is Nature herself.

The photo above was taken yesterday on my morning walk with Poppy The Brave. It is a sunrise in New Home, something I been gifted with something like 4,000 times or more since we moved here.  The colors are brilliant, as they always are; the clouds drift silently overhead as they have as long as there were clouds, taking no notice of the world below or being interfered with by it.  The same is true at The Ranch, of course; there is nothing there that takes notice of all of these troubles I write of.  The grass grows, the trees sway in the wind, the wildlife goes about its business knowing nothing of debt ceilings or flying objects or a general lack of leadership in the world.

Earth, says The Preacher, abides.  Would that I would remind myself of that more often.

An Additional Note and Request:  Long time friend of this blog LindaG has posted a prayer request on her blog.  It is her story to tell; I will say I am sensitized to it because we went through the same thing with TB The Elder as well. I am sure she would covet your prayers (and I would be awfully obliged to you as well).

Monday, February 13, 2023

How Poor You Are

I am lucky.  I have had the desire for money and position effectively beaten out of me by a combination of bad decisions of my own making and decisions made for me that effectively robbed me of position and power.  Glory?  Ah, I still have glimmers of doing something great, but those are largely tempered by a world that neither wants glory nor desires it and the realization that in the age that we live in, it is far more advantageous to be passed over than noticed.

Would that I could have learned all of this earlier. 

Sunday, February 12, 2023

[You Are] God

Father, all powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
You [O Father}, with your only begotten Son and the Holy Spirit are God.

[You are] God, one and immortal;
[You are] God, incorruptible and unmoving;
[You are] God, invisible and faithful;
[You are] God, wonderful and worthy of praise;
[You are] God, strong and worthy of honor;
[You are] God, most high and magnificent;
[You are] God,  living and true; 
[You are] God, wise and powerful;
[You are] God, holy and splendid;
[You are] God, great and good;
[You are] God, awesome and peace-loving;
[You are] God, beautiful and righteous;
[You are] God, pure and kind;
[You are] God, blessed and just;
[You are] God, tender and holy.

[You are] God, not in the singularity of one person but in the trinity of one substance.

We believe you;
We bless you;
We adore you;
and we praise your name forever more.
[We praise you} through [Christ] who is the salvation of the universe;
through [Christ] who is the life of human beings;
through [Christ] who is the resurrection of the dead.

Through him the angels praise your majesty;
the dominations adore;
the powers of heaven tremble;
the virtues and blessed seraphim concelebrate in exultation;
so grant, we pray you, that our voices may be admitted to that chorus, in humble declaration of your glory...

- Preface to The Eucharistic Prayer from The Stowe Missal (written 790 - 820 A.D) County Dublin, Ireland, as quoted by Thomas O'Loughlin in Journey On The Edges:  The Celtic Tradition (2000:  London; Darton, Longman & Todd)

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Odds And Ends: Review Update And A Trip

 Review Update:

Well, really a partial update as due to the magic of the InterWeb (which apparently has "locked" my review from my viewing until some period of time to be determined in the future)...

Much less of an event than I feared.  As with previous years, no salary increase, Cost of Living adjustment or elsewise (as longer readers may recall, my salary was "frozen" when I switched positions) - which is fine as even with accounting for such things, I could probably go the rest of my working life and still be in the positive.

I also received a bonus, which was reasonably unexpected. Me being me of course, there is already a calculator for how to distribute it after taxes (to be fair, there were multiple calculations based on potential amounts).  More interestingly, there is a base bonus range mentioned for next year as well, which means that as least part of the conditions of my change in positions - "no more bonus for you" - has been rescinded.  Perhaps I am off super-secret double probation.

Other than that, the five minute sort of review that one expects from an excellent manager as it has already all be said before this:  good job, keep up the good work, here is to next year.

I also got another tranche of stock options - not amazing in and of themselves, but at our current price, a little movement could go a long way.  So here is hoping.


As one of the ongoing preparations which is ongoing at An Taigh na Thoirdealbheach Beucail for a potential move, The Ravishing Mrs. TB has made it a goal to go places in the larger New Home that she has not been to before we leave (at some unspecified date in the future).  About three weeks ago she approached me and asked "When was the last time we went somewhere for Valentine's Day"?

My first thought, of course was "Well, I missed another major holiday" - but after quieting my panic with a quick view of a calendar and firmly reminding myself I needed to buy a card soon, rather that wait for the leavings on the day of, I considered the question. To be honest, I could not think of the last time that we had specifically been somewhere for Valentine's Day, or really any other major possibly romantic themed holiday.  A lot of years of marriage and children will do that to you.

So, as turns out, we are taking a pre-Valentine's overnight trip.

It is a short one - about 1.5 hours from where we are in a town where there are likely some things to do, but perhaps not enough to fill an entire 1.5 day dance card.  I have already been forewarned to bring something to do as the town likely rolls up it's sidewalks at 5 PM (if only I had a book or three to bring with me - oh wait:  I do).   

It is odd - this now makes the second time in a six month period that we have taken a trip by ourselves out of town for a few days.  I think I remember doing this more regularly, once upon a time.  Interesting how all that is old can become new again.

Friday, February 10, 2023

On A Multiplicity Of Deaths

 Three disparate points:

1)  The Russian-Ukrainian conflict entered its first anniversary this week.  Neither side is giving much in the way of accurate casualties (no surprise, given that it is a war) but estimates run anywhere from 150,000 to 220,000 killed.

2)  Last Sunday, a series of severe earthquakes happened in Southwest Turkey and Northern Syria.  The death toll is continuing to mount; I suspect they will easily and tragically be in the tens of thousands.

3)  In 2021 (per an article this week at The American Conservative), 107,600 Americans died of drug overdoses.

One death, Stalin is reported to have said, is a tragedy.  A million is a statistic.

Is that what death has become in the modern world, a statistic?

I point the finger and the examination mostly at myself here.  When I look at these three listings and death tolls, the one that "moves" me the most are the victims of the earthquakes. I have seen the pictures and the videos.  The collapses are terrifying; the work that will have to be undertaken to rebuild, if such a thing is even possible, will take years.  And the numbers will continue to rise and the horror continue to play itself out as time goes on and less and less survivors are found.

The war?  It has been going on for a year now and both sides only seem more and more intent on seeing how many of the other they can kill.  Apart from the political aspects, there is the human aspect as well:  they (and we) fool ourselves if we think that if the war ended tomorrow, things would go back to the status quo.  Like the earthquake issue above, so much destruction has taken place that it will take years to rebuild - again, if at all.

Overdose death?  Here, perhaps, I find myself most damned.  Drug abuse has been in my larger family; thankfully in that case, the way out was through Narcotics Anonymous.  But that requires a strength of character not everyone has.  And so hundreds of thousands engage in it.  I have seen them - here in New Home, even in Old Home now, in major urban centers that I travel to. It is easily to feel sympathy in the abstract when reading about the deaths and about their stories; it is difficult when one is confronted directly by their appearance and the culture that the live in and the knowledge that directly or indirectly - as with the war - my tax dollars are essentially continuing to fund such things.

These are real issues.  These are difficult issues. And these are issues that I can safely just bury beneath my comfortable lifestyle, if I choose to.

No, I cannot be responsible for anyone else. My ability to change international politics, building codes that survive earthquakes, natural forces, physiological addictions, or even simple personal character in others is essentially nil.  And those that burden themselves with such ineffective responsibilities only become clanging single issue voices that never change anything, other than invoking a perpetual feeling of guilt in everyone else.

But what I can do and should do is never lose sight of the fact that when we discuss each of these things - whether man made, natural forces, or simply physiological addiction - we are discussing people.  People, individuals, with life histories and stories and potential contributions that will never be made.

It is, all of it, a tragedy.  But even tragedy on that scale becomes, it seems, a statistic.

Thursday, February 09, 2023

The Collapse LXXXX: Spring Beekeeping

25 April 20XX+1

My Dear Lucilius:

Today was the day of opening the hives.

As I know we have discussed, perhaps years ago at this point, one of the most uncomfortable moments for me in beekeeping (and perhaps for any beekeeper) is opening the Winter hives for the first time. While one can get a sense of how the hive is doing by judging how much of the supplemental syrup is been eaten or the occasional good days where the bees take cleansing flights, the full understanding of how the hive has done over the past season can only take place by fully opening the hive.

That in itself offers potential risks: open too soon and the internal temperature of the hive and the “bee ball” that they workers make around the queen during Winter will dissipate and they may very well die; open too late and a problem resolvable two weeks earlier will be in the terminal stages.

Perhaps others are better at it than I. To me, it always strikes me as the highest risk activity of the year.

The weather has held together more or less enough to this point that I am reasonable confident that a sudden recurrence of Winter may not appear (although it has happened this late in the year before); more importantly, given the last year the criticality of the bees and their wax and honey and therefore their health is more important than ever. And so, bearing my full bee-keeping regalia and smoker in hand, I approached the hives.

The technique is always the same, no matter how I open it: slowly remove the telescoping overhive cover, then look into the feeding tray: Is it empty? Full? Full of dead bees, in which case there is a hole I need to patch? If that is okay, I drop in some smoke, and then use my hive tool (a rather fancy word for what appears to be a short crowbar) to pry the feeding deep away from the main hive deeps, freeing any of the propolis – the sticky substance that bees use to patch holes – that may be attaching it to the outer body. Setting that to the side and prying away the grate that acts to exclude the queen from the feeding tray, I put my frame hanger on the side of the hive body, smoke a little more, and look in.

The best sign – the sign I hear today – is the buzz of the hive. It is hard to eyeball the amount of bees, but they appear to be okay. I pull out some of frames -slowly, as to not crush any potential hangers-on – and look at them from side to side. Some of the bees twirl up as I do, agitated. I lay down a bit more smoke and continue my examination.

What I am looking for in the frames are a number of things. Damage to the individual cells by wax moths is a big element, as it not only indicates an infestation but also that the hive may not have been strong enough to resist the attack, thus meaning they are weaker and I may have to take other actions. Sealed comb or accessed comb mean the bees had sufficient food and were using it. The best sign – brood cells – would mean that the queen was laying within a week or so my opening the hive.

If I can get away with just opening the upper deep at this point I will; every time I manipulate the frames and the hive I run the risk of damaging the bees or even worse, the queen. I am fortunate this time in that in both cases, I can see brood cells. The queens are still alive, or at least recently.

I will carefully undo my progress – placing the frames back into the hive, placing the feeder on top and then refilling it one last time, and then placing the overhive lid on it all – and leave them be at this point. The excluder – that small part of wood at the base of the hive that restricts the entry of cold and invaders during Winter (and not just insects; mice will move in if given the chance) will be flipped over to the larger of the two entrances; if the weather continues to improve I may remove it completely in my next visit.

I was fortunate in that both of my hives have survived the Winter and appear healthy. A number of things play at my mind even as I remove my gear and tap out the smoker: queens are not eternal and will either the hive replace them or the colony will die. Mine are perhaps two years old; queens can go for five years but their productivity decreases every year. There are ways to effectively “create” your own queens by gathering queen cells and nurturing them; like many other things, I have a book on it but have never done it. And looking forward to Winter next year, likely I will run short of the syrup I use to feed them as I myself am low on sugar. This means either I pull less honey and leave more for the bees or trade for sugar – likely both.

My reward for a bee visit well done, as it always is, is to take some time with a cool beverage and chair and watch the bees as they enter and exit the hive. Bee society is orderly and controlled; I could watch them interact for hours and in years past, have done so.

It comforts me, Lucilius, to know that even if human society has broken down, other societies remain intact.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Old English: A Historical Background - From Groaning To Invasion

 (Author's note:  History is a wide ranging discipline which in some senses can be fluid as we learn new things and in some cases is solid as we choose to interpret events and findings in light of our own day, not the day in which it happened.  Individuals spend their whole lives studying these things.  My very concise overview is meant as nothing more than that:  an overview to give background.  All errors and omissions remain my own.) 

Once upon a time in the not too long ago, English School children and those that derived their existence from English history learned that the Anglo-Saxons invaded the island of Britain in 449 A.D., where they effectively moved in and took over everything.

As usual, the truth is somewhat less well defined.

Map of Britain 450-475 A.D. - Source

Whether the Romano-Britons of 446 A.D. heard a response from the Emperor about the status of their land (The Groans of The Britons) or not is not recorded for us.  What is recorded is that actions that they took, which suggests the response was either "Look to your own defenses" or simply no response at all. So look to their own defenses they must.

The ongoing rebellion of the already hired Anglo-Saxons meant that hiring additional Angles and Saxons might not be a good idea.  The shadowy figure of Vortigern appears again when, to repel an attack of Picts to the North, he hires a different set of Germans, the Jutes (perhaps so-named from the Jutland peninsula) to assist.  We have the names of these leaders, Hengist and Horsa, although we have no idea if they really existed or were mythical figures (the word "hengist" in Anglo-Saxon is one word for "horse").  

Hengist and Horsa may not have been real.  Their landing in Kent likely was.

It does not seem that they were allies of Vortigern for long.  In 455 A.D. they are recorded as fighting with Vortigern.  Hengist was allegedly slain; Vortigern also falls out of the few records we have of him, perhaps slain as well.  

Map of Britain 475-500 A.D. - Source

From these humble beginnings, the true invasion of Britain commenced.

Initially the Romano-Britons had a hard go of it.  Theirs initially is a history of defeats of four battles over 25 years (456 A.D to 473 A.D.) - which perhaps makes sense if we look at the wider historical record:  the invaders (Angles, Saxons, Jutes) had the ability to come and go at will and seek allies as their highway, the sea, was to their backs; the Romano-British had no such ability.

And then, something of a miracles happened: There was a Romano-British resurgence.

Map of Britain 500-550 A.D. - Source

All of our written knowledge of this comes from the monk Gildas, writing in the 550's A.D.  He states that a leader, Ambrosius Aurelianus, a man he calls the Last of Romans in Britain, born to a family that "had worn the purple", lead a counterstroke and heavily defeated the combined Germanic armies at a battle called Mons Badonicus.  We do not know where this battle was, or specifically when it was, (although Gildas writes that even in his day, there was still peace from this battle, so the estimates run from 486 A.D. to 516 A.D), or even what the impact was from the battle, except that it halted the advance of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes for a generation.

Ambrosius is a mystery as well:  we know nothing about him, his origin, or his ultimate fate.  We do know of him from legend, as his is the most likely origin story for King Arthur.

Map of Britain 550 - 575 A.D. - Source

But the tide, once started, could not be turned back.  In 552 A.D., the Saxons won a victory at Old Sarum.  in 556 A.D. they won again at Barbury.  In 571 A.D. they won again, taking parts of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire.  In 577 A.D. they took Glouceaster, Circenceaster, and the old Roman town of Bath.  They pushed north as well, winning parts of Northumbria in 590 A.D. and engaging directly with and defeating the Scots in 603 A.D.  By the time of St. Augustine's visit in 597 A.D., most of the middle and Southern part of Roman Britain had been conquered.

Map of Britain 575 - 600 A.D. - Source

What of the remaining Romano-British?  Some of them fled - first likely farther west into what would become Cornwall and Wales.  Some fled even further; the Byzantine historian Procopius writes from Byzantium that word of refugees fleeing from Britain to the old Roman province of Amorica reached their ears.  The province, depopulated by previous invasions and plague, became the province of Brittany (and explains why a Celtic language still exists in France).  The immigrants brought not only their language but their names as well:  Two of the Atlantic provinces were name Cornouaille ("Cornwall") and Domnonea (Devon), reflecting very directly where they had come from.


But for the Romano-Britons, this would begin their long, slow retreat the Celtic Fringes of Europe.  The future of Britain, or as it was coming to be known, Engle-land, would belong to the invaders, who would have little understanding of the history that had come before them, coming to believe that giants had built the great ruins they wandered among; it was impossible that men could have done such a thing.

Works cited:

Blair, Peter Hunter:  Roman Britain and Early England 55 B.C. - A.D. 871.  WW Norton and Company:  London, 1991.

Nicolle, David:  Arthur And The Anglo-Saxon Wars.  Osprey Publishing:  Hong Kong, 1984

Alcock, Leslie:  Arthur's Britain.  Penguin:  Great Britain, 1971

Wikipedia:  Amorica, Groans of the Britons