AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

02 March 2015

Discover.


“The enthusiasm and optimism is pretty staggering,” Mr. Teicher said. “Despite all the quantum leaps in technology, the fact is nothing beats a physical, bricks-and-mortar store to discover books that you didn’t know about.”

Warren Zevon, "Mutineer"

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Hoist the mainsail, here I come
Ain't no room on board for the insincere
You're my witness, I'm your mutineer

I was born to rock the boat
Some may sink but we will float
Grab your coat, let's get out of here
You're my witness, I'm your mutineer

Long ago we laughed at shadows
Lightning flashed and thunder followed us
It could never find us here
You're my witness, I'm your mutineer

Long ago we laughed at shadows
Lightning flashed and thunder followed us
It could never find us here
You're my witness, I'm your mutineer


I was born to rock the boat
Some may sink but we will float
Grab your coat, let's get out of here
You're my witness, I'm your mutineer

27 February 2015

Rest.

Kent, The Lovers, 1928


The world rests in the night. Trees, mountains, fields, and faces
are released from the prison of shape and the burden of exposure. 
Each thing creeps back into its own nature within the shelter of the dark. 
Darkness is the ancient womb. Nighttime is womb- time. 
Our souls come out to play. The darkness absolves everything; 
the struggle for identity and impression falls away. 
We rest in the night.

John O'Donohue, from Anam Cara

Organizing.



Maps are ways of organizing wonder.

Peter Steinhart

Joe Ely, "West Texas Waltz"

It's Friday, Poetessa!
Let's dance ...

Happy birthday, Longfellow.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on this date in 1807.

Becalmed

Becalmed upon the sea of Thought,
Still unattained the land it sought,
My mind, with loosely-hanging sails,
Lies waiting the auspicious gales.

On either side, behind, before,
The ocean stretches like a floor,--
A level floor of amethyst,
Crowned by a golden dome of mist.

Blow, breath of inspiration, blow!
Shake and uplift this golden glow!
And fill the canvas of the mind
With wafts of thy celestial wind.

Blow, breath of song! until I feel
The straining sail, the lifting keel,
The life of the awakening sea,
Its motion and its mystery! 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Michael Martin Murphey, "Lost River"

Oh, lost river, now I'm coming back
To the pot-belly stove
Where the firewood's all stacked

Quebec girl, go with me
Oh my bell, my fleur de lis
Where the lost river winds
In the shadow of the pines

Give.


Bear

Bear died standing up,
paws on log,
howling.  Shot
right through the heart.
The hunter only wanted the head,
the hide.  I ate her
so she wouldn't go to waste,
dumped naked in a dump,
skinless, looking like ourselves
if we had been flayed,
red as death.
Now there are bear dreams
again for the bear-eater: O god,
the bears have come down the hill,
bears from everywhere on earth,
all colors, sizes, filtering
out of the woods behind the cabin.
A half-mile up
I plummeted toward the river to die,
pushed there.  Then pinions creaked;
I flew downstream until I clutched
a white pine, the mind stepping back
to see half-bird, half-bear,
waking in the tree to wet
fur and feathers.
Hotei and bear
sitting side by side,
disappear into each other.
Who is to say
which of us is one?
We loaded the thousand-pound logs
by hand, the truck swaying.
Paused to caress my friend and helper,
the bear beside me, eye to eye,
breath breathing breath.
And now tonight, a big blue
November moon.  Startled to find myself
wandering the edge of a foggy
tamarack marsh, scenting the cold
wet air, delicious in the moonglow.
Scratched against swart hemlock,
an itch to give it all up, shuffling
empty-bellied toward home, the yellow
square of cabin light between trees,
the human shape of yellow light,
to turn around,
to give up again this human shape.

Jim Harrison

26 February 2015

Peaceful.

Just a peaceful hour to drink it in ...

Hand-lettered.


The Society of Antiquaries' rough translations and calligraphic manuscripts of The Story of Lancelot of the Lake, hand-lettered by William Morris, have been digitized.

CONNECT

von Bingen, "O Frondens Virga"

Chanticleer performs ...

Happy "birthday," Grand Canyon.


On this date in 1919, Congress enacted legislation creating the Grand Canyon as a National Park.

CONNECT

National Geographic's How the Earth was Made: The Grand Canyon ...

Rooted.

Foth, Flint Hill Cloud Light, 1990


The Earth

Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon
the remembered earth, I believe. He ought to give himself up
to a particular landscape in his experience, to look at it from
as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon
it.

He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at
every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon
it. He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest
motions of the wind. He ought to recollect the glare of noon and
all the colors of the dawn and dusk.

For we are held by more than the force of gravity to the earth.
It is the entity from which we are sprung, and that into which
we are dissolved in time. The blood of the whole human race
is invested in it. We are moored there, rooted as surely, as
deeply as are the ancient redwoods and bristlecones.

N. Scott Momaday

Most.


Isn't it strange that we talk least about the things we think about most?

Charles Lindbergh

25 February 2015

Own.


As an auxiliary spy, Hemingway more than once demonstrated willingness to take risks and work hard, but in the end, no matter what others had in mind for him, Hemingway made his own way through the war …

CONNECT

Practice.


If you think you will get something from practicing zazen, already you are involved in impure practice.  You do not say, “This is enlightenment,” or “That is not right practice.” Even in wrong practice, when you realize it and continue, there is right practice.” 

Actually we do not have any particular name for our practice; when we practice zazen we just practice it, and whether we find joy in our practice or not, we just do it.  But if you make your best effort just to continue your practice with your whole mind and body, without gaining ideas, then whatever you do will be true practice.

Shunryū Suzuki

Darrell Scott, "A Crooked Road"

I walk a crooked road to get where I am going
To get where I am going I must walk a crooked road
And only when I’m looking back I see the straight and narrow
I see the straight and narrow when I walk a crooked road

I sing a lonesome song to anyone who’ll listen,
To anyone who’ll listen I ‘ll sing my lonesome song.
And when I hear you singing too, the sorrow sounds so hopeful
the sorrow sounds so hopeful, when I sing my lonesome song.

And a lonesome song will be my true companion
When all else has abandoned for singing of their own
And a lonesome song will fill my days with gladness
Make joy out of sadness when I sing this lonesome song, to you

I love with all my heart, there is no way of stopping,
I have no way of stopping I just love with all my heart.
Through the broken and the beautiful, the bad news and the good news,
The bad news and the good news is I love with all my heart.

And a loving heart will be my true companion,
When all else has abandoned for loving of their own.
And a loving heart will fill my days with gladness,
Make joy out of sadness when I bring this loving heart, to you…

I long to be a happy man, in this life that I’ve been given
In this life that I’ve been given I long to be a happy man.
When the noise turns to stillness, I see I have the makings.
I see I have the makings to be one happy man.

And a happy man will be my true companion,
When all else has abandoned for happy of their own.
And a happy man will fill my days with gladness,
Make joy out of sadness when I show this happy man…

And a happy man will be my true companion,
When all else has abandoned for happy of their own.
And a happy man will fill my days with gladness,
Make joy out of sadness when I bring this happy man, to you…

I walk a crooked road to get where I am going,
To get where I am going I must walk a crooked road
And only when I’m looking back I see the straight and narrow,
I see the straight and narrow when I walk a crooked road ...

24 February 2015

Coordinate.


Here I stand before a big question mark. Here I stand like Hercules, but not at the crossroads — no, here there are a good many more roads to take and thus it is much more difficult to choose the right one. It is perhaps my misfortune that I am interested in far too much and not decisively in any one thing; my interests are not subordinated to one but instead all stand coordinate.

Søren Kierkegaard

Burst.


There is something fierce and terrible in me, eligible to burst forth,
I dare not tell it in words --

Walt Whitman

Happy birthday, Physical Graffiti.


On this date in 1975, Led Zeppelin released their best album, Physical Graffiti.

"Ten Years Gone" from Knebworth in 1979 ...

23 February 2015

Hot Rize, "Roving on a Winter's Night"

Speycasting.

Speycasting in slow motion with Eoin Fairgrieve. Eoin is an A.A.P.G.A.I qualified speycasting instructor teaching modern speycasting techniques on the River Tweed system in Scotland.



CONNECT

Listening.

Bob Weir and Dennis Leonard present a brief introduction to the technical, physiological, psychological and social ramifications of the musical listening experience and how the present day low resolution standards have reduced and clouded the experience. Also presented are the high resolution alternatives currently available.

Dennis is a feature film Sound Supervisor and Re-recording Mixer at Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Sound, he has been there for 26 years. He has been in professional audio since 1971 when the Grateful Dead hired him as part of their technical team. He also does independent consultation and was instrumental in both the acoustic and electronic design and construction of Bob Weir’s TRI Studios, he mixed many of the first shows which were Web Cast from TRI and remains a consultant there. He also consulted on the acoustic and electronic design of the Sweetwater Music Hall partially owned by Bob Weir.

He has been interested, passionate and involved in sound since his childhood and remembers a time when the quality of sound was one of the most important aspects, a time when folks gathered around a stereo together and listened to recorded music for extended periods of time. Back then there was no internet, MP-3 or pocket players and it was difficult to play a single track on an LP.

Born in 1947, Weir was adopted by a wealthy California engineer. As a teen, he secured his spot as one of the youngest members of the burgeoning folk scene that centered on a Palo Alto club called the Tangent—home to such future rock legends as Jerry Garcia, Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and Janis Joplin. In 1964, at the age of 17, Weir spent the majority of his time at a Palo Alto music store where Garcia taught guitar lessons. It wasn’t long before Weir and Garcia, along with Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, formed a blues and folk outfit. Originally called Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, the band was later renamed The Warlocks—adding Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzman to the lineup—and eventually came to be known as the Grateful Dead. 

Mystery.


In 1984, archaeologist Douglas Scott, now retired from the National Park Service, used metal detectors in a large-scale survey of the site of the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn in eastern Montana. The conflict was a historic showdown between General George Custer’s 7th Calvary Regiment and members of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, with the Native American warriors emerging victorious. An estimated 268 U.S. soldiers were killed in the conflict, including General Custer.

With help from more than 30 machine-swinging volunteers, Scott and his partner, Richard Fox, were able to locate more than 5,000 artifacts and accurately map the action of Custer’s Last Stand for the first time ever. Their work at the battleground was one of the first archaeological surveys to employ metal detectors in an organized, systematic way.

I chatted with Scott about the survey, the use of metal detectors as an archaeological tool, and the mystery of the battlefield's Deep Ravine.

The Infamous Stringdusters, "Walking on the Moon"

Precious.


In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.

Stanley Kunitz

Bob Marley & The Wailers, "Slave Driver"

Desire.


Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

William Blake, from "Jerusalem"

Joke.


You know lots of criticism is written by characters who are very academic and think it is a sign you are worthless if you make jokes or kid or even clown.  I wouldn't kid Our Lord if he was on the cross, but I would attempt a joke with him if I ran into him chasing the money changers out of the temple.

Ernest Hemingway

Darrell Scott & Tim O'Brien, " Fiddler Jones"

Choice.

Go.

22 February 2015

Quench.


Six Poems on Living in the Mountains

1.
I've got a little picture in my mind of a clean and quiet place.
Everywhere you look it's completely natural.
The house is made of plaited rushes.
There's a good half-acre for growing tubers and flowers.
Beautiful birds perch on cliffs
That encase a few clouds that hang around green peaks.
The world's red dust won't be able to get up here.
Simple elegance is better than saintliness or spirituality.

2.
Can joy be found in the mountains?
Let me tell you. There's more joy in the mountains
Than anywhere else.
Pines and bamboos perform sacred chants.
The songs of Sheng flutes are played by birds.
In the trees, monkeys climb for fruit.
In the ponds, ducks cavort with lotus lilies.
This escape from the ordinary world
Month by month and year by year
Eliminates the hindrances to Enlightenment.

3.
Don't try to stand tall in the courtyards of fame.
In the mountains such dreams fade away.
Your body stands on its own when it's up with the clouds.
Your heart pulls away from worldly attachments.
The moon that I love clears a path through the pines
And guides a stream right to the bamboo gate.
Naturally, this is nothing short of amazing.
How could you disparage it ... or ever tire of the sight?

4.
In the mountains there's nothing at all which prohibits
Dreams of cooking millet during afternoon naps.
If you're lazy by nature, you won't brood about problems.
You'll make light of the body and won't fear the cold.
Chrysanthemums grow by the three ancient paths.
A few planted plum trees make the whole yard fragrant.
Engagements are blessedly short.
Leisure is blessedly long.

5.
Just wake up from an afternoon nap in a grass hut.
Drag a walking stick and let it bounce free and easy.
Lean on a rock and watch the clouds rise.
Listen to the pine saplings and hear the sound of waves.
When the forest is dense, no guests pass by.
When the roads are dangerous, they're only used for gathering firewood.
The place is so pristine and cool
How could it fail to quench my mind's furnace of cares?

6.
People complain of a hard life in the mountains.
I don't think it's much different from the hardships of anywhere else.
A clay oven burning birch twigs,
A stone cauldron boiling wild sprouts.
It seems that you've only just picked the chrysanthemums
That grow in the three months of autumn
When it's time to view the flowers of March.
Pity more the moon that night after night
Is forced to entertain society.

Hsu Yun

18 February 2015

James Taylor, "Copperline"

Bruce Cockburn, "Understanding Nothing"

High above valley,
Above deep shade coloured with the calls of cuckoos,
The ring of coppersmith's hammer high in the hiss of the wind
Wind filled with spirits and bright with the jangle of horse bells
After a crisp night crammed with stars
It's morning

Over the scratched-up soil, scorched-earth wasted,
Long shadows lead women bearing water
I watch the sway of skirts,
Think of moist spice forests -

Too many pictures
Swirling
Vertigo
Momentum of civilizations
Threw me too far over this time-simple landscape
And I hang here
In this mountain light
A balloon blown full of darkness -
Got to let this ballast go
Got to float upward
Till I burst

Weavers' fingers flying on the loom
Patterns shift too fast to be discerned
All these years of thinking
Ended up like this
In front of all this beauty
Understanding nothing

Rhododendrons in bloom, sharp against
Spring snow
Remind me of another time
In japanese temple -
There was a single orange blossom
At the wrong time of year -
Seemed like a sign -
When I looked again
It was gone

Weavers' fingers flying on the loom
Patterns shift too fast to be discerned
All these years of thinking
Ended up like this in front of all this beauty
Understanding nothing 

Peaceful.


Sometimes I grow weary of the days, with all their fits and starts.
I want to climb some old gray mountain, slowly, taking
the rest of my lifetime to do it....

I want to look back at everything, forgiving it all,
and peaceful, knowing the last thing there is to know.
All that urgency! Not what the earth is about!...

In ten thousand years, maybe, a piece of the mountain will fall.

Mary Oliver

17 February 2015

Towers.


While exploring the shores around St. Joseph, Michigan last week, photographer Joshua Nowicki stumbled onto a bizarre phenomenon: dozens of small sand towers rising out of the beach ...


Thank You, Jessica.

Zachary Richard, "Filé Gumbo"

13 February 2015

Happy birthday, Wood.

Wood, Spring in the Country, 1941


Grant Wood was born on this date in 1891.

All the really good ideas I've ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.

Grant Wood

12 February 2015

Waylon Jennings, "Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)"

Led.


Speaking of libraries: A big open-stack academic or public library is no small pleasure to work in. You're, say, trying to do a piece on something in Nevada, and you go down to C Floor, deep in the earth, and out to what a miner would call a remote working face. You find 10995.497S just where the card catalog and the online computer thought it would be, but that is only the initial nick. The book you knew about has led you to others you did not know about. To the ceiling the shelves are loaded with books about Nevada. You pull them down, one at a time, and sit on the floor and look them over until you are sitting on a pile five feet high, at which point you are late home for dinner and you get up and walk away.

John McPhee

Steve Earle, "City of Immigrants"

Wondered.


We crossed three washes with a foot of water flowing through. Markers indicated that five feet was not unusual. Flash floods were frequent.

Mesquite had been brought in for a campfire. Food was being prepared. The rain stopped. The land dried quickly. A group of us sat on a hillside and watched the sun sink into the plains -- a sun, round and orange in a lavender sky.

At dusk, I knelt in the brown clay, dried and cracked, and rubbed it between my hands -- a healing balm. Desert music of mourning doves and crickets began. Two ravens flew above the canyon. I looked up and suddenly remembered O'Keefe. This was her country. Her watercolor Canyon with Crows came back to me. It was an animated canvas. I wondered if Georgia had knelt where I was, rubbing the same clay over her hands and arms as I was, some seventy years ago?

It was time for the fireside.

Nothing's.


Door: “Why it's simply impassible!" 
Alice: "Why, don't you mean impossible?" 
Door: "No, I do mean impassible ... (chuckles) ... nothing's impossible!” 

Lewis Carroll

Eddie Money, "Trinidad"

1982.

Maximum.


I would like to swim against the stream of time:
I would like to erase the consequences of certain events
and restore an initial condition.
But every moment of my life brings with it an accumulation of new facts
and each of these new facts brings with it its consequences;
so the more I seek to return to the zero moment from which I set out,
the further I move away from it;
though all my actions are bent on erasing the consequences of previous actions
and though I manage to achieve appreciable results in this erasure,
enough to open my heart to hopes of immediate relief,
I must,
however,
bear in mind that my every move to erase previous events
provokes a rain of new events,
which complicate the situation worse than before
and which I will then,
in their turn,
have to try to erase.

Therefore
I must calculate carefully every move
so as to achieve
the maximum of erasure
with the minimum of recomplication.

Italo Calvino

Weiss, Prelude in D minor for lute

David Miller performs ...

Present.


We lived in the present, because that’s what young people do. When a frigate bird spread its black wings on the wind or a sailfish billed through a school of bait, when the creek took on the deep delight of greens and blues that swept in from the ocean, overflowing the flats with fresh water and food, we didn’t define the moment as anything other than being alive. Dawn was a pale affair, a triumph of gradualism and the preface to a new adventure; nights were thick with the sounds of insects and crabs, the pleasures of exhaustion, and the wonder of dreams.

Imagine a mirror granting every wish, and then imagine looking into that mirror every single day.