Posts Tagged ‘California’
Apologies for the single post today.
But on Saturday night the temperature dropped to 10 deg F (-12 deg C) and the pipework above our well froze. Despite all day Sunday with the help of neighbour Bill to thaw out some of the pipes the job wasn’t completed by nightfall last night. Thaw coming on Thursday!
Learning from Dogs
It was difficult at first for Philip to embrace truly what had been opened within him. Yes, there was one change that was clear and obvious. Him now knowing that Maggie’s unfaithfulness was a blessing in disguise. For the simple reason that the marriage would end without Philip having a whole pile of guilt sitting on his shoulders. Apart from that clarity, the other changes within him were much more subtle. No better described than that there was a feeling of, how would he put it, a feeling of inner peace. Almost impossible to articulate any more clearly than that. He had no doubt that there would come a time, possible a couple of years hence, when he would look back and fully realise the importance and significance of his time with Jonathan. What an amazing stroke of luck to have met Jonathan and to have had his trust that they could manage their reversal in their relationship in the way that it turned out. Golly, and how!
The weeks flowed by in a manner that could be described as tranquil. It wasn’t until well into August that Philip started to kick around in his mind Lisa’s suggestion of spending his Christmas with her and Don out in Mexico. Despite so much travelling around the world back in the days of him running his business, he had never been to Mexico, didn’t even have a clue about the place apart from the fact that the national language was Spanish, a language he couldn’t speak. He rang and spoke with William and Elizabeth who, as he expected, were completely relaxed about the idea of their Dad being out of the country at Christmas time. Then he called Lisa and Don to get a better idea of what to expect. He had looked up the details of the San Carlos online but not found anything that really helped him. Lisa explained to him that San Carlos was a very popular second-home destination for Americans and that not speaking Spanish wouldn’t be an issue at all. She continued describing San Carlos as a great place to get away from the English Winter weather and, in answer to Philip’s obvious next question, said that it was mostly sunny with daytime temperatures around seventy-five degrees and not falling much below sixty degrees at night. As they were chatting, Philip idly converted in his head the Fahrenheit temperatures to Centigrade: mid-twenties in the day and not below twelve degrees at night. Gracious, he thought, that’s not a lot different to Summer temperatures in the Western Mediterranean. In particular, thinking of Nice in Southern France, a place that he had been to several times. This might be a lovely, relaxing way to prepare for 2008.
Finally, he asked Lisa about the best way of travelling out there and she told him to take a flight to Los Angeles and then take the short flight from there to Hermosillo in Mexico, going on to explain that Hermosillo was just an hour’s run from their house in San Carlos and that she and Don could pick him up from the airport.
“So, Philip, are you coming out?”
“Yes, I’m strongly minded to do it. But Lisa, if I was going to come out it would seem to make sense to come for three weeks or so. Are you sure that’s OK with you guys?”
“Philip, absolutely. It would be such fun.”
“OK Lisa, leave it with me and as soon as there’s a clear decision I’ll call you with the flight details.”
“Can’t wait, my friend.”
His next call was a quick one to Danny who immediately said that he would be pleased to collect him when he arrived at Los Angeles, have him stay with him and Georgie, and drop him back to the airport when he was ready to fly down to Mexico.
Danny went on to point out that for his return trip he could probably fly in to Los Angeles airport the same day of the evening flight out to London. Just a simple change of terminals. Philip made a note of that as it clearly made good sense to do it that way.
He then wandered out from the flat with Pharaoh to find Liz. She was over in the milking area, raking up the cow pats and shovelling them into a trailer just the other side of the fence.
“Hi Liz, you not shovelling shit again!”
Liz laughed, “Always, got any of yours you want me to shovel up?”
Philip belly-laughed and even Pharaoh joined in by furiously wagging his tail and scampering around the yard. Pharaoh had quickly settled in to the surroundings and even stopped trying to be boss dog around Liz’s pair of friendly sheep dogs. He wondered if Tracy and Jack, Liz’s dogs, were teaching Pharaoh how to round up sheep. For he had caught the three dogs out together in the large field where Liz kept fifteen or twenty sheep, the dogs appearing to be instructing Pharaoh in the art of rounding up the woolly creatures.
“Liz, I came over to explain about going to Mexico over the Christmas holidays.”
“Ah, yes, you had mentioned the possibility when you first moved in.”
He explained what he was thinking of doing. Liz responded by telling him to go for it; that it’s not every day that one gets the chance to swap Devon’s Winter weather for Mexico.
“You’ll put Pharaoh with Sandra?”
“Yes, Liz. I mentioned the possibility of going to Mexico to Sandra when I collected Pharaoh last time back in from California and she said not a problem in the slightest. Went on to say, in fact, that she was usually so quiet with dogs over Christmas that she could give Pharaoh extra special attention.”
“Oh that’s good, must reassure you hugely.”
“I wouldn’t leave Pharaoh for a minute if I wasn’t sure that he was being looked after fully.”
Later that afternoon and into the evening, Philip trawled online airline websites looking at flight prices, schedules and trying to put together an itinerary that felt sensible to him. There was one schedule that would have him flying into Hermosillo airport at a little before five in the afternoon. He called Lisa again,
“Lisa, I’m looking at a direct flight from LAX that comes in to Hermosillo a little before five in the afternoon. Would that be OK? Didn’t want it to be too late in the day for you.”
“No, that’s perfect. There’s a Costco in Hermosillo and I can catch up on some shopping and then come across to collect you.”
He didn’t know what a Costco was but presumed it was some type of American discount store. “Great. Will get the flights booked and drop you an email with the flight details.”
An hour later it was all done. He would be flying out to Los Angeles on December, 12th and catching the AeroMexico flight to Hermosillo on Saturday, December 15th.
The weeks turned into months. November slid by and allowed in an unusually wet and warm December to blow over Devon. While Devon had more than its fair share of rain, Philip had long been fascinated by living down here in the South-West of England because, so often, the arrival of a low-pressure weather system in from the Atlantic perfectly conformed to the classic meteorologist’s textbook description of a Low. In fact, he watched such a classic cold-front chasing him up the A303 as he drove from Devon up to London on the Sunday before his flight out to LA on the following Tuesday morning. It was an opportunity to stay with his daughter, Elizabeth, for a couple of nights; these days he rarely came up to London without Pharaoh.
The long flight to LA was as uneventful as they always were. Philip chose to re-read the David Hawkins book Power vs Force rather than watching whatever films were on offer. When Jonathan had lent the book to him back in June he had longed to write notes over many pages. That had quickly persuaded him to buy his own copy and for a multitude of reasons he had never got around to that second reading. Today’s long flight was the perfect opportunity to do just that.
He walked out of the terminal to find Danny almost parked in the exact same spot as that day back on the 8th May when he last come over; gracious, he thought, now over seven months ago. They chit-chatted about what they had both been doing these last few months as Danny drove back to Costa Mesa, the multiple lanes of traffic just as disturbing to Philip as they always were.
Later that evening, as the three of them sat together at home after Georgie had served a delicious dinner, suitably gentle on Philip’s stomach as, once again, his body didn’t know if it was tea-time or breakfast-time, they wanted to know more about his sessions with Jonathan. Danny had studied psychology at University and easily understood Philip’s earlier family experiences and the resulting long-term implications. Georgie was just as interested, perhaps even more so. Later in bed, as Philip felt himself slipping into a much-welcomed sleep, he wondered if Georgie’s curiosity in his own emotional discovery was touching some deeper places within her.
The fifteenth, just three days later, came round so quickly. Danny dropped Philip outside Terminal Two back at Los Angeles’ airport. It was a little after 1 p.m. He couldn’t recall using Terminal Two before but quickly realised, looking up at the flights board, that many international airlines were coming into this terminal rather than Bradley International.
Ten minutes later he was sitting in the pre-boarding lounge presuming that the Embraer aircraft that was coming to rest alongside the walkway was his flight to Hermosillo. Yes, he looked at the tail fin and saw the AeroMexico symbol. Good, he loved flying in high-winged aircraft because it provided such a great view of the land below, especially as today it would be all new country for him to look.
The flight promptly push-backed from the gate at 2 p.m. and less than ten minutes later was heading out over the blue Pacific before turning to what he guessed was a South-Easterly direction. He was initially surprised that the aircraft, after gaining height, didn’t continue around to the left to cross the high, rolling mountains he could see in the distance; he presumed the southern end of the Sierra Nevada range. But, no. They continued following the coast, perhaps only twenty-five miles off to the left, for a good forty-five minutes. He thought he saw San Diego pass by and then the land started to look much more barren and desolate. He assumed that they were now flying seawards off the Mexican coast.
It all became clear when he was able to match the route map in the airline magazine to what he could see out of his window. For the land off to their left had obviously become the Baja California peninsula, to the extent that he could see the waters of the Gulf of California beyond the narrow peninsula. Not long after, the aircraft turned to the left crossing over the peninsula. Perhaps half-way over the waters of the Gulf, a slight reduction in engine speed signalled the start of the descent into Hermosillo.
Philip was now aware of two things. Outside, a vista that looked very deserted, seemingly a barren, hot, landscape. Inside, a rising feeling of excitement at his untypical, adventurous idea of coming to Mexico for Christmas.
Moments later, that delicious squeal of tyres on tarmac and the taxi up to the parking spot alongside a two-storey, glass-fronted terminal building. The few steps from the aircraft to the terminal doors felt more like a hot summer’s day than the late afternoon in mid-December that it was.
Hermosillo was one of those lovely small regional airports that was a joy to pass through. Even for Philip, suitcase in hand, immediately aware that this was a new country for him with an unfamiliar culture, found he was approaching the glass doors to the outside area in front of the airport terminal in less than twenty minutes from the moment the aircraft had come to a stop. He looked at his watch; it was a little after five in the afternoon. He was looking forward to seeing Lisa the moment he stepped through those doors.
The doors slid open and the heat struck him again.
He put his case down and looked around for Lisa. Strange, no sight of her. Even stranger when he considered that there weren’t that many people around. Her distinctive, waist-length plait of white hair would be easy to spot. Maybe she was running a little late. Perhaps caught up in the shops, but even as that thought came into his mind he instinctively rejected the idea. What could have gone wrong? Here he was outside a strange airport in a strange part of a strange country unable to speak a word of the local language.
2,212 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover
Learning from Dogs
Adjusting back to Devon life upon his return from California could have been so much worse if Philip didn’t have that first meeting with Jonathan to look forward to.
The flight back to London had been uneventful and as soon as he had taken a taxi from Totnes Station across to Diana and John’s place, to pick up his car, he was off to Sandra’s to collect his beloved Pharaoh.
While that night flight home from Los Angeles was always a bit rough on the body, the morning arrival did allow most of a full day back in England. The thought of waiting another day to see Pharaoh was unbearable.
As he pulled into Sandra’s parking area and opened the car door, the sound of the many dogs staying at Sandra’s kennels greeted his ears. He hadn’t even had time to close his door when Pharaoh came bounding across to him, tail wagging furiously. If ever a dog could put a smile on its face, and Philip had no doubt that dogs could smile, Pharaoh was wearing the biggest dog smile ever.
Philip sat on the ground and received a rapid succession of face licks. As soon as he stood up and opened both the car’s tail-gate and the door to the travel cage, Pharaoh gave one giant leap into the open cage, turned around and was indicating in very clear dog speak, ‘Dad, take me home, now!’.
He told Pharaoh to wait while he went across to settle up with Sandra.
“Did you have a good time in California?”
“Thanks Sandra, yes a great time. Feel almost ready for what’s facing me these next few months.”
He paused before asking, “Tell me, Sandra, how’s Pharaoh been?”
“He was fine. Same as he always is. It’s almost as though he knows that he isn’t here for ever and that you will come back for him. In fact, it must have been over half-an-hour ago that Pharaoh was telling me, in the way some dogs do, that you were on your way to collect him.”
“Wow! Sounds as though that was around the time I picked up the car from my sister’s place and starting heading your way.”
He continued. “Sandra, the reason I asked about how Pharaoh is with you is that I have been invited to spend next Christmas with good friends at their house in Northern Mexico.”
Sandra’s face showed that she was uncertain where Northern Mexico was.
“It’s a place called San Carlos, about a couple of hundred miles south of the border with Arizona but there’s a good airport quite close by. What I have been thinking, Sandra, is that being away from Devon over the holiday period might stop me getting all caught up in the memories of last Christmas. But if I was to go, it would be for the thick end of a month and there’s no question of me going if Pharaoh wasn’t going to be happy and settled here with you.”
Sandra’s reply was immediate. “Philip, I’m usually very quiet over the Christmas period with most dog owners wanting their dogs with them at home, for obvious reasons. So not only would I be able to give Pharaoh extra attention but during the day I could take him for a walk around our local woods and have him in the house as well.” Sandra hesitated before continuing, “Of course, I wouldn’t have him sleep in the house overnight, might start to confuse him as to whether or not this place was becoming his new home. So, what I’m saying is that it wouldn’t be a problem for me or Pharaoh in the slightest.”
“Thanks Sandra, you are good to him, and to me. Thank you so much.”
Philip was soon over at Upper Holsome Farm and as he parked up, about to let Pharaoh out and take his travel bags over to the flat, Liz came up to him.
“Thought it was you. How was it? Did you have a good time?”
“Thanks, Liz. Yes, it was a great time. Gave me a real break from the stuff of the last few weeks and months.
“So pleased to hear that. I took the liberty of putting some fresh milk and bread in your refrigerator. Thought you wouldn’t want the hassle of newly moving in and not having any food in the place.”
“Oh Liz, that was kind of you. Yes, apart from going to collect his nibs”, Philip lifted the tail-gate of the car and opened Pharaoh’s cage. “I had no other thought than to get back here and rest up after what feels like two days of solid travelling.”
Pharaoh had a quick sniff of Liz’s outstretched hand and went off to check out all the new smells and scents around the place.
“Liz, while it’s in my mind, I’ve been invited to go and spend Christmas with good friends in Northern Mexico. I’ve checked with Sandra over at the kennels and she is confident that Pharaoh will be happy with her. Because, I’m thinking of being away about a month.” He immediately added, “Of course, I’m not asking for any rent relief for the month and I’m happy to have you use the flat if you are expecting guests over the Christmas period.”
“Philip, come on now! I’m not putting anyone else in the flat while you are paying me rent and having your things there. When you have firm dates for your Christmas trip let me know; I’m sure you would have done so in any case.”
With that, he took his belongings across to the flat, still familiar to him back from the time when he was living here before he and Maggie moved in to the Harberton barn. For Pharaoh, however, it was another new place to check out. He left him sniffing around the flat and went out to lock the car. When he returned to the flat, less than two minutes later, and went into the bedroom, there was Pharaoh curled up in the bottom half of his open suitcase. As if to say that the next time Philip left Devon he’d better take his dog with him. What a dog. What a relationship.
Later that evening, as the two of them were resting after both a human dinner and a dog supper, his mind came back to the relationship that he had with Pharaoh. Of course, it was well known that dogs loved unconditionally. But the phrase love unconditionally was too trite, too obvious. What was the deeper meaning behind those words? He went on to ponder that it must be so much more than that. The closeness of the companionship, the easy way that Pharaoh signalled his feelings to Philip, the purity of those feelings. What was the word Jonathan had used about feelings? Transparency. Of course! Yes, the transparency of Pharaoh’s feelings; that was it. He continued reflecting on the incredibly ancient relationship that had existed between dogs and man. At least thirty-thousand years and, quite probably, as far back to Neanderthal times fifty-thousand years ago.
If only us humans could live so simply and straightforwardly as dogs. For example, take how dogs live in the present for the vast majority of their lives. Think what that would mean for humans if we stopped deliberating about the future in the way that most us do. Not so much deliberating about the future, more like worrying about the future. The fear that this must engender because the future is so often an uncertain one.
Philip was sure that if humans could live as fully engaged in the present, making the the best of each moment, as dogs so clearly do, then we would live a much more uncluttered life. Uncluttered in the sense of being unburdened by the many complex fears and feelings that we humans so often seem to have. Let’s face it most of the time our fears never actually turn into reality. Millions of people loving millions of dogs in the world, untold numbers of close relationships between people and dogs, and we are all missing the most profound lesson of all to be learnt from these wonderful animals. That if we stopped obsessing about the future, turned down the noise of the outside world, we would have a chance of some silence and mental space. For it is only from that silence within us that we can become aware of ourselves. How that self-awareness allows us to better cope with the uncertainty around us, and more to the point, offers us greater happiness. Now that would have profound implications for society.
1,453 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover
Philip’s life continues to change and adjust.
Just a little reminder that as from next Monday, December 2nd, the remaining nine chapters will be posted here on Learning from Dogs at the rate of three per week: Monday; Wednesday and Friday. On those same days, I will also be posting my regular style post.
Learning from Dogs
Jeremy Stanton’s forecast had been accurate. At eleven-thirty on that Tuesday morning, he called Philip.
“Philip, it’s Jeremy from Fulfords. Mrs Fuller has signed an agreement to purchase Tristford Barn, subject to survey, for the sum of five-hundred-and-fifty thousand pounds, with vacant possession in effect from Tuesday, 1st May, 2007.”
“Wow, I better get my skates on! Jeremy, do you know how long it will be before Mrs Fuller has the barn surveyed?”
“Not been arranged yet, but because of the shortness of the time before the exchange of contracts will need to take place, hopefully within the next seven days. I will obviously confirm that with you. Unless you and Mrs Fuller were to agree a shorter contract period, the exchange of contracts would be expected thirty days before close, the 2nd April in this case.”
“Thanks Jeremy. I’ll look forward to hearing from you with regard to the survey date.”
With that Philip and Jeremy ended the call. He turned to Pharaoh and exclaimed, “Wow, my furry friend, now things are really going to change.”
His next call was to Liz Jones over at Diptford. He quickly brought her up to speed about what had just happened.
Liz then asked, “So, Philip, when are you looking for accommodation?”
“From Tuesday, 1st May to be blunt about it. How does that work for you? Or rather how does that tie in with your existing tenant?”
“Philip, after our last call I did speak to Mary, that’s her name, and she is likely to give notice on or around May 1st, vacating towards the end of the month. Is there any way you can find temporary accommodation for the month of May?”
“Not sure, to be honest, Liz. But can’t imagine I can’t work something out. In fact I was thinking of going to California around that time. Leave it with me. But, Liz, can I confirm with you that as soon as Mary vacates I will be able take over the tenancy? Happy to pay a deposit straight away, of course.”
“Philip, come on now, you don’t need to put a deposit down, for heavens sake! As far as I’m concerned as soon as Mary vacates it’s yours.”
“Oh, just had a thought, Philip.”
“What’s that, Liz?”
“I have a decent size barn that is empty and weather-proof. Would it help for you to store your house contents there until your future plans become clearer?”
“Oh, Liz, you are an absolute sweetheart. That would take a huge burden off my shoulders.”
Philip and Liz finished the call agreeing that she would double-check Mary’s plans and him saying that he would arrange things for May and go forward on the basis that the rooms wouldn’t be free until the week commencing the twenty-eighth of May.
It was time to take Pharaoh for a walk and soon they were parking up at James’ woods and enjoying the afternoon air. It gave him an opportunity to think things through; so much had happened in the last few days.
First up would be to work out finding somewhere for him and Pharaoh to stay during the month of May. What came to his mind almost immediately was calling Danny and seeing if his invite to ‘get his arse out to California’ would extend to him coming out in May. If he could get his belongings sorted and over to Liz’s barn in late April, then perhaps spend a few days with Diana and John in early May, and then fly out to California more or less returning to England at the end of the month. It seemed like a plan.
After their time in the woods, he decided to pop in on the way back and see sister, Diana. Both she and John were at home, as they so often were, and Philip gave them the news of the sale of Tristford Barn, then outlined his thoughts about the month of May. As he anticipated, there wasn’t a problem. Far from it, because John had long ago admitted that he enjoyed having Philip’s company.
Then back home to the barn, with a quick call to Sandra Chambers at the kennels establishing, as Philip anticipated, that there would be a kennel for Pharaoh in May.
He went to the fridge and opened himself a beer before coming back and picking up the phone again. Time to call Danny.
“Hey Danny, it’s Philip”
“How are you man, how’s it going?”
“Listen Danny, you remember telling me to get my arse out to California. Well you know I always hang on to your every word, so how about me coming out around the 8th May for a couple of weeks or so?”
“Hey that’s cool, no problem at all, we would love to see you out here. Will you want to go and see Lisa and Don up in Los Osos?”
“Yes, that would be wonderful. Haven’t seen your sister for a while now.”
“OK, Philip, I’ll call her, but can’t imagine it will be a problem. Want to use one of my cars?”
“Danny, is the Pope Catholic! That would be fabulous. OK, I’ll look into flights and give you a call before I go firm on them. You sure it will be OK with Georgie? Don’t want to cause your dear wife any issues?”
“Hey, Georgie loves having you stay with us. And she’s been so worried about you these last few weeks. Trust me, no problem. Give us a call with those flight details.”
Thus it was that a week later Philip was back on the phone to Danny and within thirty minutes of finishing the call with him, he had booked tickets for the flight out to Los Angeles for the morning of the 8th May, with him returning back to London on May 27th.
This all set in motion an incredibly hectic few weeks. Essentially, in a little over a month all the contents of Tristford Barn had to be packed up and taken over to Liz’s barn at Diptford. There was another aspect as well. One that he wasn’t looking forward to. That is that he had no choice other than to speak with Maggie and have her come over and remove many of her personal belongings that were still in the barn. A couple of evenings later, he called Maggie’s parents home.
Her father, David, answered and, much to Philip’s surprise, Maggie was over at her parents house. She came on to the phone.
“Maggie, it’s Philip. Won’t take any of your time but need to let you know that Tristford Barn has been sold and it has to be emptied and vacated by the end of April.”
“Yes, I had a call from my solicitor to say that the house was close to being sold. When do you want me to come across?”
They swapped a few dates around and agreed for Maggie and her father to come over on the 14th April, a Saturday. That would suit him as much of his stuff would have been taken over to Liz’s barn by then.
After he had put the phone down, he wondered just what his emotions would be when Maggie came across. Plus he was unsure whether her coming over with her father was helpful or not. There was not long to wait to find out.
Saturday, the 14th dawned clear and bright, thank goodness. Philip took Pharaoh for an early walk around the village and had been back in the house for about thirty minutes when he saw David’s car arrive and Maggie get out of the car to open the gate. He wasn’t sure what to expect but the one thing that he didn’t expect was to see someone he was married to for over six-and-a-half years come across not only as a person utterly remote to him but almost practically a stranger. He noticed that Pharaoh was unusually quiet as well, as if he was picking up on Philip’s feelings.
Those feelings persisted as he went down to the front door and let David and Maggie in.
After offering them both a hot drink, Philip said to Maggie, “You’ll find in each of the rooms that I have put your stuff more or less together. Of course, if you think there’s something not there then shout out. I’ll be sitting up here in the living room so come and see me if you want to open any drawers or cupboards.”
Maggie nodded in a reflective manner, her father seemed to want to stay away from any emotional aspect of this visit to Tristford Barn.
Thus over the next hour or so, David and Maggie were back and forth between the house and David’s car. It came to the point where it looked as though they had finished removing Maggie’s belongings.
David came up the stairs to where Philip was sitting, Pharaoh curled up next to him.
“Philip, we’re all packed up so soon be out of your hair. Thank you and, how can I put this, I’m really sorry as to what happened. I shall miss your company.”
Philip hadn’t expected that. “David, thank you and I feel the same way. We saw eye-to-eye on many things. You and Gwen welcomed me into the family despite the age difference between me and Maggie and that’s something that will be treasured in the future. Give Gwen a hug from me and tell her I’m already missing her home-made cakes.”
He and David hugged. Pharaoh had come up to them and David stroked Pharaoh’s head. Then went down the stairs, let himself out of the front door and within minutes he and Maggie had driven out of the cul-de-sac disappeared from sight.
As Philip continued looking out from the front window, Pharaoh came and sat on his haunches next to him. Once again, this furry, loveable creature had picked up on his feelings and sensed Philip’s need for the closeness of Pharaoh.
What was he feeling? It wasn’t clear but it did have something of the feel of a termination. Or was it more like rejection? He wasn’t sure but it did bring uppermost to his mind that he should speak with Jonathan and try and get a session with him arranged fairly soon after he returned from his trip California which, with a start, he realised was coming up in just over two-weeks time.
On the Monday, Philip was able to have a quick conversation with Jonathan and agreed that his first session with him, in his counselling capacity, would be Friday, 1st June, just a few days after his flight back from LA, hopefully with the worst of the jet-lag behind him.
Thus Philip’s new life was taking shape. His sister, Diana, and John, were happy for him and Pharaoh to stay with them as soon as he had to vacate Tristford Barn; most probably on the last weekend in April. Liz, bless her, had offered storage space for all his furniture and belongings. Then within a week, he would be going up to London in order to catch the flight out to Los Angeles on May 8th.
1,883 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover
Keep having those wonderful Sundays!
First, the last four of the gorgeous pictures sent to me by Cynthia Gomez. If you missed last week’s pictures, then here they are.
Now more pictures from Neil Kelly, back from my Devon, UK days. Neil’s last set of images were in Picture parade ten.
Two very different styles but equally enjoyable, don’t you think.
It’s also appropriate for me to say a huge thanks to Cynthia, Neil and so many others who send me ideas, stories and pictures.
Thank you so much. Not just on behalf of me but on behalf of so many others who follow Learning from Dogs.
Journey to the Sea of Cortez.
I feel very guilty as I didn’t make a note of where I came across this film. Whoever highlighted the film, thank you! It’s truly beautiful. So, please, settle yourself down and be enthralled.
In March 1940, the author John Steinbeck and his friend, marine biologist Ed Ricketts, sailed down the coast of California and Mexico to the Sea of Cortez. “The abundance of life here gives one an exuberance,” they wrote, “a feeling of fullness and richness.”
Their stated purpose was to document the creatures that inhabit shallow waters and tide pools on the margins of the Sea of Cortez. But it became much more. In these mysterious, phosphorescent waters they sought an understanding of mankind’s relationship to the natural world and a wellspring of hope for a world headed toward war.
Looking beyond the events of the day, the two friends foresaw our rising impact on the oceans and the devastating impact that over fishing would have on this rich sea. And yet, in their journey, they encountered a periodic cooling of the eastern Pacific Ocean known as La Niña that can still set off an explosion of life.
Can the story of their journey inspire new efforts to preserve the Sea of Cortez? Down along the shores of western Mexico, the wind blows hot and dry. Beyond these barren landscapes, cold currents rush up from the deep and the ocean literally boils with life.
Following their journey down to the Sea of Cortez in March of 1940, John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts searched for a way to describe what they saw. “Trying to remember this place,” they wrote, “is like trying to re-create a dream. It is fierce and hostile and sullen. The stone mountains pile up to the sky and there is little fresh water. But we know we must go back if we live, and we don’t know why.”
The Sea of Cortez is one of the most diverse marine ecosystems on the planet. It’s shaped by the cool waters of the California Current flowing into the warm tropics and by a complex undersea terrain that rises up along a chain of islands and sea mounts. It was the shorelines, between the desert and the deep, that drew John Steinbeck, the author, and Ed Ricketts, a marine biologist and expert on coastal ecosystems.
Ricketts’ book, “Between Pacific Tides,” is a classic study of the inter-tidal zones of the California coastline and the myriad creatures that live in shallow pools, clinging to rocks to sift the rich nutrients carried in by the tides. Steinbeck and Ricketts sought to extend this work to the Sea of Cortez and to explore ideas at the core of their friendship. They shared a belief that man’s fate, like that of the animals they saw, is linked to the health of the natural world. [Ed. my emphasis]
Ricketts is said to have inspired some of Steinbeck’s most memorable characters, including Doc in Cannery Row, and the preacher Jim Casy in The Grapes of Wrath, published a year before their voyage. Set against the backdrop of drought and economic depression, the book describes the dustbowl conditions that gripped the American heartland in the 1930’s. “Now the wind grew strong and hard and it worked at the rain crust in the corn fields. Little by little the sky was darkened by the mixing dust, and carried away. The wind grew stronger. The rain crust broke and the dust lifted up out of the fields and drove gray plumes into the air like sluggish smoke.”
In most years, southerly winds carry moisture into the midsection of the country from the Gulf of Mexico. In the 1930’s, according to a recent NASA study, those winds were diverted by a build up of warm water in the Western Atlantic and by a periodic cooling of the Eastern Pacific known as La Niña. This combination robbed the region of rain.
By the time Steinbeck and Ricketts began their journey, the historic backdrop had shifted to war. Fighting had engulfed Europe and was spreading to the western Pacific. While the United States was still officially neutral, American companies had begun supplying arms to the allied effort. In early 1940, John Steinbeck used money he earned from “The Grapes of Wrath” to hire a sardine boat called the Western Flyer. From Monterrey, California, he, his wife Carol, Ed Ricketts and a four-man crew headed south, charting a course along the Mexican coastline.
By all accounts, the journey was filled with adventure, camaraderie, and a sense of wonder at the diversity of living things they encountered. Over a six-week period, the two friends wrote journal entries, took notes on conversations, and catalogued specimens they collected on the way. They compiled these writings into a book: “Sea of Cortez, A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research,” later changed to “The Log From the Sea of Cortez.”
The work amounts to a search for a way to understand nature, and humanity at large, in a world steadily coming apart at the seams.
The film was released last Feb 28, 2013. Directed by Thomas Lucas, the Producers were John Friday, Thomas Lucas and Adam Ravetch.
Will end with a couple of personal reflections. First is that when I was invited out to Mexico for Christmas 2007 by Suzann and Don, I travelled to San Carlos, Mexico on the Eastern shores of the Sea of Cortez. San Carlos is a little under 300 miles south of the Arizonan border with Mexico and was where Jean had been living for many years. Meeting Jean changed my life forever! Here’s a picture of the Sea of Cortez through the rear door of Jean’s house in San Carlos.
Second reflection is about dogs. Jean had spent many years rescuing Mexican feral dogs and finding homes for them; hundreds of them over her time in San Carlos. We brought 13 of those dogs with us when we moved to Arizona and 9 came to Oregon. Below is Hazel, one of the five remaining Mexican ‘rescue’ dogs that are still with us in Oregon.
Food miles: Another tragic aspect of modern life.
Last week I had to travel from Merlin in Southern Oregon up to Portland, a round-trip distance of 480 miles. The vast majority of the journey was along Highway I5, most of which is a 2-lane highway, significantly harder driving than a 3 or more laned highway.
It was the first time I had driven North along I5 since Jean and I moved to Merlin last October. What staggered me were the huge number of trucks on the highway, many of them food trucks from California and beyond. Also noticed at regular intervals were very large industrial buildings that were described as food distribution centres.
Another connection to today’s reflections is that I am about 50 pages into Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The book is the account of Barbara’s family spending a year deliberately eating home-grown and local food. The book’s subtitle is ‘A Year of Food Life‘ and, inevitably, the book has a website here.
So the book and the journey to Portland got me thinking about food miles and the huge transport distances of so much of what we eat today.
Jean and I were incredibly lucky when we bought this property last year to discover that it had a mature vegetable garden surrounded by a deer-proof fence, as the following photograph partially shows.
So even before considering the food miles we are saving from ‘grow-your-own’, we were enthusiastically planting a whole variety of vegetables. Here’s a rhubarb plant that went in last Saturday.
Anyway, I’m rather meandering along – anyone still awake!
The whole point of this long introduction is to highlight a fabulous film that we have watched over the weekend. Called Edible City: Grow The Revolution we came across it on Top Documentary Films, great source of films by the way if you don’t know it.
Luckily it is on YouTube as well.
Here’s the full film:
It’s an inspiring account of what it means for a community to take control of their food, ergo a strong recommendation to watch it in full.
If you want a taste of the film (pardon the pun!), here are two trailers.
plus much more information from the film’s website.
So why don’t you join the millions of people already buying from their local Farmers’ Market. For the USA you can find your nearest market using this website and for the United Kingdom try the Local Foods website.
Not only will it give you access to much healthier food, it is a very practical way of reducing our use of energy.
Institutionalized insanity versus intelligent thinking – a reflection.
This appeared on Patrice’s Blogsite on January 11th and is republished with his very kind permission. You may want to bookmark Patrice’s blogsite, which is here. The sub-heading of his blog is ‘Intelligence at the core of humanism‘ and, trust me, that is not an overstatement of the wisdom that is contained within his blog, as the following nobly illustrates.
Aphorism January 2012
Species Shifting North, Intelligence Left Behind:
Nothing like raw numbers. In the last twenty years, Europe warmed up by one degree Celsius (about 2 degrees in the primitive, less meaningful Fahrenheit system). That’s equivalent to a thermal shift of 249 kilometers north.
Insects responded by an average shift north of 114 kilometers, and birds by only 33 kilometers. This is creating imbalances (fully obvious in Alaska, and high altitude North America, where the insects move faster than their predators, killing entire forests, which then burn).
This differential adaptation also illustrates an important point the stupid partisans of the “market” always neglect: being more intelligent can make you slower. Birds are more intelligent than insects, so they find harder to leave their families, friends, habits, and landscapes they are familiar with behind. (No, I will not say that insects are more like Americans, driven by the market, and birds more like Europeans, driven also by broader values. I shall resist, lest I move too fast, like an insect, and outrage part of my brainy readership…)
Thus, as the market dominates, so does the stupid.
Adaptation is not always a manifestation of intelligence, and inadaptation often a sign of intelligence. A well known experience is to put a fly, or a bee, inside an open bottle, with a light source opposed to the opening. The bee will search intelligently the bottom of the bottle, where the exit ought to be. The less intelligent fly will buzz around stupidly, and exit first.
It’s no wonder that the partisan of the markets, who are richer and thus more influential, are for something stupid, as they are faster, precisely because they are more stupid, with fewer values, besides the colossal greed which dominates their psyche. So there is a non linear vicious loop, the more the market dominates.
Thus, next year the candidate historically financed by Wall Street will confront the extremely wealthy businessman cum politician, son of his father, also a governor cum businessman. Market against market: the market should not lose. The birds will be left behind by the fast moving insects, once again. Change you can’t believe in.
Where is everybody?
“Lord” (!) Martin Rees, “Astronomer Royal”, Nobel laureate, etc., complete with pretty pictures and beautifully spooky music, speculates it’s teeming with aliens out there.
But as Enrico Fermi quipped:”Where is everybody?“
The situation is not helped by us understanding very little about what the universe is made of. In the latest numbers I saw the universe was made 4% conventional matter, and the rest was… Dark. Mostly Dark Energy, with some Dark Matter. Who said the Dark Side was not important?
There are no dominant theories of what the Darkness is made of.
CERN should be able to find stuff below its energy reach. So far, nothing.
We have detected more than 150 planets. It seems one star out of ten, at least, has planets. Some have been detected in the habitable zone, where liquid water is found. But the water has to be continuously present for billions of years. Continuously (which did not happen on Mars and Venus).
400 billion stars in our galaxy. The big question is how many planets can harbor advanced (=oxygen breathing) life. No inkling of that. There are plenty of planets out there, indeed, but most hostile to life. So far. How Much Intelligent Life Out There? On Earth, it took 1.5 billion years to go from advanced life to intelligent, civilized life. A lot of things can go wrong in 1.5 billion years.
That advanced life did not develop on Mars or Venus is not an accident: although on the outskirts of the habitable zone, either planet did not have what it took. Mars was too small, and, just like Venus was not protected by a powerful plate tectonic, with accompanying magnetic field, among other problems (so the solar wind blowing the top of the atmosphere stole the hydrogen, hence water, etc.)
My hunch is that most planets in the hospitable zone, when found, will be bereft of advanced life, although primitive life may be quite frequent. Reason? Too many miracles at work for billions of years in the solar system. Especially in light of what we find out there (We see plenty of Jupiter size planets in close orbits around their suns, presumably after sweeping their entire system clean; OK, that’s partly a result of the method used to find planets presently, but the fact is, we find such situations aplenty! The presence of Jupiter out there, as our guardian protecting Earth from comets looks quite miraculous…)
If You Want To Save the Biosphere, Push Tech:
Some people in the Netherlands have suggested building an artificial mountain. It’s feasible, and would be smart to do, not just there, but say in a place such as Saudi Arabia (technical variations on the theme could collect water, as in cloud, or fog forests found in California or Peru).
Another point is that artificial mountains could help protect biological diversity from the greenhouse heating. Cynics would point out that it would take an enormous amount of energy to build them. True, with present tech, and the energy would be dirty too, presently. But that would be another motivation to go green. Green and big.
Most wind-driven energy system in Europe? Denmark. Most CO2 polluting country in Europe? Denmark. Coal power plants pick up the slack when the wind falters. Another case where nuclear offers its smiling face. Future nuclear that is. Not your great grandfather’s nuclear. Past nuclear tech should be terminated, just like coal. However, there are 100 unexploited, un-researched nuclear energies out there, and only those with insignificant waste will be acceptable. (Nobody would accept a fossil fuel system where only 2% of the fuel would be burned, and the rest allowed to pollute all over!)
Reminder: as the greenhouse heating proceeds, winds will falter because the heat differential between poles and equator will sink, thus shutting down that thermal engine known as the atmosphere (yes, hurricanes will be rarer, but fiercer).
Institutionalized insanity Versus Thinking Right:
In Switzerland a nuclear plant was built one kilometerdownstream from a dam, along the same river. None of those two could resist the sort of very strong quake happening occasionally in the Alps. A flood cum nuclear explosion is entirely imaginable. This sort of insanity has nothing to do with nuclear power, it has everything to do with lack of intelligence.
This is all the more strange since some Swiss cantons such as Valais get 20% of their GDP from research. By the way themedical drug sector part of GDP is twice the banking sector in Switzerland. For those who wonder why Switzerland is so rich (the same holds for Sweden and other Nordic company). It’s not (just) about the banks.
(More) Direct Democratic Keeps Bankers At Bay:
The weight of direct democracy has forced Swiss banks into reserve requirements twice those of the future Basel III regulations. (In other words, banks are many times tamer in Switzerland than in the USA, if one uses reserve requirements enforced as a measuring device; Basel III does not cover most of the enormous derivative trading, though.)
The scandal of the central banker heading the Swiss Central Bank buying dollars days before taking the decision of making the dollar explode up against the Swiss franc keeps unfolding. Yes, he knew about the trades, and yes, he had days to stop them afterwards.
It is dawning over Swiss society that those with privileged information should not be legally allowed to exploit them. The whole planet has to follow down that line. But, although it has been obvious for years that American and European politicians and central bankers are rich from insider trading, nothing has been done. Yet.
The Plutocrats Cash Out And Shame Does Not Count:
What looked to me as the immensely stupid and arrogant wife of the Swiss Bank President, explained herself from Singapore, where she owns an art gallery. If she really wanted to make real money out of her husband’s job, she knew how to do it, she asserted confidently. And there she was going through a list (a), b), c), d), etc… of things she would have done if she wanted to make more than the measly $75,000 she made. And how to make them secretly, she insisted.
Her name is “Kashya”, appropriately pronounced “Cashia”. In this case, Cashia said, in her native American English, they were in a rush, because they just had some cash from selling a chalet to store, so that is why she hid nothing. That brings a few questions, such as whether she is used to exploit the mechanisms of further cheating she explicated so adroitly on TV. The central banker, the plutocrat Hildebrand, having resigned, will get a million dollar salary in the next year, from the People, while his fellow plutocrats will rush to propose him a much more protitable conspiracy to join. I propose to put him in jail, instead.
Another Claim Of Mental Decline. And The Agenda Behind It: There Is No Good Wisdom, Except Dead Wisdom, Say Plutocrats:
Supposedly some new test showed a decline in “cognitive capabilities” starting at age 45. Apparently people were asked to remember lists of words starting with some particular letters. It does not seem to have come to the mind of the experimenters that maybe older brains do not like to remember such stupid stuff.
Thinking means motivating. Without the right motivation, there is not the right thinking.
In the case of “IQ”, a decline is observed at 24, some say… Military officers would concur that it is better to send 18 year olds to die, because they are bright enough to execute orders well, but not so bright that they would know that they might die for no good reason.
A related point: no doubt a two-year old training to go potty remembers very well each time she goes. Whereas an adult tends to lose this facility of neurological retention for this sort of event. One generally observes. But it is not because adults have suffered mental decline that they do not remember every poop. Simply, they have seen lots of poop passing by.
Actually the argument can be made that consciousness and conscious memorization are needed to deploy automatisms, but once those are in place, they are not needed anymore, and so consciousness, and conscious recall should not be present.
When I was a young driver, I remembered everything I did when driving a car, but now I do it automatically, remembering very few of my gestures. When driving, my consciousness is mostly watching for the unforeseen.
Is there a political interpretation explaining such mental declines claims? Indeed, there is. As people get older, they elaborate higher wisdom. Thus, although the soldiers of revolution are typically very young people, because they have their aggression hormones less tempered by wisdom, the leaders of revolution are typically much older.
Let me explain this carefully: fascist and plutocratic leaders typically claim that they are “conservatives“. It means that they justify their mean rule by a refusal to adapt to changed circumstances.
As the French revolution stirred, the most esteemed leaders were senior citizens such as Voltaire or Benjamin Franklin, and everybody looked up to them, from Louis XVI to Turgot; on the Dark Side, many of the leaders, such as the Comte d’ Artois, were barely teenagers.
Closer to us, in WWII, the SS seduced many a 16 year old. In the last few weeks of the war, many of the most enraged Nazis fighting to the bitter end with the allies in the mountainous heart of Germany were school children with heavy weapons. In more than one case, disgusted American GIs, reluctant to blow up some more enraged children to bits, sent their school mistresses to negotiate with them!
If the (plutocratic) establishment can claim that revolutionary wisdom is actually the fruit of mental decline, presto, no revolution. It will be “conservatism” all the way.
Why Do We Want To Always Support Winners?
Supporting the home team is easy to understand: this is the tribal instinct. Human beings are social, they have to love the group, thus dislike what hinders the group, namely, other groups.
One has to love the leader(s) of the group, the alpha(s). In general, to abate social tensions, an instinct has got to exist, which makes the oppressed love the oppressor, or let’s say, the inferior love the superior. or even love the winning group, to be motivated to join it. Something more plausible to females. Hence Beatlemania.
If One Wants Happiness, One Should Prepare For The Worst:
Pe Romaneste: So happiness must be an accident.
Alexi Helligar: There seems to be greater power in the accidental than we imagine.
Patrice Ayme: Indeed, to a great extent, everything is accidental. Realizing this means that those who complain that something happened accidentally, and, thus, was not expected, have not understood the first thing about causality. Accidents is how the world happens. Wisdom consists in anticipating their occurrence, and having a plan B, should they occur.
Brutality Is Friendly To Plutocracy, Long Life Friendly To Wisdom:
Only wisdom can allow long life. Really very long life, lasting centuries, for individuals or civilization. Short lives are brutish, and this has the consequence in many a perpetrator, to spurn whatever life is offered. Indeed a good way to spurn something is by devaluing it. The brutality of the human condition is self reinforcing…
This why human life extension is a necessity, a preliminary, for the extension of wisdom. Because as long as lives are short and brutish, the short and brutish way of life is all too optimal, for all too many people (although those with children, or grandchildren they love will disagree, but they are not necessarily a majority).
This is something that life spurning plutocrats such as Mr. Jobs have been busy not understanding, as brutality is their friend.
Plutocrats Love Death Indeed:
Steve Jobs, despite leaving Reed College after six months, was asked to give the 2005 commencement speech at Stanford. Why? Did Jobs invent anything important? (Disclosure: My Mom offered me an ultra light Mac Air, and I love it.) No, he was just an artistic technology integrator, but not necessarily as mechanically oriented as a car mechanic (his partner Wozniak was the programmer, but even this one finished his college studies in computer science, 20 years later, at Berkeley, and found them hard!)
In his Stanford address, delivered after Mr. Jobs was told he had cancer, but before it was clear that it would ultimately claim his life, Mr. Jobs told his mesmerized audience of naive sheep that “death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent.”
In this light, the invasion of Iraq by Bush and his fanatical followers made sense: by visiting more than one million deaths upon Iraq, the USA brought the single best invention of life. Everybody, or more exactly 83%, including a majority of Stanford students, agreed, at the time.
Is this love of death why Jobs refused conventional medical treatment initially, until it was too late? Jobs insisted that the benefit of death, is you know not to waste life living someone else’s choices. I guess that extended to the medical.
Verily, death came first, and was denied by life. Life is the denial of death. Life did not have to invent death.
Hormuz Crisis Versus Suez Crisis: Spot The Difference!
Why did the USA not get upset when Nasser seized the Suez canal, in 1956? And actually why did the USA instead use the occasion to threaten Israel, Britain and France? Not just that, butpresident Eisenhower aligned himself with the Egyptian, and Soviet dictators. The Soviets, while invading Hungary, killing at least 40,000 Hungarians, threatened to atom bomb London and Paris. With the loud acquiescence of the USA… Which got France and Britain, not the mass murderous USSR, condemned at the United Nations’ general Assembly. What a crazy week it was.
And now, 55 years later, lo and behold, the USA is getting all upset as Iran wants to stop what’s going on below its nose in the strait of Hormuz? Just asking. Inquiring minds want to know.
Is it that in 1956, France and Britain were viewed as preys of the USA? And now that the USA has grabbed everything from France and Britain, they want to be friends again? Because the rich need servants, maybe? In any case, the Suez Crisis was an incongruous reminder that, in 1939, the USA was allied with the USSR and Nazi Germany, against France and Britain (oopss, something one should never say!)
And my advice would be to be very careful with Hormuz. If one wants long life, one does not want long wars. And one does not want fossil fuels. The sooner we get rid of fossil fuels, the better, and if Hormuz helps that way, so be it. The messy Iranian theocracy will not win a waiting game.
No Change, No Life!
What the USA needs to do is to do what all serious countries do, and have always done: change its constitution, since the changed circumstances require it.
Cool Is Not Cool:
“Cool”. Why is “cool” such a popular word? Is it supposed to correspond to an attitude? Is it a mark of, and a tool for, our subjugation?
So Obama is confronted to the greatest financial thievery in the history of civilization, and that leaves him “cool“? Having rebooted the perpetrators with public money he goes to them to ask for a billion to campaign for re-election? Cool? I mean: we are not supposed to blow our tops when we contemplate such injustice in the name of change we can’t believe?
In Europe, pretty amazingly intricate financial and semantic engineering is presently deployed to save the banks and the sovereign states entangled with them. There again the bottom line is that the resources of the countries are deployed for the exclusive enjoyment of the few, who happen to be the greatest swindlers ever. Although they are presented as too big to flay.
Actually the same technique as in the USA, Quantitative Easing, is being deployed, and on a similar scale. But, as the head of the European Central Bank, an ex Goldman Sachs partner, pointed out sardonically, a scornful smile on the corner of his mouth, Europeans use a different semantic: they don’t call it Quantitative Easing.Therein the difference. Is not that cool too?
Is the greenhouse effect already that bad that cool is the ultimate state one ought to strive for with all of one’s being? Or are we supposed to reject our mammalian inheritance? Mammals, by being warmer, could do more. So, when climate change happened 65 million years ago, they survived (so did the very warm birds, who evolved from bird-like dinosaurs). Are we supposed to do less now, and not survive? Or then survive like crocs, deep in the mud, super cool, eating carrion?
Is “cool” imposed on us so that people know no higher emotional state than iguanas? Become cool like barnacles, as we cling to the existence the plutocrats condescend to leave us to enjoy? Being so cool we would not be like the American and French hot heads who came forth with new constitutions in 1789?
So is the celebration of “cool” what forces us to not be outraged, as plutocrats steal and burn the entire planet to forget about their megalomaniac angst? To forget they are just crazy critters in need of some restraint? Is “cool” the state slaves are supposed to be in to optimize the enjoyment of their masters? Is it only cool to be cool like corpses?
France anti-genocide law denounced by Turkey:
Now this is hilarious. France passed a law punishing convicted holocaust deniers by up to one year in jail and 45,000 euros fine.
Fine, indeed. Who would turn into a partisan, a defender of holocausts? Is not holocaust denial a form of hate speech? Holocausts remain a problem, because when one has killed most of a human group, there is nearly nobody to complain on their behalf: other people move on, as herbivores do, once one of them has been seized and devoured.
France’s national Assembly passed the anti-genocidal law, with bipartisan support. And what do you think happened?
Erdogan, the three time elected Prime Minister of Turkey, had a fit: how does France dare make holocaust denial a crime? He forbade French fighter jets to land in Turkey (so I guess the no fly zone over Syria will be delayed), recalled the Turkish ambassador to France, and stopped all talks with France.
And the questions are: why does the present government in Turkey love holocausts so much? Are holocaust such an endangered species that Turkey has to protect them with all its might?
Why does Turkey consider that a general attack against holocausts is an attack against Turkey? Is it because holocausts are intrinsic to the Turkish character? Or is it because holocausts are mentioned positively in the Bible and the Qur’an, and the present Turkish government is obsessed with the religion of the child molester Abraham? Is this why Erdogan is angry?
We Are Truth Machines.
That monkeys now build cities has not changed that truth. No hallucination added in the last 6,000 years has changed that truth either. Science is what we do, and what stands in the way of that fundamental truth, faces extermination.