May 1st, 2008

Book Cover

May Day!!

Who could not feel well on May Day!   When I was a child, we made baskets and filled them with flowers and candy and hung them on the doorknobs of neighbors.  They did the same.   Then, the Russians used it as a day to parade their weapons.  Now, it is a day to protest, demonstrate, speak. 

The sun shines again today.  I continue to be enchanted with the light.  It is staggeringly beautiful.   Whatever grabbed me yesterday has mainly passed through, and I will dance around the May pole of my mind.

alan's marigolds

Writing -

Write til your ink is dry;
and with your tears, moist it again;
and frame some feeling line
That may discover such integrity.

    - Shakespeare

heart's desire

Motion -

I'm looking for a quote so going through my little book and rediscovering what I consider ittle gems.

To understand motion is to understand nature.

    Leonardo da Vinci

See deep enough, and you see musically;
the heart of Nature being everywhere music,
if only you can reach it.

       Thomas Carlyle

There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.

             Thich Nhat Hanh

The imagination is like a car battery.
When you leave it inactive is when it runs down.

             Garcia Marquez

Find the good and praise it.  When an old person dies, it is like a library burning.

    - Alex Haley

I will never be able to find myself if I isolate myself from the rest of mankind as if I were a different kind of being.

          - Thomas Merton

To live is so startling, it leaves but little time for other occupations.

                         - Emily Dickinson

..... as language loses its meaning, war tends to supplant it as a much more "sure means of communication."

             - Thomas Merton

It seems war comes as a result of lack of imagination, empathy and creative language skills. 

Leaves are verbs that conjugate the seasons.

    - Gretel Ehrlich

Tears are for the heart what water is for fish.
                   - Flaubert

california poppy

Gary Snyder -

For the Children
The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us.
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.
In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.
To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:
stay together
learn the flowers
go light
~ Gary Snyder ~

calder mobile miniature


Why do you try to understand art? Do you try to understand the song of a bird?

- Pablo Picasso

and maybe you do -

monarch butterfly

trees -

My neighbors had a tree cut down today.  I have been enjoying its round bouquet of branches, and now it is almost gone.  Just the trunks are left.  It is sad to see a tree cut down and it is noisy.  I had a bird's eye view of the man who made the cuts.  He was careful, I was glad to see, as I was standing there, at one point, ready to call 9-11, but he maneuvered himself around and now the tree is mainly gone.  I suppose I have more view, but that particular tree was a little sweetheart.  It was like a butterfly for my yard. one that was rather still, but very proud of the spread of its wings.  I miss Friend Tree, and feel some tears.

alan's marigolds

elephants -

This is an article in Orion magazine on elephants.  They, too, are our friends and communicate with us, and us with them.  

Gray Thunder: Listening to Elephants

Breaking the human/nonhuman divide

by Cyril Christo

Published in the May/June 2008 issue of Orion magazine

AMONG THE HUNTER-GATHERERS of Kenya, whose last remaining forests are in jeopardy due to deforestation, the Ndorobo, or Ogiek, share tales about their people having followed the migration paths of elephants for centuries. They tell of olden days when elephants used to live peacefully with humans. This was a mythic time, when the Ndorobo would eat the olerondo fruit in imitation of the elephant and boil acacia bark for its sugar. Tales of being given milk from elephant cows in times of drought, and of the Ndorobo giving the elephants honey as part of their family, are part of the lore of the first peoples of Kenya.

I first went to Kenya in 1975, for four months in the wilds of Nakuru. I studied vervet monkey behavior, climbed Mount Kenya, and, en route to the Indian Ocean, crossed the volcanic Chyulu Hills and the haunting red sands of Tsavo, where tens of thousands of elephants overwhelmed the landscape, causing one of the singular ecological holocausts of the twentieth century. I experienced the last vestiges of old Kenya, before the elephant hunting bans were put in place, when the Waliangulu still hunted elephants with poisoned arrows and Kenya felt like one of the last great frontiers on Earth.

Shortly after 9/11, my wife, Marie, and I went again to Kenya’s north, to visit the Turkana, who insist that the droughts have only manifested since the first appearance of the white man in East Africa. A medicine man—a seer—told us, “In the old days, there was always rain and the Turkana lived peacefully.” Today the rains no longer come when they used to. The Turkana believe that the elephant is next to God and that the sighting of an elephant signals rain is imminent. When Satan and God quarreled, they say, thunder and lightning shook the ground. Since God could not materialize he had to ask the elephant to go in his stead to respond to Satan’s thunder with his trumpeting calls. When the thunder ceased, Satan had departed, leaving the elephant lord over the land. Today the lack of elephants in the north, due to poaching, is believed by many Turkana to be an omen that rain will not come. The recent droughts, which have been some of the worst in decades—can they partly be explained by the near total disappearance of the revered elephant from Turkanaland?

The Samburu of Kenya believe that, like the seers who can foretell rainfall, the elephant knows when rain is coming. The sudden appearance of elephants after many months of drought suggests that rain is on the way. How the elephants know that the rains are approaching is a secret even the seers do not know. That knowledge is on the order of another language.

It was from the pastoral Samburu, whose relationship to the elephant is perhaps unique in Africa, that we were able to glean something of a sacred and remarkable alliance. After many trips to Africa, in September 2007 Marie and I took our son, Lysander, to touch the ground of East Africa for the first time. We were told by Pacquo, a Samburu elder from central Kenya, that during the peak of the elephant slaughter thirty years ago, a herd of twenty or more elephant orphans who had lost their entire family somehow managed to make its way to Samburu country, having traveled for days to reach a village where they were given sanctuary. Today the extant herd of elephants in the Matthews Range is due to the Samburu’s kindness and their acknowledgment of the elephant as an extension of their own being. Indeed, the Samburu as well as the Maasai have a concept—tenebo—which sees the coherence of elephant family dynamics as a model for human interrelationships.

One story told by Pacquo tells of a rogue elephant who was destroying crops in a nearby village. The elephant’s repeated intrusions prompted the authorities to threaten to kill it if the problem was not solved. A Samburu elder faced the elephant and somehow communicated that people were going to come and shoot it if it did not go away—and within a short while it disappeared in the bush. The elephant never returned.

Another story, which goes back decades, has taken on the status of legend. It concerns a Samburu tribesman, Lesematia, who lost a leg in the British army while fighting the Italians in Ethiopia during World War II. Many years later, back in Kenya, Lesematia was walking on crutches at dusk toward his uncle’s house when he noticed a pair of male lions stalking him, lions who knew he was a cripple. He thought to himself, What can I do? I am going to be eaten by lions. He pondered his predicament and realized he could call on his brother the elephant. He sat down and meditated on his elephant friends. Eventually, three elephants came and stayed with him, keeping the lions at bay, waiting the whole night next to Lesematia. When dawn finally arrived, and the lions had gone, Lesematia thanked his brothers the elephants as they returned to the bush. This story, firmly fixed in the oral tradition of the Samburu, expresses the uniqueness of the relationship between beings who have broken through the Berlin Wall of interspecies communication. It tells us, the dominant species, that we can either call out to the other, reach across the gulf that supposedly separates us, or reject at our own peril that which is not human.

Today, humanity needs to reach out to elephants and hear a singular voice, a mind that has evolved with us and influenced us biologically, culturally, and mythically, for our entire evolution. The trauma that elephants have experienced over the last few decades is not completely measurable by humanity. Indeed, only a few people have been willing to break the human/nonhuman gulf to insist that elephants—in killing villagers in India and Sri Lanka, in raping rhinos as they have done in South Africa, and in exhibiting post-traumatic stress disorder as documented by psychologist Gay Bradshaw—are exhibiting symptoms of a much larger malaise: the breakdown of not just habitat and family structure, but also of mind across an entire species. This breakdown is symptomatic of the unraveling of nature as we have known it. The irreplaceable bond we have had with the elephant is an alliance we need to salvage not only for the sake of the elephant’s future but for ours as well. 

hot air balloon

Friday -

Chris and Frieda gave us a hot air balloon ride for Christmas along with a book The Amazing Air Balloon.  

We need to call the tape at 5:15 to see that if the  winds are calm enough to fly and then, up to Yountville we go, and Up, Up, and Away!!

I am excited.