The hen-house behind the home I didn’t buy when I moved to Monte Vista — I would have, but I couldn’t have handled most of the repairs.
Daily Prompt Worldly Encounters The friendly, English-speaking extraterrestrial you run into outside your house is asking you to recommend the one book, movie, or song that explains what humans are all about. What do you pick?
“What happened to it?”
“No idea, Dude. I wrote it, I posted it, last year, right? It’s listed on the grid but it’s a dead page.”
“Maybe you deleted it.”
“Maybe it was abducted by aliens.”
“What did it say?”
“I’ve noticed a fair amount of consistency with these repeated posts so it might have said, ‘This is a stupid prompt’.”
“What book would you give the alien to read?”
“Les Miserables. It’s long, it’s complicated, it’s filled with ethical conundrums and often makes no sense.”
“That’s human life, all right.”
P.S. The photo above is of the UFO Observation Platform here in the San Luis Valley of Colorado
Daily Prompt Linger Tell us about times in which you linger — when you don’t want an event, or a day to end. What is it you love about these times? Why do you wish you could linger forever?
Life brings many great moments that don’t last long enough, but every day I experience one. Morning coffee. I drink one cup. OK, it’s a large cup, but that’s it. I’d drink more but the second cup doesn’t taste as good as the first (and only).
Dusty T. Dog also likes this moment and he waits semi-patiently for me to finish my coffee.
I give him my cup when I’m finished so he can have the dregs. The word “dreg” is awfully negative for Dusty’s perception of the contents of that nearly empty cup. I’m sure in Dusty’s language it’s something like “ambrosia.”
Daily Prompt Placebo Effect If you could create a painless, inexpensive cure for a single ailment, what would you cure and why?
Self-inflicted misery is one of the most prevalent ailments. I’d create a cure for that. A cure already exists, but it’s not painless and is not always inexpensive. My cure would allow patients to see things as they really are and to find the power to make choices that would allow them to escape the misery.
Why do I believe this is important? Life brings with it enough misery, miseries over which we have no control and with which we must contend. Adding self-inflicted misery to the misery already existent in life is just, uh, well, masochistic?
Many people who suffer from self-inflicted misery have no idea that they have created their misery culture themselves and are making it worse by identifying with their own suffering. It’s very difficult for these patients to see anything else, another life, other possibilities. They often use friends and loved ones for moments of pain relief and catharsis before they turn around and crawl back to the hell-hole they’re digging for themselves. Sooner or later, friends and loved ones give up, seeing there’s not going to be any improvement and that the patient seems to LIKE hurting themselves.
For example — a young woman is in an emotionally abusive relationship with a boyfriend she’s been with for a decade. She thinks, “Wow, every evening, when he’s about to come home, I get terrible anxiety. What do I do wrong? How can I fix it so he doesn’t get upset with me? I know he loves me and he always calms down after he smokes a bowl. I’ll just do better. Then it will be OK.”
If she had my remedy, she’d think, “Wow, every evening, when he’s about to come home, I get terrible anxiety. Why? OH it’s because he goes apeshit when he gets here, says mean and hurtful things, yells at me, and then he smokes a bowl and calms down. That’s a crappy way to live. He’s either mean or wasted. This is not a relationship. I don’t want to be in this situation any more.”
My cure would make the patient see that — for whatever reason (which doesn’t actually matter) — the guy is an asshole to her. My cure would help her realize that she can find a life without him. My cure would give everyone suffering from self-inflicted misery the ability to understand that the past is the past, and their life is in the future.
It would cure the incorrigible drunk; instead of thinking, “Oh man, I gotta’ get a drink. I feel awful,” the drunk would think, “Whoa, this shit is killing me. No wonder I feel awful.” The junkie, the meth head and other substance abusers would experience similar epiphanies.
My remedy would be not only a cure but a diagnostic tool. It could be administered to a miserable person and if they suddenly began to seen objective reality as it is, and begin preparing to take action, it would be clear that their ailment is self-inflicted misery.
My cure would save millions of dollars. It would repair broken families. It would empower pain addicts to transcend their solipsistic preoccupations by showing them that suffering is an absurd way for them to define themselves and is no more real than joy, enthusiasm, happiness, peace, generosity or kindness.
“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln.
P.S. WordPress, a placebo is not a cure. It’s the illusion of a cure. I hope you know that, but just in case…
Daily Prompt State of Your Year How is this year shaping up so far? Write a post about your biggest challenges and achievements thus far.
“Another confession, Father.”
“Let’s go to a quiet corner so you can hear my confession.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I need to relieve my soul of the biggest challenges and achievements so far this year, but WHY????”
“Why are we doing this, Lamont?”
“I don’t know. We don’t even think in terms of years any more.”
“True enough. They COULD ask about this incarnation. That might be something.”
“Yeah, Dude, a LIFE STORY.”
“Quit laughing. Why don’t you just get on with a response. You’ve achieved some stuff this year. You might as well tell all the people out there who are perched on the edges of their sofas wanting to know what you’ve accomplished this year and what’s challenged you.”
“OK. Well, this time last year was struggling to live above my means in California and wondered how I was going to fix my life. My JOB was vanishing and I’d contacted the union about it, but it had not, so far, done anything — it would not do anything. Brad was fixing up my house, but half the time he didn’t show up. With stars in my eyes, I was planning a summer lit class, not knowing what a disaster it would be. Shudder. In every respect I’m in a far better place now than I was then. Anyone who wants to know can read about it here. As for what I’ve accomplished? I saved myself.”
“Exactly, Dude. For now.”
Written in response to Bumblepuppies’ prompt on bcandelabra: “Doesn’t everyone just love the sight of the “Beep Beep Boop” screen when we try to write a post? That’s what I thought. It kind of makes you wonder where the folks at WordPress got such a wonderful idea. For this week’s challenge, you’re going to speculate on how that phrase came to become so prominent around here.”
I am afraid I can’t even categorize “Beep Beep Boop” as an idea. And, when I looked for images I could use to illustrate this post, the first dozen were, you got it, WordPress. My best guess is that there is a lost Road Runner cartoon out there in which the Road Runner is trying to get Betty Boop out of his way. I can get behind that; she bothers me, too, and probably the Road Runner has a bomb to throw at Why Lee Coyote and the fuse is burning fast.
I seldom see this little Beep Beep Boop weirdness.
It alone is enough to make me go to my admin page and write my posts using the “old” editor rather than the “improved” editor (which I don’t think is an improvement — I like my tools on the right side of my screen, not the left). I find the whole “improved editor” to be kind of insulting and childish, but I’m not the target market and that’s OK.
As for the folks at WordPress? I’ve quit speculating. I don’t think they’re very bright nor are they very creative and I think they live in their own little world. I did the 101 class to get a better sense of this, and it was uninspired but I met some nice people. And that, I’ve concluded, is what this is about.
Daily Prompt To Sleep, Perchance to Dream Sleep is one-third of our lives: write a post about it. Do you love naps? Have trouble falling alseep? Wish you could remember your dreams? Remember something especially vivid? Snuggle under a blanket, or throw the windows wide open? Meditate on sleep. (Thanks for the suggestion, thunderwhenitrains!)
“Sleep? I’ll tell you about sleep. You go to bed in your favorite cave and wake up to find parasites stuck to your front.”
“What are you talking about, Lamont?”
“Being a bear. That was a strange iteration if there ever was one.”
“You were a bear? Where was I?”
“I don’t know. I don’t remember seeing you around anywhere that time. You might’ve been something simple, like a berry bush or an insect, no idea.”
“Hmmm. Or I could have sat that one out or been in a different part of the world?”
“That’s a good question. It seems we’ve always been in the northern hemisphere.”
“That’s true. I hadn’t thought of it. Well, maybe I was on the other side of the world that time?”
“So what does sleep mean to you Lamont?”
“It means I’m not awake, Dude. Some animals are really good at it like sloths and such. House cats, I hear, are good at sleeping.”
“Do you remember being a giant tree sloth?”
“I wasn’t a giant tree sloth.”
“Bear sloth I mean. My bad.”
“I wasn’t a bear sloth, Dude. I was a mastodon.”
“That interval went on a while. Did you like it? I liked it a lot. It was easy to get around, hard to get warm sometimes, but easy to get around. I mean we went to Moscow.”
“There was no Moscow. The world was a giant Gulag, Dude.”
“It was cold, that’s true, but hey.”
“Never mind. Either you liked it or you didn’t. When you were a bear, you were a female then.”
“Yeah. Every year sometime in the middle of winter, these strange beings would attach themselves to my front and spend quite a long time there. I was always glad when spring finally arrived and we could get out.”
“Those were cubs, Lamont.”
“I know they were cubs, Dude. But at first… You’ve never been a mama bear?”
“I was Goldilocks once.”
Daily Prompt It’s My Party You’re throwing a party — for you! Tell us all about the food, drink, events, and party favours you’ll have for your event of a lifetime. Use any theme you like — it’s *your* party!
Parents like to buy books to help their children develop motor skills and learn the customs of their world. One of these books in my childhood was My Birthday Party. I can even remember the illustrations in this book and their colors. A popular color combination back in the 50s was red/pink/black/gray with maybe some green accents. This book was like that.
It had a story in the front. A little girl made invitations and sent them to all her friends. They all came to the party and had a wonderful time. There was a pink cake with red roses and green squiggles and they played games after they had cake. Yeah. Typical kid’s party.
At the end of the story there were heavy paper models that a kid could pop out of the book and assemble into a birthday cake to “play birthday party.” I did this. I made the 8 little pink wedges, that looked just like the cake in the story, and put them together into a circle. It also had invitations that a kid could “write” on. I was already writing, but not reading yet, so only my dad could tell that I’d written my friends’ names on those invitations because he was the only person who could read my writing. He said he’d mail them on his way to work. There were also table decorations to assemble, and I put them together, too.
I’ve always been an imaginative person, more, I’m sure, than my mom understood, especially then when I was four or five and we were getting to know each other. They had no idea what was going on inside my head, none. If they had…
The day for the party came, the one I’d written on the invitations. I set up the folding table in my room, laid out all the paper cake plates from the book and set a “cake” wedge on each one. I asked for candles, but mom said no (there was a hole in the top of each wedge for a candle). I set the decorations on the middle of the table. Then I got dressed up and went to the living room. I sat in the green chair by the front door and waited for my friends to come. It was a rainy, rainy day with a dark sky. No one came. My little heart was broken. My parents were stunned. They had assumed I knew it was “pretend.”
Now, when I hold a party, I always imagine that no one shows up. In fact, the thought of holding a party is a major stressor for me. Those first experiences leave deep tracks in the sand of our souls.
Daily Prompt Singular Sensation If you could have a guarantee that one, specific person was reading your blog, who would you want that person to be? Why? What do you want to say to them?
It was a little disconcerting this morning to sit down to work on this prompt and find someone had already read and commented on my post! That’s what happens when prompts are repeated, I guess. I’ve linked it below, under the “Hi Dad!” Most of what I wrote last year I would have written this morning. Some of the major details have changed, though. I’m not teaching anymore. I wrote this last January which means I was stressed from the beginning of the semester — but it would prove to be my last semester. My dad didn’t live long enough to be able to retire. He died six years after the photo above was taken. He had MS. He and my mom planned to move to Las Cruces, New Mexico when he retired. It’s a pretty town and I gave it some thought, too. My dad would now be 90, Mom, 95. A blog post for my father to read. He can’t, but I hope you enjoy it.
I’m not a mountaineer. I’m just a little lady who loves mountains. What I love best about mountains, actually, is looking at them from a distance. They seem to promise so much and I love those promises. As long as I can remember, I’ve felt this way about them and I’ve been lucky to have seen a lot of great mountains in my life, some of them up close.
But when you’re close to a mountain, it becomes something else. It becomes a trail, a ski run, a face, a glacier, a route, a snow field. The mountain is gone. Because of this, I never really minded Southern California. The “mountains” in my California life were all under 10,000 feet and the ones I spent the most time on were not mountains at all; they were hills that happened to rise above the surrounding landscape one or two thousand feet. I got to know these mountains well; they were the right scale for intimacy.
I spent at least an hour most days between 1987 and 2005 on one or another of these trails through the mountains. What I liked was motion and the chance to see animals and the way my mind would work after about 30 minutes of hard exertion. I also liked that I was alone, with my dogs, most of the time and I liked whatever surprises came my way. Coyotes yipping and howling, sometimes to me; the burst of Datura fragrance at dusk on a warm summer evening; an owl silently flying ten feet from my face; the screech of a hawk in the blue sky; the fragrance of black sage after rain; rainbows; clouds that touch the ridge; standing with one hand in rain the other outside of the rain shadow; the view of the desert from a high place; small seasonal waterfalls; dogs “fishing” in puddles; standing in a golden field with a friend watching a black shouldered kite hover in her hunt; bald eagles fishing in eskers coming out of the flooded reservoir; following my white husky into a thicket to find a surprised doe staring into my eyes; wild lilac blooming all around, their tiny blue petals falling on the trail; thousands of lady bugs in the tall grass; the fun of climbing up a mean little mountain with a good friend and looking over the desert at the Salton Sea; my white husky swimming in a spring; a manzanita ancient and huge with beautiful red bark; orange poppies blooming everywhere; a roadrunner staying in arm’s reach as we both climb a steep, steep trail; ravens surfing on a thermal showing off, I think, for me as I sat and watched on a cliff right beside them; sunset bright red on the ocean 70 miles from where I stood on a narrow, snowy ledge; a mountain lion; the coyote following along beside me as I carried my dead dog’s tag to place on a fence post. I also liked the discomforts; flies in the face, rattlesnakes on the trails, carrying water (lots of water in summer), heat, cold, wet, storms, mud, night. I liked that everything around me was OTHER than I, that the only power I had in that place was over myself, my attitude. I liked that the power of it, nature, is never arbitrary or fake. I liked being where I knew I belonged as a natural creature, not a proponent of culture — a teacher.
I learned so much on those trails, mostly about myself. I learned things I probably am not even fully aware of but which stand me in good stead every day of my life.
Growing to maturity in Colorado in the 70s meant that I was surrounded by the emerging climbing culture. Many of my friends climbed — I climbed, when it comes to it. I liked the feel of rock under my hands; I liked finding routes; I liked the strength involved in making it from place to place. It was never more than a hobby for me, though. What I liked best was moving through space and climbing what came between me and the next vista. Others, though, became mountaineers. Some of them got hurt and most of them didn’t and ended up quitting at a certain point because it is kind of a stupid way to die unless it is your passion.
Last night I watched a film done by Outside magazine, a little documentary and interview of Reinhold Messner, probably THE greatest climber of my generation, and because I liked climbers, love mountains and faraway places, I followed Messner’s adventures. He was the first climber to solo climb Everest without bottled oxygen. He was also a participant/believer in the “free” climbing movement which means climbing without relying much on technical tools to make the climb safer. That style of climbing means you don’t leave hardware on the mountain and the route remains pristine for the next person. I knew if I were a climber, that’s what I would do, too. Messner free-climbed Everest (and many other mountains).
Reinhold Messner was born in 1944 so he’s eight years older than I. In the film I watched last night, I’d guess he was in his sixties. He talked about his philosophy of climbing and answered the question, “Why did you climb?” He asserted he was climbing to learn about himself, to learn about his limitations. He spoke about fear and what fear can teach a person. He said (as I used to say to my students!) “We suck as animals. We might have a man he runs 100 meters in 9 seconds or so but any horse would beat him; we’re not so fast, and there are animals that can pull themselves over an overhang, no problem. We have nothing special except this,” and he pointed at his head, “we have this brain. It’s fear that pushed us into figuring things out, how to get away from the lion or the tiger.”
The interviewer asked him what he had hoped to achieve as a climber and Messner said, “I wasn’t achieving anything except for my own. I was having adventure. The adventure begins here.” He tapped his head again. I thought about that a lot since then — adventure is really everything. All my trails were adventures. I went out every time ready for whatever happened; happy with the consequences. I thought about Messner’s idea of adventure — it does begin in the mind. It is going out into something you’re afraid of and maybe you fail. He said, “Well, I was going up Everest alone without oxygen so there were some things I wasn’t going to do. I was going to take the usual route most people take, not an unknown route. I had to carry all my things myself, so I knew I had to go fast, and to stay up at that altitude too long is dangerous. I was three days up and two days back. It would be easy for things to go wrong. I had to be able to see my footprints or I wouldn’t get back down, but you see, I saw them, I got back down.” He laughed. Thinking is the part that eliminates all that is NOT the adventure.
He talked about how all the big mountains will stop being adventures. “To get to the top of a mountain is a kind of superficial goal; that’s not the adventure. There are thousands of mountains and walls and faces no one has climbed, but the people are going to the top of Mt. Everest.”
I thought about that, too. Since, for me, mountains are beautiful things at a distance, they are all mountains I have not climbed. The mountains I have climbed? Fortuna, South Fortuna, Kwapaay, Cowles, Laguna, Hays Peak and Garnet Peak. That’s it. Not much of a peak bagger… My life has been on a few hard trails but all mountains are trails. I just had to earn a living and I never earned much. It wasn’t like I could pick up and go even to Yosemite.
But the most truly beautiful thing Messner said was that in his mind, in his climbs, he had inscribed lines on the faces of the mountains and walls that he climbed. Only he can see the lines, no one else. Others will have the chance to make their own lines in their own lifetimes. “Each generation remakes the world,” he said. Without the beauty and the mystery, the story that hasn’t yet been written, there is no adventure. Leaving protection on the rock is stealing from the future the possibility of adventure.
He said some other things that touched me, but maybe most touching was this, “I can’t do it any more. I got this leg that gives me some problems, so now I’m going to do these other things, find different adventures.”
Here’s the film: