life

When in Doubt…

When in doubt, sit and have a cup of coffee.  There are times when we are stumped, misled, in a conundrum about how to do, how to fix something (and there are always things to fix).  To have the patience to know when it is time to stop and have a cup of coffee, however, is a talent that many do not have.

It takes perseverance and patience to know when it is time to stop.

What is the teacher that teaches us such things?  Anger and frustration.  Things don’t care and the universe (especially physics) has no aim or motivation to make our lives miserable.  We do just fine at that without any help.

When to tool slips, the nut strips, the puzzle just cannot be figured out…take a break.

On a farm it is easy to get wrapped up in the endless maze of chores, of work, of reparations.  But, having lived a life both in the professional and agrarian world, the endless list of things to do differ only in type, not amount.

And so take a break, grab a chair, have a coffee, get a nap; do what you need to do to figure out the problem.  As many have found out: many a puzzle has been solved in dreams.

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Speed Limits

 

For the last ten days I’ve been motorcycling around the Northeast and the Midwest.  Through the rolling mountains of New York, the Catskills and the Allegheny mountains touted small towns, luscious forests and hidden restaurant gems that serve farm-to-table foods together with local brews.

The Allegheny mountains through Pennsylvania seemed more rough and rowdy than the somewhat civilized backwoods of New York, but they too served up ready brews and food from local farmers.  The stars of the trip, no doubt, but the winding road through West Virginia and the amazing nature that goes along with such twisting scenery soothes the soul, even at 65 mph around 35 mph corners.

The Midwest’s flat lands were a welcomed respite from from the work of the winding roads that flattened out in Ohio, Indiana and Missouri.  The food changed too.  Now the long single-lane roads were dotted with small towns and more fast-food.  The roads were beautiful in themselves and offered thoughts that were often recited out loud in the helmet while the wind whistled constantly.

I love motorcycles because they allow the riders willing to search an experience that is lost on those that scale the highways in their air-conditioned automobiles.  The experience is sensory in all its forms: from the smells to the tastes of coming rains.  The motorcyclist recognizes the differences between the small back roads and the long reigning highways.

The small roads offer smells of pine and forest, of food and farms, of the dank and dusky smells of animal life to the warm and inviting smells of people cooking for others.  The highways offer time but at a price: the experiences are limited to oil in fryers to oil at the gas stations.  Everything is fast, from the food to the freeways.

I have lived on the highways for long enough, but the small back roads take getting used to.  Perhaps I will slow those corners to their posted speed limits one day.motorcycles

Persistent Perseverance

To make anything of value work, persistence is the key.  This old and perhaps worn-out adage is, in fact, true.  As a newly minted, self-sufficient farmer I can attest for that.  However, persistence is only half the story.

Perseverance is the other half.  Self-sufficiency is honest work; it is demanding work, and it is unforgiving.  Failure is not an option: it is a matter of fact, it is an absolute.  You will persist…at first.

And when persistence seems impossible, perseverance needs to take over.

Often times the work will seem endless, giving up seems at times the only option, but only half of that is true: the work is endless but life is not.

Take time to look up at the stars at night.  Take time to watch the fog break early in the morning over the uncut fields.  Take time to watch the turkey eating the fallen crab apples down by the creek.  And take time to enjoy life and the ones you love.

Work will be there, as it always is, but we must persevere in the happiness that is life and be persistent in the value that we put upon it.

Space

spaceSpace is amazing thing.  We create things to create space; we place things to create certain spaces and we rely upon people to give us space.  Space surrounds us; it makes up most of the universe and yet we are surrounded by barriers.

Once asked the job of government the answer was simple: to create space for a civilized society.

Once asked why read, the answer was simple: to create space in our minds for imagination.

Why learn?  To create space for curiosity.

Why be curious?  To create space for progress.

We all need space to ourselves and to allow space for others.  This is not just tolerance; we must not tolerate stupidity or incompetence.  But we must leave space for those who do not want to be or to remain stupid; to be or to remain incompetent.

There must be space for them and the change that they search for in the space that they live in.

There must be space for change; and it is in the spaces that we create that life happens.

Last Man Standing

PHOTO: Mohammed Doyo, head caretaker, caresses Sudan, the last male northern white rhino left on the planet. (Nichole Sobecki for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

For so many people an animal, far from their reality, that dies is a news item and nothing else.  Their families, their jobs, their lives take precedence over the importance of a single rhino that dies thousands of miles away.  But this death is important to us as a species: it represents our disregard for those around us and the world in which we live.

With the passing of the last white rhino, our world becomes a little less interesting, and much less diverse.  The world that we live in becomes smaller as our understanding becomes more narrowly focused.  Selfishness is not a virtue that we can count upon to survive; human beings are not the center, focal point of all things.  And so as another animal dies due to human action, this lesson becomes more important.

But how can we take into consideration an animal that dies thousands of miles outside of our perspective when we cannot take into consideration those around us, those outside of our own families?  This is, of course, a rhetorical question.  To say that our families must always take precedence over all things is not enough.  The kind of life we want our families to have is directly correlated to the kind of life we want everyone and everything to have and so as the world becomes a poorer place the quality of life is diminished; it goes quietly.

Our decisions cannot in any moral sense be limited to our own narrow perspective; easy is not an option.  Somehow we must realize that it is not the quantity but the quality of life that matters.  Until this sense of virtue is understood there will always be a last man standing as the world putters by.

MISTAKES, MISGIVINGS, AND MOTIVATIONS: IV

face roadmap

Leaving; there was no where.  Looking; there was no road.  The silence of the forest and the whisper of the wind off of the ocean; the mists off the mountain tops and the death of the desert’s heat; the man had been many places and was still looking.

Still, looking.  “I am still looking….”, thought the man, “still looking for my home.”  The past in his pocket and the future on his mind he stilled his weary thoughts and lifted the weight once again of what would have to be done.  The difficult task ahead, that he knew all too well, was once again upon him.

“This is life.”, he said to himself as we walked along noticing all of the people who had there own pockets and pasts, their own illusions and dreams, their own weights to bear.  And it showed in their faces and in their eyes.  It showed in how they walked away and to, how they moved and sauntered; how they sat and slept as he past them by.

“Mirror’s everywhere.”, he thought.  “Mirror’s everywhere.”

The Sun Goes Down

A new place; a new beginning. Pulling the old, familiar tools out again I go to work. Things are the same, but yet (as people always seem to say) they are the same. The smells that make up a home coat this house, but they are unfamiliar as they always are. At first, not knowing where to begin, I begin; and the day goes. The sun comes up.

I throw old memories down the staircase knowing that at one time they were important. They aren’t mine, but I feel for them nevertheless. Almost as if time as stopped I pause at a few, looking at them and understanding that there is a time for everything and an end to everything as well. The house is full of these memories; some are good, and some are just…memories.

The wood stove warms up the place and it comes to life. The house was never dead as some that I have known were near. It is a heavy feeling to work in a near-dead house. This one is tired, it is worn out but friendly. Silent, but thankful. Years go by in an hour. Days go by in a minute. I put another slice of wood in the stove and the cinammon smell of dried oak and pine fill the room.

The house is patient with me as I go about my chores. I leave for while to start a tractor, to make plans, to pick up wood, to have coffee, but I come back and start again. Each time I walk into the house the musty smell of smoke, incense, wood and beer fill my nose. It is not a bad smell, not a good smell; it is the smell of years of life, of existence, of survival, of talks and fights.  It is not my life, but somehow it is all of our lives. Human life is messy and the house as experienced all that people can give it.

And now, like me, it begins a new adventure. I almost see it smile as a close the door as the sun goes slowly down behind the trees.

MISTAKES, MISGIVINGS, AND MOTIVATIONS: III

face roadmap

As he realized, there was no explanation and searching for answers to the puzzle that the past posed, he found none.  With the past in his pocket, there was only the unknown, the future left to pack.  And as he folded and flipped the future a new realization dawned: it was not his own.

“The future is not ours…”, he thought out loud.  “The future belongs to no one; it is, in fact, nothing.”  As the thought settled in his head he reached for another piece to pack and found that there was always something to put into his bag, into his pocket to become the tear-soaked past.

“Something out of nothing is the truth; finally!  The Truth!!”

And what of meaning and these dangerous days of wonder and worry.  There will come more mistakes and more misgivings, but of what?  And about what?  If the future is truly nothing, than we are left with the pocket full of past and the present that we cannot notice.  Are we truly slaves to the limits of time or are we burdened with the freedom of space?

Philosophical nonsense made meaningless by poetry and prose, by literature and leitmotifs.  And as these thoughts ran through his head, the responsibilities that he had once believed he had had continued to create something that was never his.  Picking up his empty bag and feeling the weight in his pocket, he turned to go.

The Unattainable 

Looking at a mountain and slowly crawling up its magnificient facade by eye; the peak, so far up, and smiling down, from its precipice in the sky; seems to smile and smirk as if to say there is no way you will come to me.
And as you ready yourself, taking long breaths and feeling the tingle in your gut; you busy yourself with tools and toys and thoughts of what you must; the answer, you realize and come to know, is in your thoughts and not what you see.

 
The journey begins one step at a time, one foot, one stone, one rock; you begin the climb and see the sights that the trees down below have blocked; the climb is steep and the rocks are loose and the peak continues to smile.
The days go by, the tiredness heavy, and newness has worn off; your muscles sore, and so alone but the voices in your head they scoff; the morning comes and the pain is fierce, but ahead mile after mile, after mile.

 
Until one day, all hope is gone, the peak it snears and screams; the pain is numb, the cold is deep, and misery is in your dreams; you walk again, your bones are brittle, your desire is all but erased.
Dumb and blind, careless and lost, your adventure is no more; no more pain can cause you harm, there is no voice to implore; but at the top, you’ve made your goal! And now a smile comes across your face.

 
At the peak you sit and eat, and hope and power you feel; the sun shines down and the rocks are warm, your fate it has been sealed; you have conquered your fear and made better your life; explained the unexplainable.
Looking down, the trail is known, and the miles they melt away; you’ve not met your match, you’ve accomplished much no matter what others say; all are proven wrong, and you are honestly proud to have attained the unattainable.

It’s Just a Feeling

There is a place for that feeling that we get, our gut feeling, without explanation, about places, people, and decisions.  Sometimes that feeling is a warm and tingly sensation in the stomach and sometimes that feeling is a knot.  Somehow (it seems) our body is reacting to thoughts that we might not realize that we have; somehow are emotion is a road sign to an unknown understanding.

Perhaps this unconscious intelligence has just been blinded by a society that is motivated not by curiosity but by consumerism?  Maybe it takes time to realize, to listen, that how we feel is sometimes linked to what we do.  David Hume famously stated that reason is the slave of the passions.

Do not get me wrong: logical reasoning and rationale must be the foundation; we cannot lie to ourselves and equate our emotions with intelligence.  However, we are human and we must accept the bastard child, emotion.  Reigned in and controlled it will steer us toward what we truly want, ironically.

Think about it: the dreams that we pursue are not rational when we envision them but must be rationally pursued to make them a reality.  So, it seems, that we have a choice: 1) to sleep and perchance to dream, or 2) To dream and perchance to act.  It’s just a feeling after all, but feelings count when we choose to listen carefully.