Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ten Ways to Kick-Start Enthusiasm in a Downturn

1.Be the solution.
2.You have already within you and your network of colleagues and friends, a vast resource.
3.Be an "idea bouncer."
4. Listen to children carefully.
5.Write and draw for no reason.
6. Display your work and believe that it is beautiful.
7.Be the first one to taste a snowflake.
8.Be faithful to your ideas, while all the while gathering more ideas for more grist
9. You can always wait to edit, but beware of the trap of thinking that you will always be able to pick up the thread easily. Even people without memory issues lose good content in the blink of an eye
1o. Snow melts fast. Be here now. Frustration and anger will inevitably dog your heels, so it behoves us to make friends with the enemy. Look for opportunities to embrace "AFGO's. (Another fcking growth opportunity)and enjoy the process of conversion from "Grinch" to "Mensch.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Care Giving

Who wants to be a caregiver! The benefits are great! Because you are the only one who can, or will provide care, all of the wonderful jobs that could be parceled out to others rarely do!. It's a thankless task, but don't despair, because you have led a life of constant sacrifice, you seem never to have any time for yourself! Oh, I don't mind, I don't need any time for myself. I wouldn't know what to do with all that leisure. Besides, God knows that your doing the right thing. I wouldn't know what to do with all that idle time, any way.We'll take a nice holiday one of these days, when things are less hectic... There are real-world saints among us every day. Consider giving them the day, or week or month off. All of us deserve leisure time, quality time, time to do what YOU have always wanted to do. This plea comes from a recipient of wonderful care giving. My wife has taught me that leisure is essential,even when it seems frivolous to others or ourselves. We only get one turn at life. Choose wisely. Love deeply.When a chance to improve another's lot, do not hesitate to jump in! You'll never regret generous kindness.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Basilica Needs a Labyrinth!

Seriously. One of the most profound meditative experiences available to the lay person, or any other soul desiring a respite from the banality and meaninglessness of our daily round, can be found as near as the closest Labyrinth. The ancient practice of walking the "maze" has captured many a soul, most probably because the physical action of its twists and turns, coinciding with the step and breath of the human in motion, excites, even as it calms. Many prefer the setting of an outdoor Labyrinth, most likely due to the fresh air and sight-lines that seem to integrate the worlds of the interior and exterior as one all-encompassing meditative experience. There are many Labyrinths in the Baltimore area, but the most un-used and relevant location by far, would be the south-facing lawn of the Basilica. It would command a fine vista to the south, while bringing an invitation to experience the joy of a walk in the wide and gracious path. Seeing the worshipers as they wend their way through the maze would invite others to experience the maze, beckoning others to explore a meditative walk with a vista and an invitation to explore. in time, many would come to incorporate a regular outlet for a delightful spiritual experience in the midst of a hectic day, or just a moment of gratitude

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

If all the Hippies cut off their hair...I don't care...

It seems downright tautological to believe that Alz is a condition that will be cured at some point in time.We humans have a pretty good track record, even in cases that seem to be intractable. It may take a good long time, but my bet is that it will go the way of Small Pox and Measles. In the mean time, however, there is a paucity of light, giving little hope in this otherwise gloom benighted sphere. If we can embrace the darkness,we may be able to glean the clues that nature, or, our scientists, or a shout out for some help from the higher power that may possibly be just the bit of information we need to flip the switch. Many examples can be found in the history of science, and who knows, maybe we'll catch a break. The time for wishful thinking is over, but the more human community present in the gracious good will of a group of intelligent, creative, and compassionate people can always win the day. Of course, it is up to all of us, and nothing will become of our efforts if we can't find a way to merge our talents, focus on the light, and imbue all of our energies, in all of our endeavors, within a framework of integrity and love.Our aim is lofty, but the energies of our people will bring us to an utterly other country.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Not One Wrong Note

Yesterday, my wife and I experienced the remarkable musical institution known as the Vienna Boy's Choir. As we slid into the perfectly placed seats at Baltimore's Meyerhoff' Symphony Hall, memories of my days as a boy in the Choir of Downtown's Old Saint Paul's Church came flooding to mind, with the jittery moments before the baton was raised, and then the rush that can only come from the inhale of breath and a silence broken for ever. The sweet notes found full flower, and we were off, stunned momentarily, to find so full and strong a sound, from these boys who have been toughened and tried, demanding much of themselves...my thoughts had need of wandering, for the experience of this performance made me review the accolades that my own Boy's Choir colleagues once dreamed of attaining. While we found other ways and other paths, we remained faithful to the quest for accurate pitch, pin-point attack, and many of the other skills that separate the casual whistler from the budding musician. For myself, music, and it's practice, holds a world of beauty and accuracy to which many are called, but few are chosen. While in the long run, I could not make the grade, I had a good long draught at the well, and it has given me great love for music in all it's forms. Hic Finis Est

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Clout

Which disease is the worst? The disease of wishful thinking? Waiting for "Godot?"Bigotry? Indifference? The false promise of a cure? These possibilities confront us all from time to time, but in the ALZ world, it's becoming very clear that researching goes only so far. These may be the darkest days yet, for it now seems that all of the so-called "promising" ALZ medications have been roundly discredited. It is a bitter pill to swallow, (or "patch"). So what is to be done? Let's think back to yester-year, for a moment. We eliminated TB, we managed to thwart AIDS (for the most part), and all in all, we've done pretty well with the most heinous of maladies. We should be able to overcome this insult to our civilization. Unfortunately, we have not been able, thus far, to create an effective motivation to deal with this most heinous of public health challenges. Pity our children, for the burden we are passing on, and for the results of the decay of wholesale lack of acuity. When language fails, civilization implodes, and the body becomes an onerous burden. We must not pass on this legacy to future generations! Without voice, without reason, we will surely leave a legacy that no one can bear. The time has come to focus and act!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tesuque

Periodically, the memory of living in New Mexico asserts itself, and today happens to be the day for the Tesuque tribe to nod it's place in my memory. I will not romance the conditions of the tribe: dirt floors, urination anywhere, any time, enhanced, by the mongrel population for maximum racket and overall unrest in the camp. Afterbirth, questionable water sources, a sort of laisez faire attitude combined with the ravages of alcoholism, all in the name of need for whiskey and ammunition, scavenging petrol, fighting over the jug, with a huge tolerance for squalor, numbed to the cries and screams of the night. The night grows numb, and dim, and the day fades to the spectaculour colors of the sandstone bluffs, crumbling inexorably into the arroyos, shifting out of the wind, without the possibility of shelter. The impossible light finally drags its paint can to sleep, as the howls of coyote finish the day.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It is what it is.

I don't like having Alz Disease. I dislike the vagueness, the pauses that almost never refresh, the stutter that builds to an unbearable explosion, propelled much of the time by a yearning to unleash a stream of feeling, a desire to let flow the deluge of pent up words that will never come out right, the misfire that stops the flow cold, or worse yet, the "spitling" that comes bursting, gargled, and twisted, gutteral and raw, a mad dog, chasing a tail that cannot be caught, behind a cruel master who seems to delight in the pain of expression, the master that drags and alternatively, praises and scolds, never knowing when to cower, when to growl, when to expose the belly, when to cover and slink. Keep your powder dry, your wits about you, or rather, pretend you have wits, for these are in short supply, and there are dangers unseen, ruses and false leads, dead ends and tight corners, cul-de-sacs and broken roads. Today I am fine. Today I love and honor, and have integrity...but the under-belly is exposed, and the roads tend toward misgiving, and the light dies slowly, Faulknerian, brusque, uncertain lines, meter decaying, ...where is love, where is the rest of me, my blue-eyed son, or you my one true one...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

From the sublime to the ridiculous

One of the best aspects of living and working in Baltimore is the nearly constant availability of live music, due mostly from our wonderful Peabody Conservatory and the hordes of musicians that live, create, and one-up them selves, vying for fame, mastery, and a shot at a life making music. A case in point: I wandered into the Basilica in B'more this noon, and dropped everything, once I realized that I had just walked into a harp recital that lasted forty minutes, and gave me a jeweled diadem of a reason to just stop, listen and float away on the phenomenal acoustics that made an hour of serenity and phenomenal live music the best gift I have had all day. Of course, this is Baltimore, however, and when I emerged from my harp-induced reverie, and quickly realized that I had jumped into an altercation outside the Super Fresh Grocery store, I felt right back at home, instantly Now that's culture!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Clearing away the wreckage of the present

Now that all drug regimens thought to be useful in the battle for acuity and progress in the fight against ALZ have been virtually discredited, it is time to husband resources, pressure the medical establishment, and make a national/global effort on behalf of the the millions of people creating a drain on the energy, creativity, and forward progress of our species. The cost of not addressing this issue will create a societal backlash and a legacy that will dog our civilization for generations to come. The costs of this systemic drain on the species will pale before the mammoth loss of productivity, and innovation for decades to come. If we do not act now, through a dedication to research and our own ingenuity, we will have left a legacy that will damn the future to a world of devolution and misery. This is an imperative of the highest order, or we shall preside over the extinction of a world gone awry.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Back from the Shadowlands

The floods of Autumn continue, but they are nothing to the mental torrent of twisted, maniacal, chemically induced apparitions reminiscent of none but Poe. The physicians have done their work, tinkering with their potions, gleefully observing the torturous distortions, wrought by demons of glee, all in service to healing, to staying in the game, finding a new way, giving hope a chance to occur, giving science a shot at finding a breakthrough, giving sufferers in the battle for acuity a shred of hope, even if fleeting, even if nothing, there will be an outcome, and it might as well be positive, nothing ventured, nothing gleaned, all effort is good, all love is beneficent, passed on, in the branching forth of discovery, there is ALWAYS hope and love. Sometimes it takes a darkened, gloom-benighted sphere to rouse the angry call from the universe, the dampening of hope, the miscalculations, the possibility of despair, but through it all a guiding potentiality that refuses to dim. Teach us good lord, to serve as thou deservest; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do thy will.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wishful, Sinful

If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: Infinite. For man has closed himself up, til' he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern... Loosen, then, return to flight, and soar as spirit dallying in the infernal updraft and spark, to give always and everywhere to the breath of god, to still and swell the song carrying frequencies untold and un-telling...
so our problem as finite beings on earth, is a grappling of perspective, a chance to see over the shoulder of the beast, trying to subdue the awesome power of the imagination, never to be consumed, always to be caught up in the forces and powers of the earth and its beings. Everything that lives is sacred, everything that dies is sacred, everything that moves and changes and gives and blesses and melts and freezes, slowing the discourse, wrangling the beast, helping the lover the melter the chimera the man who can't stop laughing, can't stop tap tap tapping until the sliver of a crack begins to loosen, changing states again, into the liquid, into the ether glass, obsidionic, waiting for the state to change and drool, the master's hand, the ball that won't fall, the hearthstone welcoming the disarray of fractured light, conchoidial, chaotic, and yearning for the next age of embryonic fury. Bring it. Trip the light conchoidial! Cooling now to the smooth touch, the cooling, the patron saint of clarity within distortion

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Now what?

I feel like I am running out of material. I have just so many stories, just so many laughs, just so many terrors, and I cannot replenish fast enough. Thankfully, I ran into one of my most precious friends today in the street, and I re-energized with the help of that stimulus, and I got the most important energy, that is, all love, all love. If God is limitless, there must be some variability, some way to look homeward, to look into the far future, to take what I have woven into my body and mind. My stories run thin, and I wonder every day what new thing I can uncover, some new discovery, meeting another unknown, lying down with the women on the church portico, protecting one another from the edge of night, strength in numbers even if I'm not sure, or no, I am never sure, no one is, but the portico that shelters the women in the night, strengthening one another, keeping close, the college professor, the doctor, the crazy lady rolling back and forth gently keening, whimpering, rubbing thumb and fore-finger together, just to remind her self, my self, the others never gone perhaps, but I just don't know, I have to be alert, have to keep myself, bringing my self to my self, trading too many crackers for the long ride home, vigilant, vigilant, always, for there is no such thing as forgiveness, only strength and an uncertain promise of the morrow, let us pray, let us pray, let us sleep hard enough to get through, take, eat, this is my body which is given for us, try for a laugh, try for a person to be kind in spite of themselves, the thinnest mat is a lifesaver, as pavement is utterly bearable with a 16th inch of a mat, Hail Mary, full of grace, the lord is with thee. Blessed art though amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Nature's Wonders

The last 24 hours have shown the power and the unseen hand of the weather, the force of the universe, and the remarkable breadth of the forms that evolve on this planet. We awoke clear and bright, and we will sleep until the morrow, when the wildness of the surf and it's winds and tides will once again re-make the shore, tossing up the wrack, and giving the observer another plate of food for the curious, as in olden times, as our science and its truths began to take the wonder out of man's affectionate longing for truth, cause, and the certain nature of things. I am no Luddite, but I yearn for the kind of discovery that only the curious can conjure, taking half-truths based on imagination, nothing but "what-ifs and ""why"s, pushing so hard to find a plausible notion, that seems to fit, seems to reveal a tiny piece of the whole, our one star the only light we see, often clouded, ever-changing and ever-present, but here, there, in ourselves and in our own beacon, shone sometimes benighted, but never yet extinguished. In our little place, the dolphins have given us joy, their seeming antics and jocular conviviality in astounding profusion, while feeling that they know far more than we, and could be coaxed to teach us how to sing their songs and tales; their display this day, more yet than any other, seemed to show such understanding and conviviality, as we witnessed today, dozens of animals interacting and seemingly coordinating the sallies and thrusts that seemed to have some intelligence, as the fish seemed to bunch up and herd the schools that swam in such close proximity and profusion that the fins and thrusts boiled and edddied like some sort of sport or feeding frenzy. It was an awesome spectacle, very close to the shore, and an amazing display of the power and intelligence of these creatures that fascinate us.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Nature's Fury

Last week I was treated to a spectacle of nature that I have cherished since my boyhood. Thunder storms affect many people this way. There is an undeniable primality in the bombastic release of energy and kinesis that just makes me want to go native. When I stand on the deck of my little house in the woods, surrounded by very large trees and, accented by the fact that my home looks out across a flat, treeless swampy terrain, which allows one to really focus on the movement that develops when the storms strike. This past week was one of the most powerful storms we have had in a very long time. As I always do, when these conditions are present, I prepare for the event by removing all clothing and begin some sort of chanting, or my version of primitive singers, which to any sane person would look like some kind of psychotic meltdown or peyote induced, shamanistic invocation to the gods of kinesis and root-level physics brought on by a desire to be one with the life/death force and the inevitable glimpse of the universe that the combination of watching the tops of trees start to break off and fly around, and the abrupt reality of nearly getting knocked into oblivion by TWO lightning strikes that I actually watched/were in/ within the very few moments I had before diving back into the house as the crashing sound of a ten inch diameter tulip poplar gave it up sending debris and splinters, leaving TWO slick white sappy scars that looked like elephant tusks in the two strikes. I have yet to make a dent in the downed tree limbs, as wet tulip trees defy the Stihl chainsaw. All in good time...and maybe that Was the wicked witch of the west after all. Hic finis est.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Voluntarism

I just realized thatI am disabled. I know this because I am no longer legally able to work for a living. This was my own decision, even though it still seems like some sort of "Catch 22", since I can read and write and drive my car competently. I am writing this to try to understand what options I have, in the business of living. When I filed for Disability Insurance, I really didn't understand the consequences of these actions. My brain does not function properly. I cannot hold a new memory for any length of time, but often, I can summon a memory of the past. I can participate in conversation, as long as the thread remains unbroken. I can generate new threads of narrative, and I can participate until my memory decays with regard to a particular topic. Interestingly, I have created a Blog that has been going on now for almost a year, and many people comment favorably on my blog posts. I have found that the disease has it's own curriculum. It schools me, and I manipulate it (never nearly perfectly!) One might wonder if there is a way to intertwine these intelligences, somehow, through combined perspectives and experiences: perhaps some sort of "group mind." I have recently observed that among some groups and close colleagues, there begins an approximation of this capacity, that, like a marriage or team of close colleagues, where the mere suggestion of a concept quickly unfurls it's flowers, there, quickly ignited and suddenly bursting with light, heat, and potential energy, a new potential bursts onto the scene, only to decay and cool, awaiting the next opportunity. Probably uncontrollable, but possibly susceptible to careful ignition.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Northeast, MD

At dawn, the dew begins to sparkle, beckoning the bather to slide slithery soft into the slimy touch of sea grasses, foulers of outboards, whisperers of sensation and deft presence, some sort of treatment for a holding tank of minnows, bound for deeper water, and the miracle of eagles, five years in the making of the gleaming white head, fish eaters, they say, but still worthy of the currency's mark, unmistakeable profile and proud in the perch. Some days, the Osprey make sallies toward the Eagle, as if to engage, but nothing comes of it, there is not the will, nor the precision of the Osprey, to engage, and truth be told, the Osprey has no real beef with the eagle or the Osprey, they are all of a piece, suited just so, playing the parts assigned in this piece of ecosystem, soaring routinely, wowing the crowd, above the speed boats and barges, small craft and mansions, all somehow right in their place. Even Abercrombie and Fitch can't bitch!
In town, the town is jumpin', and the river is high, but other waves of beings now flood the streets of Northeast, bikers, babies, memorabilia, with chocolate syrup and jimmies, and a crab cake for me and soft-shell for you. What's not to love!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Down By the River (Elk Neck, that is)

So, we rented this house for the Summer on the Elk River. I had never heard of the Elk River, in North East Maryland, but it turns out to be a wonderful body of water. Our place perches on a precipice at least a hundred feet up, so the views from the edge are panoramic. Lots of water-skiers, and great views of soaring birds; an occasional Bald Eagle, plenty of Osprey, Double-crested Cormorants of course, and plenty of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, drawn, in part, by the action of the butterflies and the nectar station in close proximity. We keep the boats at the water's edge in a jumble of water-craft, to make it easy to get up and go. I am sure there will be a time when my yellow lab will insist on getting in the boat, which is fine, except for the likely capsize when the beast spots something irresistible.
No worries. It is remarkable to me to see how strong the Lab really is. We did at least a mile on our (his) first swim, and I got the feeling that he could have gone all day. The little dog (terrier) likes to ride along in the boat. For now, there is plenty more exploring to be done.

Friday, July 2, 2010

ALZ and ADD (attn deficit disorder)

Masquerading as normal people out for a little diversion on a Summer's eve, our intrepid ALZ Support group made fast work last evening, during the first Duck Pin Classic, at the Stoneleigh Lanes venue, known for its cranky machinery and occasional random releases of bowling balls brought on by ghosts, apparently, and sugar highs for me, as the Skittle monster. Believe it or not, the accuracy and finesse was of an extremely high quality, and I for one, began to see a compelling vision of the future. I am ready to propose the idea to Akron, the home of the big balls, and I have contacted several Cartoon mascot treatments that could catapult us to an entirely new sport, by injecting such innovations as "who knows the score," and "Where is the pizza," and Why can't I keep myself from eating Skittles@, and whose turn is it, anyway! TV rights can't be far behind, and I think we might want to start laying the groundwork for the ALZ bowl in 2011. For now, I was so happy that we did this--it was fun, , and the reason it was fun is that we are fun people, positive people, and know how to share the good times. I hope we can continue this kind of thing. We have a very special bond and a good thing going. Love to all.

Friday, June 18, 2010

When Physicians Cry

I knew it would happen eventually. In the AA community, there is so much empathy and compassion for one another, that there is always support to be found in the rooms. A few weeks ago, I got into a situation, quite without warning, when I was suddenly confronted with the request to "chair" a Saturday morning meeting. Not a big deal, unless your whole focus is on wrestling the myriad, somewhat conflicting emotions and fears regarding disclosure of an illness that many regard to be one of the most horrifying diagnoses around. In my case, I was settling in to a nice seat in the warmth of an AA meeting, when a dear friend, who had no knowledge of my diagnosis of early onset ALZ, asked me to "chair" the meeting. I could have said no, but it would have been awkward. I knew in my heart that I had to disclose, if I was to be a good friend, and a courageous example to my ALZ affected comrades. So I went for it. Disclosure is actually almost always recommended, if you value your sanity. Holding secrets twists the soul and isolates the sufferer. And being a card carrying member of the dementia clan, I figured I owed it to my support group and the ethic of "your only as sick as your secrets." So I went for it, trying to add a bit of levity, and making room for compassion among my friends in the room. Of course it was the right thing to do, and it gave me an unburdening, and a clearing of the air. The most difficult part was the reaction of a dear friend, a physician, himself, who was taken aback and visibly upset at this information. It is hard to watch the healer confront his helplessness. But that is what compassionate people do. They feel. They love. They share and help and add humor to the worst of it all, in spite of it all. I am blessed to be in the company of the loving, and I know that my distraught physician friend will join me in the levity and the humor that heals where no mere salve will do. We know but a little. Love is.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Carel P. Beernink; Teacher extraordinaire

When I was a boy at St. Paul's School, in Brooklandville, Maryland, I studied German (and soccer) under the tutelage of one Carel P. Beernink. Herr Beernink was a member of the Dutch Underground in WWII, and I have always believed that he was an heroic figure, and I am certain that he was active in some dangerous clandestine activity. My take on him was that he had seen and participated in situations that put him in great peril. His demeanor, however, would never lead one to know of these escapades. He, myself, and another idiot, called "Fritz", believe it or not, were the precious cargo of Mrs. Fritz, who was clearly not very observant, and me, very observant, but keeping it to myself, so that Fritz became the butt of many deserved, but somewhat unkind treatments. In any event, to still the inane chatter that often spewed forth from Fritz, Herr Beernink and I, by mutual but unspoken consent, decided that it was most preferable to me (and surely to Herr Beernink) that I would immediately upon entering the car, ask for an installation of the limitless adventures of Captain Seafood (Herr Beernink's device for stilling Fritz and and telling the incredible and sometimes hair-raising real adventures that Herr Beernink endured at the hands of the Nazis.) To show just how cavalier a disciplinarian Herr B was, there came a day when Fritz was more obnoxious than usual. On that day, Fritz decided to kick the back of Herr Beernink's seat, repeatedly, until Herr B jammed on the brakes, opened the door, and left Fritz all alone for the mile or so walk home. Word had it, that his mother was quite thankful. As for me, Herr B and I often reminisced on the occasions that we came into contact with one another, always getting a hearty laugh at just the thought of Captain Seafood, and the idiot Fritz! In later years, we enjoyed World Cup soccer, and he always complimented me on my fine left foot (which really wasn't that great).He has gone on to the great cup match in the sky, and I am indebted to him to this day. Hic finis est.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Eat Green Chile, It'll clean you out!

When I left home to travel the country, "back in the day" as my girls would say, I spent some significant time in New Mexico. I went to work for a man, or should I say, a prince of a man, who taught me many things. First and foremost I learned to shut-up when the men were talking politics, that is, New Mexico politics, but to listen carefully to what was being said. My job was to sell CheckRite, a bad check collection product--and I quickly and effectively realized that the writing was on the wall, in the form of the uncollected checks tacked to the walls behind the lunch counters and dry cleaners' bulletin boards. Whenever I saw one of those spurious checks tacked prominently behind a lunch counter or a dry cleaner, I knew I could score. My handy dandy directory of known bad check writers was the ticket not only to retrieving one's clothing, but for me, it was a ticket to a sale from a merchant who had one too many of those dead-letter checks wafting in the breeze, never to be collected. Once I showed the business owner my directory of deadbeats, I could almost always score a sale...walk in, look for the sometimes crumpled or dog-eared check and show in my directory that this could have been avoided had the merchant invested just a few dollars a month to mitigate the bad check problem before it started. It was a pleasure to commiserate with the owner over just how much money was being lost, so as to demonstrate the wonderful prospect of cutting those deadbeats off at the knees. Why, with my directory of deadbeats, I had the certain confidence that with patient understanding, I could prove immediately the efficacy of this information. Of course, I was not alone. Inez was ruthless in her discussions regarding these uncollected checks, and she converted the hardest of all cases. All business owners should have access to an Inez in the back room. And everyone should at some time in their lives, experience the wonder of the arroyo and the warm , sometimes blast furnace heat of the good, good green chiles, that, as Inez would say, will "clean you out!!!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day

I'm not too keen on Memorial Day, frankly. My Grandparents lost a son, Malcome, in WWII. By all accounts, he was a dashing man, an intelligent young man, a guy who had no problem getting dates, a person of integrity and gentility and humor. He was the apple of his father's eye. And when he came home in a box from the far east, my grandfather's world crumbled. A long period of reconstruction lay ahead. He did not fully recover. He was changed utterly. But he continued to do what he could do, he was a participant in civic affairs, and he was a true, gentle man. He had chubby cheeks, we called him Pops, and we grandchildren loved him as much as any grandchild could. It is always hard for our children to fathom the sacrifices that were made for them. I am grateful that the history of that period has been so well covered, in the phenomenal motion pictures and historical novels of the recent past. It is a duty and a privilege to know our own history. I go visit the farm a few times a year, just to feel it, to remember the times I used to "help out", by riding on the back of the silage wagon, and as Paul Simon sang, to "preserve your memories, they're all that's left you." A poignant reminder for the ALZ affected, indeed.

Takes one to know one

In response to a request I recently received from the local Baltimore area Alzheimer's Association, I am happy to share my experience as a relatively young person with Alzheimer's disease. I was diagnosed with what is known in the clinical jargon as "early onset" Alzheimer's Disease in January 2006. I have been blessed with a relatively slow progression of the disease for now, but the future is murky. As of now, there is certainly no "cure" for this disease, and all of us with the illness live, as we should, one day at a time. It would seem that I may be in a position to be of help to those who are concerned about the effects of Alzheimer's disease. The accelerating pace of the incidence of this condition should be of concern to all. A world in which acuity is diminishing inexorably, signals a massive decline in productivity, exploding health care costs, and overall decline in quality of life. I have three children of my own, and I hope to see a day when this potentially debilitating condition can become a memory. For now, however, it is my feeling that we need a war on the degradation of acuity that is rapidly creeping into the fabric of our collective consciousness. This illness has the potential to make our children paupers and our breadwinners inefficient. We must act, NOW.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Scarlet, No Rhett

There are birds, and then there are birds. I have to say that the planet and its life forms have, frankly, chosen to go slow on this time around our star. I go out every day, find a spot in some likely, hopefully, conducive place, with a nice full woodland river (the Gunpowder, as it comes down from just over the Pennsylvania line, most likely), and one at a very slow time a new species steps out and makes its reluctant debut. I like this. I hate this. I want to see every possible migratory bird that I can each Spring, NOW! yet the daily desire to see a concentration of new species coming in all at once is overwhelming, and to miss a single highlight would be a travesty. So yesterday, I weaseled out of my office (again), spent no more than two hours on the stream, and came up with ONE new species. ONE! Come on people, I mean birds, let's get it together! This is not working for me! We need to step it up, maybe enlist the raccoons or the weasels as scouts! ok. Sorry about that. It won't happen again. The upshot is that a bird did appear, and it happens to be one of the most garishly sub-tropical and most sought-after species for it's dazzle effect. We're talking about the Scarlet Tanager, and if you have never beheld one you're in for a treat.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Smedley Update

It has now been confirmed that Smedley's car was a 1945 Studebaker. Smedley lived in the car for quite a few years, it seems, and the existing frame is still somewhat intact, albeit completely decrepit. It is interesting that the car had a shed, or may I even say a garage of sorts, but it failed even before the unkind floods of 1950 and beyond. The corrugated tin that housed the shed is still extant, but useless. As we can all see, there was never much of a desire to keep the place up, let alone the vehicle...we surmise that the booze was in charge, and when the first major flood deposited massive quantities of soft silt, the writing was on the wall. Subsequent floods deposited significant mica laden bars, and this geological process will continue to build some stability, but there will never be a time when one could safely claim that dry land will endure. My brother, Mac, has been trying to establish a homestead of sorts, but the floods preclude any real stability. On the other hand, stability was never much favored in the Smed's "household",such as it was. From what we have seen in the midden, canned goods played an important part in the Smed's "lifestyle", as it were. We will continue to update everyone in the Smedly Studies program. Please feel free to add any other significant observations as they occur. And don't forget the conference on Smedly Studies coming up in late June and the Nap-thon in August!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Heroism is alive and well

Last night's ALZ support group was a poignant reminder that everyone experiences emotional pain. Whether it's the demise of a loved one, an unexpected disappointment, a cruel remark, a slight, an insensitive oversight, or just the day in, day out difficulties of life on earth, we all experience pain. Thankfully, we all also have the capacity to give, love, entertain, LAUGH, sing, and determine to be happy no matter the difficulty. It's a matter of survival, it's the species evolving before our very eyes, and it is the thing that we all can do very well. Every disappointment, every small indicator of decline, can be met with an acceptance. Every small victory can be a gracious defeat. While I love my solitude, I would be lost without the communion of my fellows, the camaraderie of the imperfect, the blessing of error, the lightening of the burden shared. We know but a little. We err routinely, we love imperfectly, we overshoot, reign in, and plunge once again into the deep water, with its silence and its roar. As we say in AA, acceptance is the key. And one thing more. The presence of the young people that attend the support group is a remarkable asset, and one that I am deeply grateful for. We have a good thing going! Hic finis est.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Clifton R. Wharton, 3rd.

In a corner of my office is a little pamphlet commemorating the life and death of my friend Clif. Clif was a Buddhist monk, albeit not one confined to a monastery. Clif was the most open and generous soul I have ever met. His smile was of many suns. Clif was funny, radiantly so, and his irreverence gave light to many in despair. It may have been that Clif was not ever of this world. I am certain that the world did not comprehend him, but that never got in the way of his sparkling smile and infectious laugh. To me, he held life and destruction, massive energy and art, all in service to his fellows. Clif could not be contained, as the sun and stars and moons cannot be contained. His water flowed all under and over, through the living and the dead, the thing that cannot die, the seasons of rebirth, the surprise of the meteor, the hot spring, the first snow, the tulip poplar blossom boat, no boat could hold, there had to be a waterfall, a rush to join all the brothers and sisters, blood-red and wine-dark. We who remember join all who have spent themselves, in sacrifice and plenty, while in certain regret, that this too must be, as the economy of the living feeds the unbounded power of the dead.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Broader Horizons

My daughter asked me about travel abroad, the other day, as her school is developing a European trip for girls in the 11th grade. She is a deliberative, thoughtful and logical person that evaluates opportunities somewhat dispassionately, but she seemed genuinely interested when she thought about the opportunity. When she asked about it, I did NOT immediately rush to her closed bedroom door. In fact, she somewhat asked me about it, in her low key, shall I say "deadpan" manner, and I think she will wind up enrolling in this trip. My experiences with teen-age trips abroad were some of the best times I have had, and it propelled me and my wife, to some extent, to explore lots of other places in the world. Now, I can't help but offer a few tips to her from my own experience. One. When you are running through the streets of Paris, boys will usually join in the chase. Two. No matter what seems to be the norm, do not drink alcohol, get lost, and puke, until you are used to it. Three. Stay together. Four. Jump in fountains. Five. Beware swarthy Italians singing songs. Six. Force yourselves to really look at the works of art. Seven. This is civilization. You may never see it again. Eight. Look out for each other. Nine. Take lots of pictures...but not of works of art. Ten. Pay attention to the sounds and the light. Eleven. Practice your French. Twelve. Preserve your memories.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nest Site Fidelity, in Oven Birds (Seiurus Aurocapillus

I have observed nest/territory and site fidelity in Ovenbirds for close to 20 years now. My sample territory is a planting in a downtown Baltimore City, Maryland location, nestled between tall buildings and a plaza that offers mulched cover with planted evergreen shrubbery. Observation is made simple, as the birds have seemed habituated/dis-interested in the foot traffic and my own gentle intrusions on the site. I have seen nests, every year, from which I conclude that this location has fidelity to this species. Dates of arrival and return are predictable. Eggs and hatches are somewhat variable, but I hope to gain more data this year (but I am not a bander, so I can't say for sure how it works out.) I will post updates as the season progresses.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Smedly

I first encountered "Smedly" while walking in a long un-used transportation corridor near the Harford/Baltimore County area of Central Maryland. This part of the State was once served by a robust rail system, which to this day, bears obvious, and in some places massive disturbance of landscape and habitat. Throughout the area, 100 foot high earthworks are testament to the needs of a bygone era's desire to make an efficient link through the farmland into the then rural lands reaching toward Baltimore City. These moments of progress continue to this day, as the landscape becomes more urbanized. It is a study in land use and planning, but behind it all, is the fact of this compact and somewhat tortuous landscape carved both by the plentiful streams and the river that flows naturally through the steep gorge that necessitated the railway to span this terrain. This activity occurred around the turn of the century, or a little later, and the histrionics necessary to pull off this feat of engineering must have been a marvel of the times.
But there is a human story that emerges, as well. A whiskey maker by the name of "Smedly" seems to have produced his own brand of the demon alcohol, and the consumption thereof seems to have engendered a sort of backwoods clubhouse created by a number of artifacts, from the signature bottles he used, to his penchant for keeping old rusty rigs. We surmise that a number of his contemporaries holed up in a little known camp on the Gunpowder Falls (on the stretch several miles below the current Pretty Boy Dam). The remains of a Studebaker can be found there, and to this day, many young men, with low standards and a taste for rot-gut, can be heard, on a clear cold night, bent on deviance and destruction. Thus it will ever be, it seems, and we pray that these nee'r-do wells will some day see the light of salvation. But for now, there's howlin' down by the river, and the still is afir'in, and the cold earth suits any and all comers. Watch your step, and hold onto your jug!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Perserverence

Folks here at the offices of Carton Donofrio Partners sometimes seem to lead a double life. By day, one can encounter the most empathetic and gracious of demeanors. We are, for the most part, a generous and may I say, an even-handed and easy-going lot. We enjoy helping one another when needed, and are almost always available for a good listen. But there are times when a little bit more focused and directive action is called for. One among us has been in a particularly difficult situation over the last year. Fighting bureaucracy with school systems, trying to get the best for a child and a family, keeping all members of a family able to get what is only their due...it may take a village to raise a child, but a little bit of sustained, polite, and insistent/consistent stone-in your shoe works pretty good, as well! Let's just say that things turned out alright, and our extended family has reason to feel great about being able to help the bureaucracy help itself. It's not something we normally get involved in, except when it's close to home.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The ALZ nether world

I function. It's not pretty, but I function. I work-around. I play the odds. If I think I am repeating myself, I try to cover. I use probability. I watch for subtle cues that people are becoming uncomfortable, I try to stay in a kind of neutral zone, vague, yes, sometimes, but not so noticeable for the most part. I definitely try to scope out ahead of time, when it is possible...review the names of people I am likely to encounter, have a little talk with my wife ahead of time, remember that everyone f**cks-up some times. Some days are better than others.The fog rolls in, but it usually burns off. A guilty pleasure is watching so-called "normal acuities" mess up. Any port in a storm, right? On the other hand, I love it when I see someone struggling, and I can be of unobtrusive help. The more you look, the more you see. Cognition is dynamic. Remaining open to input at a low level of attention-getting creates space to learn, help, and hopefully, laugh. There is no fun in the sad-face. Often times, we all have a way to help one another, not just in the ALZ world, but everywhere. I'm in for the longest haul I can handle. My organism wants me around, and I got no beef with that!

Today's the Day April 21, 2010

The leading edge of the songbird migration has arrived in Central Maryland. As usual, the thrushes led the way (family Turdidae), including the American Robin (which actually can be found almost any month of the year in our area), but more delightfully, the large number of species beyond Robins...These include Eastern Bluebird, the gently downward sonic spiraling of the Veery (which I heard and saw yesterday afternoon and is what tipped me off to the presence of the early arrivals;) in that group we can expect to see the Wood Thrush and the Hermit Thrush any minute now! The songs of the thrush family are, in my judgement, their most wonderful aspect, and they are relatively easy to remember (I can whistle and "call in," the Wood Thrush, for instance), and the Veery, which is also fairly easy to identify and mimic by the "downward spiral" in sound, which is the way I always think of it...There is weather coming in, so I am trying to get what observation I can today. I have to say, that birds have been with me since I was a lad of four years old. In fact, my earliest memory is the spring day when a crow tried to pick a clothespin off the clothesline that scared my mother!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hot Feet

Several years ago, my wife Deb and I spent three months in Iceland. It blew our minds...partly because of my boyhood love of geology, partly because of the strange light of the midnight sun, partly because the artifacts of massive, cataclysmic geological shifts in the planet are so completely obvious that you wonder how in the hell does this green ball survive? With the current state of the planet showing signs of duress, it isn't too far-fetched to ruminate about the end times. But I'm not going there today. When we were in Iceland, there were little make- shift huts, almost like those portable spot-a-pots you see on construction sites, but inside of these enclosures were hot, steamy, tiny saunas, courtesy of the MAGMA! Natural sauna for one and all! In several places, we found that we could have both cold and sub-scalding water side by side. Of course, footwear tended to get a little strange, when you realized after 30 minutes or so that your feet were really HOT, but for the most part, it was really fun and invigorating. The locals like to remind folks that some of the most impressive natural terrain was created in a matter of days, when tons and tons of ice suddenly liquidated, creating gigantic fissures in the earth. I'll be on the lookout for a newly discovered sauna near YOU! Hic finis est

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Happy to be confused

OK. So there is this family of birds, known as flycatchers, that start calling, somewhat repetitively, in early spring. These birds eat bugs, like mosquitos, gnats, and other somewhat annoying (to humans) flying insects. In the Peterson's Field Guide (if you don't have one, get it, it is the basic bible for identifying the birds of North America); and while they are not particularly exciting, they are the only game in town in the early spring-time. It seems that the birders always want the birds to show up earlier than they do, but then that is just a human failing, but not a heinous one--it is born of the love of nature, and the desire to see every species possible, given constraints of travel, money, and the trade off of just identifying a bird vs. really getting to know a species. Be that as it may, early Spring is a time of longing...it seems that the birds always wait to arrive, in fact they may actually be dawdling, quite possibly just to annoy us, or to reinforce the desire that builds as we heighten our longing for the species' returns. But I digress. The family known as Empidonax includes Acadian, Yellow-bellied, Least, Willow, and Alder. Sadly, for the over-achiever, it can be pretty difficult to tell one from another, but it can be done, especially if you have a brother like mine. He is a bird genius.

Monday, April 12, 2010

They're ba-ack (returning Warblers)

I am at work this morning. It's a pleasant enough morning. The sky is a jocular, happy, blue. Nearly anyone would walk outside and remark on the pleasing air, the gentle light, the near stillness of an early spring, a robin-shell day. Yesterday, I spent a little while (seven hours) wandering about, looking for signs of returning migratory song birds, not daring to think that the migration had brought any warblers yet; but lo and behold, at the end of the day, the Louisiana Waterthrush, Seiurus motacilla, became the first returning warbler of the season, for me. As the scarecrow would say, Oh, joy, Oh Rapture! As usual, there were no crowds of avid birders (thank God), but there was a nice long look at a fairly elusive species, and hence, my schedule for today may be disrupted. I will pretend to work at my desk for awhile, doing whatever work that I can, accomplishing what is strictly necessary, and then, in the early afternoon, a desk will be empty, but I am always available by cell, and actually, there may be far more work done when I am not around. Hic finis est.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Insidious, crass, Promotion...for a good cause...Birds!

I have been watching birds in the city of Baltimore for several decades...and for most of that time, from the same perch in the 100 block of North Charles Street. While Scarlett and Beauregard are long gone, I have remained to see many waves of subsequent avian activity from the peregrines to the rodents they sometimes ate. At this time, My co-workers and those who have any interest in the natural world are being treated to a pair of American Kestrels (Falco Sparvarius), or Sparrow Hawks), that like to perch on the cooling equipment across the street, allowing fine views of the compact little predators as they wait, usually in the morning, for a passing morsel. With the good scope, the cinnamon brown and slatey grey wings offset each other handsomely, and when their heads turn, the dark "whiskers" or side-burns offer a striking and unusual pattern. So much for productivity! I hope they stick around for awhile, but then again, the song birds are coming and they may be shortly up-staged! Hic finis est!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The enlightened one?

I have a dog named "Buddha." He is a yellow lab. Many yellow labs are gentle, obedient, and respectful. My yellow lab is not in any way, that. Some might say that just naming a dog "Buddha" is asking for trouble. They may well be right. I am coming to the conclusion that we have significant cognitive dissonance in our choice of name. We have Shiva in Buddha's clothing. The Destroyer is ascendent. The Buddha waits its day. But there is some hope for change. After trying to find him for hours in the woods and fields yesterday, with an occasional phone message from neighbors who either wanted to shoot him, or raise a posse to find him, he sauntered up the driveway, dragging various animal parts, and undeniable evidence of significant mud baths in the streams and decrepit ornamental ponds that once were the wonder of our area. We hosed him off, dried him off, and he ran right into the house and into his crate, and in minutes, he was snoring away. I followed not too soon after, carrying dozens and dozens of daffodils picked from the steep sided ravine where every year they appear for a few weeks in jocular profusion. In another week or two, the mountain laurel will begin to open its buds amid the song bird invasion and we will be in full regalia. All love.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The 12 Steps of Dementia (with apologies to AA)

1. We admitted we were powerless over ALZ, that our lives had become increasingly unpredictable.
2. Came to believe that a partnership with the disease could extend acuity and functional relationships.
3. Made a decision to support efforts to mitigate, treat, and confront ALZ, and to help others through the process of detection, diagnosis, and acceptance.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral, therapeutic, and spiritual inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to our loved ones and those who care for us, that we are frightened, but still hopeful.
6. Were entirely ready to avail ourselves of the goodness and mercy of God as we understand God.
7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings, as God sees fit.
8. Made a list of all persons we have harmed, and remain willing to make amends to them all.
9. Continue to take personal inventory and when wrong, promptly admit it.
10. Continue to make direct amends promptly and forthrightly.
11. With God's help, continue to fight against despair, even in the midst of decline.
12. Continue to thank God for the blessing of existence.

Monday, March 29, 2010

South Florida Night Sounds

Some highlights that I need to keep, as I leave the vehicular madness of the freeway, coming out of Corkscrew and onto the interstate and reflecting on a few notable sonic--and some visual-- memories. In the last evenings of the South Florida redolence, the most prominent and haunting sounds are the nightjars. The Chuck-will's-Widow, and the Whip-poor-will, carry on wonderfully repetitive, somewhat haunting, and distinctively unknowable sonic offerings from the edges of the dense, wild, wall of vegetation that threatens the very notion of civilization. Fitting that we only heard these sounds toward the end of our time, as the sounds of children and laughter began to fade, leaving the birds to repeat and repeat as long as they liked, haunting us, giving warning that our time is only a heartbeat, Chuck-will's widow, Chuck-will's widow, and then, the Whip-poor-Will, Whip-poor-will...For me, these sounds have an additional reverence, as my mother was enamored of these birds, with their rolling gait and lively repetitiveness, calling in their mysterious night sound, only losing their voice toward dawn. I am blessed to live on this great green ball.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Preparing for Corkscrew NWR

So, it's come to this. We've gorged on wonderful food. We've given our bodies to Sol. We have weathered the myriad logistics involved with grown and teen children (some ours, some the children's entourages.) The airport personnel now know us by first name. Funds are running low. The condo pantry is nearly depleted. The Sanibel "Bean" purchases are slowing. The first wave of defectors is over. We are winding down to the nucleus. We start to think about the drive back home. Re-entry. School. College. Work. The imposition of external reality. Yes, it is coming to a close. BUT: not so fast. The spring migration has begun. And our last act is the Corkscrew day. The day we shift into the final delight that is the pristine swamp. I will acknowledge that not everyone is as enthusiastic as I am about this; but my family knows that I need that fix, and they humor me for the few hours that we spend in the eerily silent (albeit punctuated from time to time in some very odd ways)...such as the groaning roar of a twenty foot gator bellowing, or the slapping report of its massive tail. We don't expect to run into any bears, but some ten years ago I ran into one on the boardwalk trail! Mostly, we marvel at how close we can get to the twenty or so species of birds that we will encounter. For me, it's like a place apart, one that I can summon in my mind's eye throughout the year, offering me a solace and the comfort of knowing that there is wonder, beauty, and the potential, always, to call the natural, to be reassured in the constantly evolving universe, to participate, fully, in the majesty of the Green Fuse, the source and comfort from within and without. Let it shine. Hic finis est.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Snowy Plover Sanibel

Last year, the birders were beside themselves over the notion of seeing the Piping Plover, on the flimsy reed of hope that finally broke their hearts, once the few but adamant voices were silenced by the near certainty that the bird was not to be seen. Genetically very similar, but far more common than the Piping Plover, scientists began to re-engage in the study of the more common Snowy plover. As with last year's enthusiasm, the hope was that the study of the close cousin might be found to have enough similarity to breed a "clone" if you will, using the understanding that has come with the interest in the bird. As an unabashed voyeur, where birds are concerned, I was able today, to observe and nearly to find a spot in the boudoir, as it were, as I watched the courtship and carnal union of a banded snowy plover from last year (as judged by the bands on the male) and a new individual. The carnal event took seven minutes, standing on the back of the male, and seemed to my eye to be a success. Time will tell.

Alz and ADD (attn deficit disorder)

I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, nor have I been diagnosed as ADD impaired; but Alz and ADD (attn deficit disorder) have some pretty similar traits. In my case, the difficulty arises most clearly when the devil of "multi-tasking" rears its ugly head. My mother always said, "one thing at a time!" In the current level of cultural consciousness, however, that advice is anathema--if you're not multi-tasking, you're not working! I won't go into a diatribe about work and efficient productivity, but the promise of juggling balls in the air just hasn't panned out for many. The ethic of doing a good job the first time seems to have lost ground in the culture, where good enough is a big wow, and any sort of real attention or creativity seems almost embarrassing. In our company, Carton Donofrio Partners, Inc., we have actually built into our service the notion of "Bonus Tracks," where we plan for ways to add a meaningful and unexpected additional service or benefit, completely without additional cost. There is a cost to our company, but our experience has proven that a little unexpected initiative sets the stage for greater receptivity to our ideas, while building confidence and collaboration between us and our clients. We think it is a win/win.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sanibel Island

The natural world is where I live. Even when I am staring out of my office on the 17th floor of my work-a-day office building, I am always attentive to the ever changing environment in the sky, on the street, and on the horizon. It's the habit of those who can't let go of the beauty and wonder of creation. Here in Sanibel Island, the variety of natural phenomena starts to produce nature overload (NATLOAD) for short. This phenomenon is not limited to "nature nuts", as some of my uninitiated colleagues like to caricature me, as there is no shortage of the content that we humans create around the natural. This is not a new phenomenon. It is the fundamentally primitive survival function at work. The skills of the cave man are still with us, as we hopefully evolve in the grand scheme unfolding.
So why do we play at the water's edge and stare vacantly smiling at the continuous gift of the sea-thrown bric-a-brac, searching for...what? a meditation on the marvel of evolution, the symmetry and iconoclasm of tiny shells, the reason for it all? Or is it just the desire for physical reminder of a place, of a life most of us can only enjoy in these times away from labor and strife, the expectation of solace, the clearing of the mind in the shimmering sound of the tiny waves, softly clattering, always replenishing, and yes, the raucous cacophony of the shore birds, the caspian and the royal, the peeps, the improbable gorge of the pelican (even when you think it's a pelican't), so voracious a maw, mining for protein, and a wish to steer clear of the fouling net, the human inconsiderate, and the jocular feast of the dolphin. We are not so far from you, our kin, nor are we so generous as to eschew the heavenly feast of the grouper, the meat of the tuna, the delights that we obtain, and hopefully, protect. Hic finis est.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sanibel Island Send-off

Tomorrow we ride! I have packed my bag. It is capable of containing virtually all of the clothes I own. I am not an efficient packer, but I always have what I need. Just for grins, here are the top ten reasons why I am excited to go:
1. I like driving long distances.
2. I like birds...and Sanibel (like all of South Florida) is a birdwatchers's paradise)
3. I like being in a place where the most common mode of transport is the bicycle.
4. I get to spend time with my children (rarer than the birds!)
5. We get to re-acquaint ourselves with our friends who live there.
6. Snowy Plovers (a species that is common, remarkably subtle (you could step on the slight indentation in the sand that passes for a nest...) and if you are a freak like me, a subject to be fascinated with for hours on end (yes, I know I am weird).
7. The Bean (the best place to snack, breakfast, lunch,...AND good coffee!
8. Corkscrew Swamp NWR
9. Bobcats
10. Crossing the causeway.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The pride of the peacock (Blake II)

The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
As one might expect, Blake, ever the contrarian, goes straight for the only position he could endure: to be true to the unvarnished, sanctimonious, lurid, truth, or reflection of truth in the proletarian eyes of the mannered falsehood he may have despised, or perhaps reveled in, with the twit of a nose...of course the peacock, a strange guinea hen created by some sort of genetic malfunction, bred no doubt for the amusement of the barnyard and the incandescence that so marvels us, a cheap trick of the breeder, a lurid freak, there is much to be ironical, although there happens, in this image, to be, a not too subtle suggestion that no freak can be responsible for the tinkerings of men. No matter how fantastical, the eyes always have the peacock in mind, just as many times a fleck of light may sparkle in the light of fire in the company of a beautiful woman.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

William Blake: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

One of the most eclectic, or perhaps just downright strange, poets in the history of English literature is the work of William Blake. I will not go into his biography, but suffice it to say, his branch on the family tree of poets writing in English, is an odd off-shoot that has fascinated me, and many others since its composition and dissemination into the world of poets and readers writing in English. He is a certified visionary, and as most visionaries wind up doing, he created an entire world fully understood only to himself, and to those who study his works and ideas.
The most accessible work, ( and most often taught) is The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Within this piece, is probably the best known, and for my money, the most insightful and memorable content that he wrote. The Proverbs of Hell provide a blossoming of perspectives and a sort of alternative to the Commandments that can provide a source of self-examination administered by anyone with an introspective and generous imagination.
If you will, I would like to spend some of your time in what I think might be an amusing, unusual, and sometimes flat-out bone jarring full stop and wonder at some of the ideas promulgated here-in. Let's look at these Proverbs.
Proverb #1. Prisons are built with stones of law, brothels with bricks of religion.
Our own incarcerations create the limits that we assume. Outright behavior cannot hold a candle to what goes on in man's own imagination. As an aside, this "proverb" could describe the tedious sniping among those whose moralities need to spill over into turf battles and hair-splitting (perhaps in denial that many who claim righteousness produce discord.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Soup

Do you have a Superfresh® grocery store near-by? I am certainly not affiliated in any way with the Superfresh grocery chain, but I gotta say, the soup they offer at lunch in their Charles and Saratoga Street location is awesome. There are two excellent choices. If you want to put on a little cushion, go for the cream-based seafood Bisque--plenty of scallops and flavor enough for the galloping gourmet. It's almost always hot and delicious. Best to get there toward the noon to 1PM rush, while there are still plenty of significant chunks of crabmeat, be they in the Bisque or the MD crab. You just about cannot go wrong, unless you get there late. The Maryland crab is classic, with not too much Old Bay,and not too little, either. They bring in the tureens probably just before 11:15 AM, or so, and when you get there @ 12:15 or 12:30 or so, you will follow your nose back to the nether regions of the store, past the Triscuits® and some very nice cheeses, perhaps a blueberry yogurt, excellent, if not waistline approved, and surreptitiously, but confidently, the heavy-dark chocolate Lindt brand of almost excellent full-on cacao...but not quite up to a Scharfenberger chocolate where with all my cajoling I have still not been able to convince the store that they would improve margins if they went all the way to the darkest and most euphoric level of the game...but hey, even without some spotty inventory, you've still got a shot at a fine, nutritious and somewhat decadent mid-day repast. Bon apetit'

Painful Miscommunication

Apparently, it's all about me. Self-centeredness can cause male pattern baldness, shingles, bad breath and extraordinary stupidity. I've always been self centered, and usually I can mask it when necessary, but in this case, I will have to throw myself on the mercy of the court. When people become aware of my Alz diagnosis, they are saddened, and often write or call to express support and sympathy with my new-found difficulty. I am always grateful and I take to heart these expressions of support.
So imagine my chagrin when I realized that I had horribly mis-read an expression of support from a dear colleague. She had somehow become aware of my relatively new-found status as an Alz diagnosed person, and of course I assumed that she was referring to her diagnosis, and not mine. AWKWARD!!! She has no diagnosis, and does not plan on acquiring one!
She set me straight, thankfully, and clarified the situation in the most generous way...the only real damage is the usual problem with communication when sensitive subjects arise...but as an ALZ person, I have gotten beyond that. I am completely "out" with this, although I am respectful of those who have not made that decision or those who think it unseemly.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Looping

I am a man. I grew up with a brother. I went to a private boy's school. My wife, on the other hand, is not a man. Let's not kid ourselves. Men are inferior in almost every way. Let's look at brain function. Multi-task? Huh? What did he say? Point and shoot. Repeat with me, repeat with me, wait, look at that bird! Is that a kinglet?! Where did that hawk go...did you remember the binoculars? Oh, shit, I think I left them in the car--where is the bird book? I know I put it in the pack but it doesn't seem to be here...oh, wait maybe that's it, no that is the notebook I threw in the car...oh, damn, here wait, I'll go back up and get it...it's not here! Oh, wait, yes it is, whoa, did you see that hummingbird? reminds me of the time I went to Costa Rica, and...Hey! would you stop talking and start looking for the...what was I looking for...if this keeps up at this pace I'm gonna need a nap, sooner than later...
There is another side to this song, however. Bored with repetition? How about a bit of the old ultra-violence? Rolling boulders from the peaks of the Rockies to the raging river home, a gravity fed plummet and a couple of lift-offs from a precipice overlooking the river and voila! Uncontrollable mania incomprehensible to most. The effects of the prodigious snow that would not die, have earned a place in the annals of repetitive motion sickness and the sure pleasure of an iceberg crumpling into the sea.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The dark before the dawn

This sounds like a whiner, but I think there is some redeeming quality in recognizing neural pathways that get good and well-worn strolling around the frontal lobe. In the ALZ world, the difference between a pleasant evening among friends and getting stuck in a rabbit warren of knotted yarn can come down to the level of distraction in a multi-stream conversation, where ends rarely meet and ideas prop themselves up until the whole cacophony either implodes or emerges glistening with sparkle and grandeur. In the past few days, I have been treated to the verbal ripostes and pun-a-rific tom-foolery in a Harry Potter-eseque setting of somber, massive stone walls to ceilings soaring almost too distant to find in the dramatic gloom of the jesuitical edifice, holding both God and man at bay, as the novitiates and the ancients slap softly down the corridors and through curious doorways, padding into libraries of arcane import, the heads of pins softly echoing their dances, and beyond the walls, through the thick and myopic, astigmatic, panes leaving question marks and suggestions of hints and nuance, to help with the task at hand, the revelation of futures, the peril inherent in anyone's step. Today,emerging once again into the world of transaction and consumption,there is little echo left, but if one listens closely, hints and possibilities abound, engage, and softly court another love, another gloom, awaiting the confirmation of Spring.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

SNOW REMOVAL

video
What to say?A demonstration of the proper way to remove snow off the deck.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Music Memory

I was hangin' out at the ol' Alzheimer's support group the other evening (whoo-hoo!), and I came across a musician that was a new face in the room. He said he didn't have much of a negative effect with regard to remembering music. I thought about that from my own experience and concluded that "Music Memory" is a completely different part of the brain. Sound, in general, has a powerful place in the human experience, obviously, but in many ways, it is overlooked somewhat, especially in the horrors of cognitive testing. As a former choir boy and a lover of music, I have begun to believe that music and the utterances of birds and other natural sounds get short shrift in the aural landscape. As for memory, I have found that a tune is more memorable than an essay, but learning bird song is much more difficult. I have retired from cognitive testing, but I believe that my bird-song memory is holding it's own...it is still really tough, but I think it may actually be getting better. If you think about it, the average Joe probably has over a hundred tunes that he or she can recognize at a moment's notice. I can only remember probably twenty bird songs...but they are much more difficult to acquire.
In a slightly different vein, the array of human voice-only recognition is probably pretty substantial. I would wager that voice recognition is improving as fast or faster than other forms of cognition. But the human voice is in no danger of disappearing!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Purveyors of Despair

OK. Let's just start with the fact that I am totally f***ckd up. My brain eludes me. It works improperly. It is defective. It frustrates me. I try to give it what it wants, but I just don't have the nurturing touch. So I have been on this journey of peace and understanding. Like marriage counseling, or an EST retreat. Things go OK for awhile, but invariably, the relationship decays, we disagree about petty things--and the fear and frustration become overwhelming. So we turn to the professionals, again. Somewhat jaded, or perhaps just beaten down by the rigors of dealing with dementia, we seek a neutral ground, where we might be able to try new things, take some of the fear and frustration out of the setting, and try to find a path forward. I have this feeling that I have written this all before--and that is because the encounters with the dementia docs might not have the broadest range of responses...and because the box we are in is less than expansive, when you get right down to it. So the job is how to respond to the professionals, maintain equilibrium, and try to find ways to retain sanity and good humour, while also trying to learn what the disease is teaching me and how to respond to what I am experiencing.
As a bit of an update (to self), I tried my best to remain calm and un-emotional at yesterday's chamber of horrors meeting, but it was an unqualified disaster. I was almost instantly flooded with red hot anger, as the same drills and impossible questions that I had heard before, but augmented now by a whole new battery of drills and memory tests, trying to look at other areas of memory and experience seemed to pile on, until I just snapped, and walked in blind anger and frustration out of the ward and almost made it to the last door. It was a humiliating and pointedly incisive tableau that I am ashamed to have created, while at the same time it was all that I could do to control my urge to run or smash or do a Jack Nicholson. Nurse Rat-shit was there, and the chief had the 200 pound machine held just barely overhead, ready to blow a hole in the wall and make a break for...oblivion.

Friday, January 8, 2010

X-B Net 5000

Welcome to XBNet 5000! Extended Brain Networks are sweeping the nation! The neural neighborhood has exploded onto the scene, and the information flow is going torrential!! Or, maybe it's not information, per se, we try to screen the porn and some of our members are just plain vacuous, but reach out and touch a 1 or a zero and get in the game! Seriously, the Greeks had it right--hang out in the forum and debate, fulminate, maybe masturbate and disseminate for fun and prizes. Even the wine dark sea has a special offer (this week only). I don't need to know anything really--just send a text or a tweet, and some lonely heart will fill in the particulars, maybe come up with a juicy vacation spot, just you and a tete a tete amid the marshmallows and lousy sugary chocolate--not the good stuff the 85% cacao, but don't get off quite yet, the endorphins are spankin' the monkey, and you too could find love right here on line! All we really want is to to tap the complete ever expanding universe of the cunning linguistic allure of life on the run, here an insight, there an allusion, everywhere a done-in conundrum, old MacDonald had a DNA sample of a black bear lickin' the slop bucket tryin' to snare hair off a black bear's ass while three little skinny-dippers gave a glimpse of the beard of love to one backwoods degenerate--things went downhill from there, why the crowd was literally crying for more Parks Sausages, PLEASE, and the sun sank slowly into the whinny of a screech owl, raising the short hairs on the back of somebody's neck, now that the light was failing, and the temperature dropping, and the prospect of bivouac on a three foot ledge above a peregrine falcon nest gave little succor to the fading chance of hots and a cot. It can get pretty cold in Montana. I think I'll head for home.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sungar

Years ago, when I was living in Missoula, MT, and attending graduate school at the U of MT, my brother Mac and I fell into a ritual behavior that persists to this day. Each late afternoon, before scrounging for some sort of dinner, we would settle down into the long, cold shadows of Winter or the long northern twilights of Summer, to take a gentle snooze before continuing our bachelorhood pursuits of rambling in the mountains and streams (and bars) of the playground that is Western Montana. Our constant companion at this twilight time of day was the radio voice of Sanford J. Ungar. I may be mistaken, but I believe he was the first voice of the then fledgling National Public Radio (NPR). Sandy, as I have come to know him now, gave us the love of the voice, the gravitas and shades of meaning that continue as the hallmark of this wonderful radio property, through which the theatre of the mind is best conveyed, for me, while gently listening in the waning light, hearing the world's progress, and finding ways to connect our experiences to the voice in the radio. There is something in that vocal quality for me that imprints, remarks, and conveys emotion in the empathy of one human listening to another. So much is conveyed without words. So little is missed by the quality of voice and the tenor of emotion. Last evening, as I listened to the radio rather than the drone of another vacuous football game, I chose to listen to NPR, and allowed myself a trip back to Missoula, and enabled my mind to go aural. The warm thread of Sandy's voice echoed in my mind and gave me the pleasant experience once again, even as I listened to Scott Simon. Continuity is a warm blanket, a voice of the human, a trigger to the value of long-remembered experience. I am grateful for that.
As it turns out, I have had the marvelous experience of listening to Sandy in person many times, as he became the President of Goucher College. In fact, I was on the selection committee for the College when he was appointed, and I have never been so gratified as on that day.