Monday, March 30, 2015

Ruby Falls

A Woman Must Be a Cavern

Outside Chattanooga, Tennessee, deep within the heart of Lookout Mountain, there are caves.  A man discovered these a long time ago.  His wife’s name was Ruby.  The man had to crawl on his belly at one point between floor and ceiling and it took him six hours on elbows and knees to get to where the walls opened out again.  There he found a waterfall, of all things -  water from rock -  and he named the waterfall Ruby, after his wife.
What about a waterfall is like a woman?  A waterfall in the heart of a pitch black cavern?

Now the waterfall is illuminated by ruby colored lights, and thousands of tourists come each year to see it.

How far down, into what sort of darkness, will we go to see?

There are other things also which one would never see but for the light.  Stalagmites and stalactites, for instance.  Murals in the rocky walls.  A duck, a dog, an angel.  They find and name more things all the time, in the rock, on the walls.

Is there a message?  What does it mean?  Has nature put something here for us to read?  Has God?  Or is it just a cave, just a coincidence, just the play of our minds?  Is everything we see a message from God? Even ripples in rock?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Useless Cures

I've discovered a curious, albeit rather useless treatment for the ringing in my ears. It seems that if I consume 2 or 3 beers (or other alcoholic drinks), the ringing all but disappears for a period of time - perhaps 10 hours. Not exactly a prescription a doctor would recommend. Yeah, just drink on a daily basis.

I discover also that the ringing is greatly exacerbated by very hot, very humid weather, such as that we have been having of late. Hmm. Move to Iceland?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Remembering the Night

So dark now that you can't see your hand in front of your face. I remember darkness like this from my younger years. I would often camp and fish in the high cascades of Oregon. My friends and I would come back from fishing in the evening and we would clean our fish by the lakeshore in the last light of day. One of us would have built a fire and we would wait for the flames to shrink to the coals and then we would fry our fish in an iron skillet, generally a mix of brook and rainbow trout. We would wrap potatoes or sweet potatoes or corn on the cob in foil and bury the bundles among the coals to be baked.

Often we would talk late into the night, re-stoking the fire with larger wood until the flames grew high and the round rocks around the pit grew hot to the touch. We joked and laughed. Philosophized. Talked about girls. Sometimes we just sat and gazed at the glowing of the coals, full of fantasy worlds, burning cities, shimmering castles, demons and angels. At last, I would walk back to my own camp, barely able to divide the borders of the narrow dirt road from the verge of the forest. I prided myself on using no light - but for that from the distant stars. This was how well I knew my world - that world - back then.

Why did I go without light in those woods? Maybe it was for the heightened sense of presence - my own presence in the overwhelming extreme of the cosmos, the glimmering, incomprehensible, endless expanse of the silent stars, the blindness cast by night on the earth, a darkness alive with shapes nonetheless, some real, some not, some lit by the touch of memory only, an inward sense of time and space and distance that had been learned through the subconscious study of many days.. Maybe darkness was made yet more purely dark by the element of fear feeding on a thousand imaginations. Was that shape a stump or a bear? Was there someone behind me or someone before me? Did the sound of those footsteps belong to me or to someone else, or to something else? To cast a light upon perfection would surely shatter it.

The crickets in those days chirped by the millions, lining my path with song, calling out the presence of the edge of the road, the beginning of the wall-like wilderness, while in the further distance the breeze whispered its news about the presence of the lakeshore and the lapping of the water against the rocky point where I had cast my line a hundred times before. At the proper time, I would turn to the sound of that whisper and soon the lights of other campfires would appear, like glowing coals at first, and then growing, the flames casting dancing shadows between the trees, sparks ascending as if to join the stars. Someone, indeed, had started my own fire, perhaps old Jake, who was always alone, had throat cancer, and could not speak except to himself. He always saw me before I could be seen, and always raised a hand as soon as I could see it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


I remember wishing, the closer I got to Savannah, that I had gone further south instead, perhaps to the gulf coast, or west, across the border to Alabama, or even back north, through Atlanta and thence to Chattanooga and southern Tennessee (which, happily, I ended up doing later on anyway). Not that there was anything wrong with Savannah. I wouldn't know, for I had never been there. It merely brought me closer to subsequent meetings in Atlanta, back to old realities that I ha...rdly knew how to face. It would be the end of this pleasant interlude, the end of many things, and the true beginning of another life. But as for Savannah, it became almost instantly my favorite city in the world, as far as I had known it thus far. I learned in Savannah for the first time the true meaning of humidity. I learned to 'amble' rather than walk as we do in Oregon. I learned a pace that was leisurely, contemplative, and about simple social interactions that made themselves a natural part of this pace, like hats are in the rain or sandals in the summer. My hotel was on the historic waterfront, which I visited in my new ambling way, and during the evenings I made a hobby of seeking out the best Bloody Marys at the many nearby bars - some very spicy, some coming with a veritable vegetable garden inside the glass. I stayed (in Savannah, not the bars) for three days and, on Sunday, visited one of the oldest churches on the east coast, where someone very famous, I have forgotten who, used to preach. As a Christmas present, in 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman gave Savannah to Abraham Lincoln, but there seemed no surviving memory of that in these environs. One heard more about the novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and you could find the book in both stores and hotels. I was practically forced to buy it, but, I must admit, I never read it. I reckon now that I subsequently lived my own version instead. I hated leaving Savannah, and I seriously thought about staying. And staying. And staying. But, as I mentioned, unavoidable, inalterable necessities hung heavy on the Atlanta horizon, and so to Atlanta I reluctantly went.


Just remembering this morning the time that I visited rural Georgia, back in the autumn of 1994. I arrived in Atlanta, then drove a rented car to Macon, the setting for the book, To Kill a Mockingbird. God forsaken Macon, I called it at the time, for it seemed to have been shouldered to the side on the road of progress and become even sleepier than depicted in the novel. From Macon, I headed south into the cotton fields. I had never before seen cotton as it grows on the plant.... I stopped on the road and picked some tufts of cotton and the air was filled with these specific little flying bugs that apparently have a special fondness for cotton fields, and for one's own neck and shirt collar. I was just newly separated from my second wife at that time. Suddenly I could say what I want, go where I want, stop where I want, think what I want. Freedom and the flat plains of southern Georgia seemed to breathe a mutual sigh of relief and serenity. Here and there along the road I came upon the stands of boiled peanut sellers, a great favorite in the deep south. I bought a bag from a man who spoke with a Georgia accent so thick that he may as well have been speaking kampung Indonesian. I couldn't understand a word he said - and here I was at home, in my own country, America. From thence, I visited the Civil War site of Andersonville prison, where many hundreds of Union soldiers had died from disease, starvation and want of medical treatment. It was unnaturally quiet, deserted, barren, telling, in the land, the air, the limpness of the breeze no hint of what had happened there. I stayed the night in a nearby town, the name of which I do not remember, and then headed east the next morning to Savannah - which is a story of its own.

Citizen 4

Saw the film "Citizen 4" the other day - the documentary about Edward Snowden, starring Edward Snowden himself. I couldn't help but come away with the impression that he was playing his own spy game from the outset, perhaps to give his own life a sense of importance. The fact that he slinked away while his mate was on vacation somewhere, without a word of explanation, says something about the self-absorption of the man, and his general attitude throughout the movie evinces a ...sort of glee at his own activities. People are shocked and concerned at the idea that the NSA is able to tap into all sorts of 'private' information not because they feel they've done nothing wrong, but because they feel they have. And they're right, they have. We all have. It's just not something the NSA would be interested in. In fact, it is computers that sift through this massive catalog of information, and computers make no judgement at all. Nonetheless, the true fear among people is that something private, something dishonorable, dishonest or deviant will be revealed. One's own secrets must be protected at all costs. It is an irrational, unreasoning, self-conscious fear, but is at the very base of our outward show of outrage.