Tag Archives: Writing

The Land of the Dead: Regarding Your Recent Visit…,

I stopped writing.

There were reasons for the pause.

I needed to get my bearings, figure out where I was, and chart a course forward.

There were other reasons that cropped up along the way.

“Life stuff” – we categorize it, like it were something we could put in a box and slide under the bed, as if we weren’t swimming in it constantly.  Drowning even, when the waves catch us by surprise, and we find ourselves gulping for air.

So I stopped writing.

And I stopped reading.

And then there was a combining of households, and boxes to be filled, and what gets sold and what moves to storage, and…, life stuff.  Like I said.

But space, like time, was suddenly at a premium.

And the altar had to be put away.  All the bits and pieces carefully cleaned and wrapped and boxed.  Temporarily.  Until I can find the space for them.  Make space for them.

I stopped writing, and reading…, and talking.

To the gods.

To the spirits.

To the ancestors.

It’s the easiest thing in the world.

To let it all go, to be what this empty world we’ve created wants us to be.

I used to wonder, from time to time, about the Land of the Dead.

It is a place of dread that figures into so many of our mythologies: a grey void of a place where the dead wander, without purpose or meaning, hungry for the attention of the living.  I was never sure I believed such a place could exist.  It seemed so far removed from my personal experience of the universe we share.

The Otherworld, I had always been taught, always believed, is reflected in our own mortal realm, just as our world is reflected there.  Neither realm is wholly separate from the other, each profoundly present within and throughout the other, and still, for some of their inhabitants, frustratingly out of reach.

But where then, could we see any reflection of those ghostly fields where the dead are said to wander aimlessly?

Where, if not all around us.

Listless – Hungry – Craving.

I have found myself wandering among them in the grey realm from which they’d seek escape, if they only knew that they were trapped.  The Land of the Dead is not a mythological construct,  not even close.

We’ve built it, floor roof and walls, and we’re constantly furnishing it with all the ‘life stuff’ that we collect along the way.

And it’s not a terrible place to visit, from time to time.  We all end up spending time there eventually.  The important thing is not to get trapped there.  Never forget where you are.

Always be “Just Visiting” – because the alternative…,

JustVisiting

So here I am.

Writing again (and it’s harder to get started again, than I would have believed).

And reading.

And talking (to them, and you).

Still not sure of exactly how to get to where I want to be.

But at least I know where I was, and that’s as good a starting point as any.

Any day now I expect to receive my survey in the mail…,

“Regarding your recent visit to the Land of the Dead.”

I should probably give them a nice review.

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Filed under About this Blog, Culture, Death, Modern Life, Mythology, Spiritual Journey, Uncategorized

Two Hundred Posts Later…,

I don’t really enjoy talking about my little blog.

I’d rather just tell the stories.

Stories are powerful.

They can shape the world, if we let them.

For almost five years, I have been telling stories about that time when the gods of the ancient world began to make themselves known among the people again, and when those people rose up and fought for recognition and equal standing among the monotheists and the atheists who had for so long shaped the world in their own image.

When I started this blog, back in April of 2012, there was a certain optimism in the air, a feeling that real progress was being made in this world, and so much of it by those who had previously moved quietly through their lives, without a voice of their own.

This wasn’t a new feeling, mind you.  I’d felt it growing, very slowly at first, yet gaining momentum, for many years.  I know it was growing before I was even aware of it, before I was even around to be aware of it.  We, as a culture and as individuals, are just beginning to wake up, in bits and pieces, to some rather unexpected realities concerning ourselves and our place in the universe.

Such awakenings can be difficult.

We cling to the fantasies we have built up around ourselves.

We hold fast to the familiar and push back when our expectations are threatened.

In 2016, a great many of us pushed back, HARD!

But such reversals are common in stories like ours, and while they may leave deep scars, they serve a deeper purpose in the narrative.

I don’t feel the same optimism in the air that I felt when I started this blog.

I feel determination.  And when it comes to actually getting things done, I’ll take an ounce of dogged perseverance over any amount of simple optimism you can muster.

I have written something on the order of One-Hundred and Eighty-Three Thousand words…,

Including the ones you are reading right now.

There were several times, along the way, when I thought I was done.

Now, I know that I am only getting started.

But I want to do more.

Mine is one small voice in a rising chorus, and if that’s all I am ever able to contribute, I know that I can be satisfied with that.

But in addition to hitting my 200th post, it is my birthday this week, so I’m thinking big.

Here then is my wish list for the years to come.

I’d like to see a free counseling service for people who follow alternative religions, like a crisis hotline, manned by folks from within the pagan community, and geared toward helping those who are drawn toward pagan beliefs to navigate their own emotions, as well as dealing with family and friends who may not understand.

I’d like to see specialized legal counseling and litigation services made available, specifically geared toward helping people from our religious communities deal with issues such as workplace harassment, adoption and custody negotiation.

And finally (and perhaps most ambitiously), I’d like to see a school.  Not some knockoff Cherry Hill Seminary masters program, but instead a continuing education program, focusing upon an array of topics, some of interest to general audiences, but many geared toward our specific faith communities.  Offerings such as: Basic Wilderness Survival, Blacksmithing, Urban Herb Gardening, Aromatherapy, Book Binding, and Geomancy.

It’s a big list and I don’t know how to make any of those things happen.

But I want to try.

And I’m going to need help.

We’re going to have to tap into all that determination that I feel welling up around us.

We’re going to have to push forward, together, to reshape the world in an image we can all be happy with.  And I’m going to be reaching out to many of you.

So don’t be surprised.

Be ready.

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Filed under About this Blog, Culture, Religion, Spiritual Journey

How many more weeks of Winter?

My first sculpture, in clay, was of the groundhog.

I was in the second grade.

And it was awful.

Why had my teacher picked the end of January to bring a couple bags of clay into the classroom and tell us build sculptures in commemoration of the February 2nd holiday?

I do not know.

Perhaps there was some message there, about working with earth and water and fire, and about the living cycles of a world we were only beginning to explore.

Or maybe, it was just a random collision of events and the groundhog theme seemed, to her, like a good idea.

So we wedged and shaped the lumps of clay with our little hands, and then she took them off to be fired.  When they came back they were hard and crumbly, and we painted them…, garishly.

I vaguely remember that some of my fellows had, roughly, approximated the look of a large rodent, sitting up on its hindquarters.

I had not.

There was a greenish lump (the ground) upon the crest of which stood a rough brown cylinder (tree trunk), and next to that another brown blob resembling a brazil nut with ears (the critter).

It was bad, really, REALLY bad.

I was so embarrassed by it, that years later, when a friend of mine in college was twisting my arm to take the Intro to Ceramics class with him, I was filled with an irrational fear that my secret shame would finally be exposed.

“I paint, I draw,” I told him, “I’m a 2d artist.  I’m just no good at 3d work.”

“Come on,” he countered, “you’re gonna love it.  Have you even tried?”

And in my minds eye…, green and brown lumps of earth…, and people laughing, LAUGHING!

“Yeah, I’ve tried.”

But in the end, I relented and took the class.

And my friend was right, I loved it.

That first class was followed by a second, and suddenly the focus of my studies had shifted from painting in oils to sculpting in clay.

There was something deeply powerful in the manipulation of those basic elements, earth, water, fire.  There was a ritual quality to the process that touched the spirit, and there was the careful science of manipulating chemical reactions to occupy the analytical portions of my mind.

I had never…, have never…, felt so entirely within my element.

And then the long winter began.

When I left school, I left the ceramics program behind.

I lived in a cramped apartment without the financial means to acquire the tools and materials I’d have needed to pursue my interests.

So I focused on my painting, and I told myself that a brief hiatus from clay would do me good.

And the years passed, and I painted less and less.

I got a job as a graphic artist for a magazine.

I learned new skills.  I won awards.

And the paints came out less frequently.

By the time I changed jobs again (this time repairing computers) my easels had been stowed in the attic and my paints were congealing in their tubes.

And so I came here, and I began to write.  And always, ALWAYS there was the intention that the writing would be a portal into something bigger, something that would utilize all the other skills I have acquired along the way, something that would make me feel like I used to feel before this long winter took hold.

But after a while, the writing seemed to be using up all the creative energy that I had to spare, and keeping to my self imposed deadline was chewing through what little free time I had.  I felt like I needed to take a break and get my head on straight, and finally get a start on whatever that next big thing was going to be.

And so I stopped writing.  I withdrew further into the day to day grind and I waited for the creative well to replenish itself.

But that was never going to happen.

The well didn’t run dry because my creativity went away, instead it has been filled up with silt and debris, the grit and grime of a thousand little things that we like to call ‘living’ but which have nothing to do with being alive.  It is plugged with worries about money and home and transportation, and with all the things that come from being a cog in someone else’s machine.

The waters are still there, but they will never rise above all that junk.

To find them again, I’ll need to grab a shovel and climb down into the well.

I need to get my hands dirty.

I need to start digging.

I know this.

I WANT it.

But wanting and doing are two different things.

Part of the problem is not knowing exactly how to get started.

But far bigger than that is the fear of failure.

And so hear I am, I have become the groundhog, curled in his burrow, desperately wanting the winter to end, but afraid to peek out for fear of seeing his own shadow.

And tomorrow I’ll get up and eat my breakfast and head off to work like a good little citizen.

And I’ll wonder – How many more weeks of winter?

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Filed under About this Blog, Art, Holidays, Modern Life, Spiritual Journey

Approaching Change

Sometimes I sit down to write these posts and I know exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it.

There may be some notes I’ve jotted down, or links to some relevant website containing information I plan to reference.  There may be a few books stacked up with torn envelopes stuck in them, marking pages or passages I want to look back on while writing.  And if you ever found yourself driving alongside me, on one of those weeks, you might look over to see me talking to myself, as I run again and again over how I want a particular idea to read and sound.

Those weeks have become increasingly rare.

More often, I start out with a fairly good idea of what it is I’ll be writing about, but it is not until I get into the actual business of putting it down that the true objectives reveal themselves.

Sometimes this involves a long protracted battle, rewrite after rewrite until the thing is battered into a form which, if not entirely pleasing to me, is at least satisfactory.  Frequently, this battle is won (or lost) at some disreputable hour of the morning, just shy of the intended publication time.

And then there are those magical nights when I sit down to write and the muses come and work their will upon me.  In these rare moments I experience the same euphoric energy that I used to feel while painting or sculpting, and the words seem to flow out of me and onto the page.

Reading that last paragraph back, it sounds as if I’m saying the process is effortless.

It is nothing of the sort.

The words, the images and ideas: they flow — like blood from an open vein.

And when it happens, it is as exhausting as it is exhilarating, because I…, because WE are tapping into the power of creation.

We’ve all heard the phase, “Putting yourself into your work.”

When we write a story, when we make art, or perform, or invent…, and when we do it as an act of passion, we put a bit of ourselves into that thing we are making.

For those of you who are Harry Potter fans, think of it like a Horcrux, except that no one had to die in the making of it.  You’ve given the thing you made a life of its own, and in the bargain, you will live forever, through the things you create.

This is a power that we share with the gods.

Temple Raven

Sometimes I sit down to write these posts and I know exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it.

This is not one of those posts.

I started us off with just two words – Approaching Change.

I guess I was hoping that the muses would take it from there.  But I’m not feeling it tonight.

Perhaps my intention was to discuss changes great and small that I feel in the air.

Samhain is nearly upon us and it is at this time of the year we are most aware of the great wheel in its turning.

The Pagan and Polytheist movements appear to be gaining some small traction, even as other forces work desperately to roll the clock back to some imagined golden age.  The politics of the day seem to have become increasingly fractured and divisive.  Our next-door neighbors have become strangers, while our ability to inspire, and to be inspired, by people in far away lands has become almost second-nature.

This is indeed a time of great changes, I have no doubt.

What I do doubt is my own ability to roll with those changes, to be have a voice in them, to add my own small creative power to that of so many others in this ongoing act of creation.

The muse I spoke of comes too infrequently these days.

My work schedule is too chaotic.

My sleep is haphazard.

My ‘free’ moments are too choked with worry over financial obligations, and not enough time spent making art or traveling, reading or building.

And always on the edge of my vision there is a project which is currently beyond my resources, my skill, my reach…, and always will be unless I begin to make some real changes of my own.

And what better time to begin (or is it continue?) that process than in the cool shadows of Samhain, when the dead and the living – the past and the present – mingle and become one.  The old torch sputters and dies, and a new light is born out of the darkness.

I’ve talked a great deal about sacrifice in these pages.

The time has come again for me to make a few of my own.

And that begins right here.

This is the 179th post I have published since April of 2012.

When I started, I never expected I would last so long.

Next week, on Monday, November 2nd. I will publish post number 180

And that will mark my last regular post here…, for a while.

I’m not done here, not by a long shot.  This blog has always been a means to an end, but my writing here has begun to drift away from the original intent and it is high time I made a course correction.  Without the self-imposed weekly deadline, I can turn my attention to other areas, other changes and projects that, it is my deepest hope, I will chronicle here.

If you have stuck with me this long I hope you will hold on a little bit longer.

The road gets twisty up ahead.

Time to make a decision: hit the breaks or step on the gas.

Approaching Change.

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Filed under About this Blog, Art, Holidays, Philosophy, Spiritual Journey

All Beings in Moderation

I woke up a half an hour ago, but I’m pretending to be asleep still.

My eyes are closed, my face pressed into the pillow, my breathing steady, I’m giving every possible indication that I am still unconscious.  If I fake it well enough, maybe I’ll stumble into the real thing, at least until my alarm goes off.

So I burrow deeper into the pillows, and I cast my mind back, trying to find the ragged edges of departing slumber.  And instead I realize that there is sunlight on my face, streaming through a gap between the curtains.

Áine, the goddess of the Summer sun, rules the daytime sky from dawning Imbolc to the last light of Lughnasadh.  She is said to be mistress of both love and fertility, but on mornings like this, I suspect she has a bit of a cruel streak.

“All right, I’m up already.”

—•••—

Okay, maybe I’m not all the way up.

I’m sitting in bed, trying to bring the words on my phone’s screen into focus.

I really do need to get these eyes of mine checked.

Or maybe not.  Most of what I’m reading are news stories detailing violence abroad and discrimination closer to home, most of it perpetrated by people whose motivation is their impassioned belief in one of the more popular middle-eastern gods.

At issue are differences in the specific hows and whys of religious practice, which I must admit, seem minor to this outsiders eyes.  That, and some differences in opinion on who sleeps with who, seem to be the impetus behind some very unpleasant behavior.

One would think that the belief in a single god would bring unity rather than strife.

—•••—

I shuffle the cards five times, cut the deck, and lay down a single card which will be the ‘theme’ of my day.

0 – The Fool.

There he is, about to step blithely off a cliff and into the unknown, his few possessions at his back, and his loyal companion running along at his side.

Today, it seems, will be a day of journeys, of mysteries explored and unexpected detours taken.

—•••—

There is a high whine in the air as I pass the weed-whacker over the tufty grass in my front yard.

Arc left – half step – arc right – half step…, it is a strange little dance, with it’s own beat, and I find myself humming lightly in cadence.  It is a hymn of sorts, though wordless, which I offer to the land spirits as I go about my work in the yard.

My relationship with the land is not one that the ancestors would have recognized.

I grow no crop.

There are no grazing herds.

I simply maintain what society has determined is a tidy appearance to my particular plot of land.

The ancients knew the names of their local spirits, knew their habits, their likes and dislikes.  The relationship with the land and its invisible inhabitants was a matter of life and death.  But today, for most of us, there is no relationship there to speak of.  We live on the surface of the land, with no thought of any deeper connection.

In my travels I have discovered that some places are more “talkative” than others.  The spirits which I feel around my home, when I feel them at all, are quiet and watchful.  Sometimes I think that they are suspicious of my attempts to speak with them.

And so the wordless song, to sooth their feelings, if I may, as I work at lowering the grass.

—SLAP!—

Almost lost the weed-whacker in my efforts to reach the biting insect on my arm.

I may have spoken out of turn.  The mosquito crop is coming along quite nicely.

—•••—

The Morrígan stares back at me from atop my home altar.

Agent of change, of war and challenge and conflict, she who collects the souls of the dead, prophetess and raven goddess, for some reason my gaze is drawn to her this morning.

I smile and glance up at the Tarot card, the wandering Fool, who rests near her.

So, it’s going to be one of THOSE days, huh?

Well, I’m gonna be late for work, if I don’t get a move on.

And as I lock up the house and head to my car, I hear the caw of ravens in the distance.

—•••—

I slog through the first half of the day until it’s time for lunch.  A few of my co-workers called out today and most of my customers seem to be on the grumpy side, so things have been pretty hectic up to this point.

But now I’ve got an hour to just sit in my car, under the trees and polish off that sandwich I’ve been longing for the last hour or so.

I pull out my phone again, and dip into social media, just to see if anyone has posted anything interesting.

A friend of mine wrote, “Writers romanticize everything, I know this because I am one.”

Hmmm…, I’ll have to think about that.

—•••—

I know that I won’t remember any of my other customers when this evening is over, but I’ll remember her.  Tall and tan and perfect in all the ways of a sun-touched goddess, and with a playful smile that isn’t just put on for show, I can see it reflected in her eyes when she laughs.

And I think I just caught myself flirting – if only gently.

As we speak I began to hear the sound of bark being torn from trees by restless antlers; beneath my feet I feel the thrumming of hooves pawing at the earth.  In the primeval forest that stands just beyond our limited mortal perception, the woodland god is waking from his slumber.

“Sorry, sorry, false alarm, let’s just focus on the job at hand!”

The feeling of disappointment washes over me like a wave, followed by the sound of retreating hooves and then a distant crash, the echoing fall of some unfortunate tree, splintered and broken, in a moment of irritation.

—•••—

I’m home after dark.

I feed the cat, and then myself.

I sit for a while, watching a little television as I digest and allow my mind and body to unwind after a busy day.

Before bed, I take a brief walk in the backyard.  The moon is hanging in the east, nearly full, and the cat is moving along at my feet, a shadow among shadows in the moonlight.

I’m about the head back in when I hear the owls again, making that same lost puppy sound that first caught my attention a couple weeks ago.  I spend the next several minutes watching them hurtle to and fro, over my head and across the yard, to the neighbors and back again.

As I watch them I think about the comment I’d read earlier in the day, “Writers romanticize everything…,”.  Maybe that’s true; it certainly fits with the world as we have been taught to understand it.

But what if the world is filled with a romance all its own, comprised of infinite layers of truth and perception, perfectly nested, each within the other, most of which we pass on our journey, never the wiser.  And writers, along with those artists of a more visual nature, are simply able to bring out the romance that we would otherwise miss, because our art requires us to both see and express the world in terms our audience can understand.

—•••—

The house is locked up, and I’m for bed.

I take a last glance at The Fool, resting there on my altar, and I am forced to smile.

The punchline, of course, is that every day is a journey into mystery and the most important thing we can do is to recognize that fact and take in the scenery we pass along the way.

One last glimpse at the online world and I’ll be done for the night.

Ahhh, another post on my wall, this one extolling the unlimited virtues of surrendering to that ‘one’ merciful god.

Sorry friends, but looking at that news feed, again and again, day after day, I’m just not seeing the benefit in dedicating myself wholly to just the one god, or to any single perception of truth.

I think the healthier choice is to live a modest lifestyle and to honor all beings in moderation.

Now then, until the morning comes, I wish you a good night.

Plato Quote

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Filed under Art, Modern Life, Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Spiritual Journey, The Gods

When all this Mario Sh*t gets old.

When I first started this blog, I thought I knew what I wanted to do with it, but I quickly realized that I had no idea.  There were so many things that I wanted to talk about, so many things that I thought needed to be said, and I really just assumed that the ideas would come of their own volition.

Sad to say, it was never quite so easy.

By the time I reached the second year of writing I’d begun to construct a road map for myself.  I started by listing the topics I really wanted to work on, in order of priority, and setting aside those that were still just the seeds of ideas, for later exploration.  Those all-important core posts I then slotted into my writing calendar, giving them an order that felt natural to me, and which I hoped would provide a refreshing variety to any regular readers I happened to pick up along the way.

Which brings us to year three, a year which has seen all my carefully constructed plans rendered into so much chaos.  Oh the big list of core topics is still sitting there, but my writing calendar remains woefully blank, and week after week I find myself flying by the seat of my pants.

Maybe you’ve noticed.

And here we are, having arrived at the 3rd Anniversary Post of the Stone of Destiny.

In my 1st Anniversary post, I compared the process of blogging to an old computer game, a text-based adventure that some of you may remember, called Zork.

When it came time to write my 2nd Anniversary post, I already knew I’d be continuing the theme I’d set a year earlier, by writing about another computer game, a puzzle-solving adventure called Myst, where whole worlds are created by the power of the written word.

Heady stuff, indeed.

And now, with three years under my belt, I guess it’s time we talked about a certain Italian plumber and star of a whole series of games, a guy named Mario.

Mario

When we first met this guy, he was barely even recognizable a human.  He was a brightly colored blob of pixels, whose girlfriend, Pauline, was being held hostage at the top of a large scaffold – by an ape.

This ape, presumably a distant relation of the more famous King Kong, defended his position from the ascending Mario, by rolling barrels down the scaffolding, which had the unfortunate consequence of crushing our hero, unless he either leapt over them, or pulverized them with a large hammer someone had left hanging around.

Mario, I should point out here and now, spends a lot of his time dying horribly.

But he’d re-spawn, and you’d take him up the scaffold once again.  Run-jump-climb-jump-jump-run-hammer-hammer-jump-run-climb…,

And just when you thought you had memorized the pattern of the level, and navigated poor Mario to the rescue of his lady-love, the blasted gorilla would retreat, girl in hand, to another even more diabolical set of scaffolds.

This goes on, literally forever, until Mario runs out of lives and is destroyed.

The entire objective of the game is to get as far as you can through an increasingly complicated series of death-traps, and to rake up as many points as possible along the way, before inevitable doom.

Later games in the series, feature Mario fighting his way through a bizarre fantasy land, in his quest to save a new girl, Princess Peach – a young lady who seems fated to spend eternity as the captive of a large turtle-monster-thing.

PrincessPeach

Frankly, the surreal nature of the ‘Mario World’ games has, on occasion, forced me to wonder if Mario hadn’t actually died in his fight against Donkey Kong, and with his quest to save Pauline unfulfilled in life, he finds himself wandering a purgatorial landscape, forever seeking to “save the princess” who is always out of reach.

And frankly, that rather dark scenario, would go a long way toward explaining the utterly insane obstacles he finds in his path.

It is these utterly nonsensical implements of death, which I long ago dubbed “Mario Shit”.

And that’s not just limited to the games in that particular series.

Anytime, in any game, you find yourself facing obstacles that have no logical reason to be there, except to force you into dying again and again until you memorize the bloody pattern – that, my friends, is Mario Shit.

And I’ll be totally honest here, and tell you that I’d been using that term for years before I made the connection with Mario being a plumber.

I’ll also say, and I know many will disagree, that I find this kind of game design to be lazy, and aggravating, and not in the least fun.

And if you haven’t picked up on my theme yet, it is simply this: these last few months have seemed like ever so much Mario Shit.  I feel like I’m constantly running up-hill, while all manner of unexpected obstructions seem to drop into my path without warning.

I’m all reaction and no plan, and I don’t like the way that feels.

So what to do?

Last year, when I began to feel a little overwhelmed, I took a month long break from the blog.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but when I re-spawned again, it felt like I was in a constant rush to regain the ground I’d lost along the way.

I feel like I’ve lost a pattern that I’d almost memorized, and I am still fighting to rediscover the right combination of moves that will get me where I want to be.

But where is that?

Is there an actual end-game or am I playing just to play?

These same questions came up in another post a few weeks back.  Looking further back, I can now see where they have been peeking in, here and there, for most of the last year.

I’ve allowed myself to become distracted.  It is all too easy to put off answering the hard questions, when you’re busy leaping barrels or smashing Goombas (I beg you, don’t even ask).

I may still take a few weeks off, to try and find my footing again, but the Stone of Destiny will return.

It’s time to play a new kind of game – I simply pray, to all the gods who will listen, that I do not find myself a year from now, writing a blog post about Pac-Man!

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fractured little thoughts

I’ve been having a bit of writer’s block this week.

Sometimes the problem is that there really seems to be nothing in the world to write about.  But most of the time, for me, it’s just that there are all these fractured little thoughts, bouncing around in my head, vying for attention.

They only want to be cared for, these little thoughts.

They only want me to find them a home.

And I would…,

Except that they are such little thoughts.

Except that they are too small to survive on their own.

And so I don’t know what to do with all these fractured little thoughts that don’t fit.

I mean, just by way of example, what really am I supposed to say about the Ant Rafts…,

So over the summer I noticed a peculiar thing happening in my cat’s water dish.

She’s mostly an outdoor cat, and although she takes her meals inside, I do always keep a bowl of fresh water on the front porch for her.

As the summer months passed, I began to observe something I had never seen before.  Every evening, upon arriving home from work, there would be a smallish pile of ants floating in the middle of the bowl.

At first I assumed that these were just collections of ants which had slipped into the water and drowned, only to gravitate to each other in the middle of the bowl.  I’d pour them out, refill the dish with fresh water, and move on.

But with each days passing, these piles continued to grow larger, and it quickly became clear to me that most of these ants were alive, clinging together in the middle of what should have been a watery grave.

Intrigued, I did a little rooting around on the internet, and discovered that this is a fairly well documented behavior among several species of ant, most notably, the dreaded, despicable Fire Ant.

When a flood comes and destroys their underground nests, a colony of Fire Ants will race to the surface and form a raft of bodies which floats safely downstream.  The ants are able to interlock their limbs in such a way that the surface tension against the water achieves a level of buoyancy capable of keeping the entire colony afloat.

This is an entirely cooperative mechanism, where every ant is doing its part to keep the collective from drowning.

Ants!

Fire Ant

Nasty, biting, swarming up your leg if you stand in the wrong spot for more than a few seconds, Fire Ants – who stretch their bodies out against the torrent, locking (hands?, claws?, whatever) with their neighbors, to make of themselves a raft that their entire society may rest upon in safety.

Okay, so Ant Rafts are really cool, and it would be neat to write something about them.  However, I don’t really have any place to take that.  It’s an incomplete thought that doesn’t fit well with any of the other incomplete thoughts in my head.

And why am I still thinking about Veterans Day?  That was last week, so there is no point in blogging about it now!

We see it all the time.

There’s a young man or woman in uniform.  Or maybe it’s an older gentleman, wearing a ball cap, or a jacket upon which a patch has been stitched, displaying certain insignia.  We know who they are.  We know they have made sacrifices, that they have put their very lives on the line.

And someone will walk across that room, and shake their hand, and thank them for their service.  It makes us smile.  It makes us proud to know that there are such people among us.  It makes us glad to know that we are a people that can recognize sacrifice when we see it.

Yet I am forced to wonder…,

I wonder about the guys who pick up my trash every Thursday, the guys who hang from the back of a stinking truck, in rain, and snow, and sweltering heat, the men (and women, I am sure), who breathe the foulest fumes of our daily lives and keep the horrors that we haul out to the curb every week from piling up around us.  Does anyone ever walk across a room to shake their hands and thank them for their service?

I really doubt it.

And please, don’t for a moment think that I am trying to take anything away from our men and women in uniform.  I’m really not.

But they are not the only ones who have, and will, make sacrifices.  Most of the people that make our modern little lives possible, are working jobs and making sacrifices that we would never consider doing for ourselves.  And the truth is, we’d be lost without them.

I’m glad the Veterans get their day.  The gods know they deserve it, and more.

But what about the folks who keep the water flowing, the electricity humming, and the trash picked up?  Don’t they deserve a handshake and a heartfelt thanks?

Don’t we all?

Do you see what I mean?

I can’t get anything done because I’m stuck thinking about this weird colony of ants, where every member interlocks with his fellows to keep the whole multitude afloat.  While, at the same time, I’ve got these odd ideas about the true meanings of community, and service, and sacrifice for the common good.  And while they are both interesting ideas, neither one really seems like something I could get a full blog entry out of.

And I was still trying to figure out what I was going to do, when a friend suggested I just tap into the upcoming holiday, and write something about thankfulness.  “Share with your readers,” she said, “what it is that you are thankful for.”

So what am I thankful for?

I’m thankful for all those fractured little thoughts, bouncing around in my head, vying for attention.  And for the friends and family who bring them out in me, who help them come together in ways I never expected them to.  And for the folks who read the words those thoughts become.  And for every one who has made my life possible – the billions of linked hands, keeping this whole silly world afloat against the waters that might otherwise carry us away.

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