Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jay World

Although I previously mentioned the call of the flicker as characteristic of the Autumn World, even more common is the shriek of the blue jays. A little before the Equinox, I know the jays have stepped up their activities and started their migration, because every time I stick my head outdoors, I can hear them as they move through the copse to my west. A jay was also what I heard immediately upon stepping out this morning. Their shrieks ring though every neighborhood you walk through—even heard over the sound of lawn mowers. In the Spring time, I refer to all of outdoors as “Robin World,” because of the sight of multiple robins hopping across my 2-1/2 acres of lawn, as well as their whinny-like calls, heard from all directions. (Several robin families usually nest about my place.) Outdoors has now been transformed into Jay World. Another major sound is the buzz-saw chorus of cicadas, still holding forth despite cooler days and nights.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Interconnected--Even in Suffering

When I mentioned yesterday that I look forward to Hurricane Season, I did not in any way mean to imply that I don’t care about the suffering of people who get the brunt of those storms. Ike is estimated to have killed 143 persons in Haiti and elsewhere, not to mention all the damage to property; for everyone who lost their homes or loved ones, the pain will be felt for many years to come, and my heart goes out to them. Yet despite the destruction inflicted in some parts of the world, Ike also brought relief from heat and drought to people in other areas. That is simply the nature of major weather systems, and there’s nothing we can do about it—beyond trying to ensure that storm victims have the resources needed to cope.

After yesterday’s post, I looked into an article on Hurricane Ike, [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Ike], and learned that Ike began as a system in the Sudan, and moved through Nigeria, Mali, and Senegal before crossing the ocean. After moving through the U.S., it proceeded to unleash high winds and heavy rain on Ontario and Quebec. So, it is truly awesome to contemplate how extensively the elemental powers connect places and people. Here, we have an echo of “butterfly effect” theory. In the wake of destruction, we are also reminded of other ways that we are connected. A lot of people think that Buddhism teaches that we are all One, but that is actually more of a Hindu concept. However, as one of our local monks, (Ajahn Khemasanto, abbot of Wat Dhammasala in Perry), has pointed out, what the Buddha did say is that all beings are united in suffering. So, something else for me to contemplate, as I gaze into the creek which is still racing, two weeks after the storms.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Heaven and Earth

Since yesterday afternoon’s walk, I’ve been driving about on different errands, and have seen onions lying by the side of several other roads--some in town, and some in the country—so the end of September must be the big onion harvest. On today’s walk along Ash Street, in town, I picked up a big one, though it was kind of dirty and mashed up a bit. (Although I live out in the country, in a big agribusiness area, I do a lot of my walking in the small towns of Mid-Michigan, because of the dangerous highway traffic where I live.) To extend the symbolism I discussed yesterday, when humble onions briefly became solar symbols, I will use this one for “Himmel und Erde” (“Heaven and Earth”), a German dish that combines apples with potatoes and onions.

Another way that Heaven and Earth are interconnected, and enable us to be interconnected, is through water and weather. Today I stood on the Elm Street bridge, as I like to gaze into Sycamore Creek. I noticed the creek is still a bit swollen and swifter-moving from the torrential rains of two weeks ago. When Hurricane Ike was done pounding the Gulf Coast, its system tracked up into the Midwest—which is typical of prevailing weather patterns. Although it created a lot of havoc in Chicago, we weren’t too badly affected, even though we experienced “a hundred year storm.” (We’ve had several hundred-year storms in the 12 years I’ve been living here.) I actually look forward to Hurricane season in the Caribbean, because when the rains eventually get to us, they bring cooler weather, often break summer droughts, and wash a lot of the ragweed pollen out of the air—thus enabling me to get out for more walking. These weather systems also enable me to feel elementally connected to my older son. He is an rpg designer-programmer in Austin, Texas, so the weather that he experiences eventually works its way up to me. (By the way, one of his hobbies is tornado chasing.) When I watch the weather news and see that something is coming my son’s way, I know it will eventually get to me as well.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Magic Along the Roadside

Something I saw while driving home from yesterday afternoon's walk in Mason has made me think I ought to start a blog on driving, as a companion to this one on the magic of walking. Heading west on Columbia, I glimpsed a golden ball by the side of the road, and wondered why someone left a Christmas ornament lying there. Not too much farther down, I saw another one. Continuing along, I saw more of them, and realized that some onions had fallen off of a farm truck, (a not uncommon occurrence out here in farm country). The sun was at just such an angle, shining on the onions in just such a way, that they truly glittered like golden orbs. Of course, my driving speed aided the illusion, as a walker would not have been fooled. I then stopped and dashed into Darrell's Market to buy a couple of things; when I came out and continued my drive, I saw more onions, but the sun was no longer at just the right angle to work its magic.

The illusion of onions as golden balls amuses me, because the golden orb is a traditional sun symbol, and in Jungian psychology, it is also an archetypal emblem of the Self. Golden balls (in sets of three) used to be hung at the top of English Maypoles, and they are a common design element in old German signage and other wrought iron decorations. Also, people have seen mysterious golden orbs hovering over crop circles and other mystical sites in Britain. So, if I want to color the onions by the side of the road with meaning, I could read them as a message of how we can find a shining quality of happiness and wholeness in the humble things of the earth.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Flickers of Awareness

As I walk, I try to engage all the senses, though as a person with Asperger's Syndrome, (a mild form of autism), this is a challenge. Like many people with autism and other sensory processing problems, it's difficult for me to operate on the visual and audial channels at the same time. So, if my seeing function is "on," my hearing function is muted, and vice versa. Nevertheless, when walking at this time of autumn, my seeing and hearing are both alerted by the flash and cry of the flicker. Though yellow-shafted flickers are found almost year-round in Michigan, our local residents are going south, while their Canadian cousins are also moving through. Because their activities are intensified, I am noticing their noisy presence in my neighbor's oak tree, and I sometimes see them partying along the road, in trios or quartets. I never see them in large flocks, because they fan out as they travel.

The flicker's exhortation to seeing and hearing is a theme in the works of Gary Snyder, who likens its cry to the zen master's exclamation, "This! This! This!" This is a reminder to see things as they really are, independent of the images and notions we form about them. Because "Whimsy Walks" has to do with ways we can project our imaginations into the things we encounter, this may seem like a contradictory point to be bringing up. However, I think it's possible to maintain a dual consciousness, acknowledging that other beings have their own realities, while entertaining our own little fantasies about them--as long as we remain respectful. After all, who is to know whether some of our imaginings engage reality on another level?

Because flickers are Michigan's most common woodpecker and have such distinctive markings, they were among the first birds I learned to identify, beyond the obvious robins, cardinals, jays, et al. (In those days I was more into my seeing function, as the only bird call I ever noticed was the mourning dove's; I didn't start paying attention to sounds until I was in my 40s.) Nowadays, the recognition of different birds revives memories of my first sightings, which in the case of flickers, was on a walk in the autumn-yellow woods. Also, there is something about the way a flicker flashes his big white spot during a sudden take-off that can be just a little bit startling--not unlike the flash of insight.

p.s., the flicker pic is by F.C. Hennessey, circa 1919.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Rites of Greeting

To start this walking blog on an auspicious note, I wish a wonderful life walk to all and everyone! As the Sephardic blessing goes, "Paths of milk and honey!"

I collect proverbs and greeting words, and greeting itself is a magical act. When you say "Hello" to someone, you are using an old Anglo Saxon blessing word that is wishing health and wholeness, as well as happiness, to him or her--in keeping with the wholistic worldview that characterized the Anglo Saxons as well as so many other tribal peoples. The greeting terms of other lands have similar associations. For example, "salute" comes from Latin roots that are related to salutary (healthful) and even salt as a healthful, protective substance. Walking provides an opportunity for many hellos, and as I walk, I try to extend my Hellos not just to the humans I meet, but also to animals and to distinctive features of the natural as well as built environment. Such "rites of greeting" enable us to engage the environments we pass through in ways that make us participants, not just mere observers.

Therefore, I wish us all innumerable hearty hellos, as we greet our world, and in return, receive greetings from that world.