Flooded Planet

Exploring the World to the Very Last Drop

To Live On (My Humble Beginnings)

(This story was originally written by Gary Gunter in 2002)

For the longest while, I considered the biggest drawback of my immortality to be the necessity of having to constantly find new friends.  After about fifteen years, twenty at the outside, my companions, true to form, no matter what the age I was living in, would increasingly realize that, although they were wrinkling steadily, no corresponding progression in my own features could they find.  Then the questions would follow, driven by their abiding suspicions and nagging doubts, all of which they desperately wanted to abandon, if only they could persuade me to explain the apparent paradoxes.

Now, you might imagine that my existence would be somewhat allayed of its stress were I to reveal the true nature of my abilities to the world at large, reassured that the governments and militaries of the mighty nations would find little in my novel biology to gain their interest.  No reasons to compel me to become the ultimate Soldier of Fortune, correct?  A mind engulfed in a body that doesn’t seem to die under any circumstances would have little use, yes?  A weapon like that, unique in all the world, couldn’t possibly hold the attention of any group and its righteous agenda for long, could it?  No, I didn’t think so.

Pardon my mockery on the matter—unfortunately, I have journeyed up and down the streets of civilization enough times to know what darkness awaits in the shadowy beating hearts of at least some of my fellow countrymen.  The Devil’s minions are always about, whether it’s the 3rd century BC or the 3rd millennium AD.

[Sidebar—Yes, I am painfully aware that those acronyms have changed recently, out of an overwhelming “sensibility” toward all nations, credos, and religions.  Oh, dreadful PC—such an unruly and misdirected beast you have invented for yourselves, the impetus of such lofty ideals originating more out of petty, yet lucrative, litigation than anything its practitioners would deceive themselves into labeling as noble and philanthropic.  What cynicism you have made out of your legal systems.  But, then there is always a new pair of eyes to receive the blinding wool.

Even with all this time on my hands, I would never be so misguided as to think I could sway the least fool who believes he (or she) can disseminate all of Mankind’s (I mean Humankind’s) solutions within the stuffy walls of the courtroom.  But wait, the beast is beginning to turn on its master.  Quick, save yourself, toss the legal types toward its maw.  Oh go on—it will heal and restore you beyond your wildest dreams.  You would be amazed how refreshing society could be once again when purged of the law offices of X, Y, and Z on every forsaken corner.  In the meantime, thank you, I will continue to use the old acronyms, the ones that prevailed before the common era (or should I say error).  Now back to my story.  Incidentally, for you youngsters, PC only meant Personal Computer for the briefest moment in time]. 

The only situation that could make my conundrum any worse would be the prospect of having to live interminably under the yoke of an endless stream of cruel wardens.  No, my secret will be staying with me as long as I have any say so in the matter.  [After all, this is but a journal, meant only to be revealed to the world at large upon my untimely death.  If you are reading these words now, you can be certain that I have most assuredly passed from your presence].  Besides, I have a few talents up my sleeve which I have yet to share with you, my reader, allowing me to extricate myself from virtually any situation I find to be, shall we say, a bit too confining.  Those details, like so much else, will have to wait until later.  For now, let’s get back to my friends.

But first, I suppose introductions are in order.  It’s not that I was being rude; it’s simply a matter of not knowing where to start and, because of this, I’m not quite sure as whom I shall introduce myself.  Currently, I go by the unassuming moniker “Lance McAllister.”  Am I Irish?  Not by a long shot, although the kind of blood that’s actually keeping my skin and bones alive is anybody’s guess.  I suppose it could be Irish as much as anything else, though, somehow, I doubt it.

Actually, I came upon the name by opening up the phone book one day in the spring of ’68, somewhere around Atlanta, if I recall, scanning down the list of tiny little names until I found one I halfway liked.  I’ve been wearing it ever since.  That doesn’t mean it will be with me tomorrow, should trouble find me again, as I’m sure it will.  Then I suspect I’ll be gliding my finger down a list once again.

Incidentally, ’68’s change of ID was due to an unfortunate death of a second party at my own hands, at which time I went into hiding for a short while, venturing back out into society as a new (though not improved) version of my former self, only after the smoke had long since cleared.  I shall share the whole sordid affair at a later date.  In the meantime, as you come to know me, you’ll see how much I prefer keeping a low profile, throwing the hounds off the scent, as it were.

So these friends I keep referring to—they were an eclectic bunch of blokes, and we enjoyed each other’s company as much as any group of men could, I suspect.  The cycle was always predictable though: the growing suspicion in their eyes, first in this individual or that, then in the whole group at a glance; the inquisitive stares, and the quiet conversations; the knowing looks and the pointing of fingers.  I never could be certain when the whole cauldron might boil over into undisguised animosity.  The day of reckoning did arrive, however, and there I was, caught in the thick of it, yet again.  On that pivotal evening, which I still remember well enough, much of what transpired would guide me in all my subsequent decisions regarding intimate company and how long to keep it.

My then cherished acquaintances, who had become so dear to me over the years, stopped just shy of physically attacking me in their pursuit to arrive at the truth regarding my eternal youth.  That night, chilled as we were by the final embraces of a protracted wintry season, with all outside hoary and bound for frost until dawn, the blokes and I were enjoying several bottles of cheap table grapes together, as we often did, gracing our favorite English pub, The Serving Wench, just south of London proper.

In response to what must have been someone giving the nod, five of them pressed in tight, all around and on top of me, their ignoble host, a suffocating mob closing ranks, at my own humble table, to boot, breathing their insinuations, accusations, demands to hear a suitable explanation—all this, no less, just after I had bought the last two rounds.  I attributed much of their quarrelsome demeanor that night to cabin fever, a way of relieving their frustration at having been shut in for so many weeks.  It is difficult, however, to defend against such veracity, even when it is muddled in drunken conclusions whose darts don’t quite hit the mark square on (but certainly strike close enough to the bull’s eye).

Ultimately, in order to free myself from the group’s mass hysteria, I confessed to them, drawing them round about me with wide eyes, near whispers and barely restrained animation (acting really isn’t the high art form it seeks to become, if only for self-respect among its practitioners); yes, it was true, I said, dejectedly, yet enthusiastic to an extent, they were quite correct in their skepticisms about me.  They had Found Me Out.  This was received with more than a couple of raised mugs, followed by a round of raucous revelry and swaggering dance, then finally, a willingness to be done with the whole thing by gathering about me once again, ready to give a good listen to what they hoped might be my plausible explanation.

Indeed, I did (hiccup, belch) draw of a potion that would bestow upon each one of them, regardless of their present years (sputter and swagger, slopping of ale all over floor), a cessation (slurring of words, dramatic pauses, loss of concentration) in the aging process.  All I asked in exchange for the information I was, against my better judgment, now inclined to divulge, the means by which they might endure time without end, was that each bloke ante up one of his livestock.  [These I later happily disposed of at one Lady Weatherly’s, the keeper of the local orphanage house, before embarking on the journey.  Ms Weatherly was that rare breed who, as head of a children’s home, actually loved her little charges.  She had a heart of gold, and a coffer as empty as a watering hole in a Texas drought.  At any rate, that kitchen probably gave off delightful aromas for months to come, involving pot, rump, and rib roast, the likes of which the children had not enjoyed in some time, all compliments of my merry band of idiots].  But there was slightly more to the inebriated proposition than just offering up one’s skinniest heifer—there was some hiking to do, as well.

Sharing with them, in genuine secrecy and feigned stupor, a purely fabricated tale regarding this fabled brew, residing in liquid form within the dancing waters of a hidden pool, adjacent to the meres belonging to what we now call the Lake District, I drew out, in an instant, the gullibility of my pals.  The particulars of the topography weren’t as important as the overly explicit description of distance, sacrifice, and large undertaking by everyone to be involved.

By the time I was finished with my long-winded account of the essential rigors involved in becoming immortal, I had, by design, pruned my following down to just two.  Of these, one slipped and fell along the way, breaking his ankle, ultimately left behind at a roadside inn that was wanting of a paying resident.  He, of course, was only able to secure a room by way of the little coin he had to his name, reluctantly parted with by ostensible comrades, the joyous men who, overwhelmingly, had chosen to gain passage into the eternal by way of barter.  The cows and pigs reluctantly parted with would ultimately come back to them in the shape of a delivered bottle or two, filled to the brim with “everlasting life.”  Amen.

In the end, as the booze wore off, perhaps it was a lingering doubt in the efficacy of my story that ultimately kept most of them at home.  Preferring a cozy tavern, a warm bed, and the idea that an end to one’s travails on this earth might be preferable to the discomfort and shivering required by those on the road to Shangri-La, they settled in for the rest of the cold winter, hugging their wives tighter at night, happy in their knowledge of the secret shared among friends.

Well, they had been deficient of a worthy explanation and I, being of grand imagination to begin with, delivered a splendid load of old cobblers which, in due course, led only myself and a duped procession of one into a small valley’d area not far from the mountain tarns made famous centuries later by several poetic types.  Had I not been immune to the hardships of this, and any other journey, I would have been hard-pressed not to believe that I had been taken in by my own joke.  Nature, however, is unparalleled in the telling of riddles.  I was happy to see the mighty struggle my traveling companion willingly undertook, never questioning the validity of my tale.

It was one of those strange perverse predilections of history that should assign the name of “Coleridge” to my faithful follower.  He was no lake poet, however, probably uneducated beyond, say, the modern-day kindergartener; his open-mouthed appreciation of the splendor all around him, however, was enough payment in my book.  I should think a poet might want to write on the topic of unadulterated belief one day.  ’Tis a wondrous thing to behold, and would make a most pleasing sonnet.

In the clear, deep water of a refreshing hidden pool—one I had passed by many years earlier and which had moved me with its unassuming tranquility—this was where Coleridge was to find the answers to his most sincere, if rather simple questions, regarding life in all its boundless mystery, just as I had promised.  In the absence of the genuine article, the placebo principle can achieve astonishing results.  I say none of this disparagingly.  It might surprise you to discover about me what I can call nothing other than a wholesome curiosity for what comes next in my own existence.  Why should I deny Coleridge similar fascinations when it was so easy for me to grant them?

During my effortless escape from the described oppressiveness of this inquisition, I envisioned, not without humor, the scene which I could have brought about, had I been so inclined, taking place along the banks of any tributary I had singled out as being the magical one.  Had I assigned the place of “stepping over” somewhat closer to their own beloved pastures, perhaps several more of my anxious friends would have lustily slurped from their cupped hands, the powerful elixir “…that pools, fleetingly, by the steep south canyon walls of that ancient and mystical place known only to myself and three others as Mer-Narriamsterenthicus (had I really just thought that up on the spur of the moment?)…under the gentle light of the pale full moon.”

I quickly would have cleared my throat at that juncture, trying to rid my countenance of the giddy expectation I felt for the farcical display they would have provided me, without hesitation, much to my undying chagrin.  It would have made for most splendid entertainment, I assure you.  How quickly they would have all memorized the enchanting and strangely familiar incantation I would have imparted to them, remembered most likely from some old fairy tale, probably recited by their great grandcestors, yet only remembered by me.  I alone could reach my hand into the somewheres of the way-back-whens; what I could effortlessly bring into the present never failed to amaze me, as well as those in my circle of influence, which was, by choice, generally quite small.

“It is imperative,” I would have stated emphatically, earnestly pounding one fisted hand into the palm of the other, “that these verses be quoted, word for word, without error or pause, immediately after the consumption of three handfuls of the panacea…lest you negate, and even accelerate in the opposite direction, the restorative aspects of this spell.”

The only thing I could fancy as becoming injured or bruised in those jovial proceedings would have been their individual and collective pride.  I supposed, once the first one passed on, the deceived group would have ultimately fingered me as the scapegoat for his untimely demise, even though he might have achieved to the ripe old age of 74, or 83, or 96, if by no other means than sheer willpower.  Ahh, but then, our time here is never enough.

Coleridge peered deep into the water, while I stood beside him, my arm around his neck, my hand resting on his small shoulder.  I had to admit, I loved this boy as if he were my own son.  I wanted grand things to happen for him.  Faith plays such a large part in the recitation of one’s chapters.  Each of us simply has to decide what is the most deserving of that faith.  Is it religion?  Humanity?  One’s own self?  Those are easy questions for you to answer, but, back then, humanism was still just a glimmer in society’s eye.  God ruled all men with a rigorous and unwavering hand.  I deduced that Coleridge already feared for his soul in the afterlife, feeling that perhaps he had just struck a deal with the Devil.  It was up to me to put those fears to rest.

“It was destiny that you alone should arrive here, my boy.”

“Do you really think so…Sir?”  I suppressed a grin upon hearing such a title proffered on my behalf, one he had never used before.  I assumed he was viewing me with newfound veneration, quickly forgetting that night, not so long ago, when we drank ourselves into a fond stupor quite along with the rest of our cadre.

“Don’t address me as such, Lad, for it is not I you have to thank, but only yourself.  Such persistence I have not otherwise seen.  Many a better man would have fallen by the way side long afore now.”  I gave the small round shoulder a little squeeze.

“What do I do now, S… I mean, how shall I call into service what you have brought me all this way for?

“I am leaving you alone for a little while, Coleridge.  This moment is a sanctified one.  You make all things right with your god now, y’hear? before you go to sipping what will give you eternal peace of mind.  And remember, if ever you should use your life for ill will toward others, the magic…” I lent no levity to the situation, “…well, the magic will be gone.”

“Is it then…mystery?”

“Ordained by the angels, themselves, Coleridge.”

“But why me?  I’m nothing special.”

“You’re no less than the King, himself, Coleridge.  Don’t you ever forget that.  Do you understand?”  He shook his head timidly.  I stayed beside him a moment longer in silence, then grabbed his tiny neck in my hand and gave it a gentle nudge.  “Our paths crossed for a reason, Son.  You have been chosen.”  Then I let go of him, and walked away, leaving him there alone, staring into his destiny.

I didn’t come back for Coleridge, and I suspected he knew that I would not.  I was confident that he would make his way back to the little settlement we had left behind us only yesterday, especially given the idea that he would think himself invincible now, including an invulnerability to the elements, causing a doubling of his efforts where he might have otherwise perished.

Some would maintain that what I perpetrated on Coleridge was a cruel joke of the meanest kind.  I disagree.  He had little to look forward to in his own life other than continuing the trade of his father, namely the herding of beasts.  I had given him a unique and novel feeling of hope and inspiration.  He had been the youngest of my friends, as well as the most salvageable.  It was correct that only he should wind up here, drinking the fruit of his diligent efforts.  I believed Coleridge would go on to do great works because I knew his heart.  It wasn’t pastoral, but it was pure.  I had granted him the adventure he had been longing for.  Now, if he could just get all those empty containers filled.

Meanwhile, having left these poor loveable sinners, my troupe, to their misguided pursuit of perpetuity here between the earth and sky, I sighed at being forced, once again, to take up the path that never left off, on my way to new adventures myself, same as the old ones I had just completed.  From that incident on, if I kept any friends at all, I was exceedingly careful to make note of the elapsed time since the initial encounter.  Were I careless in my calculations, compelled to witness that questioning stare on yet still another face I had grown fond of, I spared not a moment in making haste to the nearest stage coach, or sailing ship, or airplane, whichever the case might have been.

Still, it’s hard to leave, time and again, the people who feel good to be around—rather like losing a well-worn leather jacket, which has done no worse than to fit a little better with each passing year.  I’ve become accustomed to it, this mandatory bidding of adieu, simply accepting it as part of my fate, part of my calling, whatever that might be.

You, the reader, might assume that I would have worked that side of the equation out long ago—nothing could be further from the truth.  A clear picture of how I’m supposed to use my mutated characteristics for the benefit of all humanity has never properly formed in my mind.  I’m no closer now to knowing the utility I have in this world than when I first realized, several thousand years ago, how different I was from my fellow brethren.

* * *

Born on the eastern plateau of what used to be known by the beautiful word “Palestine” now the much less sonorous and unimaginative “Middle East,” I do not know, and cannot know, exactly what year I burst forth onto the scene, for it was long before my group of sapiens kept track of any sort of calendar, as you so meticulously do in these modern times.  [Incidentally, I use the term with deprecation, for the modern does not properly exist for me.  All people believe they are living in modern times, and doing modern things, not realizing that it is all simply a snapshot they are a part of for the briefest of moments.  What you see as the vivacious colors of your unduplicated life will soon be nothing more than a discarded photograph in some large unorganized suitcase that sits in the darkened attic of your progeny.  Or worse, you’ll only make it onto a hard drive, thumb drive…no drive.

Don’t let it depress you—I could paint much more bleakly, should I so desire, which I don’t.  Perhaps if you all stopped to realize how fleeting your existence truly is, you might paradoxically take more time to pursue what is rightfully the most enjoyable.  Stop working so hard, start smelling the flowers.  You’ve heard it all before.  But I’m preaching again, I admit.  It’s all just the turn of a wheel].

Nor do I know exactly where my mother reached the triumphant push that shoved me out of her womb and into the light of day, as we did not take up residence in any hint of permanent structure.  We were a band of wandering nomads, never resting in the same place for long, always following the herds of wild beasts, gathering what sparse vegetation there was along the way to sustain us when the meat ran out, as it almost always did.

I will not detain you with the intricate details of our existence; suffice it to say that your archaeologists and anthropologists have largely gotten the record straight, and, for the most part, things did evolve in a manner similar to what they have assumed to be the truth.  We kept as close to the water sources as we possibly could (although they were as unreliable as anything else in the world), afoot on any given day, relentless in our pursuit of nothing more grandiose than the procurement of our next meal.  Not very awe-inspiring, all that traipsing around, following a dinner that refused to stand still for very long—stories that might amuse a school child, or interest an adjunct professor working out her thesis statement.

I watched every morning as my father set out with his gaunt and sinewy collection of fellow hunters, he ever hopeful that the long hours (sometimes days) away from family would at least prove worthwhile in bringing forth the protein necessary to survive one more season in our inhospitable surroundings.  As the only offspring, I spent the days of my youth learning the ways of my people under the almost hourly tutelage of my loving and attentive mother.  Tagging along behind, I was ever open-eyed to her patient illustrations regarding the proper ways to coax, sometimes wrest, the life-sustaining offerings from Nature’s bosom.  On those evenings when he was due back, however, how I looked forward to the return of my father, whether he arrived empty-handed and despondent, or full of elation, wading into the fire’s light, proudly carrying the spoils of the successful hunt draped around his leathery neck.

He never tired in telling his adventures—where he had been, what he had seen.  A good man, gentleness and ferocity inhabiting the same body, I well knew that he wanted his boy to grow into manhood every bit as strong as himself, able to face the darkness of the night with a bold heart and a sharp spear.  The day finally arrived when I was old enough to take my place beside my father, an uncomplaining and smiling teacher who imparted the unfurling mystery to me, the adrenalous adventure of the hunting party.

It was a serious and joyous undertaking of Man if ever there was one, the likes of which are no longer to be found anywhere on Earth, except in the remotest pockets of the rainforest, and other pouches of undisturbed primitive cultures, where small tribes still boldly set out with nothing more than spears and arrows as their indispensable weaponry.  Thundering into the forest with a four-wheel drive pick-em up truck, laden with all the luxuries of modern life, a high power rifle or two shoved into the gun rack in the rear window all falls far short of the mark and the spirit that existed in ancient hunting rituals; still, I suppose it is better than nothing.  Some traditions are worth keeping alive, even if they are represented by a much-diluted and warped version of the ideal.

A natural part of our cruel and austere desert existence was the expectation that my father should pass away at a relatively young age.  Even when thirty or forty seasons was considered ancient, did we know, inherently, somehow, that there was the potential for so much more life, if we could only improve our circumstances?  Perhaps it was more realistic to believe it then than it is now, when Westerners expect, almost as a God-given right, at least a century’s worth of respiration.  But, as I said, it is never enough.

When my father did pass on, silently in the night, as people often did, my dear mother followed him closely behind.  It was, of course, expected that I should succeed them in assuming the role of provider.  The time to put childish things aside had arrived, and, so, as was the tradition of our people, I took my own wife (pairing off has long been the norm); we produced two children, a boy and a girl.

I don’t know how to ascertain the true age of my body when it ceased to mature any further but, based on the images I still hold in my head of my children as they began to look at me with curiosity, then suspicion, and finally, bewilderment, I estimate myself to be in the physiological health of a man approximately age 35.  This was a time of great confusion for me, not knowing the reasons behind my predicament.  Living in a time when critical thought, as we think of it today, was never a part of my existence, what with being preoccupied in just mere survival through the night, I had neither the time, nor the necessary mental tools, to even pose a thoughtful question regarding my situation.

Humanity as a whole, you have been correctly taught, was never able to enjoy the luxury of leisurely rumination until we came to understand the concepts of farming and herding, allowing us the requisite time to ponder nature with a less distracted mind.  We, as a people, were still a few generations away from such life changing events; as an individual, I had no resources to help me understand why things might be as they were in my own unique case.  Although it was an aspect of my being that I simply accepted (what else could I do with it), nevertheless, it was deeply painful and infinitely troubling to see my children surpass me in years and then die, leaving their own children behind in my care and company.

Slowly, or maybe more quickly than I recall, I came to be revered within the tribe, rising to the position of a great chieftain, purely out of my ability to go on living while others all around me passed on of simple old decrepitude.  I was able to improve the condition of my people by never failing to bring back the kill.  It isn’t a trait of biology that has a neon light flashing around it, so it goes largely unnoticed by affluent capitalists: no matter how aggressive a species’ breeding habits may be, their numbers will be sustained only to the point that their niche can accommodate those numbers.

My people experienced a high infant mortality rate, the result of an existence that was more formidable than you can possibly imagine, situated in your reclining chairs, punching your remote controls, munching on your cheese doodles.  [Do we do any great favors to the peoples of the so-called developing countries by throwing them a bone every now and again?  The problems of the world will never be solved with such flimsy attempts at humanitarianism?  Isn’t the incessant footage of all those skeletal, fly-ridden people, squatting in the sun-baked soil—isn’t that good enough proof of the “Give me a fish and you feed me for a day…” parable, thrust under our noses so we can smell the stench of our ways?  Yes, dammit, I am a preachy old bastard].

Only the strongest survived, and only if Nature decided that it should be so.  It was my ability to maintain my strength and stamina, unaffected, even for long periods, by exposure to the heat of the day and the chill of the night, which allowed me to stay with a herd for as long as I needed to before finding my targets.  Everyone knew that when I arrived back at camp, there would be a bountiful feast.  Eventually, the population of my people reflected an improved health and longevity.

Our travels in the desert expanded.  We were crossing paths ever more frequently with other nomadic clusters, itinerant lineages like ourselves, traversing the plains and steppes in pursuit of the same object as any other—food for hungry mouths.  Word got around of my prolonged existence, taking on mythical proportions.  I became a celebrity to others, a prize to be hoisted high by my own kind.  Yet, a new twist to the story began to take shape, something to be tacked on at the very end of a growing procession of exploitive narratives: the murder of the great warrior of a thousand suns, should it prove possible, would bestow the capacity to cheat death, by fiat, on his assailant.  I became the target of plotting, and war campaigns, and deception within my own numbers.  I began to wonder silently if perhaps even I would soon experience the long sleep of death.

Unaware of what my full potential for immortality truly was, and under what circumstances it might be terminated, I had performed a few experiments on myself—mild self-mutilations, leaps from distances a bit too high for the ordinary man, underwater sojourns well beyond reasonable lung capacities, starvation, dehydration, setting myself on fire…those sorts of things—all resulting in little dire consequence to my physical well-being.  But what would happen if I were to be savagely attacked by weapons that could cut deep and cause far graver harm than I had ever inflicted on myself?  I was soon to find the answers to my questions.

* * *

It was a chill, starry evening, in the late fall of a happy, prosperous year, our encampment situated more and more permanently by a babbling brook that was asking us to stay.  Lately, however, it was also whispering ominous warnings in my listening ear about a swiftly approaching future.  I often remained awake well into the night, attentive to every sound outside with one mind, yet at the same time, able to perceive the gentle breathing of my third wife—beheld in my mind as so precious, so fragile.

[You might laugh at the reference to body count, but I find it necessary, given that each marriage ended in death, as it must.  Does that fact alone not offer reason enough to behold life as dear?  Does that not qualify me to offer advice where life and death are concerned?  If you do not think so, perhaps this book would be best read by someone other than you.  I only offer such observations because I am able to.  Where you only contemplate your own death, I am witness to the demise of each succeeding generation.  What can you make of that other than something that is either highly liberating, or terribly depressing?  The light in which you view it tells me volumes about your soul.  As you go about your daily business, you should try much harder to do one simple thing—practice being humble.  The shadowy figure will also come for you one day, and he’s lurking much closer than you might assume].

While she lay there nestled by my side, her smooth skin warm against my own, her dark hair spilling over my chest, I wondered when her day would arrive.  The night was oh so still.  Then they fell upon us, we, the unvigilant, awakened by those haunting taunts that sprang up out of the calm.  I had fallen asleep on watch—now the tribe would pay.

The tranquility, a peace that had lasted for generations, was finally broken, like an heirloom, having been passed so carefully from mother’s hand to daughter’s, ultimately dropped, in one shattered moment of carelessness, irretrievable for all eternity.  The sudden commotion pierced me, as it must have pierced us all, roused from the comfort of slumber, some of us sitting up abruptly, only to be struck down at once, like so many young saplings, part of a larger tree that must fall.

Small in numbers, but large in fierceness, these savage fighting men had slunk across the desert to arrive at the edge of my world, and had then embarked on its systematic destruction.  That brutality still exists among us even today, even within the trappings that delude us into believing that we are somehow more civilized because we are more connected, more accommodated.  But we’re not above it, nor can we ever be.

They swung their clubs and they plunged their knives into everything they could catch.  Every living thing, young and old, was running this way and that, unorganized and unprepared.  Even then, I knew that I would rightfully be blamed for the loss of so many lives, for a lack of caution when it was most warranted.

The consequences, big and small, were racing through my mind when I spied him, on the far side of the melee, swinging his heavy stone club in wide arcs, making sickening contact with so many of his targets.  He seemed to relish the act of killing, this woolly mammoth of a man, whooping like a mad dog whenever his efforts resulted in the spillage of blood.  I became frantic, needing to reach this enemy far worse than I had ever needed to reach any prey that had come before him.

Then I saw her, my darling wife, running in the wrong direction, running toward him without seeing him, blinded with fear.  We were all blinded by that same fear.  I wasn’t afraid for myself; rather, I was glutted with the agony that I would be unable to prevent what I saw about to happen.   As though it were a weapon that might somehow thwart this ruthless warrior’s best attempts, I hurled her name into the night, casting it into the heavens, screaming with more pulmonous force than I had ever mustered before.

She stumbled and turned, searching for the source of her name, finding me in a flash of recognition.  I even think I observed a fleeting reassurance in those soft eyes as she watched me flying straight at her with all the speed I was capable of…but it was not enough, and I was too late.  Looking on, helpless, I felt the hitch in my throat, catching my breath as he lunged out, snagging her, just barely, by her small wrist, connected to a gentle, outstretched hand.

Reveling in the victory, he reeled her in quickly, as though she were tethered to him by a spring, then, without hesitation, he unloosed his knife and slit her open in a manner that suggested the esteem he must have held for each of us, nothing more than common desert beasts, one and all.  As her innards spilled onto the frost-dusted ground, he released her from his grip, letting her drop, sliding down and down his bare and bloody leg, until she crumpled in a lifeless heap at his dirty feet.  All the while, this killing machine never took his wild eyes off me, the trophy he so coveted, so desired to obtain.  His face was splattered with my loved one’s own blood.

Oblivious to her body’s weight pressing against his own, he stood, motionless, poised to strike, scrutinizing me intently as I came barreling at him like a wave, wishing to break over the top of him with a terrible and awesome force, wishing to break his every bone like a tumbling boulder might do to a careless climber caught in its unmerciful path.  I had no weapon, and my reasoning had abandoned me; I could think of nothing else but to throw myself at him as I would an armament, with all the momentum I possessed.

Willing my body to become heavier, thicker, denser, I launched my bulk into the air twenty feet before I reached him.  He seemed to have planned for this and, as though it were a well-practiced maneuver, swung his club with a blood-lust I had not witnessed before, nor have since, catching me squarely on the side of my head as I started my descent, arms outstretched, mouth wide open, voracious with hunger, aching to devour this monster in one gaping bite.

Now you, my thoughtful reader, always in search of clarity, must have that one curiosity answered.  Yes, I feel pain the same as any other human, but, it is different for me in that the pain is being ceaselessly followed by a healing process, a soothing hand, if you will, that eases away all injury.  Sometimes, it is more of a spirited chase than an effortless relief, depending on the severity of the wound.  It is an automatic response to any physical harm that comes to me, and I am nearly powerless to stop it or control it in any fashion.  At times, however, I have felt that, by simply concentrating intently on the area of infliction, I have hastened the progression of recuperation.  This, then, is the key to the why that is me.

The best way to describe it is to say that this healing is just like your own, only accelerated a thousand times over.  The blow my enemy dealt me in that moment would have easily split a mortal man’s skull wide open.  I do not pretend to understand the physiological methods that grant me what they do, endowing me with the ability to roam this planet through the ages, time after time denying the Grim Reaper what is properly his due.  All that I can add to this non-explanation, after having been “fatally wounded” several times throughout the centuries, is that this recuperative power residing within me becomes proportionately stronger the more profoundly my life is threatened.

I did, in fact, black out after I was struck, and my skull, most probably, was momentarily shattered.  When I came to, there was an unbearable burning sensation in my abdomen, as I watched my vivisectionist’s agitated attempts to disembowel me.  In a manner I was now familiar with, I observed him using those same unrelenting strokes of his knife to complete the urgent and selfish task he had set for himself.  As I stated before, a healing process was following closely behind each intensive stab and stroke, my wounds closing up almost as quickly as he could open me.  Exhausted and frightened, he rose shakily to his feet, dropping the ineffective scalpel from his bloodstained hands.

His look of disbelief was a horrifying thing to behold, even to me, though I stared at him all the more, with wide, unblinking eyes, hoping to shock him to the highest possible degree.  As he turned to run, screaming, moaning, crying with misery at having witnessed the impossible, his accomplices began to back away from both of us, as well, waving their hands in front of themselves, as though to ward off the unspeakable fates I was planning to visit on every one of them, each in his own good turn.

I stood up slowly, carefully, glancing around at my remaining family and friends, seeing the masks of sheer terror on the faces of one and all.  Picking up the man’s knife, dripping with my own coagulating blood, and satisfied that no further harm would befall the diminished clan this dreadful night, I began the pursuit of my quarry, fast disappearing into the deepest shades of the dark.

Receding away, like the waning light of a spent day, the glow of the campfires’ embers edged steadily further toward the far horizon.  I listened, without emotion, to the final choked breaths issuing forth from this pathetic disbursement of field mice.  They must have realized that an undesirable demise was soon to befall each member of their scurrying war party.  They knew I was there, following in close pursuit, tickling their neck hairs.  The moon was all but gone and, but for the uncaring twinkle of a million blinking stars accentuating the smallness of our situation, it was pitch black in every direction.  A vast desert stretched for hundreds of miles all around, offering them little consolation in the form of a way out.  How the panic must have set in quickly, with all that room to run in, and yet no merciful place to hide.

I growled in my own dialect, a language they may have vaguely understood, asking if they believed all their scampering hither and yon would grant them the first rays of the new morning.  As the dawn approached, I felt the wind come up slightly, just as I moved in on my first victim, my snarling now only intended to unnerve all the players from the other side.  Making certain that death came slowly to each of these cold-blooded murderers, praying that they were related—brothers and sons and nephews among them—I was careful to ensure my techniques would force the shrill cries of pain and agony from the parched throat of my latest catch and into the ears of the leftovers.  Echoing across the dry, cracked earth, their outbursts were carried into the others’ nightmares by the morning breeze, that delicious zephyr, lofting the promise of a fresh-sprung day into the air of a beautiful and deadly landscape.

At last, I arrived at the monstrous one.  He could make out my silhouette in that dim, barely perceptible light that was creeping in from one side.  He, like the others, would die utterly alone, with me as his only company.  I would serve as his judge, jury, and executioner, concepts I had never heard of yet.  Each one had begged for forgiveness in his own unique manner, using a language that was foreign and harsh to my ears.  I could only guess what ungranted pleas their last words had held.  I was happy to crush such hopes out of existence with nothing but my own bare hands.

Somehow, I knew that this one would fall silent.  Slumped over, panting in his labored breaths, retching up his guts, having run through the night, he was now spent, his trembling paws trying to support his weight on wobbly, bloodied knees.  As the leader, he was tougher than all the rest, mentally and physically.  I raised his knife high above my head, hesitating only for a moment, awaiting any declaration that might spill from his cracked lips.  When none came, he submitted to the Pale Horse as bravely as I had imagined he might.  The blade, most likely crafted by his own efforts, plunged deeply into this mortal’s flesh, allowing me to finally acknowledge the death of my tribal family as thoroughly avenged.

I realize now, having lived these many centuries, that we were all part of a savage and brutal race, but no more so then than we are now.   Little has changed, other than our choice of weapons, now greatly expanded.  Our one true means of achieving our sincerest and most satisfying triumphs still comes by way of a single, time-honored skill: the spillage of enemy blood.  I think the reason that it flows so bright red is because of some deep-seated need within the reptilian brain of our species to visually verify its triumphs…and its losses.  Were blood the color of water, much of the allure of these brutally ruthless clashes would be lost on the battlefield.  It all must be a contrivance of God, or the Devil, or perhaps the two in tandem.  I can only wonder how much we humans might have gained had we stuffed the stolen quality of cleverness back into Pandora’s box, rather than putting it to our own good use.  And, indeed, we are a clever species.  Now, all that is required to annihilate the opponent is a series of well-timed button pushing.  The bright red colors need not be viewed close up, nor acridly acknowledged through heaving nostrils.  Progress is a wondrous thing.

With arms limp by his sides, and a head that was suddenly too heavy for its neck, he fell over, crashing into his grave, eyeing me with dead eyes all the way down.  The sound of his body thudding against the ground was as pleasing to me as any I had ever heard.

I peered into a giant yellow orb, slowly ascending into an eternal sky behind some far off mountain range, its edges being crisscrossed by the flying scavengers who would have a sumptuous feast this day.  Burdened with reluctance to take my first steps toward home, I knew that, after this morning, it would no longer be mine to possess.  My path, once again, had just changed direction.

* * *

When I came upon the desecrated scene, several hours later, that same sun had settled high overhead, bringing the events that had stretched across a desert the night before into the flat and blinding starkness of the wasteland’s midday heat.  They watched me warily as I approached, these fellow creatures I had hunted with, had shared bounty with, had told stories around the fire with, now finding it impossible to entrust their lives to me.  Never more would I fold the little bodies of my grandchildren to my breast, comforting them, kissing their fears away.  I had become the object of their trepidation, and my presence among them meant that more callous attacks would follow.  They knew with certainty that I was not like them.  I was an outsider, the thing who kept bringing danger into their midst because of my uniqueness.

Their eyes were burning into my back, quickly averted when I tried to catch a compassionate face to gaze upon, to find meaning in all that had transpired, to pick out a lone supporter amidst the subdued mob, indicting me with their united glare.  There was none to be found, not in the adults at least.  My grandchildren were crying, clinging to one another, huddled together near the center of the burned out shelters, their faces grimy with sooty tears.  When I thought about approaching them, I saw the fear expand, the way their little hands dug into each others’ flesh all the more pitiful to see.  It was now beyond doubt that I would be traveling soon.

I smiled in acquiescence at all who dared to see me for who and what I was in that moment of turning away.  Heaving a great sigh, I felt my shoulders sag, knowing they didn’t want me to leave them; I also knew they were hoping with all their remaining heart that I would.  Only moments after my arrival back at the fringe, I felt the sting of my own tears as I prepared to cast myself aimlessly away from them all, never to see them again, except in my dreams.

Then, raising a hand to my squinting eyes, shielding them from the glare of that unfeeling sun, I suffered a lump, rising in my throat, pushing its way ever upward as I watched a lone little girl running bravely out toward me.  Having broke free from the grasp of an older sibling, she raced across the rocks, being tossed this way and that by their scattered jaggedness, like a little boat braving the fiercest waves.   I feared she would fall, as she carelessly stumbled on, her long, tangled hair flowing out behind her in the hot dry wind that blows relentlessly on us desert sojourners.

Weeping with indescribable sadness, she rushed into my arms, burying her tiny head in my shoulder.  I couldn’t hold back my emotions any more than she could her own, our tears mingling together in a salty tempest, reminding us both of all our terrible heartbreak.  A few sharpened and lashed stones, some flint pieces crafted into weapons of undeniable efficiency, profoundly severing the ties that bind, more so than any natural disaster we had ever endured together.  In just a tick or two, in an endless sea of time, our lives were altered by devastation that would follow us through the remainder of our days.

In that moment, I hugged this angelic child tightly to my breast, praying that I could die, that whoever or whatever had conferred this horrible spell upon me would take it back then and there, that the ground might rush up to receive my mortal bones and flesh, that I would fall wearily into the bosom of my maker, my torments finally over.

Then, hoisting this baby girl high up in the air, I screamed, loud and long, to all my distant onlookers, assured that they would discern my meaning.  Crying all the more in body-racking sobs as I heard an uproar come across that empty expanse, no longer bridgeable, accentuated by the movement of a few brave souls, I watched their spears, thrust high above their heads, shaking in acknowledgment, shaking out of respect for their broken chieftain.

After what seemed like an eternity, I reluctantly, gently returned this little warrior to her place on the soil, then knelt on bended knee and kissed her.  Patting her leather-clad bottom softly, brushing off the dust, I told her in our rustic, undecorated language how much I loved her, how I would never forget her for as long as I lived, my darling great-great-great granddaughter, more courageous than all the others left standing.

Covering my ears to the sound of the sorrowful wailing that would not end, a song that hung in the air like the dwindling moisture over a dying oasis, I tore myself away, leaving them, alone now, forever more.

* * *

Copyright 2017

Don’t Hold Your Breath

During my brief hiatus from this blog, I did a lot of looking about, both locally and regionally, as well as keeping a close eye on news events. The hiatus wasn’t intentional, by the way. Life just got extremely busy, and the blog’s priority started slipping down a notch or two. Of course, because I love this blog, the fact that I wasn’t writing left me with feelings of guilt. So I’m back…maybe not in full swing, but doing my best to get there. In the meantime, my look about left me convinced that there was no need for me to change any of my notions where Climate Change was concerned. No, I am more doubtful than ever that we hold any promising developments for resolving our predicament on the planet. Some terribly rough times lay ahead for us humans, I believe, and I’m certainly not alone in that perspective.

When I say that I “looked about,” I mostly mean that I did a lot of reading. What I continually discover is discouraging in the strongest sense of the word. Downright depressing is a more apt description.

Because I do keep such a close eye on Climate Change news (even though I’ve vowed not to because it’s changing my entire world perspective much faster than I would like to shift…I’m dizzy), I can tell you that I am perceiving a palpable increase in the number of stories readily accessible to the average reader concerning Climate Change, and of course none of them uplifting or holding much promise for the future. The warning signs are becoming more prevalent, and this must be the cause behind the more focused attention that is being paid to the scientific community and its persistent alarms.

Here are ten random factoids about the climate, ranging from the very cold to the very hot. With these kinds of observations, as with many others, the term “feedback loop” comes to mind, and it’s important not to consider such unfoldings in a linear manner. The way that the Big CC is proceeding would appear to suggest exponential acceleration, and that’s about as frightening as things can get:

  1. Larsen C is scheduled to calve off from its parent ice shelf any day now, becoming one of the largest icebergs ever recorded, comprising about a ten percent loss to the ice shelf it has always called home. Some scientists say this will only accelerate the rush to the sea of the glacier that is “held back” by the shelf.
  2. According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center, glaciers around the world have been retreating, with few exceptions and at unprecedented rates for decades now. Some have disappeared altogether, and other are retreating so rapidly that they may vanish by mid-century. (Note that, because glaciers are so sensitive to weather fluctuations, they are one of the most reliable indicators of change. It would be hard to draw any other conclusion about the planet, based on this collective glacial retreat, other than the fact that it is warming up, and fast).
  3. The melting of Greenland’s ice sheet is accelerating at an alarming rate. So much can be said about that fact alone, but mostly all you need to hear is the collective alarm of all those who research the ice on Greenland as a vocation to send chills up your spine. As I’ve said before in this blog, rejoinders to most quotes included in media stories, such as, “We knew it was bad, but not this bad,” or “It’s happening so much quicker than we expected” almost seem obligatory now.
  4. Last winter’s temperatures in the Arctic were record-setting, with highs that could only be categorized as “extreme” in nature (30 to 35 degrees above norms). As a result, sea ice melt is occurring months before it normally would. Instead of the ice becoming thin and sparse more toward August and September, these conditions are already present in May and June. An Arctic that is free of sea ice in the summer becomes more of a potential reality with each passing season.
  5. When I began this blog nearly a year ago (August 2016), reporting that we had reached 400 ppm for the very first time (2013) seemed like a big deal for the scientific community, at least in a symbolic context. Since that time, we’ve already breached 410 ppm, and are seriously flirting with 415 ppm. The take away here is that these same levels of CO2 in the atmosphere occurred millions of years ago.
  6. As of March 2017, the world has experienced 627 consecutive months of warmer than normal temperatures.
  7. Some 93% of all Climate Change heat is absorbed by the ocean. It’s an incredible heat sink. Lucky us. The downside is that the coral reefs that live there are taking a huge hit as a result of all this excess heat. The corals are now experiencing the worst bleaching event (most widespread and longest lasting) on record. The worth of the Great Barrier Reef was recently valued at approximately $40 billion or so. Reefs occupy only about one percent of the ocean’s floor, but support about 25% of all marine life. A disproportionate loss of marine life could be experienced if we lose the coral, not to mention the millions of livelihoods directly connected to the vitality of this eco-system.
  8. The Doomsday Clock is now set at two and a half minutes before midnight. The clock is now closer to midnight than it has been since 1953. If you’d like to know the primary reason for this extremely concerning move, look no further than the current resident president and his utter failure to lead politically.
  9. Scientists tell us that the sixth mass extinction event to ever occur on the planet is actually taking place right now. Every day, scientists estimate that some 200 species go extinct, well above any rate of occurrence we have experienced as a species since the dawn of civilization.
  10. Food production around the globe is diminishing, and will continue to do so as a result of Climate Change. While most human population growth in the future is expected to occur in the tropics, the food produced there will decrease in those same zones as a result of higher temperatures, increased plant disease and pest predatation, and a migration toward the poles by plant and animal species (fish) that will only be able to adapt and survive by moving toward colder temperatures. As another surprising result of the Big CC, researchers tell us that increased levels of atmospheric CO2 also results in a lower nutritional value for crops grown under these elevated CO2 conditions. People will develop zinc, protein, and iron deficiencies as a result.

Let’s say someone walks up to me on the street and asks me to participate in their poll (I wouldn’t, by the way, but this is for illustration purposes). The survey is about Climate Change. One of the questions is “On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most optimistic, what are the chances for homo sapiens continuing to thrive into the future as they have until now?” My answer: 1 (the textual translation would maybe be “Don’t Hold Your Breath.”)

Speeding Trains Will Not Budge

As I was barreling down the highway today (well, actually I’m more often accused of driving like an old lady, so I chose ‘barreling’ to make it sound more dramatic than it really was…let’s say I was going 57 mph in a 55…all caution thrown to the wind).

Anyway, so there I was. I had to slam on my brakes in order to avoid a collision. My laptop was situated on the back seat of the car, because I’m dense and don’t think that what happened last time will happen this time). Mr. Hewlett Packard went crashing to the floorboard…again. Inertia does what it’s paid to do—it keeps things going in the same direction they were just undertaking a moment ago, even when some outside force says that the situation has changed.  It takes a moment or two for all things to sync up again I guess.

All objects in motion tend to stay in motion until acted upon by some outside force (I’m paraphrasing, Mr. Newton, so stop looking at me like that…it’s close enough).

Fortunately, the computer is still working…again, after being slammed to the floor for the umpteenth time.

This inertia law applies to pretty much anything and everything in the physical universe, including heavy things, like speeding trains, and even things as light as atmospheric gasses, like CO2, methane, water, or sulfates of various ilk. If we can picture the idea of the CO2 being ‘pumped’ into the air (the classic smoke stack doing its thing is a nice visual), that really means just a couple of things. First, because these compounds are gasses, they’re going to go, and then mostly stay, where we’d expect them to—up. Second, their elemental composition of relatively small molecules, coupled with the idea that a turbo-boost of heat energy helped to send these little cuties aloft in a big time way…well maybe this picture helps us to imagine what will be necessary to get those annoying gasses back down where we can do something constructive with them—we’re going to have to ‘suck.’

I read a headline today that the world’s first industrial-scaled attempt at removing carbon from the atmosphere was recently brought online (question…why would this seemingly simplistic endeavor take this amount of time to come to fruition? Surely I’m missing something here). Sounds exciting, I thought to myself, delving into the story with gusto. Turns out it’s the Swedes once again leading the way, and apparently there’s an enterprising businessman on the development team.

The facility is located somewhere outside of Zurich and basically operating the way most people might imagine. At its most basic, we’re talking about a ginormous vacuum cleaner that sucks the CO2 out of the atmosphere. Once this has been accomplished, the carbon is filtered out, then used, in this particular example, to help grow things in greenhouses (commercial plant vendors already do something similar, introducing copious amounts of CO2 into the plants’ environment so that they’ll be prompted to grow better, faster, stronger… faster). The company’s rep also claims that synfuels may be developed, as well as providing carbonation for soda, which I thought was a very worthy benefit to pursue.

Then I read the part of the story that absolutely did not work for me. The company hopes to remove 1% of civilization’s global annual carbon dioxide emissions by 2025. To do so, he said, 250,000 comparable-sized facilities would have to put into operation, as well. Yes, you read that correct—250,000 plants. So…eight years…250,000 more buildings of similar capacity…to achieve 1% extraction of annual global CO2 emissions. Sounds like a good plan, right?

One other very very important aspect of this story to unfortunately emphasize: this enterprise is not contributing to the concept known as ‘negative emissions.’ What’s that, you ask? In practice, it would mean that we are removing more carbon from the air than we are spewing into it. The theory is that, if we reduce the overall amount of the CO2 floating around up there in the atmosphere (the stuff causing the greenhouse effect that is warming the planet) we might gradually cool things down. This facility is not doing that. It’s ‘repurposing’ the carbon (my term), using the very by-product of their efforts for other things such as those already mentioned.

So, to be clear, yes, this outfit is sucking carbon out of the air, but it’s not permanently removing the stuff. No sequestering happening here yet. One can easily imagine that if a company is going to pursue that business model, I guess what we might call the “Removing carbon from the atmosphere, not to better secure an optimistic outlook for future generations, but to then take the sucked-out carbon and make a little cash on the side by using it for things like safeguarding soda as the sticky sweet carbon-ated beverage king it already is” business model, well, that company might be accused of ethical transgressions, moral hazards, legerdemain, bait and switch, etc., and, indeed, such accusations have already been flying.

I’m sure that businessman tucked amongst them is happy to spin the questions that will surely be leveled against him as this carbon removal enterprise begins to look more and more like business as usual.

I took the time to dive into some of the other alternatives on the table as possible solutions to our Climate Change sticky widget, quickly discovering that nobody out there really has the slightest idea about how we’re going to tackle Climate Change head on. There are fleas on the ticks on the flies on the hair of the half-starved dogs we’re calling the best of the best. A solution that comes even remotely close to something that looks and smells like a bona fide solid scientific promise is as far off as that speeding train looked nearly 50 years ago when the subject matter experts started sounding the alarm. As hard as it is to stop a speeding train, looks like it’s just as hard to get up a good head of steam (objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless acted upon by some…well you know the rest).

The comments I read in many of these journalistic articles are the most honest and unfiltered truth one can find out there. Leave it  to somebody who is a natural born cynic and skeptic to state things as they really are. In truth, we don’t know what the heck we are doing, and we’re simply running out of time to even have a chance at figuring it out.

Meanwhile, the POTUS has taken us out of the Paris Agreement when he absolutely did not have to. Pretty soon, we may have to say that we’re out of the game entirely…all of us, because we understood the rules, we just thought we could skirt around them.

Here’s part of the comment that I liked best because it says the same thing I’ve been saying on this post for several months now. I will not give attribution because I didn’t get this person’s permission. I only offer a ‘two-thumbs-up’ for the honest and simple words that really drive it home for me, simply because it’s true (grammar, punctuation, and slight wording changes mine to improve read…intent wholly intact):

“…I mean besides a very, very select few of us, how many do you observe who take this matter to the level of seriousness it deserves? Most people shrug it off. “Warming, yep, what can you do?” Then they get in their oversized SUV or pickup, crank the AC and floor it into the sunset. There has to be some major major events before people as a whole will take notice, and then it will be too late. I just cannot see people rolling back to the level required to avoid going over the cliff…”

Sincere Thanks for stopping by!

G2

Cleavage

So Trump has decided to cleave the U.S. from the Paris Climate Change Agreement crowd, putting us with unenviable neighbors of Syria and Nicaragua as fellow abstainers (Syria’s busy with all that civil war distraction, so I suppose we can forgive them for not caring about anything other than who’s going to cobble the place back together once the dust finally settles).  The other separation event, of course, happening almost at the exact same time, is the ten percent ice shelf loss down on Larsen C, with its full frontal cleavage line really showing and growing these days. Eleven miles of expansion in just six days, and less than that to go before it’s fully separated, ready for the big venture out into the sea as one of the largest icebergs ever to be recorded. It’s epic proportions have been compared to those of Delaware, for Pete’s sake!

What can we say about these two seemingly unrelated events? First off, I’d like to offer that they’re not unrelated by any stretch. In fact, I would almost say that they go hand in hand. After all, if it weren’t for the anthropogenic activities of homo sapiens, we never would have needed a Paris Agreement to pull out of to begin with. At the same time, if it weren’t for the anthropogenic activities of homo sapiens, Larsen C probably wouldn’t be about to drop 2000 square miles of ice into the ocean. See how nicely that all fits together?

Meanwhile, we have such disparate scientific opinion with regard to how fast we’re going to bump up against circumstances that will spell doom and disaster for all of us. The truth is, nobody really knows. If they did, we wouldn’t have to keep hearing the now common phrase about how things are happening faster than expected, if they even expected such and such an event to happen in the first place.

We’ve learned so much about how the climate works on a global scale, and how intertwined it all is, how susceptible to change, even when slight perturbations in the atmosphere occur. What we do on a daily basis is anything but a slight perturbation. According to James Hansen, the granddaddy of climatologists, we pump the heat equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima bombs into our atmosphere every single day. Can you wrap your head around that? This is Hansen’s number, based on solid scientific data. This guy is a trailblazer. He’s no dummy, and this is his figure going back at least five years. In that same 2012 TED talk in which he threw out this number, he also issued many other dire warnings, none of which I doubt in the least. (By the way, he also justifiably tooted his own horn as a way to lend further credence to his words, reminding his audience that everything he and other scientists had predicted in an article going all the way back to 1981 had, in fact, come to pass, or was well underway). At the time, the ppm reading of CO2 was apparently sitting right around 391. Hansen said we needed to get it back down to around 350 ppm if we were to avoid the most serious climatic consequences. Where are we today? Steadily heading in the opposite direction, with current measurements suggesting an average closing in on 410 (although we’ve spiked above that already).

We’ve known about this CO2 acting as an atmospheric blanket stuff for well over a century and a half. Yet, here we are, way way down the road since this initial discovery, still spewing the stuff into our personal atmospheric cesspit as though it’s the most natural and uneventful thing we can do here on Little Blue.

As a totally unnatural segue into other clueless developments (take that literally), there’s rumor of plans to build a new 6 million square foot ‘shopping mecca’ (not my words) in south Florida, bumping right up next to The Everglades. If all goes as planned, the thing could be approved as early as this fall. Keep in mind that the Pentagon weighs in at 6.6 million square feet as you read this description:

…Developer Triple Five Worldwide Group of Edmonton, Canada, says this will be different, combining retail space with an indoor ski slope, a water park, a submarine ride attraction, a skating rink, 2,000 hotel rooms, theaters, a performing arts center, and places to eat and drink.

Oh, it’s good to be alive in America, if only for a little while longer. Meanwhile, God Bless our President as he continues down his modest, earnest, honest and well-metered path toward the train wreck that is almost certainly coming his way at some point in the first term (and probably in the first quarter of it). My bet is on impeachment, but if not that, then undoubtedly some other variety of debilitating debacle. When it happens, the world will have continued on with its diligent efforts toward reducing the effects of Climate Change, despite our inept leader’s best efforts to derail a most noble undertaking. The world will be hotter, more unstable, more crowded, less bio-diverse, and with our own existence more tenuous everyday. Those are the facts.

Meanwhile, first one to plant a flag on the new iceberg gets to own it for the duration.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

 

Hydroponic Happy

Hydroponic Happy

The three basil ladies you see here started out in life from a very tough place. The attending gardener was doing his best to kill them. I had placed them in a gallon jug container outside with the micro-nutrient mixture I use for my hydroponic efforts. The jug was just a discarded water container, made of plastic, of course, and mostly clear. Me neglecting to darken it so that the algae would not grow was a big mistake. Algae is an amazing organism in that, with a little water and sun, its abundant and rapid growth is virtually guaranteed. I would imagine that the high nutrient content in the water did nothing to help that situation, as well.

By the end of the first day, the algae was already growing in the jug, which was probably no big deal for the moment, but the basil  were noticeably suffering, probably mostly from the shock of being separated from the parent plant abruptly, by way of my scissors. I think a lot of it had to do with the way in which I cut them, leaving absolutely no root growth for them to begin life in a new environment with.  By the end of the second day, I counted the experiment as all but dead in the water (literally and figuratively).

However, life will find a way, and so it went with these three little ladies. I transferred their lifeless and wilted bodies into the three jars you see here, filling each about a third full with clean gravel, then another third of the way with the same micro-nutrient mix I was using outside (not the same stuff…it had been overtaken by the algae…just the same mixture). I placed them in my windowsill, and within a couple of days, they had bounced right back (the aluminum keeps the algae from getting a foothold).  You should see the root system on these plants now! Hundreds of tiny roots growing out of the portion of the plant that I initially cut from the parent. It’s really kind of amazing.

The peppers you see on the table beside the basil are also products of a hydroponic effort and with many more still on the way from the same plant, growing in nothing but expanded clay pellets for support, and the micro-nutrient mixture in which the pepper plants roots are quite happy.

I can safely say that, between my soil-based efforts versus the hydroponic-based planets, the soil-less stuff is winning magnificently. Not to mention that it’s just plain fun!

Chinese Coffee Mugs

Chinese Coffee Mugs

 

Nothing less complicated than a coffee mug

Yet how complex it truly is

 

I know nothing of its beginnings

 

How it was made

How it can be so smooth

Or how it got so white

 

And those beautiful designs placed on that same smooth white surface

What are all those colors made of

What gives them their majestic brilliance

 

What’s the substance of any of it and where did it come from anyway

 

It was simply placed in my hands

I never really have much choice

 

Only know that I’ve used it and many others like it

Never anything more…and never anything less

 

Nothing less complicated than a coffee mug

If I can’t understand that…well how can I possibly know the world

 

Someone whispers in my ear –

 

It was Made in China

 

Oh well that’s a start I say

What do we know about China and her people I ask

 

Someone whispers They drink a lot of tea

 

Oh I say I think somehow I knew that

 

Yes but they’re steadily switching over to coffee

 

Really I gasp and how do we know that

 

Because they’re making a lot of these mugs

 

Hmm I say tasting my coffee

Nothing’s as simple as all that I suppose

 

In the end the Chinese may turn out to be the coffee baron’s biggest customer

 

Amazing I say truly astounding

I continue to sip my coffee in my Chinese mug

 

Someone whispers I believe the stool you’re sitting on is Made in China too

All of a sudden I’m nervous and it’s not just the caffeine

 

Nothing more complicated than the Chinese I say

Feeling as though the only one astonished in the room is myself

 

Why do I know nothing of their beginnings

Or how they got so white

Or what gives them their majestic brilliance

 

Or how we became so Oriental in the first place

 

The stamp is on the bottom the voice whispers again

 

Hmm I say turning the smooth white mug upside down

The coffee spills all over the table but the stamp is indeed clearly visible

 

The voice chuckles as someone tosses me a rag

I make a grab for it but a yellow finger is pointing at a little snippet of white sewn to one corner

 

I choose not to read it

 

When we turn everything upside down there we’ll find the Chinese

 

I stare at the coffee mug and those colors still so vibrant

 

The voice whispers one last time

 

The coffee is also Chinese

 

(© 2005 All Rights Reserved)

A Case of Mistaken Identity

If I can think of this blog as a literary extension of myself and my thoughts, I can safely say that this little dot on the web is about to lose even more of what was supposed to be its foundational purpose,  because I am in the process of losing my own. I confessed some time ago that I had pulled back heavily from the all-consuming Big CC (Climate Change) for reasons that have become even more clear to me in the time that has passed since. To be honest, as I said somewhat unabashedly then, and even more so now, Humanity’s goose is most likely cooked, and there may be very little we can do about it.

(But it does make one wonder why the push to get us off this planet and over to Mars has taken on such an unrealistic sense of urgency, doesn’t it? And best of luck to all you misguided adventurers who are so willing to leave the only place I can think of that qualifies as Paradise for something that most assuredly qualifies as Hell on steroids. The place we are reaching out to is thoroughly incapable of supporting human life without some extremely serious and wholly unproven technologies; people, and probably many, will undoubtedly die in the effort).

I think for the vast majority of us, for psychological reasons that those who study such mental acrobatics have educated us about, Climate Change will forever remain little more than a distraction amongst the many others that occupy our everyday lives. The will to fix this monumental problem may be there, but the immediacy necessary to do so is not, nor will it be until things get even rougher, climatologically speaking, than they already are. By then, it will be even more “too late” than it already is.

The carbon we spewed into the atmosphere ten years back is only now manifesting itself fully on the applicable heat scale. What we spew into the sky this year won’t see itself manifested fully for another decade on. Our past sins catch up to us at some point in the future. It’s like looking through the lens of time in some surreal fashion, like a mental trick being played on us by Nature.

And anyway, even if the will and the immediacy were in place, we are too far down a road that allows no room for u-turns. If someone were to turn off the power tomorrow, utterly shutting down the heat engine we call civilization, in a cruel and twisted chain of ironic events that would ensue, we would bring about our demise even quicker than if we just continued on the same capitalistic bender we’ve been pursuing for centuries now. To put it bluntly, we are in a predicament, and, as Guy McPherson would tell us, predicaments don’t have solutions. Whatever resolve we might have for fixing things now, we can possibly categorize all of it as a well-intentioned lost cause.

In the meantime, in light of the news that should thoroughly debilitate the mind and the soul, I’m doing just fine, and I hope you are, too. After all, thinking of one’s own mortality is something that we’ve always been confronted with. To ponder that we all may have a bit less time in front of us than we otherwise thought we might can simply be a way of focusing one’s efforts, concentrating the enjoyment to be had in our individual and collective existences. I’m all for that.

What doesn’t make sense to me any longer, and brings no joy at any rate, is attempting to emphasize the consequences of our own careless actions where the planet is concerned (i.e. the effects of modern civilization on the blue orb we call home) and the solutions that might have been undertaken in order to reverse the course of this ship (my analogies are starting to grow stale, too). Because this proverbial ship is so intertwined with the element of water, in all its planetary manifestations, it was a foregone conclusion that I would cross paths with the dark underbelly of this beast, this thing that scrapes along, killing off the vitality and diversity that is so necessary for all things to thrive, wreaking havoc in all places, big and small, exposing everything in ways that are uncomfortable in the extreme, shedding light on things that prefer to skitter away into darkness.

What? Speak English, Gary. This dramatic gibberish isn’t making any sense at all, and you’re becoming quite annoying .  Sorry…I was thinking of that massive British ocean liner scraping along that coral reef a few months back, utterly destroying untold eco-systems, so fragile and irreplaceable, in the process (kiss the reefs goodbye as a whole, by the way…many experts say they are all but gone at this point, with next to nothing we can do to bring them back). I was thinking of the mass extinction taking place this very moment, with most of us nary blinking an eye, killing off diversity, obliterating vitality, as well as our own chances to thrive. I was thinking of ice sheets melting at unprecedented rates, and glaciers pulling back and back, and oceans warming and acidifying, and green stuff growing in Antarctica now. I was thinking of an atmosphere full of toxins and greenhouse gasses. I was thinking of the impenetrable mountain fortress in Norway that serves as a repository of the world’s seeds, recently compromised by, of all things, water, partially flooding the entryway that was supposed to be impervious to such elements (you’d think they would have planned for this possibility).

I was thinking of…well, anyway, guess that would all qualify as havoc being wreaked in all places. Hmm…maybe I wasn’t being so dramatic, after all.

So now that the blog is tired of proselytizing, and really just kind of weary of itself, in general, it’s decided to just have fun again. This time, it’s a bit of a free-for-all, I’m afraid, with no defined purpose, no set course of writing action. No agenda. No plan.

We can enjoy the experience of being slowly shoved toward the nearest exit door, letting go so that we won’t be dragged. I hope that I will simply shuffle stage left with the herd that I’m a part of, chewing my cud peacefully, doodling with my pen, writing with my keyboard, thinking about paths not taken with my head, and smiling all the while. If anyone is stuck on that question “Why me?” ask instead, “Why not me?” I do all the time, and it feels quite right to do so.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

 

Where the Wild Things Aren’t (Part 2)

Is it just me, or is the durned wind blowing most all the time now? Of course it’s not just me. More wind is a prevalent characteristic of the Big CC (Climate Change for you newcomers). It’s one of the reasons behind increased evaporation of surface water, whether in rivers, lakes, or your backyard pool. It’s the reason (in part) why wild fires are harder to control. It’s the reason (in part) why weather isn’t the same as it used to be, as anyone over fifty will verify (most likely). It’s the reason (in part) why dust storms rage across different parts of the planet, and at different times of the year, on most any given day.

It’s also the reason (entirely) why the canopy that I was hoping to use in the backyard for the entire summer got ripped to shreds the other night and is now useless to me. Yes, it’s always important to personalize Climate Change, complaining about its small trivial effects that have nothing to do with the big picture. You can always count on me for that. I’m like that figure in history who was more upset about his hang nail than the news that a thousand souls were lost in a mudslide on the other side of the planet (not literally, of course, so please don’t send me hate mail or death threats).

Continuing on that thread, I’d like to say that it’s becoming increasingly hard to rely on the weather to act in your favor for just about anything now. This is also a consequence of the Big CC, and I’m afraid we’re just going to have to get used to it. For the states along the Gulf of Mexico, the rainstorms are going to be a problem again this summer. We just exited the flooding in the late stages last summer (think Baton Rouge in August), and now here we are in the thick of it once more. Panama City, Florida, where I live, is in for a beating over the next couple of days, and I was hoping that last night’s deluge would take care of it. But this is the new pattern – in some ways the wind is out of control, and in others it just sits there, benign and flaccid, letting storm systems sit on top of towns and cities for hours or days, while the bottom drops out and people’s cars go floating down the street. A search on the net (or is it the web? … I never can remember) reveals numerous stories about flash flooding, tornadoes, and severe weather affecting every state from Texas to Florida’s Panhandle right now. Up to ten inches of rain expected in some places. Yep…the new norm.

It rained so hard last night at my place, a pump I had been using for my hydroponic peppers got pummeled into submission. I wonder if the Gub’ment will give out some sort of stipend to people for casualties of war like this. Or maybe it will be a good way to stimulate the economy under Trump. All the plastic junk (like my pump) that gets busted in the fires and floods and hurricanes and tornadoes will have to be replaced with a newer model (still thoroughly plastic, to be sure). Meteorological Economic Stimulation System (uh, yes, I was wondering where I go to pick up my, uh, MESS check?)

When I woke up this morning, I discovered that thousands of ants with wings had somehow gotten blown into my pool (I couldn’t get the cover on it, since the wind was blowing…too…hard). Where they came from, and why they had taken wing like that, I have no idea (ants aren’t supposed to have wings, normally, I don’t guess, unless it’s the Queen, but if everyone’s the Queen, then nobody’s the Queen, and there wasn’t anything royal about any of these little squirming masses of insect balls, anyway, trying to save themselves from the chlorinated water by forming living clumps of writhing panic, clambering up and over the side of the pool to continue on to God only knows where).

I think the fact that we’re killing off species everyday (apparently not flying ants, however) means that there is less wild where living things are concerned. But, because there’s so much excitement otherwise, all being caused by the ever more unpredictable weather, this is probably where we should consider the new wild things to be (i.e., flapping like hell in the weather, itself). After all, isn’t the weather just about as close to a living thing as it gets without actually being alive?

And speaking of flapping like hell, something is definitely going on with the birds. Has anyone else noticed this? It’s one of those things that you don’t even realize you’re taking into account in your brain until you realize that you’re now keeping track of the incidents, like a statistical thing in your life. When I mentioned it to my daughter, I knew it was because I wanted to share my craziness with someone I trusted.

Anyway, the birds seem agitated and restless, less settled than they should be, way too active, and just downright careless. They’re cutting it really super close with my car way too often now. I’ll see them flying straight across my windshield, or coming straight at me before veering off. They’ll land right in front of me on the road before immediately launching back into the sky with mere seconds to spare.

At first I thought it was coincidence. Now, I see a pattern. Could it be related to something in the weather? Maybe it’s the wind. Maybe it’s telling them to get out of town, now, before they become next on the list of species slated for extinction.

Thanks for stopping by!

G2

Where the Wild Things Aren’t (Part 1)

The Meaning of Nature

When we think about that word ‘Nature,’ some of us may not have a clear understanding of its meaning. This is probably due to the idea that the word’s usage is bathed in many ambiguous shades of intent to begin with. Do you need to board a plane to get to this thing called Nature? Is it something ‘over there’ as opposed to nearby? We all say we want to ‘get back to Nature.’ How did we get away from it in the first place? Where is this Nature thingy, anyway? Does it have to be a place set aside by the Gub’ment in order to qualify?

As for me, I’m sitting in it right now, even though there are several degrees of protective separation between me and this thing. I’m wearing a contraceptive called ‘the city’ to keep me safe from the ravages of this beastly foe. A building of some sort will keep me shielded from Her powers most of the time, a car most of the rest. It’s the in-between times that I’m directly exposed to the elements. God forbid that it should start raining and I get caught out in the middle of it. I suppose I could call that ‘Getting back to Nature,’ but it feels lame to me. And I’m pretty sure that’s all I would be if I did ever find myself at Her mercy, exposed without protection of any sort – lame.

My distant ancestors would look upon my sorry, unprepared self and laugh themselves into a stupor at what I’ve become. No survival skills, no knowledge of what to do in this situation or that. No knowledge of where to go, or how to make it through the crisis to see another day. They would have seen said situation as just another run-of-the-mill moment to deal with.  For me, for us, we are all standing in the rain with our pants down.

But I’ve wandered off point. Nature is what the big yellow machines are carving up all over town, and the outskirts of town, right now. It’s where all kinds of wildlife used to call home. Nobody’s going to call it Nature, though. They’ll call it land development. They’ll label it as jobs, growth, progress, zoned construction, economic progress, etc., etc. It’s not Nature. Oh no…anything but that.

It’s not the rabbits, squirrels, birds, turtles, deer, beavers, foxes, frogs, coyotes, raccoons, possums, lizards, snakes, bugs, plants, trees, ground water, springs, lakes, and whatever else might have naturally occurred there before we re-purposed it to our own needs and wants. Nobody on any planning board is going to ask what will happen to all these ‘items’ I just mentioned, because they’re not important. They are part of a bureaucratic process to be taken care of so that everything proceeds on schedule and everyone on the payroll can get a check on time.

The trees and vegetation will very likely be bundled up into several nice neat piles and set ablaze. And nobody has any qualms about rerouting any natural flows of water. It’s one of the things we do best. Name any major river in the world that we haven’t dammed ten times, a hundred times over. Water management is one of our specialties. The huge piles of staged pipe of every color, dimension, material, and purpose will be manifest, no matter what the project, small, big, or massive. The water must either be piped in, piped out, or both.

As far as the living things are concerned, they are entirely on their own. Of this we can be quite certain. As I’ve asked before—what lives in a concrete jungle, anyway, besides us and our pets? We don’t have any time or space for the things that were here before a mall moved in, or a restaurant, or a bank. Even a park has little tolerance for the wild stuff.

A park is largely the same infrastructure as any other city project. There will be sports fields, swimming pools, manicured parking lots, and manicured green spaces. But to think that it will be home to any but the smallest percentage of these creatures on the list is, for the most part, pure folly.

A park is not a wild place. A park gets a trim and a haircut pretty much every day, in some form or fashion. A park is one of the tamest, most purposefully landscaped places you’ll ever encounter in a city. To think you’ll ever see any wild beast much beyond a squirrel is fantasy. Parks are an important component of any civic concern, and the massive expulsion of all living creatures is just a casualty of war.

Anything that does manage to survive for a while in our environs might just as likely be labeled a nuisance as not, and summarily handled by any of a number of ‘pest’ companies that make their money by taking care of other people’s varmint problems.

If you don’t see at least a dozen examples of road kill on even your short trips across town, then you’re not looking very hard. We’ll get ’em, all right, it’s just a matter of time, and odds. The bloody carnage is something we just accept as part of urban living. The squirrels play dodge with oncoming traffic, while the slow poke possums and turtles might as well have left with their affairs in order when they decided that crossing a road was a wise choice for their family. I wonder if anybody has ever done a study to see what kind of increase in road kill numbers takes place in the immediate aftermath, once a project fires up and things start getting ‘felled.’ I would venture to guess the stats would be astounding…for those who care enough about such things to be astounded.

So, yeah…my city’s Nature is getting carved up at breakneck speed, more people are moving in, more wildness is being driven out so that we can all have yet another place or three to park our fat asses and inhale some greasy fast food. Our diets are pathetic, our health is deplorable, our levels of exercise are despicable. Maybe another park is just the ticket.

Apologies to all the little varmints we’re running out of house and home. Hope you find a place to land, while you’re dodging the headlights and looking for a new wild place. Stay clear of the cats and dogs.

Getting rid of Nature on behalf of progress seems to fit in with this scene just fine. The problem is, we need Nature to survive as a species. In Part 2 of Where the Wild Things Aren’t, we’ll consider some of the consequences of unrestrained growth we are now up against.

Thank you, as always, for stopping by!

G2

 

464 (Red Panda / Al-Jazari)

464 (Red Panda / Al Jazari)

To understand what in the world is going on here, please read my post A Remembrance of Personalities.

Red Panda

Red Panda

My youngest daughter, Gracie, drew this stylized version of the Red Panda, another of the unfortunates on the IUCN list of cute little cuddlies finding itself in trouble as it struggles to survive in the Anthropocene. I scanned in her mixed media, then enhanced its color a bit before adding my part to the composition. As we decided earlier between us, because it was a collaborative effort, we will both provide our signatures on the result.

If you look closely, you can see 464 separate one- or two-initial abbreviations (mostly just one now, since space is becoming a consideration) for the historical personalities I have memorized, each person separated from the next by a little dot. They start at the left ear, weave their way down the animal’s body, up the tree, then back down, up and around the bear’s body again, over to the other side of the tree, then repeating this trek going in the opposite direction before finally ending over by the uppermost leaf on the tree trunk.

We’ll be selling limited editions of these over on my Etsy art shop. Each one comes signed and numbered, along with a complete list of the personalities involved. We will be donating 10% of all profits gained in this manner to the World Wildlife Fund.

Links:

Red Panda

Al-Jazari

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