philosophy

Vacilando

It started the moment he learned how to walk. Off he went in whatever direction he happened to be pointing, wearing nothing but diapers and a smile, and sometimes not even the diapers. It made no difference where he was going, just so long as he was going somewhere. Had his parents not started keeping him tethered on a modified leash he surely would have wandered away and ended up kidnapped or roadkilled or on the back of milk carton. This wanderlusting continued into childhood and beyond.

When he started school teachers called him energetic or a nomad or threatened to get out the duct tape when patience ran thin. Many made claims of ADHD. The truth was trying to stay seated was totally impossible for him, which made school equally impossible. He just wasn’t cut out for it, because he just couldn’t sit still. He grew tired of being a square peg in a world of round holes. When he turned fifteen he decided he couldn’t take it anymore, and he just started walking toward the south.

When folks saw him walking they had questions. Where was he going? And why? He didn’t know the answers to these questions. He was on a quest, a quest that he didn’t know where or why of. He felt like he would know where he was going when he got there, and as soon as he figured out the where he would know the why. Until then he kept walking.

People started feeding him and bringing him gifts. He garnered a reputation as the walking saint and his reputation preceded his path. He always had a dry place to stay and home cooked food to eat. He walked all the way through Mexico and into Central America.  He crossed the Panama canal and kept going south. He eventually reached the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego, and he looked off the end of South America, over the icy waters stretching to Antarctica. It was breathtaking yes, but even this was not the where he imagined would stop him in his tracks. So he turned around and kept walking, to the North.

Almost two years after leaving he finally returned home, having walked thousands of miles and met thousands of people. He learned to speak Spanish and a bit of Portuguese. He wanted to imagine that when he made it back home it would be a relief, that somehow the urge to walk would disappear and he could finally settle into a normal life. He wanted home to be the where he was looking for, but actually returning home made him feel more lost than ever. So he kept going.

Through Oregon and Washington, into British Columbia. He couldn’t stop, not until he got to the place he couldn’t picture but would know nonetheless. Someday he would make it to wherever he was going, and then it would all make sense. He would finally understand why he had walked so far and never been able to stop.

Until then, the walking saint kept walking.


 Vacilando – Spanish (verb) – Traveling when the experience itself is more important than the destination.


Number 2 of the Lost in Translation series

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Befriend the Bend

Refraction refers to the bending of a wave when it changes its medium of transmission. This bending can result in separation, compression, distortion, and differing levels of visibility. It can make small things seem bigger and far off things seem closer. It can delight the senses or confuse the mind. Even though there may be a simple scientific explanation that doesn’t mean it has to make sense.

In fact scientists are now developing simple lenses that are effectively bending light so far as to make objects seem invisible. Yet more proof that we may not always be able to see everything that is in front of us.

Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction

Dream of Life

sunrise

sunrise in Seattle

Sometimes my memories feel like dreams, and I wonder what really happened. What did I really see? I take photos in hopes I might be able to make sense of it all later. I look back at my photos to be sure that it wasn’t really just a figment of my imaginary world.

Sometimes when I see the photos I become convinced that it actually was a dream, that somehow I have attained photographic evidence that the world is not always what it seems. Sometimes the photo is more of a dream than my foggy imaginary memories. Sometimes the photo feels like proof that this life actually is a dream, which leads me inevitably to the question, can we live our dreams?

Can our dreams be real?

Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy

The Nature of Texture

Texture is a feeling. Texture is an appearance. Texture is a consistency. Texture implies depth. Texture can be used to describe the look, sound, taste, or feeling of an object. Texture makes things interesting and delights the senses with contrast. There are so many competing textures in the world around us that sometimes they get lost in the sensory overload that is the modern experience, with all its immediacy and umbilical attachments to technology .

But one thing about texture is that it denotes a depth of experience that is best experienced in person, in three dimensions, and for that reason texture is difficult to convey on the flat surface of a video screen. But that will never stop us from trying.

Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture

See more garden textures HERE (on my dedicated garden photography blog)

Aloe Vera Love

aloe flowerI originally bought this little Aloe plant when I was a sophomore in college more than 20 years ago. I remember going down to the local Westside Santa Cruz Nursery and picking out two little succulent plants—a Euphorbia trigona that eventually grew about five feet tall (and I have no idea what happened to), and this little Aloe vera. I wanted to create an indoor plant haven in the breakfast nook area of the house my friends and I had just rented. Every plant placed in that space flourished wildly, and that sunny little breakfast nook soon became known as the jungle room. Every plant in the jungle room was so happy. I even had a coffee plant that flowered and produced about 20 coffee beans, something I’ve never been able to recreate.

Fast forward about five years. I was beating a hasty retreat, having purchased a van and dedicating myself to the lifestyle of a nomadic surf bum, I was finally moving out of that house and liquidating many of my assets. Not trusting this particular collection of roommates, I started giving away many of the plants in the house to responsible non-alcoholic types, including the enormous  Yucca I had brought to college with me.  I wanted to take the Euphorbia to live with me in my van, but its length and spines made it impractical in that small space. So I decided to take my Aloe vera with me instead. After about 2 weeks living in my van it became apparent that the environment was too extreme for the Aloe. It was not happy with the daily temperature swings, and a couple times it had baked in the direct midday sun, a definite no no for an Aloe vera. After only a couple weeks it already looked wilted and sad, shrinking a little everyday instead of growing. I realized I had to give it away if I wanted it to live, so I gave it to a friend that lived close to the Boardwalk. She planted it in sandy ground, in a protected little corner of her yard, and the plant grew with renewed vitality.

A couple years later, when I was no longer living in my van, I was presented with a gift from the same friend, a little Aloe vera pup she had dug out of her yard and potted. I have been doting over it carefully ever since, and it has grown large and impressive for an Aloe vera. It flowers 2-3 times a year, and usually produces about 7 seeds that never sprout. I have a large container full of frozen aloe leaves in my freezer, which has become my way of preserving the leaves broken off during the tumult of life.  I had loved something and let it go, and a little piece of it had made its way back to me.

I’d like to think it loves me too.

Posted for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Memoir Madness

The Age of Grasses

SONY DSC

a path at Bamboo Giant Nursery

My Story about Bamboo

So part of the reason I like bamboo so much (besides the fact that it’s awesome) is that it was the first plant that I started to propagate and sell for cash. The story goes like this.

Once upon a time my Dad went through a Japanese Garden phase, (which is probably the root of my affinity for Japanese gardens), and planted some bamboo next to the patio of the house I grew up in. It was planted in a metal partition that was intended to keep this very aggressive bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) from spreading. But after my Mom and Dad separated and my sis and I went away to college, the yard went feral. Of course the bamboo burst through the partition and started taking over the yard, sending shoots up over fifty feet away from the original planting. Every once in a while the rhizomes would even make it all the way under the house and send up shoots in the front yard.

For years I went over to help my aging mother with the yard maintenance, and I would just cut the bamboo down, and sometimes even dig up the rhizomes. Sometimes I would just grab a stalk of bamboo and start ripping up the long underground roots, like pulling frayed carpet fibers away from the carpet backing. When I was done I would just throw all the boo into the green waste. Then one day I decided to try to put the rhizomes in pots to transplant them. After some simple trial an error in methodology and substrate I achieved a success rate of about 90% with my divisions. I would mix in a lot of sand into the soil mix to help increase drainage, which is very important for almost all species of bamboo. I would go to the dollar store and buy gallon dish tubs, because the bamboo grew better in wide, shallow containers.

Soon I began selling divisions of Golden Bamboo (P. aurea) on Craig’s List, planted in dish tubs, and returned to my Mom’s house about once  a month to restock my supply. I also started selling other plants on Craig’s, but the bamboo was my biggest and most expensive plant for sale. I made almost $1000 selling bamboo in one summer. Not exactly the summer job I had in mind, but from there things started spiraling out of control, not unlike the rhizomes of bamboo tangling through the soil in my Mother’s backyard.

Now, 10 years later, I am a complete plant junkie. I still have many of the divisions of golden bamboo that I dug up. I don’t sell them anymore. Instead I planted them in large pots, and they are all bushy and 8-10 feet tall. They are waiting patiently, I feel, for a careless moment when they can escape their container and begin taking over my yard, the state of California, and eventually the entire planet. I’ve thought about planting some in the earth, but decided I was tired of  breaking shovels trying to dig bamboo out of the ground. For now at least.

Bamboo has gotten such a bad rap as being invasive and rampant, and in many cases its true. Golden Bamboo is considered an invasive weed in many areas, and seeing how it started sending a web of rhizomes out through my Mom’s yard I can understand why.

I’ve also heard it said that if bamboo is so invasive then it would have taken over the world by now. But it is important to remember that the grass family (Poaceae) is relatively new in the plant kingdom, rising to its peculiar prominence during the most recent Cenozoic era. The Cenozoic is commonly known as the ’Age of Mammals’ (with our fauna-centric view of the world), but it could just as easily be called the ’Age of Grasses’. Even though Mammalia is a Class (K-P-Class-O-Family-G-S) and Poaceae is a family (two steps lower on the taxonomic hierarchy), there are twice as many identified species of grass than species of mammals. In fact, familyPoaceae is the fifth largest plant family, and three of the four most important food crops are grasses, not to mention the forage grasses provide for domesticated livestock. Grasses have not only drastically changed the course of human evolution, but the evolution of the entire planet as well.

Bamboo may still take over the world yet. It’s just getting up to speed. All it needs is another million years.

don’t let it escape!