Escalating Reminders


Most of our local geese get confused in October.  Their basic genetic pattern and instincts whisper that they should be flying somewhere else.  Their presumably expressed genetic pattern and upbringing tell them to stay put.  Our formerly migrating flocks are homebodies.  But internal pressures force them to do something _ first milling around in groups, then taking off and forming into V-shapes where they fly from one end of the harbor to the other, sometimes to another harbor, never very far, and always returning when the next urge strikes.

We like to believe (still somewhat trapped in our anthropologically-centered universe) that humans are the only beings who have escaped (or perilously ignored) their Paleolithic heritage.  Eat and act like primitive ancestors, claim new gurus.  But all creatures, all life, makes complicated adjustments like that all the time.  We are only now learning exactly how complicated these adjustments are, having little to do with raw genes, basic nurture, nor immediate reflex.  People fit exactly into this complicated dance, just like these geese, usually just as confused about the whole process.

Contrast perfectly expresses the mood this week.   A warm day follows a chilly night, clouds may bring misty rain or open to allow shafts of sunlight.  I catch a glimpse of distant solid green through brightly colored leaves, while ignoring the brown falling ones behind me, or the stripped branches on the next tree over.  The only real constant is the northerly wind, and that may be gentle or fierce.  But the trends _ ah, the trends are all too certain.

Every moment is appropriate for reflection, if the demands of life are not too urgent, but knowledge of the seasons often shapes our thoughts.  Spring full of hope, summer relaxation, winter gritty endurance, but autumn is generally satisfaction mixed with sadness.  I want to refuse the temptation and remain excited at constantly changing beauty, but I admit it can be a struggle that becomes more personal with each ache in my joints.    

Queen Anne’s Lace is well ahead of the pack, already seeded and gone, none of this last minute hurry-up-and-try-to-beat-the-snow.  Like people, some species procrastinate, some rush, and it all works out into a grand and tightly filled ecology.  Our social mistake is that we sometimes believe that if everybody were alike _ if all the procrastinators would only hurry _ that somehow our society would be better.

I have the same problem, of course.  I hurry along getting ready for the next season well before I need to, although sometimes I put off doing what should be done until a pleasant chore becomes unpleasant _ like cleaning out gutters in a cold drizzle when I could have done it on a lovely warm Indian Summer afternoon.  What I now call wisdom just tells me it’s ok, all that just makes life interesting.

Wild Asters a
re about the last of the blooms, rushing rushing rushing into seed now, as the days grow noticeably shorter.  They carpet the woodland floor here at Coindre Hall, just as lovely and welcome as anything in spring.  Yet they are mostly ignored, because we have all become so used to flowers over the last six months.

I try to pay proper respects, but in truth I am also caught up in the season.  Suddenly there are many yard chores to accomplish, some to simply clean up and some to get ready for spring.  A barrel of big green fragrant hickory nuts must be picked up in the next week,  whatever the squirrels do not plant in the holes they are digging all over the lawn.  Bulbs should be planted.  Weeds taken out of the flower beds.  Gutters!  Wash windows!  And that’s even before the leaves start to fall.  Oh, woe am I _ it is so easy to get frantic and become oblivious to everything else.  That’s why I must pay attention when I am strolling through the woods.



I’m no great photographer, and I do not have the best equipment, but even so the glow of sun backshining through changing leaves merits a picture.  You’ll have to seek out the details yourself _ after all, that is my core philosophy to begin with.  A picture of the thing is not the thing itself.  A very poor substitute for the experience, in fact.

That’s often an easy truth to forget.  Pictures are such fine definition, multimedia such complete immersion,  that we come to believe we either have experienced something, or that we can only do so by exactly replicating what is before us.  Both are false.  Any moment of our consciousness is infinitely complex, fed by infinitely complex senses and thoughts.  And we can use those moments to expand our appreciation, understanding pictures like these because we try to find similar things nearby.  The totality of those attempts _ by both the person presenting media and the one trying to understand it _ is what I call art.

About as nice an autumnal set of colors as Puppy Cove gets, the bright blue waters, browning grasses, and one tree struggling into fashionable shades of orange.  Mostly the trees, protected by the water from normal temperature variations, simply brown up and strip to branches in whatever gales come along.

Those who become truly involved in the natural diversity around them notice things that most of us blindly ignore.  Even in the most dense city, there are now trees changing, weeds going to seed, and of course the unnatural human reminders as mums, Halloween decorations, and (lately) a lot of flowering kale replace the summer blooms in tended flower beds.  But this is also the really busy social time, when work is coming into its peak, family is already concentrating on the holidays ahead, and little home problems like gutters, leaves, and bringing in patio stuff takes time.  For those with children, even more so, since the soccer and football and other final outdoor sports are reaching their full frenzy of weekend games and tournaments.  I’m somewhat glad most of that is behind me, and at least I can enjoy the quiet shoreline with not much else to worry about.


Still very much like summer, in some views.  Unless you are really paying attention to the yellowing Ailanthus leaves, you could assume it is July.  That’s why we need not only all our own senses, but also our memory of time and pattern to determine where we are.  Our experience is far more immense and complex than some of the current theoreticians of artificial intelligence and mechanical minds seem to comprehend.

There are really only two goals in robotic “intelligence.”  One is to replace menial human slaves with machines _ and if the machines are to serve as slaves they must never have any consciousness at all.  The other, totally different, aim is to make a longer lasting replacement for our current “wetware.”  That seems Quixotic to me, but on the other hand mechanical prosthesis have been becoming more and more capable each year.  I take some comfort in knowing either of these developments would occur, if at all, long after I would care at all.



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