May Be Local


Don’t want to get much closer than this to lovely, ubiquitous, nasty poison ivy.
  • Now I speak as an old man, which few are willing to do in these age-obsessed times.  I never accepted the current cultural wisdom about life, which is that children must be grimly groomed for adulthood, adolescents must be grimly culled into the successful or lost, young adults must grimly save pennies for a grim future, the middle-aged must grimly and selfishly grasp everything around them, and elders must never admit that they have become grimly less competent than they once were.  This is an outlook that attends a magnificent feast and can only (grimly) count calories.
  • Such despondent and hopeless attitudes are primarily formulated in response to remote events rather than local reality.  The paper says this and that, books say this and that, experts say this and that, media says this and that, strangers in the street say this and that.  We may never encounter this and that in our own lives, but obviously it is important because everyone else knows about it.
  • Each day of life, even for many of those in intolerable positions, is a potential feast.  And this is where I also have some difficulty with what everyone says.  For I am not sure that my happiness in my local existence should be grimmed down by far-away predicaments and events.  I have an infinite world of joy around me.
  • I wonder _ given that I have power only over my local bubble _ if I am really spiritually cleansed by ceaseless whispers from distant places that all is not well everywhere, and that my current happiness is temporary and somehow sinful.  Or is that just an echo of American puritanism now decayed into a kind of self-righteous guilt.


Fluorescent green algae coat low tide rocks beneath a persistent, almost Irish, mist.
  • Nothing is more global than air.  Smoke from a burning forest eight thousand miles away reaches us within weeks.  Radioactivity from any disaster does the same.  We are constantly amazed that weather on the other side of the continent sweeps eastward and affects us in days with showers or sun.  The atmosphere is a frothy mix of everything stirred constantly all the time and if anything is exactly the same anywhere on the planet it is the air we share.
  • Yet as I walk around air varies tremendously.  It blows hard in one spot, but can be calm a few feet away.  It has no scent here, yet a hundred yards further on may be putrid enough to make me gag, or sweet enough to evoke ancient memories.  A whiff of poison gas can kill me instantly, floating puffs of microbes may be just as fatal if more lingering.  One day it is wet enough to almost drown, another so dry that breathing rasps the throat.  As for temperature …
  • For all the local variations, it remains global.  But the local variations are what I notice, and sometimes I feel that local variations are all that matter _ even though I logically well know that is completely wrong.


Green is overwhelmingly resurgent, between silver sky and sea as rainfall departs.
  • All politics is local
  • Unfortunately, everything else is global


Lilac is beautiful, but its glory is scent, which I can neither capture nor share.
  • Our biosphere is a master of recycling.  I am composed partly of atoms which were also used by tyrannosaurus rex, a blue pansy, Julius Caesar,  a giant pine, Lucretia Borgia, a nasty shark and _ well _ everything.  DNA has also exposed our family relationships.  There is only one kind of life on Earth, and given the rules of evolutionary engagement, that would probably be true anywhere _ although not necessarily the same kind of life as we enjoy.
  • In some ways, there is eternal serenity in that.  Whatever happens after I die, at some point part of me will be part of it.  Possibly a wonderful utopian civilization.  More likely a turgid sea of restless radioactive bacteria.  But atoms I have used will be swirling around in that mix.
  • Our minds have not become what they are by being humble.  Each of us contains a deep cosmos, a complete certainty of importance, an automatic filter on what is relevant.  Truly each of us considers ourselves meaningful in some way or other, even if it is only to help others be more meaningful.  That is hubris, but hubris is the core claim of humans, and we ought not write it off too casually.
  • On the other hand _ there are those recycled atoms telling a very different story …


Nearly infinite green hues may have names assigned by decorators, but naming doesn’t enhance reality.
  • Once upon a time, long ago, all North America was “public property.”  Then the Europeans arrived with their new-fangled sense of entitlement to common heritage and began carving the land into private enclaves, based on papers which granted o
    wnership in perpetuity to the original speculator.  It was a time of grand fantasies by philosophers like Locke and Hume and other partisans of individual rights.  One of these was that death is irrelevant to ownership. As it turned out in the American judicial interpretation of the constitution, even being a human person is irrelevant to ownership. 
  • I’m pretty sick of conservatives singing the hosannas of three-century-old philosophers and two-century-old merchant princes and landed squires.  Someone should look at the idiocy embedded in assumed sacred rights to private property.  Right now, the issue is a convenient legal fiction which has gone cancerous and is likely to destroy civilization.
  • If there is one certainty, it is that no matter how long we live _ even if people live for thousands of years in the future _ we all just borrow things while we exist.  Dreaming of control after death is insanity.  All property should pass back to the common wealth upon death, and all land should merely be rented from some political entity representing everyone.  Corporations should not be allowed to “own” anything at all.
  • This is a new era. People do not light homes with whale oil,  disease does not come from bad air, this world and its knowledge is vastly different from that several hundred years back.  Ditch the stupid reverence for “ideals” which are insanely out of date and didn’t even work well at their inception.  


Between rains and seasons, new growth begins to overwhelm leftover stubble.
Tommy slowly climbs the grassy bank,  bumping his way among other turtles who have already staked out prime sunning spots.  Finally he locates an open space and begins to bask. 
Desmond’s foot has been disturbed.  He raises himself enough from a pleasant torpor to complain “Tommy, have some respect for your elders, eh?  You need to learn to be polite.”
“Sorry, sorry.  I came out of hibernation late, that’s all.  Why do we all have to use this one place, anyway?”
“Only one with sun, son.  You’re welcome to circle around the freezing water trying to find a better branch, but I’ve been around long enough to know what’s best.”  Desmond is a lot larger than Tommy.
“Well, why don’t we leave here and find somewhere with more islands instead of on this cramped little space.”
“Tommy, an adventurous little turtle is a dead little turtle.  Believe me, I’ve known a few.  Stick to what we all do.”
“But there must be lots of wonderful places …”
“Maybe so.  Maybe so.  But maybe no better.  Hecksher park is turtle paradise, and smart little turtles understand that or they never become smart older turtles.”
“So leave me alone to soak up some rays and warmth.  I suggest you do the same.  Quietly.”

Tommy thinks a moment, and then as is the way of all his friends, does not think at all.


Impossibly overflowing azaleas light landscapes everywhere.
Spring hormones surge, their net effect
Seems nowhere rage.
Peaceful beauty bathes the land
Vast harmonious gentle shared.
Underneath lush loveliness
Survival struggles
Tooth and claw
Bud leaf and seedling

Vicious calm.

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