Category Archives: Beauty I Behold

Omen? Chance?

Yesterday as I was walking up our driveway after yet another day of rain, my eye caught several of these leaves lying on the still damp asphalt.

Where did the orange come from? Why had it not faded like the rest of the leaf? It caught my interest.

Such fine structure just below the surface. Delicate leaf veins. What would the newly possible increase in environmental poisons do to that delicate life? .. to the orange?

What else has an unusual orange swath — Donald does. He has turned his negating touch to nature, banished eco-protective regulations. Might he too be blown away by some storm? Omen? Pure coincidence— in a universe in which nothing happens by accident?

Had I been caught yesterday in DTS mania for always being the focus of conversation, I would have missed this reminder that all beauty happens in the present. I am grateful for the orange decorated leaf.

THe lone (Old) plowguy rides again

Wear life like a loose suit of clothing

anonymous

Lost in the theater of the mind: catastrophe

Well the suit must have shrunk because it feels all too tight these days.

  • CoVid19 Knocking at our doors, and I fit the fatality profile a bit more exactly than I would like
  • Facing the fact of mortality — much more up close and personal this time around (but really: been there, done that already a couple times_
  • A man who has no concept of Presidential leadership and is derailing a bit more every time he tries to speak effectively
  • Senators and supporters who astoundingly still think the Emperor really doesn’t even need new clothes
  • The same man and Senators who increasingly raise the emergency alarm bell concern: have they been bought by some foreign, unfriendly potentate?
  • Deaths of friends,
  • Concerns about family , other older friends and the danger to them from CoVId19
  • Complete mishandling by so many ( but not Smerkonish, not Dr Faust at Harvard, not Dr Fauci of CDC) of the other CoVid19 virus, panic–
  • worn out from holding tight on rollercoaster with a lot more roll than coast
  • not up to snuff in staying in the moment and stopping the core of the concern, Thinking.

A couple days ago, I finally involuntarily just shut down.  Flat out, boom: all engines off. For some time I just sat in the recliner and stared back and forth from carpet, tp the wall, to the Apple TV’s moving screensaver of the Arctic, and Santa Monica,and moving across the Pacific towards the US West Coast: numb.

Then it struck me that numb is not all that bad. in fact it was half way to good. I could escape the whirling mind if I did what Eckhart Tolle teaches: get aware of surroundings, appreciate, feel a warm comfort grow along wothj anticipatory awareness, and drop out of or just dismiss the persistent, troublesome Thinking..

I tried — again and again. I had to switch off thoughts over and over again, but I kept at it for a bit. I had heard the Dalai Lama say that he and all spiritually skillful people have all the same emotions that the rest of us do, but they let go of them faster. So I should try. And I’d heard and seen Ram Dass say: don’t work on the thoughts, let ’em go, just let ’em go. So I did — over and over.

Escape via Stopping the Gold Rush

It did not take long before I was starting to flog myself with unkind Thoughts about how I could not stop my unkind Thought Out of nowhere, i recalled that .I’d read a couple of Goethes poems so often that I stopped counting (Auf dem See, Wandrers Nachrtlied II aka Ein Gleiches), and. just loved them without really knowing why.. And as the icebergs slowly moved towards me on the Visio screen, it hit me: they took me to a place of being in the present, floating on the imagery that locked me into awareness in a present moment and thus restored union with nature — of appreciative attending to those word pictures and not entranced by the golden lure of thinking I can think it all out. Alone.

On the Lake
And I draw in fresh sustenance, 
New blood from the untrammeled world:
How gracious and generous is nature, 
Who holds me to her bosom!
The wave sways our boat 
To the rhythm of the oars,
And mountains, nebulously reaching for heaven,
Meet our course.
Eye of mine, why are you downcast?
Golden dreams, have you returned?
Away dream, golden though you are:
Here, too, there are love and life.
A thousand hovering stars twinkle on the wave,
Soft mists drink the towering horizon around us, 
The morning breeze flutters over the shaded bay,
And the lake reflects the ripening fruit. 
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) , written 1775
 .Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), 1775
Elena Blackthorne 
United StatesWASeattle
http://www.editred.com/Uploads/st_92043_Translation_of_Auf_dem_See

Follow the word images so that you can escape that maelstrom, yuour thinking. Imagine that: a Ph D, that quintessential example of the power of rational. thinking, has led me to a place of no thinking at all! An irony? perhaps, but in the end, a gift And as I was being in the moment, something passed an idea into the warm comfort:  what about those winter times back up on the mountain– shift your focus to something that you like. Be grateful and express that – -convincingly for once.

Was someone or something watching me secretly? I had just finished reviewing many of the wintertime pictures I had taken in our mountain home between 1998 and 2017, when we moved..  

Out of the Water and Down the Ski Slope

 Heavens, how we miss our home. We put our backs and our souls into it — it looking so confidently and, for us, welcomingly down the ridge, oveer the edge and out into the cove far belowl What a treasure it gave us in living the  Blue Ridge mountain life.

HOME -a color shot in winter

Today, we are in a small home that is functional and right sized for us and Roxy and Lutz, our two German Shepherds (#s 6 and p7 since 2001 when Bruno came to us). This house fits our ages, but our hearts ache for the beauty, adventure, peaceful coexistence with nature — of almost 20 years.  It was and will always be home for both of us.

A wonder and also a fright at times was winter on the Ridge. It drew out of us special efforts, at times more courage than we really wanted to summon up, and for me, advengture in service. And that is because winter brought me, The Old Plowguy, outdoors on this:

Me on my Yamaha 660 Grizzly ATV with 5’ steel snow plow blade

For most of my years there, the Grizzly and I plowed the snow off our 1.6 miles of asphalt and gravel. Sometimes I did another stretch of about ½ mile (guess) on a second stretch of rough gravel road.

Plowing uphill just below our drive. Road was 12 feet wide–mostly. Here: most dangerous stretch, called Ski Slope, outside edge hard to find under snow. So you plow from the middle ot.

Over the years, the exhaustion of several hours muscling around 800 pounds of Grizzly and blade wore thin. Sometimes it was admittedlly dangerous. I plowed when the first snow fell at temperatures just above freezing, in order minimize the inevitable re-freeze ice pack forming under the second fall. If you were out and about on that day, you had to be back coming up the mountain by 3 PM. Otherwise, you would be trying to drive on an uphill icerink under slippery snow.

Meanwhile, I would be out there dodging those who thought that they could handle uphill icerinks in rear axle drive cars. Their cars would be found either stuck in the inside ditch, off on a turnout patch, or just abandoned all the way down by the mailboxes. I gave lots of folks an interesting ride going up the icerink on the atv. Griz never needed chains, but my passengers did not know that. I think they found the ride invigorating at least.

I found it tiring. The atv with blade is front heavy and in total weighed about 800 pounds. That means that the atv could easily become dangerous with the blade down, under power that is just a teen big too fast and without that sense for what the snow would permit that only experience could impart . Too much gas, too much speed, not having figured out where to dump the plowed load safely and all of a sudden the atv becomes a pendulum attached to the pinned down blade. That is 600+ lbs swinging across an icy road that is max 12 feet wide. And swinging towards a sheer drop of lots of vertical feet. You could easily wind up down that slope and have the atv come down on top of you.

It was hard work that took skill and experience. I would come home soaked through the underclothes and into the snowmobile suit I wore. And at temperatures sometimes near zero. Then the next day out I would go again to plow it all over again, but this time pushing a good depth of snow off of the thin ice underneath.

Somegtimes the first of the double snowfalls would start at dusk. So, avoiding the accumulation of two snowfalls occasionally meant nighttime plowing with no lights except the two and (later on) an led light bar on the front of the Grizzly.

NIghttine plowing, at the bottom about to plow another lane a mile, all uphill

That was what led me , Griz’s to our nighttime near catastrophic, amazing victory over mountain and weather.

To roll the tape back a bit first: The Grizzly was a wonderful machine. I got it out of self defense and used it with great pride and joy, When we first moved up on that ridge, there were no neighbors at all anywhere near at all. You have to understand: we moved from New Jersey where one neighbor’s house was almost close enough to touch, the other housed a guy who thought it really cool to run the truck engine he was building — right: building — outdoors at 7AM . Two houses away was the fire station, where rhe guys thought is just hunky-dory to sound the alarm at 3 am fire or not. And then there was the collection of unwanted large items. If you wanted to lose something, you just put it on the curb in front of your house and the five finger discount folks came by at night while you were either asleep or distracted by the fire siren and took it. There was no such thing as no neighbors nowhere to be seen or heard where we had lived in Joisey.

It all changed so fast. One day we were sleeping our last night in a Civil War house in Joisey: —one we liked despite all the intrusion of our all too up close and personal neighborhood. Two nights and some hundreds of miles later, we were trying to sleep in our new house up on the ridge at about 3000 feet. No friends, no dogs in the house, no way out in bad weather and lots of hints of Unseen Things in the woods just outside our windows.

OK, so we were no heroes. It was an adventure but also scary at times, occasionally ridiculously so. LIke seeing at night the two red eyes peering into our solarium from outside and not going away no matter what we did. We knew what the dangers in Joisey were, but here, in the woods, at night, there could be Things Unknown. And for nights on end we sat up scared stiff at the two red eyes staring, staring, boring in on use from the woods maybe 15 feet from our bedroom on the main floor..

We finally threw in the towel and moved the bedroom to upstairs. But there they were, thjose two red eyes had followed us and knew where we were higding out. What if now it could get in while we were upstairs asleep? That may have been when I cast off my Northeastern liberal refusal to have weapons in the house and bought a 12 gauge shotgun with buckshot at WalMart. And for what? It turned out that the red eyes were lights from the breaking glass sound detector we had ADT install on moving in. They were reflecting off the inside of the solarium windows which we could see from the main floor or upstairs.

After all, in Joisey, They could be coming to break in. Right? When we told the off duty Sheriff Deputy, who checked on our house after closing but before we moved in, that we had an alarm system installed (No Deutsche Schaeferhund dogs yet at that time), I thought he would have a heart attack laughing. And over time it was very clear: where we were and with the steep, narrow old logging road we had, having al alarm system was as useful an addition as a life saver vest would be for a fish.

There’s a lot more stories where that came from, but I digress – -which by the way I do very well. Back onto the trail here.

Ol’ Griz Saves Ol’ Greg

We moved into our house in December. Not too long after that, In our very first Blue Ridge winter, we had our first Blue Ridge snow and sleet storm. It started later in the afternoon and kept on coming and coming. We could see it filiing up the abojut 450 feet of our drive, from the windows of the library room over the garage.

Now you need to understand: I grew up in Michigan. Snow? So what! Walk miles back and forth to school in blizzards, deliver a Detroit newspaper from a one speed Roadmaster bike in the wintertime dark, in ice storms, in snow storms: the paperboy always delivered. And it was an article of growing manliness that you delivered never dismounting, never missing a porch throwing the rolled up papers. And I shoveled out our home drive and walks. So: I could shovel with the best of them, I had my monster snow thrower which I”d brought from NJ, I had the right gloves and winter clothes. Ice, sleet, freezing rain, fog on ice, snow? No problem, you can take the boy out of Michigan, but you cannot take the Michigan out of the boy. Yep, I know snow, can handle snow.

Except that in MIchigan the boy knew snow that was much more on relatively level land, the boy relied for any help on the neighbors all over the place. I was not used to dealing with snow on ice on slopes so steep that even some pro-plowers would not come up to help us out. And God, being the ever aware instructor that He She They is/are, made sure I got the right tools for mountains, a powerful awd atv with locking differential, and then learned fast how to use it. By the time we moved, I modeestly say with full confidence, I knew it all about atvs on snow. The boy had added to his snow management repertoire..

The library windows over the garage, from which we could watch ice and snow accumulate where we had to drive.
Driveway at the top.
half a mile up, where the road is narrower and rougher, you park down at the end of your drive near my plowed lane, if you wanted to get down and join the traffic you can hear 1000+ feet below.

As I watched the ice-sleet-snow stuff cascade down onto our very long gravel drive, that knot of fear began to tie up my guts. The slush was piling up on the drive and would turn to ice overnight. And I had no way to remove it: my showthrower brought from New Jersey was very heavy, unwieldy on slopes, and would have simply slid down the drive and over the edge just across from the apron of our drive several hundred feet down a sharp incline. And no way could I have shoveled any of it away.

This was apparently God’s first immersion course lesson in mountain life. As a friend once said, if you just can’t live any more with a chainsaw in one hand and your atv keys in the other, it’s time to move off the mountain. I was just learning that you had to do that.

Next morning our drive had 3 inches of ice on it. Three inches of frozen slush,– that much, I’d never seen before. How on earth were we going to be able to get out? Our supplies would soon dwindle away and, Oh my Gawd, WE WILL STARVE UP HERE AND NOBODY WILL KNOW IT !

I wish I could find pictures I am almost certain I had taken. Living up there brought endless and unexpected just great photo ops: that camera had very quickly almost attached itself to me as a new appendage. Which was just fine by me and has bought me wonders of gratitude now.

Long story short, across the cove, which was several thousand yards away from us, mostly nearly straight down from the outside edge of the road at the bottom of our very long gravel drive, Bob B who was building a log house a stretch up the mountain from us. Bob had an atv with a plow. I had heard him buzzing alonmg down on the road. He had established himself as The Lone Plowguy for our scattered, “gently sloping” (real estate-ese for steep inclines) community.

So, holding onto trees and frozen tall vegetation, I’d managed to get down to the road without falling. After waiting for a long time and freezing my you-know-what off, I saw him and hailed him for help. He’d been plowing a bit where the ice was not that thick but his atv would not handle that drive. Someone had in the meanitme hired a guy on a backhoe with a blade to scrape uphill…. After ;more frozen waiting, we got in touch with him when he came up our way and asked for his help plowing me out. He said no. He could not plow that but with the forks on the backhoe bucket,he could rip up the drive to let the chunks then melt over time. So he ripped up the drive surface in to large ice chunks and the pushed them over the side.

No charge. Mountain folks, real mountain folks, help each other –they are a very cooperative clan of highly individual, skilled, economical and just wonderfully friendly folks. All they ask is that you be willing to listen for a half hour after you greet them with Hey Billy, how’r yew? I came to value that immensely.

No charge that is except for paying another guy a lot to come up and regrade the whole drive.

So right then and there I decided, I was going to have an atv at least as powerful as Bobs, and then split up the road for plowing with him. I got the atv all right, — actually more powerful than Bob’s, but Bob would not share plow duty. He wanted the Lone Plowguy role for himself. He moved away however very shortly and that’s how I and the Grizzly became The Lone Plowguy. And came to feel just like he did about sharing the plowing on My Mountain Road.

The big test for the Plowguy and his old pal, Griz, came one evening some years later, in a two stage snow+ice+sleet storm. The weather guys had reported the Lone Plowguys Nightmare: wet semi freezing heavy snow with sleet and some ice coming down in buckets, starting at about 5 pm and going till about 9. And then starting up again in the morning with colder air and snow, a number of inches.

If that froze at night and then got covered in the morning with newfallen snow, we were cooked. Under that white blanket would be an icerink on a narrow, downhill slope. Not even chains would get you down. And we had had our fill of Florida residents who thought, no problem, I’ll just stoke up the Sequoia, hop in with my coffee traveler, and lope on down to the road which I know will be clear. Snow and ice? No problem, we will “adjust” –was how they put it the first time they tried it.

It did not happen twice unless they were unusually stubborn and had had their brains fried by too much sun and too many Pina Coladas,.

I had gotten real tired of getting either a cell call or having some snow covered Floridian knock on my door, after having trudged up the Ski Slope and up our drive, in deep snow, to ask me to stoke up mmy Sequoia or the griz and help him get his Sequoia out of the ditch halfway down thje ski slope. Because they had no idea at all how to shift the Sequoia into all wheel drive that could back that SUV backwards up a greased telephone pole. And ofcourse always blocking the road. Always before I’d had a chance to plow it despite my frantic pleas to wait till I let them know the road was plowed (also because packed tire tracks are hard to plow up without ripping up the road itself).. And always seemingly at some inconvenieent hour.t.

So at 4 PM I began donning the long johns, the insulated undershirt, the snowmobile suit, the cloth inside helmet head cover, the snowmobile gloves, the yellow goggles for evening, and the tall insulated rubberized boots that kept the feet from freezing sitting on the metal runners of Griz. It was a lot of work, and then I trudged out of the house, across the yard in deep snow, and down the flagstone path in deep snow to the unheated shed where Griz awaited –sweating like a dray horse on a hot day even before putting the key into the Grizzlys off and on switch..

You checked Griz all over: were the bolts on the plow tight? the contacts on the electric motor that pivoted the plow snug and still waterproofed? How about the winch rope that attached the 3,000 pound lift weight rated winch to the hundred pound steel 5 foot snow blade? Was the tank full and did I have extra gas, a shovel, some gravel, a rope with clamps, an engineeers hammer and steel spikes, a winch rope repair kit, my coffee traveler, and an extra set of keys? Was the bluetooth headset inside my helmet working to call Nancy if I slid into the ditch? If I slid over the edge, I woild not have to worry to call because 800 pounds of atv wouild tumble onto me as we fell and, well, you can guess the rest.

It always took Griz a long time to start. The shed was not heated and Griz’ oil was often like molasses in January. It seemed that he always decided to start just when I was about to kick him and give up. I think the profanily gave that extra needed spark.

Well all of the above transpired on that fateful evening. I have to admit, I’d never before plowed the whole road in the dark with snow and sleet falling. Nonetheless, I got down our drive and just plowed a lane through the near freezing slush, down the ski slope part of the road down to R’s house, cleared the left hand turn so that it would be less to push coming back up, and , went down that slope to tke hairpin turnaround, and from there, now on asphalt. down the hill — plowing all the way, with occasional turns to the left to push the snowmound I had accumulated in front over the drop off. I once calculated that Griz and I moved of tons of snow in a typical plowing episode.

I pushed loads of wet snow carefully over and down the outside road edge, often very near 90 degree straight down to the cove. Yes, cautiously, to be sure, but also confidently as I had done it all so often before. The lights on the atv to my infinite relief really lit up the road well.

I went down to the mailboxes –turnd around and stopped to take the dusk picture of the single lane you saw abo ve.

And then started pushing the heavy load in short bursts uphill and again off to the side. Griz was lifting, pivoting and lowering that blade like a champ..

At the top of the rise coming up from the mail boxes, on the left, was a friend’s house, He had a very steep and angled drive which was hard to shovel off by hand. He’d also had abdominal surgery and I knew that he would not be able to cleaf that off at all. He and his wife were also German Shepherd dog people — as were we, they also were owned by a couple of those great dogs. So I thought, what the hell, I’ll just take a moment and scrape it off for him.

At the top of his drive, where I’d first gone to get a bit of gravity help to plow down the sides, I raised my blade to back up and there was a loud WHACK noise and the blade slammed down hard onto the asphalt.

At first, belileve it or not, I was embarrassed and hoped that nobody would come out and ask, what’s wrong? I had no idea. The Lone Plowguy is, by definition, always in charge, always prepared, always cool calm and collected. That must have been another Lone Plowguy. The only thoughts in my mind were: what the hell just happened and how can I finesse this in front of my admiring crowds (none of which were out there of course)?

A quick inspection showed that the winch rope had snapped,and backlashed its frayed, wound cold steel lines into a Gordian knot inside the winch housing.. Now why peojple call that wound steel cable a rope I will never know. I sure could not tie it together like rope. I do know that men like that term and that it is especially a favorite of men who pronounce [asphalt’] as “ash-fault”, and with just a little bit of arrogant authority. Anyway, in a panic to see if I could repair it, I found that I had all the repair tools I would need, but none of the right cable clamps. Moreover, my cell was not reaching home from there, so I could not get a ride and leave Griz on trhe road to –do what with tomorrow: the damned blade was down, the cable snarled on he winch, and the socalled wintry mix was coming down harder. And really, was I going to remove my gloves in freezing sleet to try to unwind gnarled steel winch cable (take that ash-fault snobs) inside a still installed winch housing? Was I nuts?

Slowly it dawned on me with a bit of a combined chill and thrill: I would have to drive up 1.6 miles of road, ascending somewhere near 1000 feet, pushing through very weighty and unwieldy semi-frozen snow and ice mounds i’d left along the inside of the road coming down, on ice that had formed under rhe slush, on Griz without his ice chains and with 100lbs of blade locked onto the ground uphill in front of me. I was scared stiff that at some point the pushback from the accumulating onto the pinned down blade would cause me on the Griz to pendulum and slide backwards over the outside edge of the road.

Griz was about to show me his mettle or at best, I’d have a very long walk back home without a flashlight on ice.

I locked the differenrtial, put griz inro gear and shoved the throttle, as WW2 fighter pilots said about going into war speed in emergencies, “balls to the wall.”, (plastic balls atop the two engine throttles all the way to the firewall — sorry alpha males and imaginaative females, but it had no physiological meaning),

All I can say is: wow. Old Griz did not even-grunt in pain.! My boy just dug his rubber claws into the pavement, leaned up into the slope, and wrestled, punched, pushed and slammed the snow all over the place all the way to rhe garage door at home and in record time. After about one minute riding with complete trust in Griz, I just leaned into the incline with him and we had just a unmatchable victory adventure up that dark little narrow old logging road, riding in complete harmonious mutual control.

Man did I love it: the Lone Plowguy Rode Again! It never got better than on that night.

In all this story telling, however, I have missed one part of my life with the Griz: the sense of thrill going up and down the slopes on a bright, cold morning, slopes in such pristine, clean, white blankets of snow. I wished old Griz could ferry me and my cameras but leave no tracks:the newfallen snow is so utterly soothingly beautiful.

l

Up to the top

Hail, from the Victors

Well there you are, now a sort of digital Tonto to my equally digital Lone Plowguy. But you know, as I’ve been immersed in writing this, figuring out how to get video into a block but mostly closely examining my pictrures and videos to see where I want them to fit in this narrative, there has been very little thought angst about the maelstrom of maladies swirling around us these days. Mostly I feel–have emotion–and it is the emotion we call gratitude, although I guess there is thought there too. Do I care? No. It is just great relief. Thanks for reading my sharing.

Who was this guy, Go-‘ee-thee (Goethe)?

Who was this guy, Go-ee’-thee?

I know.  I write about German things and especially Goethe a lot.  A century ago that would have been the norm.  German was taught in the secondary schools.  Until the Kaiser thought it neat to try to link up with the Mexicans in WW1 to invade the US, it was a neck and neck race in public opinion as to whether we would enter the war on their side.

Germans, not Englishmen, were amongst the first immigrants to the New World.  Buy the time the English got here, they were so settled in that nobody thought of them as foreign.

So right off the bat, pronunciation.  I owe it to the last polymath (universal genius) of the Western world to get folks at least a bit closer to how he would have said his name.

  1. SaY Ger-tuh,  Go on, do it—out loud.
  2. Add a little change to the [-er-]:  as you say it, try wrapping your lips around it as if you were trying to say the [w] in [wood].   Yes, you who thinks this is rinky-dink, try it.
  3. that little change is called an Umlaut, or altered sound.  It appears in today’s German as two dots above [a]. [o] and [u] in certain spots:  ä (or in older German ae), ö (or in older German as oe  – like Goethe—today his name could and would most likely be written Göte or Göthe—[th] is pronounced just the same as our [t] in Getman) and ü (or in older German as ue).

OK, I am done doing German training for old time’s sake.

Now Goethe/Göte/Göthe.

He was born in 1749 Johann Wolfgang Goethe, he died in 1832 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  The [von] was added when someone had been elevated into the nobility.  The French use, I believe, the prefix d’ or de’ before a family name to indicate nobility, von (of or from) does the same in German.

What he did between those dates made him the very first international celebrity —Napoleon thought his first novel, The Sufferings of Young Werther, one of the greatest works in western literature.  He wrote that at age 24—but I am getting ahead of myself.

When you read the short bio of him below, remember this:  by our standards, his way of life was hard, possibly even primitive. The shortest way to describe life in 18th and early 18th century Central Europe is the titis of a great book about life before that time: A World Lit only by Fire.

  • you wrote everything by hand: no spell check, no moving paragraphs around, no grammar checks.  Lots of crossings out, arrows, etc.  Some of Goethes most famous works were written without any edits at all — including the most famous poem in german, considered by many (including me) to be a perfect work.
  • he wrote in German when the languages of culture then were French and Italian. 
  • He did some jail time for having taken philandering too far and too lightly.
  • No easy way to compare notes with other like minded folks. Want to share a document? It had to be carried by a friend, or the Post–but only to the borders of the little dukedom in which you lived. It was one of 100+ German speaking little -doms in Central Europe, and you had to arrange visas permits, yellow coach mail service in every one between your home and the end target. Things were MUCH slower.
  • Getting sick could well be fatal. No antibiotics, not even antiseptic treatments: bleeding was a favorite, using leeches to draw blood (yours). Surgeons traveled like barbers, announced their arrivals with drums, music: no setting up ahead of time. Some were not too bad, most were quacks.
  • Democracy? No. At best, an enlighlened absolute monarch/ Goethe lucked out that way with a supportive, enlightend Duke in Weimar – -but still an absolute ruiler. Lots of mother-may-I to do just routine stuff, like go to the next -dom for a vacation.
  • Travel: by yellow coach (yellow easily seen, meant mail too). Dusty, hot, crowded over rutted, bumpy dirt roads that could and did break wheels, axles out where the only help was passengers and lawlessness was more likely than in town. Rest areas? No–inns, to feed horses, have a fast beer, climb. back up and rumble off again. Overnight: unlikely a room of your own. MOre likely sleeping in same bed with one or two others, and having o keep your valuables safe on your own.
  • Sanitation? Perhaps partly indoors and private, more than likely outdoors, or even just dump the night pan out the window into the street gutter. That may have been on the wane by then, and bathing … there was a reason for perfumes.

That’s just a short overview. Bottom line is double edged: a life hard physically, mentally, spiritually but at the same time, one that left anyone who lived it on its terms with a very up close and personal experience of all the pluses and minuses of human life. And one that landed in one of the most productive times for great art ever: Goethe, Schiller (poem of Ode to Joy in Beethoven’s 9th Symphon), Mozart, Beethoven and so on.  A hard time alive with the spark of learning and creating.

Which is why Faust, which Goethe honed into a great work for a long time, is in its story of selling the soul to the devil not just some theory but the literary-distillation of an unassailable depth and breadth of living by its author.

That legacy is well worth studying, loving, embracing and advocating.  100 years of wars with the Germans on the other side has left us out of touch with their huge contributions to Western Civilization. IT needs to be brought back. After all, we almost went into World War I on the side of the Kaiser. That is why I mention him so much.  .

About his life:

Goethe https://api.poets.org/sites/default/files/styles/poem_a_day_portrait/public/images/biographies/JohannWolfgangvonGoethe_NewBioImage.png?itok=UCja0V4Q

“By the time he completed his studies, he had composed a satirical crime comedy, fallen in love with folk poetry, and developed a deep affinity for Shakespeare, the figure responsible for what he termed his “personal awakening.”

Throughout the 1770s, Goethe practiced a unique, progressive version of law across Germany, while maintaining a side career as an editor, playwright, and poet. He wrote his first widely-read novel, the loosely-autobiographical, joyfully-romantic tragedy, The Sorrows of Young Werther, in 1774, at the age of 24. The book was an instant international success. Napolean Bonaparte called it one of the greatest works of European Literature. It sparked the phenomenon “Werther-Fieber” (“Werther Fever”), in which young men throughout Europe began dressing like the tragic protagonist, and brought Goethe to the court of Carl August, Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, where he would become an important advisor….

Despite his success and influence as a poet, Goethe expressed that he took no pride in his literary accomplishments, and believed instead that his work as a philosopher and scientist—in particular his theories about color—would be his true legacy. However, his writings—emotive, far-reaching, prophetic, and formal—stimulated generations of Western literature and thought. Randall Jarrell, who translated Faust from his Poet Laureate’s office at the Library of Congress, called him his “own favorite daemon, dear good great Goethe.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, deeply influenced by Goethe’s merging of science and art, called Goethe the “surpassing intellect of modern times,” and said of his life:

Such was his capacity, that the magazines of the world’s ancient or modern wealth, which arts and intercourse and skepticism could command,—he wanted them all. Had there been twice so much, he could have used it as well. Geologist, mechanic, merchant, chemist, king, radical, painter, composer,—all worked for him, and a thousand men seemed to look through his eyes. He learned as readily as other men breathe. Of all the men of this time, not one has seemed so much at home in it as he. He was not afraid to live.

Goethe died in Weimar on March 22, 1832. He is buried in the Ducal Vault at Weimar’s Historical Cemetery.”

Carpe Diem and Memento Mori

I walk with Roxy each day in the local municipal Cemetery.

It started out because anywhere else, our self absorbed fellow citizens walk with their dogs off leash.. And the do it wherever they please. I suspect that many of them really get a kick out of scoffing at the leash laws right in front of all the signs that say, All dogs on leash all the time.

It is tempting to skewer that behavior with the long thorns of acidic sarcasm and wicked wit. Let me just dismiss that path by saying that we are merely seeing another manifestation of the heads in the sand, I’m entitled Unites States of Narcissism. It is our culture now.

i was struck by the quiet in the cemetery. Expecting to be put off by being around dead people, I was surprised. No smell of rot. No hands reaching up out of the grave to grab Roxy and pull her, screaming, back down undergroud. No apparitions being exhaled like thin smoke by the grave. Not a thing from Hollywood at all. Just quiet and grey stones in varying stages of wear stuck at tottering angles, like uneven teeth in an old man’s mouth, On brown grass. Gothic trees reaching with concentration camp limbs silently to something we cannot see, lording their powerful shadowed presences over us lesser mortals.

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Nancy had found this place after having been frightened by dogs off lead while walking Roxy also. She had urged me to go, but I was reluctant. Why?

We had made a memorial to our three beloved German Shepherds Zora, Bruno and Kaiser. All three died in our house on the mountain with us right by their sides. I took to heart what Butch, our deceased Schutzhund trainer had said was his moral commitment to his GSDs: he would make certain that the last thing any one of them saw on this earth was his loving face. Amen. Me too.

We had found a cross shaped piece of wood, the day after Bruno died, on a spot in the woods where he loved to lie. More than coincidence, random chance?  I stained it, found rocks and spray painted them gold, and made a little memorial mound on that spot. I loved to go there, sit on the bench I’d made of cinderblocks and boards, remember them while loving the beauty of the woods and feeling, still achingly sorrowful for their absence, grateful for their lives.

On the last night we were in that house, a really perfect cool clear night on last March 29-30, we took the urns with their ashes, and spread them in our woods memorial chapel.  I read a farewell passage and prayer we had written for the occasion. We did the same at all their favorite outdoor spots.

That was supposed to have tied off the loose ends of grief. It did not. It did not because it was aimed,ever so subtly, at relieving me, at least, of my grieving for them — which I still am doing and most likely will do until the day when I die too. I had not gotten the message.

The cemetery is not colorful, and the plastic flowers or wilted real ones just emphasize by contrast the grey, colorless ness of a whole bunch of old and new graves. It is clear to me that there will always be loose ends, that I could well be one of those headstones one day, and at 76, not too far off.   My memorial spot back up on the mountain– well, it was not an acceptance of life on life’s terms.  And that was a well meant mistake, an act of American pretend.  It was a way to hang on.  You cannot hang onto anything gone from this world, it’s like trying to grab and hold a chunk of The Present.

What’s left? For me what’s left is the realization that this life, which seems so hard and sturdy with its atoms and molecules and thumbs that hurt when hit with my hammer, is just an illusion.  When you cannot stop the show and cannot hold onto the present, how can it be otherwise?  A glorious, beautiful, super ultra high definition movie which we crate as we act out our roles.    A moving feast.  What a theater, what a chance to grow!

So: Memento mori–remember that I too must die.  And I’ve discovered that in doing that, I find much much more of rich joy in that ephemeral elusive thing we call the present.  Heavens, today is a great day to die on!  I now know that native American wisdom to be a statement of gratitude for reality, not a morbid preoccupation with Holllywood’s contorted view of death and dying.

Thank heavens for my cemetery walks.  I have my beloved Roxy with me, sometimes my dear, patient, loving and long suffering Nancy —  and being there above ground provesI’ve got one more day on which to enjoy the abundance of God’s earth. Carpe diem and memento mori.