There will be a…

There will be a time when your personal sense of safety will be challenged. Whether it be a catastrophic natural event or some perverse state of martial law where a military state takes hold, you need a plan designed for hope.

What is your electricity was suddenly shut off or water supply was contaminated? What if you went to the store for supplies only to find it heavily guarded and…

When Harsh Winds Blow, Strong Roots Do Grow

The bright afternoon turned suddenly dark as ominous clouds appeared out of no where. It was about 4 o’clock on a Thursday. Luckily, I had just finished laying the final brick for the day. I walked into the alley that extended deep into the neighborhood facing north where darkness fell. 

Spits of hot breath like an exhale from god ripped up the road toward me casting dirt and stone ahead of the storm. Shadows were running in glimpses along the edge like chaos surfing a dark wave

Closer. I watched it pass old man Johnston’s place where Martha was probably watching from behind those heavy red drapes. Her neighbor, George, had just come out to get his trash cans secured. My own bucket of tools were still in the yard. It didn’t matter – they were tools and the winds would be here any moment.. seconds, so I prepared. 

My eyes were shuttering against debris and I could feel the pressure build against me. George’s place was obscured already and barely a slit remained as the garage door finally came to a close. 

This was my chance. I leaned in as far as I could, past the tipping point where gravity pulled me by the belly and my equilibrium teetered. That’s where I felt it – in my gut like butterflies with a shot of adrenaline that surged just as I was about to fall. It must have been gusting near 80 with a hot wind that tried to melt my face but I wanted to fly.

It didn’t last long enough but I felt a sliver of fear – an urge to bail out. Maybe I had? I recall hearing about a man who walked around the world and along the way ran into many obstacles. Without a home, how would he shelter against this? His reality was different and maybe there is a middle place for him and I to meet? Of course, we would never meet. 

Tree limbs were dropping but no widow makers, yet. Fortunately, the last big winds cleaned quite a bit from the large elms that towered above the cottage. A woman had lived there when times were harder but she was resilient and tough as nails when it came right down to it. She’d sit out there on the porch and complain about the president while puffing on her long stemmed pipe and quoting scripture. 

As I thought about her, trying to remember her name, which was in itself a marvel since she had lived there for over a year prior, I wondered how she was. I’m not sure what that meant for me, but she would volunteer at the Humane Society since she couldn’t have her own rescue due to some previous charges related to dog fighting and her boyfriend, at the time. Her probation officer had contacted me without her knowing to talk to me one day, that is how I knew. 

The wind blew me away and the girl too. No tellin where she was now. Turning back, I could see George poking his head out of his side door checking to see what the wind had done and if it was over. “Hey George!” I hollered over to him, waving halfheartedly. 

George looked around and quickly ducked back inside. He rarely talked to people and so I didn’t take it personally. I stood there at a cross-road in the dirt, exposed and vulnerable due to my uncertainty for the best emotional posture when it came to interacting with others. The woman in the cottage seemed to know this about me and used to talk about tricks she knew whenever life was dealing crappy cards. 

“Make like a tree.” her voice wafted on the breeze, dancing on the remains of those hurricane winds. I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate on the faint reminder. A slight rush of warm air ran up the back of my neck. Hot sun burst through the dark sky to beat down on my bare scalp washing white light over my mind as I continued to focus. Tingling in my arms buzzed and felt heavy, burning slightly. I took a deep breath and guided that light deeper into every fiber of my body, just how she explained it. My exhale made more space as I continued to empty myself of all the burdens of the day. As I became pure energy, I imagined my limbs reaching into the earth and spreading out like roots pulling me down into the ground. I felt the light burning through every nerve ending following the path of my roots that reached out, digging deeper into the ground. I felt the heart beat of the earth and my body had become pure energy in the oneness of everything and was whole. 

After several long minutes of counting in increments of ten and feeling the temperature change as dark clouds and the sun sparred for time, I slowly opened my eyes. I felt heavy, grounded but unfazed by the phenomena of the wind and the pollen dust and all aches and pains were gone, foreign to this experience. I was a tree that stood fast and dug roots that pulled me deeper into a state of quiet. Clear minded, I took a step and could feel the sensation of my foot pulling up from the ground. I stopped and noticed I had left no foot print. I was light as a feather which seemed counter-intuitive to being bound like a deeply rooted tree and feeling so heavy. But then I noticed there was no burden. There was no anxiety of feeling overwhelmed from things outside of my control. Love overcame me and I wept with gratitude. 

Before another step was made, another strong gust came upon me and I stopped to feel it. It was not letting up and so I turned toward it and leaned in. This time I reconnected with the tree and dug my roots in. They were strong and I knew as the wind blew with force I was OK. I leaned in further keeping myself positioned against the gale force winds that rushed toward me. I continued to lean and closed my eyes, focusing on the white light of the sun bursting through me while I planted myself firmly and continued to lean in. I felt an unusual sensation and opened one eye just a sliver to see that I was facing the ground. It meant nothing I told myself and that was all that I allowed to enter my mind. 

Slowly, as the wind died I returned to an upright position. I felt like I was landing in Hong Kong after a long flight over the pond when the stewardess mics in to return to our seats… There were no words at that point – no thoughts as I was completely empty consumed only with the exhilaration of flying. Just then I was startled when a drop of rain hit me and looked up in time to see Martha waving at me. 

Unknown Days of Isolation

My place has been questioned and still remains with some degree of uncertainty. Quarantine. Economy. Conspiracy. Crash.., Freedom, Socialism.., Disease, Space…, Governance. Each of these words have meaning now. Some have split branches leading to new realities and thought; fear for many. How will they grow?

Quarantine began around the end of March, about the 22nd, I want to say. I had been too busy with routine to hear the apparent warnings leading up to this moment. It could be because I had refrained from watching the nightly news cycle for a while after being horribly sick during the month of January. I had quit smoking also and, ironically, was too preoccupied with coveting my health that I missed what was coming.

With little warning, work made announcements on a Thursday that we would not be coming into the office on Monday and to make sure our email had a response notifying people that we were out due to a Covid-19 outbreak. “What is that? How do you spell it? Just a dash one nine? What does ’19’ mean? Oh, it started in 2019 – so that’s a date stamp? Why are we just hearing about it now?”

People scrambled to get things pulled together to set up a home office. By Friday, announcements were flowing on a constant cycle of corporate info-planning and strategies rolling out a responsible response. Only technical assets that required lab and production cells to work would be allowed on premise. All others that could work remotely would work from home until further notice. It’s been almost three months now and I have not seen any of my colleagues.

Admittedly, the first week was a bit exciting, finally able to put to real use the office in the home we had just purchased six months earlier. The big dual monitors and docking station were in and things were ready to hum along business as usual. But it would be anything but usual. I over-think technology some times and certain things have been a challenge.

By the start of the second week, slow connection speed was rampant and the company had to make some adjustments to expand the VPN protocols to allow for the surge in new activity. Passwords were changing and things generally loped along with meetings being held via phone conferencing and WebX. “I can do this.” I told myself. It was a great distraction, if nothing else. Gadgets have a way of doing that in our lives.

After a couple of weeks, I began to quickly realize the magnitude of this thing and the unforeseen economic disaster that came crashing into the rocks of our foundation. 1,000 people, then 10,000, and 20,000 more – they kept popping up and then dying. Cruise ships became nightmares haunted by the sick and dying spirits of helplessness ordered to remain anchored in the bay. Old folk homes collapsed into the foul lost place where death made its rounds. Everyone was either sick or told to shelter in place. Suddenly, the essential workforce began roll call and uncertainty hung in the air as millions were swept away into unemployment. My home office became a battle ground of determination to understand the impacts and report back. I was lucky to be employed.

Almost a month in and I realize I haven’t showered but for a couple of times. A grizzly gray beard had taken hold. My routine developed from work in the office to work in the yard to the news. I started smoking again and that pulled me deeper into thought about what was happening.

About this time, my garden began to fall into place. I had been publishing a before and after photo album on my Facebook. The raised beds made from recycled pallets gave structure and form to the wild bamboo that was overgrown along with mountains of invasive grass. My pruning discovered pockets of sun throughout the green shoots and the pallet beds fit perfectly. This defined path ways and caused bunches of bamboo islands with lettuces, broccoli, beets, kale, cabbage, celery, onion, and other things to emerge and take root.

I decided this would be the Corona Memorial Garden and shoved about 2-3 cases of empty Corona beer bottles into the dirt and planted a large patch of strawberries (Hood, Benton, and Rainier). Large slate rocks were discovered in my excavation of the plot that became borders, like a wall to prevent pests from entering though I knew they would go under or over. All in all, a quiet respite from the latest presidential gaffs or death toll or economic ruin found me wandering there.

And then, we went to the next level.

As if a pandemic, economic collapse, and an insane king weren’t enough, our world erupted in protest with flesh pressed to the sky and screams for justice. Black Lives Matter. All Lives Matter. You matter. I matter. They matter. We matter. It matters. Set us free some chanted all the while standing in the government building shaking automatic weapons at the man. The irony.

I had expressed to my wife that the scariest thing for me was the uncontrolled mob mentality fueled with delusion and rage for justice. Saboteurs infiltrated while peace signs waved for solidarity and the chants became drowned out with the 24/7 news cycle of rioting and looting, buildings burn and all the while the division can be seen growing more vast every hour. Our devolution of our humanity and all of its entitlements in full display for the world and ourselves to take notice of.

The next day was full of meetings and a cosplay of practical business. It was surreal, the realization of the absurdity and white luck speaking as though we were still insulated from society; from truth trying to keep it together. I make it a point to personalize conversation at the end of our staff meetings – to allow myself to be slightly vulnerable so we don’t forget our humanity but carry some hope in our professional companionship where maybe things will find footing that fosters a friendly forward thinking foundation that does not falter but finds the fantastic in all people.

As it is, the white cabbage moths will return and the praying mantis can’t hatch quick enough. Fortunately, the ladybugs are keeping attacks at bay against the kale, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Peppers are popping and squash is arcing over its borders with corn peeking up to remind me. We have our distractions and I know I have created one in our garden. But, my hope is that people don’t forget their masks and somehow people find their balance.

Things will never be the same again and I don’t want them to. I think, as is evident with all the footage of police brutality, that people – this society, has been running too hard for too long. The hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters must be careful where misinformation is being perpetuated into delirium where hate is the answer, the response to a loss of control.

Having to self isolate for so long and then to feel isolated from your people when sharp contrasts are made about some very deep issues only fans the hysteria and creates more stress and confusion. One of the most disturbing centerpieces is the ongoing harsh narcissism from our President who appears to be steeped in denial. As well, are his extreme followers that blindly shout from false news fed to them through a narrow pipeline of information.

I don’t know. I curse a lot more of late and have ripped debates apart on social media – to which I have gone back to apologize more than once. But the silver lining there is that I have come to remember conversations with my father who always talked about Jesus and agape love and forgiveness. That always stuck with me. I am not religious, but I value the basic tenants of the message of Christ – even if I don’t believe in the complete definition of his character. Religion has skewed the values of our spirituality, in my opinion.

My point is that love and kindness must be at the center – the focal point in order to heal so many. I fear for this fall and the election that looms in the backdrop of a second wave of this pandemic, which even as I write this continues to grow in cases and deaths. The US is by far the worst country in the world on every level in how it has dealt with the pandemic with nearly 150 K people dead and millions either hospitalized or diagnosed to remain isolated.

I think where love and kindness come is in deescalating our tragedy from what may be catastrophic (if we are not already at that precipice); but I believe our world can worsen still and likely beyond what we can even imagine. I also have hope and know that there is goodness in the world.

I keep pulling weeds and find myself pulling back. I am in love with my children and worry about them. I don’t want to go back to the office but need to remain as close to my family and friends as I can. I hope this November brings peace – though I have a feeling that we have already stepped onto the double-sided blade and so am continuing to love as much as I can and stay grounded and grateful gladly wearing that mask of business cosplay to help others get through the day and keep myself busy for as long as I can.

The Corner of Comedic Contradiction

One gray and chilly Saturday morning, the kind still trying to recover from weeks of snow, a comedian steps out onto his front porch and proceeds to proclaim a new skit of the likes one might see on Saturday Night Live.

The anchor man says, “A man was found hanging around the meat market waiting for his leg of lamb to cure where it hung in the window. But that is not what this is about. He was a witness to the Scarf Lady Killer who allegedly strangled a Senator who refused to pay for her services.”

“Wait!” The Scarf Lady Killer enters the news set wearing large round sunglasses with thick black rims and a paisley scarf wrapped around her head. “It wasn’t me! I did not do this! How can you say such things about your mother!?”

“Mom!” The news anchor exclaims!

“Don’t give me that or I’ll call your father and he can remind you of the bull whip!”

“Oh no, not the bull whip!” The anchor man ducks down behind his desk and peers just over the edge.

“Your witness is a blind man and I don’t know any Senators.”

The smoke from my cigarette swirls into a sky of tiny snowflakes learning to fall. The four corners of the complex are quiet and empty but for the comedian. He is an animated fat guy in his old worn cardigan and disheveled hair that transforms in to an orator of profound theater. With one outstretched arm, he is erratic and quirky speaking proudly the voice of each character. He tries to squat when the anchorman ducks and bolts to his feet when the Scarf Lady Killer states her case. Then suddenly, dramatically, he comes to an abrupt stop and dead silence just hangs there over the yard. Slowly, his shoulders lower and he is an ogre or Eore. After two weary steps, he is comedian again and jumps into the next scene.

A judge appears dragging his pulpit onto the news set. The anchorman says, “Judge! Where did you come from?”

“I am here to end this madness, once and for all. The Scarf Lady Killer must be stopped and there is only way to know for sure if your mother is she.”

The comedian leans forward and waves his hand over the courtyard with a scrunched up facial expression that squints with a cynical look. In a deep raspy voice, he says, “Whoa to you Scarf Lady Killer, we will know the truth yet. Where were you the night of April first? It was a Monday, if I recall.”

“Judge, you can’t be serious! I was with you!”

The neighbor jerks into the air and scuttles a couple of feet to the end of his perch laughing at himself. He halts before tumbling into the snow bank and says, “A monkey riding an alligator runs onto set and eats the judge in one big gulp. Then a trained voice of another anchor person says over everyone, “Well, I guess that takes care of that?”

Then slowly, the comedian fades back into being a cave dweller and disappears behind the screen door. I took that as the end. There was no encore or applause. The cigarette had been gone already five minutes and it was cold so I went back inside my own cave and marveled at the wonderfully strange world we live. I doubt my neighbor will ever repeat his antic, but it is possible, and so I will continue to pay attention.