Saturday, July 26, 2008

artificial tears (smoke 2)

when was the first time you snitched some cigarettes and smoked them (or tried)?

i was five or six, i think. a friend stole a pack of lucky strike from his mother and we lit up in the furnace room of the church basement. somehow i kept getting a dribble of saliva down the length of the cigarette and the fire kept going out.

first year in college i started smoking a pipe. i loved the smell and thought it was so cool. eventually, in my second year, i repeated the mantra, 'you're killing yourself. you're killing yourself.' that got me to stop.

yesterday i looked through a book on the human body with graphic illustrations of health and illness. the number of diseases attributed to smoking is as long as your arm. (so i was right.) alcohol comes second. (good thing i quite drinking when kahlua took over my life sixteen years ago.)

now, they didn't talk about smoke from forest fires. yes, sitting in it still. some days better than others but today i can only see three miles. and my eyes have been suffering (hmm, how are you doing, lungs?) as a last resort i asked the patrolman to pick me up some artificial tears at rite aid. he said a vast shelf of them almost empy. many of us must be in need of them.

never occured to me to resort to artificial tears. basically, i haven't cried freely since i was twelve when i watched my tears drop into the milk, frustrated with my mother's support of my brother over my protests. (a couple of years earlier i had merely looked at her when she whipped me with a belt. she never did it again.)

smoke, tears, alcohol, wildfire. my life passes before my eyes (since i can't see anything else.) strange how i'm now consoled by having so many memories. that's what i think i was looking for all along.

summer photos posted at

the best way to view them is to click the slideshow button up in the right corner. for some reason they load much faster than clicking on one at a time.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

all day i walked on the water

this line popped into my head as i was reading a poem POSTCARD by the swedish poet helena sinervo. and these were the lines that struck me:

A singer should always be smiling

and your smile won't sell unless you get your teeth fixed soon.

Furthermore you should sit on a stone and listen to how

your inner teeth are grinding.

There's nothing to beat it! should walk these paths, across water

everything appears in a different light, absolutely everything...

and then for no reason at all the words of bill gates to a highschool class bounced out of the blue. i'd found them on a college wall.

why is it some people have the magic touch? in how to get control of your time and your life, the author allen lakein says it's all a matter of setting priorities and doing only the most important, but working on them every day. he says 80% of the result comes from the first 20% of the effort, so do that and skip the rest.

somewhere i read years ago that the great scientists have gotten their basic insight around 20 and spend the rest of their lives working it out. not very helpful if you're three times that plus some. of course, colonel sanders formed his chicken empire starting at 66. maybe business is a bit easier.

anyway, here's what bill gates (supposedly, it's contested) had to say:

Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school.
Rule 1 : Life is not fair - get used to it!
Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
Rule 3 : You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.
Rule 4 : If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
Rule 5 : Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.
Rule 6 : If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
Rule 8 : Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
Rule 9 : Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.
Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Rule 11 : Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

whether bill actually said it or not it makes a nice contrast with the words of the poet!

fires and smoke continue. i've posted more pics at

Sunday, July 6, 2008

we're all renters here

when i had that realization, it was very liberating.

it came about when a friend who had bought a fixer-upper with the help of her family said about her neighbors, 'oh, they're only renters!' i didn't take umbrage with her, but i felt it. after all, i've been a renter my whole life.

then came the epiphany: we don't really own anything. everything is contingent. we don't own our children. they leave. we don't own our parents. they die. we don't own our houses: my sister's house burned down and the vast family history my mother had gathered ashes. recently, a friend had most of her house flattened by a tree falling in a storm. an acquaintance lost his house to one of our wildland fires a couple weeks ago.

even our bodies we don't possess, not in the way we'd like to believe. two days ago i visited my friend ed in the hospital. an avid bike leader in the community, six months ago he hit a stanchion and tumbled, injuring his spine. he looked very tired, paralyzed from the neck down. he's feisty and hopefully will recover the use of his limbs. however, for the moment, it's been taken away.

most of our suffering comes from a sense of loss. perhaps it helps to think that loss is the name of the game. at the moment california burning up. according to botany, it's supposed to burn. the oils build up in the brush. a fire releases a lot of seed, puts healthy ash in the soil. of course, people build in the woods. it's merely a matter of time, especially since global warming is charging the atmosphere with higher energy that must find an outlet.

if we are only renters, we might consider stressing less about buying a home, a new car, and so on and on. they say, 'you only get to keep what you give away.' it's not a bad philosophy to live by, despite our need for the illusion of owning.

here are some pics from the lookout in the smoke: