The Puddle

It’s not a perfect slope. The asphalt-covered path, just wide enough for a large vehicle to traverse, begins between the apartment building to the west and the children’s sandbox and grassy area to the east. After around five meters down the gentle slope, the path abruptly widens. The center of this larger paved area is inlaid with decorative bricks which the children use as a palette for their colored chalk pieces. The path grows steeper here, and at its north end is a latched gate to keep the youngsters from escaping their playground, down the stairs to the path at the lakeside below.

The entire path is tilted downward, slightly, toward the east. When it rains, the water flows from west to east across the asphalt, then closely along the retaining wall of the sandbox and grassy area. A heavy rain will produce a little creek along this wall.

There is a depression in the asphalt before the creek leaves the narrow path, where it will become a little lake. Kids love it. Despite the rain, even snow,  parents will clothe their charges as for a storm so they can run, jump and splash–some bringing pails and shovels to capture the water.

But no more. Progress has been committed. The whole area has been repaved and re-bricked. The tilt in the path remains, but the depression next to the retaining wall is gone. No more running, jumping, splashing in the collected water.

What price progress?

Solitude

Alone, in Homer, Alaska

I cherished the solitude of the occasional walk on the beach between Anchor Point and Homer—nineteen miles of vertical cliffs overhanging the mysterious rocks, tide pools, beached seaweed, and sixteen-foot tides. I had to time the ten-hour walk carefully to assure there was at least some walkable beach the whole way to Homer.

beach-between-anchor-point-and-homer

I thought the rocks mysterious because I couldn’t fathom how so many of different colors and compositions, and sizes and shapes, and in unlikely combinations, seemed strewn so haphazardly by an agent unseen. I imagined they had been spewed over the eons by the two volcanoes across Cook Inlet that I could see on a clear day, Iliamna to the northwest and Augustine to the southwest. I later learned the movement of glaciers over millions of years had pushed surface debris hundreds of miles from any direction and left them all mixed together here along the shores of Cook Inlet.

beach-alaska

I loved these rocks. My associates at work, I knew, thought me slightly mad, having collected and placed interesting rocks throughout my office as objets d’art. The large black stone which I temporarily placed on the boulder in the above picture was the largest I collected, weighing 90 pounds.

Yes, I was mad—was not quite with the regular world, or, rather, not with the world I left behind in California. The solitude I enjoyed in this sparsely-populated region of Alaska had brought me to a new mental space. One grows both smaller and larger in Alaska. Smaller, because the landscape is beyond a human’s ability to perceive it whole; larger because each person seems to count for something more in such a sparsely-populated place than in the frightful, crowded urbs and suburbs rural Alaskans have left behind. I felt at home in a place in which I was not born, in which I owned only my personal goods, where I had no family (they lived elsewhere then), and where the people were individualistic and private.

I was at home with myself.

To emphasize the value I found in being by myself, especially along this beach, I tell friends a few short stories from my travels along it.

I once saw an eagle dive into the surf to catch a salmon and carry aloft to its aerie on the cliffs above.

I once failed to time the walk properly and had to navigate between the water and the cliff, between successive incoming waves of the rising tide.

I found shapes sculpted by wind and water and unknown powers.

Homer Beach-03.jpg

On my last day along this beach, in 1995, I saw two mature eagles with their young one, who looked larger than they because of its fluffiness, guiding their offspring by flying at her sides, keeping their wings under hers as she wobbled in the air on, perhaps, her first flight.

And, finally, I recount to friends how I never felt alone if I could see another person on the beach, even a mile or more away. I was startled once to suddenly see a distant someone behind me. I hurried forward to get around a bend in the cliff so I could rid that person from my view. It took me a while to recover from the intrusion.

inner voice is quashed
by clamor of others’ thoughts
solitude grows ears

The Purpose of Life is …

… to Live!

Alan Watts by Norm Breyfogle

This has been verified, once again, through my listening to Alan Watts, may he RIP, while I exercised on a machine that emulates cross-country skiing—something I haven’t done, other than on the machine, that is.

Watts verifies the above bold assertion, one I originally made upon deep reflection when I was in my early 20s. This was a period of great inner searching while I was also studying scientific and other things at the U. of Cal. at Berkeley, working at various short-term and part-time jobs, reading voraciously as still is my way, getting used to being married but without children yet, and occasionally getting soused on cheap wine with my wife and friends. This was also a time when we were not sure if the world would survive an argument between the USSR and the USA (in the persons of Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy) over nuclear missiles in Cuba.

I had bought two DVDs of Watts’s lectures and other materials and was listening to one of them to offset the boredom I suffer on the exercise machine.

Carl Gustav Jung

I listened to Watts talk on C.G. Jung, one of his mentors, and about another great man of learning and wisdom, G.K. Chesterton. During this exercising and listening session, and during a previous session as I listened to Watts lecture on “What is Reality,” I was reminded about Life being that which we experience every moment, unless we tend, mentally or otherwise, to live in the past or future.

So today is a beautiful day to live in the moment, given that Spring has sprung in Stockholm and it is a wonderfully warm day. My wife’s daughter, Liv, and I will take a walk along the lake next to our apartment building in the remaining daylight, of which there is plenty at 4:30 PM at this latitude (59 degrees north).

Life is good.