Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Considerate @ 64

I’ve been aware for the last couple of decades — since the advent of those ‘middle age’ years — that there’s a good chance I’ve lived over half my life.  

I know that some folks worry about such things more than others, and that hitting the big ‘4-oh’ or ‘5-oh’ can be a reality check that rocks them to their very core.  

I don’t know that I felt that way too much.  At least not consciously.  But within a couple months the Beatles song, ‘When I’m Sixty-four’ becomes a reality for me.  And now, it would seem, I am having a bit of an aging anxiety issue.  

Part of what gets me is my attempts to be a good guy during my life.  I was in one fight in my days, and that was back when I was a real kid.  Had to have been younger than ten.   

Always treated my girlfriends with respect, too.  And, I suspect, that is gnawing at the root of my mid-60s sensibility.  As a respectable church-going male, I don’t admit to enjoying erotica to many.  But I do.  I have one heck of photo library, I don’t mind telling you, and a small collection of paperbacks.  Always thought reading those pulp novels made me a bad boy.  It was a part of that ‘dark side’ good guys can’t let friends and family see.  

But now, with the coming of the E. L. James’s Fifty Shades collection of erotic fiction coming to the silver screen — and with the coming of my being 64 — I am looking at that issue a little differently.  

I have no doubt some of the scenarios in my old BeeLine collection are more graphic than the antics of Christian Gray and Anastasia Steele.  But still, here’s a guy with some personality issues that encourages him to ‘get off’ by having women sign agreements that he can dominate them sexually and they, in turn, will be submissive to his desires.  And the girls will like it, by the way.  Ana struggles with agreement issues, but she (as far as I am in the first book) is willing to take it in order to have Christian.  (Such an interesting name for dom, INMO.)

That does feel exciting to me on some level.  Sexual play can be fun, though I have to admit, I haven’t had the courage to engage in much in my mature life.  Even amid the digital collections of couples I have purchased, the ones that get my heart pumping most are the ones where a beautiful pair of folks are having graphic consensual action that both seem very much to be enjoying.  

And then — to completely change the subject — I stepped out on the deck of this amazing place I’m lucky enough to have for a writing retreat the other day to take a picture of a lovely pink/purple sunset in the clouds reflected on the water.  As I stood in the fading light, steadying the camera on a deck post, a wren popped out of the little birdhouse on said post, popped me on my hat, then fluttered down to the deck floor, turned around and looked at me.  I had seen the little person working the birdhouse over the last week, trying to figure if this place would be best to raise a brood come warmer weather.  I apologized verbally to the little guy (or girl) and got the heck out of the way.  

I posted this event on Facebook.  Maybe you read it.  In any case, one of my friends commented, ‘You have always been a considerate man, Tom. I am sure the wren appreciated it. :-)’

Which brings me to the topic for this post:  Yes, I would agree that I have tried to live a life considerate of other life forms on the planet.  I did, after all, just hang sunflower seeds out on the deck yesterday afternoon.  I hope it helps somebody make it through this very cold week.  

But then the nagging idea hits me that my life of consideration has kept me from having some pretty decent ‘sinful’ fun.  

Sin, of course, can be interpreted as many things.  Stuff we were taught as kids was designed to keep us out of trouble.  Then when we got older, we realized some limits set were more a product of making society more comfortable, and not so much tangible issues of right and wrong.  

So here I sit nearing my 64th birthday and I wonder what I’ve missed.  Fact is, I’m no kid anymore.  I am now of the older and wiser generation.   

Still, doesn’t change the fact that I wonder what kind of fun I’ve missed out on. 

I expected this blog entry to be a bit shorter, hoping to direct you, gentle reader, to my other blog, The Dressy Adventuress.  With the focus this winter on my book, I encourage you to share this important time of production with me.  Shoot, when I get it done, I just know you are going to want me to sign your copy.  And you can say you knew me when!  ;-) 

Do take a look when you have time:   The Dressy Adventuress

Today’s elder idea:  There is something deliciously satisfying about actually owning land which is truly one’s own.

Mabel Loomis Todd
20 July 1908 diary entry

image:  Sunset over Lake Cumberland (20 January 2014)

Friday, January 3, 2014

earthspeaks @ the New Year

The other day as New Year’s Eve ground on to the inevitable television watching of the ball drop at Times Square and a champagne toast at midnight, I gave a bit of thought to a new year for the planet.  More specifically, I gave some consideration to the ‘state of my life’ as it approached taking on yet another year.  

It is hard to fathom that I have been retired from working secondary school for over ten years.  I can remember when I approached that last year teaching history at Wayne High School, I wondered if the year would ever pass.  I mean, one and done was something to look forward to at that stage in a career.  And as much as I enjoyed teaching, I was ready to ponder what would keep me entertained for the second half of my life. 

It was on a winter Sunday afternoon in 2001 when I sat at my computer contemplating my joining the internet world with the purchase of a domain name all my own.  On that afternoon, a couple thoughts were stirring through my ‘mellowed’ brain (if you know what I mean), when the concept of earthspeaks popped through the options.  

I’m sure like many of you, my home office space is the gathering place for all kinds of valuable stuff.  My father’s collection of Tarzan books resides there, as does my modest collection of gifted Nancy Drew titles that have come with me since I was in the sixth grade.  I still have some college texts stacked in one bookcase, with an extensive collection of poetry in another.  Behind me is the prose collection of spiritual stuff, more contemporary history pieces, and Nature/environmental essays, all filed in alphabetical order by author.  

So on that Sunday when I was searching for a catchy expression that I could morph into a domain name, my eyes fell upon a favorite collection of thoughts by Steve Van Matre and Bill Weiler titled The Earth Speaks: An Acclimatization Journal.  Perhaps I was introduced to that book first on Hog Island, when just before dinner a short reading from it was shared with campers.  What wasn’t to like, with thoughts by Henry David Thoreau, Joseph Wood Krutch, Wallace Stegner, and Rachel Carson, among so many others, punctuating the end of a day of boat trips and/or a workshop on mushrooms?   

In any case, when my Sunday thoughts pondered the idea of the Earth speaking, I thought earthspeaks would be a fine domain name for a soon-to-be-retired educator who walked with high school kids into the Grand Canyon and sponsored Saturday hikes for junior high school kids.  earthspeaks, it would be.  

Problem was, and were not available for purchase then.  (The .com site sold women’s linen clothing, if memory serves, while the .net site was the internet home of someone who made multi-media Nature shows.  Both are currently out of business, it would appear.)  All that was left was  I wasn’t sure if I qualified as an organization just yet, but I went ahead, bit the bullet, and bought the domain name.  Besides, one friend observed, the .org sounded organic, and wasn’t that the point anyway? 

Since that time I’ve taught a couple classes at Aullwood Audubon Center & Farm here in Dayton and a couple others at the Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine, all under the banner of earthspeaks.  I tried to build a website, hoping it would house an e-magazine, but it never really worked.  You could go find now, if motivated.  All you’d find is the last update made in 2009 which includes a lovely picture of our front yard dogwood tree in its full May glory, a pic of yours truly, and links to this blog and another connecting the reader to an essay of mine on one of my favorite places on the planet, Crestone, Colorado.  

Still, provides my primary email address, and that is really enough.  In a real way, if the gentle reader wanted to know what the proprietor of was thinking, all she/he would have to do is surf over here to The Back Porch for content.  So in that regard, the website still does its job, though I always dream of updating it with photo slideshow links, more Nature poetry and essays, and room for reader comment.  I’ve had a sign posted on my office closet door for years that reads: A humanities-based web community.  Didn’t happen, though it was a great idea. 

So here I am at the beginning of 2014 writing my 188th blog entry, born of the concept of earthspeaks.  And, I must say, I am pleased overall with how things have worked out.  I still work at poetry writing when the muse permits, and I still very much enjoy taking walks in the woods watching birds.  I still teach a bit of history (and poetry) at Hog Island, and am about to set off on a January/February sabbatical to make progress on my book about Mabel Loomis Todd there, The Dressy Adventuress.  In August this year I’ll be writer-in-residence on Hog Island, to boot, doing my best to get Mrs. Todd’s story as a woman of Nature in print.  

The book, of course, will require another website, too.  I have purchased the rights to  Nothing there yet, but if 2014 works out like I hope it does, that site should help folks learn about my book and, perhaps, help me sell a few more copies.  

So as 2014 opens, I am pleased to reflect that I am still wedded to the concepts behind the origins of earthspeaks.  I love the sea, I love the mountains, I love the desert — all places where Nature’s people make their work of living on a planet circulating in a spiral arm of the Milky Way.  It is my fervent hope this year that I can do justice to living mindfully and do what I can to be one with All that call this planet home.
As mentioned, tomorrow I head off to seclusion to work on my book.  I’ve learned that if a body wants a different result, one has to try something new.  I’m trying something new.  Wish me well.  

Do stop by here to see how things are going.  I’ll be blogging as The Dressy Adventuress takes shape.

Today’s elder idea:   One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourself out.  Be as I am: a reluctant enthusiast, a part-time crusader.  Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure.  It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it.  While you can.  While it’s still here.
Edward Abbey
except from The Earth Speaks: An Acclimatization Journal

image: Front-yard goldenrod at Mrs. Todd’s Camp Mavooshen.  (Hog Island, summer 2013)