If It’s Here, Find It!
About the Author.
In his seafaring days.
PAUL HAMPTON CROCKETT is an artist and attorney (you figure it out!) living in his crazed but wonderful hometown of Miami, FL. He practices with The Crockett Law Firm there, focusing on probate and estate planning, as well as the representation of the legal rights of sexual minorities and the growing number of people affected by HIV. He has been HIV-positive for at least double as many years as he has fingers, and remains active in community-based organizations, public education, and advocacy as he is able.
He has also had published numerous newspaper and magazine columns dealing with the legal concerns of sexual minorities and people with HIV, articles for the Florida Bar, and self-published, along with his late companion Scott Gillen, Gay Law 101, a book on the subject of gay and lesbian legal rights. His second book, HIV Law: A Survival Guide to the Legal System for People Living with HIV, was published by Random House in 1997 and widely acclaimed.
Crockett’s journey as an always-learning, self-taught artist was fueled into fully inspired madness following his HIV diagnosis. Something about having a “fatal disease” wiped away all obstacles to an innate need, always carried within, to make as huge a mess as possible, with color. His work has remained driven by that sense of urgency and a hunger to see and express, given fresh impetus from time to time by the reliable occasional trauma. The paintings have been well-loved, locally and beyond, and the general consensus is that they appear to be art. Some of his work is occasionally showcased right here!
His partner in life is the famed brilliant eccentric, Alan Langdon. They live with their wondrous cat Hoppers and (from time to time) numerous guests from around the world in their extraordinarily green little Havana compound, viewable at http://lostreefcottage.net/ and http://www.welcometothemission.net/ They often feel fortunate to have found one another, and to call home such a rare and beautiful slice of the only planet they (despite some conversation to the contrary) have ever seriously considered living upon.
He has also posted online several chapters from his book chronicling his own personal experience of the immediacy of the angels and love after death, titled Death is an Impostor. They can be read at http://deathisanimpostor.com
He wishes to express his profound gratitude for the constant love and support of his family through the sweet and the unthinkable, is more proud than he can say of his 5 nephews and most singular niece, and the friendships that are his treasure.
He can be reached at email@example.com, usually!
Thank you for stopping by.
It’s About Love, Not Death.
“WHEN one sets out to paint,” said Pablo Picasso, “he should have some idea of what he’s going to do, but only some idea.” I have always loved that idea, because in my experience, it guides me perfectly. And so it was that Sunday morning I headed up to Fort Lauderdale from my home in Miami, with faithful Alan by my side, to “paint the Stranahan House.” That was my intention. And had we hypothetically run into one another that morning, that’s probably exactly how it would have put it.
As you know, I am artistically drawn to that “whatever it is” unique to natural Miami, and its surroundings. It is a part of the world that I know is mine, because it is myself that I find revealed as each painting takes shape on the easel before me. And in that sense, this old trading post sitting upon a once-crystalline river, surrounded by deep forest on all sides unbelievably alive with birds of every hue, and every other manner of wild creature that kindly shared their kingdom, offered an opportunity nearly unparalleled in the southern half of the state. I just knew there had to be a painting in it for me, somehow. The house was built around 1880 on Fort Lauderdale’s New River, by true pioneers Frank and Ivy Stranahan, to serve as the family home, and also a trading post in which they might do business with the Seminole who would periodically glide silently forth from deep within the Everglades in their dugout canoes, laden with goods for trade.
Amazingly enough, the house still stands today, protected as museum, though the surroundings have of course changed completely. Though the sights, sounds, and “feel” of the time now seem a thousand years distant. The deep ancient hammock that once surrounded on all sides has been lost to “progress,” every bit of it, and the glittering skyscrapers of downtown Fort Lauderdale reach high up into the air, like an empty promise. The canopied dirt road leading up to their door has in time become the swank and stylish Las Olas Blvd.
Stranahan House, ca. 1910, even then the drainage of the Everglades was well underway, destroying the home of the native people, and a way of life consequently fading.
In many ways, setting out to do a painting is very much like undertaking a journey. All I knew about painting this house, was that I wanted to do it from across the river. In that respect the site was hospitable; an empty, cleared lot sat almost immediately across the river from the place, offering not even a locked gate as obstacle. So Alan helped me set up my paints, fill my jars with clean water, and so forth. Then I turned on my music, and slipped into that other world or color leads me. I became lost in the painting.
Upon my quest, facing the New River, Fort Lauderdale. A generous soul named Lori, who happened to live in one of the apartments to my back, was kind enough to shoot a bunch of pics that day. Here was the first sitting, which I recall as a Super Bowl Sunday long ago and far away.
As I painted, I kept an eye casually open for the branch in the path I was to take. I just couldn’t stand to document what seemed to lay so flat before me, the poor house smothered within an urban “superstructure” in which it played no part, nor might it be possible. (Other than the one it had been assigned, “museum,” which by definition means “other than.”)
Ivy Julia Cromartie Stranahan (1881-1971)
“[B]orn in 1881 near the Georgia-Florida line, she moved with her family as a young girl to Lemon City (which became part of Miami), Florida. She then moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1899 to become the town’s first school teacher. She married Frank Stranahan in 1900 and lived in what originally had been the Indian trading post founded by her husband (Mr. Stranahan remodeled it into a home for his bride.) Stranahan taught school formally in Fort Lauderdale (still considered part of the Dade County School System at that time) for one year. She also informally taught Seminole Indian children for more than 15 years. Stranahan was active in social affairs, including women’s suffrage, the Audubon Society, and the establishment of the Everglades National Park. Her most noted accomplishment was the foundation of the “Friends of the Seminoles” and her role in persuading some of the Seminoles to move to the newly created reservation at Dania, Florida.”
From Reclaiming the Everglades, an excellent Digital Archive, http://everglades.fiu.edu/reclaim/bios/stranahani.htm
My first thought was that perhaps I might work a “time warp” kind of take on the canvas, with one or two dugout canoes carrying Seminoles seen (kind of black and white, maybe)approaching the trading post, on the river. But nah, that touch of the surreal would not have been enough. It seemed such an unfair fight, the house as if beached on an alien shore outside of even its own time, and thus very far from home indeed, and also vastly outnumbered, by roughly one world. All I could think of, was how very alive the place had once been. And I saw in it no cause for joy.
Yet as long as I have my imagination, I will never surrender! So I indulged in some time painting quite freely, a privilege attending the truly lost (“What have I got to lose, anyway?”), and awaited revelation. And sure enough, as my brushes dashed and darted about the canvas, it came to me that I would paint the house as it would have looked back in the 1890s. That is why I have called it an “imagined,” rather than “imaginary” landscape. The distinction is important, and to me was a big part of the fun of doing the painting, and is central to its story, as a finished work.
In a manner unusual for me, I set my sights on meticulous accuracy with respect to every detail of plant and animal life seen in this “window,” making certain that each was suited to time and place. That pursuit flung the doors of discovery open for me wide, in part as “research project” preliminary to bursting into color, and then also as a kind of wonderful “walk down memory lane,” in the sense that I spent what seems to be a fair amount of my childhood with my friends playing, hanging, and *living* in the few remaining such native forests in Miami. The land here is very much part of my soul, and for that I have always been close to bursting with gratitude, and blessed.
WE are surrounded everywhere by ancient echoes, but modern life allows precious little time or inclination toward openness to hearing them, nor carries the fundamental respect that might be prerequisite to feeling them in the heart. I dared hope that maybe… if I pulled it off, then you might hear the cry of the brilliantly-colored birds, soaring free above, might once again echo from bank to bank in your inner ear, and maybe the laughter and quiet murmur of the families making their excited approach to Frank and Ivy’s always-welcoming and wide-open doors, again be heard. Or maybe felt in your heart.
Such moments, taken to listen, are not to be at all confused with either going backwards, or anything like idle romantic flight of fancy. No, not at all. I suspect they bring much more to bear. Something very close to home, though I cannot name it. But I think some of you know what I mean.
Sincere thanks for stopping by, and for the gift of your time.
My parents, before they had actually met, at least in this lifetime.
SOMETIMES a painting can be more than a painting.
Newlyweds, 1953. They are here pictured with my maternal grandmother Flora Frye Q’Quinn, one of the truly magnificent human beings I have ever known.
A few months back, Mom shared with me a conversation she’d had with a girlfriend back in her college years, at Meredith College in Raleigh. They’d been having lunch together in the cafeteria when her friend made a spontaneous observation that struck my Mom so that she knew she’d never forget it. And she hasn’t. “Oh, Anne,” her friend had remarked, “I’m just so glad that we met and have become friends, because there is so much you just understand. And if you didn’t…well, I really don’t think it would even be possible to explain.”
New York Apartment P. Crockett (hangs in Miami)
You see: there was Mom and her friend, and now there are my parents and the paintings I have done for them.
Gazebo, Ocean Isle (acrylic on wood) P. Crockett
The background here involves no long story. My parents worked hard and well for many, many years, and are now blessed to be living the life they dreamed of. Dad put in an unimaginable 50+ years at the once-legendary firm of Steel, Hector & Davis, and almost never missed a day even though I’m quite certain that, at times, nothing would have seemed sweeter.
And, although we’d invariably fill in the little box describing Mom as “homemaker” on the endless surveys, forms, etc., required by our various schools, she certainly had no less of a job than he. The big difference, of course, was that Dad could come home at the end of the day, and get away from the %%&*@@**##$ office!)
THEIR “home base” is still the family home in Miami, but they also enjoy spending part of their time in an apartment in New York City, a beach house right on the shore at Ocean Isle, North Carolina, and in a sweet cabin perched high up in the beautiful mountains of that State, near Boone, NC. They move as the spirit leads them, and enjoy being “rooted gypsies” tremendously.
Front Porch ____P. Crockett (Miami, hangs in NYC)
SO at some point a while back, it occurred to me that they might enjoy, more than any other gift I could give them, paintings of their various places to remind them of “another” that they loved, when they were still spending time elsewhere.
Still Life, New York Apartment_____P. Crockett (hangs in Miami)
Homestead. A painting of the only family home I can ever remember, in the Roads section of Miami, which my parents still call “home base.” It hangs in New York.
I have put everything I have into each of them, because that is the best I know how to do. Colors splashed on canvas speak a language more subtle and express, more true than any ever cobbled together out of words. (I realize that rarely can there be any useful “comparison” of languages, as each serves a unique purpose all its own. What strikes me as important is understanding that these complementary languages are at hand, and that we do in fact put them to use. Almost every day. So: if a relationship is breaking down, or a friendship withering, perhaps a failure to remain mindful of the fuller range of avenues for communication available might be part of the reason.)
More than what I have said, I cannot, and I am certain need not, explain. It’s all there, in the paintings.
The Swinging 60’s.
ON December 3rd, Dad turned 80.
He used to be younger. (Center, above, with family.) Among the many astounding points of connection they share is that she did, too!
And then there was Christmas. So I figured the occasion as good an any to especially celebrate. So I did a little painting for them both. My Dad is not a materialistic kind of guy and cares naught for brand labels, prestige or other such gaudy baubles that don’t last. Neither he nor my Mom have ever particularly given a damn what the Jones (or the Garcias, or whomever) are up to, much less exerted the mental energy to contemplate what might be required in keeping up with them, for Christ’s sake!
My paintings are among the only gifts I have ever seen really light up his face, which of course delights me.
This one’s called Howard’s End, and it depicts their beloved piece of the North Carolina Smoky Mountains homesteaded and thoroughly enjoyed by my father’s parents before them, and now in turn named in his remembrance. A suitable choice, for I was privileged to spend a number of idyllic summer weeks with my grandparents there, and I am here to testify that none might ever love this house, or the land surrounding, than did (or does) my Grandfather.
My Grandfather, Howard Bruce Crockett, with my brother Greg ( R) and me, in North Carolina.
It was he who planted the twin poplars on the sloping meadowed lawn out front that now join in shading luxuriantly and from high above the porch where the rocking chairs sit. If the whole place might be seen as a gift, the twin trees planted in gentle consideration of those to come are the icing on the cake.
Thank you for everything, Granddaddy.
And the view can take your breath away! If there is a place more ready to delight at every turn, or a better refuge from Florida’s heat in the summer, I’ve yet to hear about it.
So, here is Howard’s End, with all the love in the world:
So there you have it. It’s kind of personal, this sharing, but I figured nobody would mind.
Mom, Dad, I speak for many when I say, from the heart: you are the greatest. There seem to be a number of us that are more grateful than we can say, to have you around.
Backyard Paradise (Miami Winter) __ P. Crockett _____ (Miami, hangs at the beach, N.C.)
Seen in the background, below
Miami River Rapids, 1907.
I would like to share with you a work in progress that is special to me. Some of you will recall that I have posted images of the painting in its earlier stages. Yet certain journeys cannot, will not, be rushed, and are likely to announce the next bend in the path ahead only when it might please them. When and if they should become good and ready.
Rapids, Miami River (Work in Progress) ____P. Crockett
THERE is a place that I have always wanted to go, since first hearing about it. The location is not far away from where I now sit writing, over just 10 blocks to the west to 27th Avenue, and then North just along that road for a bit. Yet there nevertheless remain certain practical difficulties in getting there, it must be granted, as technically speaking the place no longer exists. Nor has it for nearly 100 years now, since that morning the men came with the dynamite.
Though this picturesque spot beloved of Miami’s earliest pioneers had given no cause for offense, it had no place in their ambitious plans for the re-shaping of the area. Wild and untamed nature had held sway over the much of the South Florida area for long enough, damn it, and its ancient cycles were neither fully understood nor convenient for the purposes of planned land use, its settlement, agriculture, and so forth.
THESE men were all about “reclaiming” the Everglades, and they meant business. Their assigned mission, or perhaps better put, crusade— was to redeem at last, from the fetid waters of the great gloomy swamp, the hundreds of thousands of acres of perfectly fine farmland that had lain submerged for thousands of years, going only to waste. As one of the two natural pathways for the endlessly flowing sheets of water discharging along the Eastern edge of the Great River of Grass (along with Fort Lauderdale’s New River), the Miami River seemed a self-evident target for those fixated upon draining Hell out of the Everglades.
The natural configuration of the River as left by Nature was fatally flawed in two insufferable respects. First, it lacked efficiency! It would allow water to just swirl in eddies and bounce about before exactly as it would, hither and yon, before finally pouring over the rock ledge that was the rapids, to begin its precipitous descent and three-mile course to Biscayne Bay.
Second, everyone knows that a navigable waterway is invaluable to the success of trade and commerce in an area, and these picturesque falls of tumbling frothy water were certainly not navigable, even to canoes or small rowboats.
SO intent were these workers upon their overarching mission of “reclaiming” from thief Mother Nature of her ungovernable Everglades, and so focused upon seeing the ancient Miami at last broken to the proper service and use of Man as a navigable waterway, that the ancient architecture of the rapids had been obliterated by the lunch-hour.
As of that afternoon the Earth was a sadder place, for just after the concussive blasts of dynamite exploding there had suddenly fallen an eerie and unnatural silence. The proud and ancient song of the falling water was to be heard no more.
And yet: why is it, how can it be, that at times I can still hear the music? Why do I feel in my heart that somewhere the Miami still flows free?
I WANT TO GO to the Miami River rapids. Would you like to come along? I want to make passage through the deep green shade of the ancient forested hammock, guided always by the sound of the rushing water until stepping out at last into the brilliant open. I want to be dazzled by the vast fields of blue above and all around, to take in the song of the countless birds wheeling in flight above and the music of the falling waters behind. I want to take all the time I need to stop, look, and listen for all the ancient harmonies and melodies that must have once seemed to partake of the eternal, since they had always been, but are now long forgotten.
I want to breathe deep, take in the white clouds drifting lazily above, see their placid reflection transformed into kinetic art upon the swirling, dancing, falling sheets of clean blue water in rapid motion, all around me.
I want to feel the racing wind upon my face, and breathe deep the smell of an Earth fully alive.
Sometimes, if we are to get anywhere at all, we must allow the wings of our own imaginations to serve as transportation.
I once had a very special friend named Jane Reno. (Her daughter Janet would go on to win some celebrity as hosting a dance party on Saturday Night Live, and in other other endeavors, as well.)
Janet with Will Ferrell, as Janet
I might more respectfully say Teacher or mentor, rather than friend, but such was the nature of Jane’s gift that I cannot. She wouldn’t hear of such a thing. Jane knew nothing of half measures, and when her light shone, it shone all the way through. She particularly loved poetry, and the most beautiful smile would cross her face as she’d recite the gems she most treasured from the vast storehouse of her memory.
So it was that these words, written by Thomas Wolfe shortly before his untimely death at the age of 37, came to take root somewhere in my personal Heaven:
Something has spoken to me in the night, burning the tapers of the waning year; something has spoken in the night, and told me I shall die, I know not where. Saying:
“To lose the earth you know, for greater knowing; to lose the life you have for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth–
“–Whereon the pillars of the earth are founded, toward which the conscience of the world is tending — a wind is rising, and the rivers flow.”
As you might have noticed, it’s been a while since you’ve received a posting from my online
journal. Quite honestly I hope that you’ve noticed, so I will conveniently assume. That works for me.
I have certainly missed you.
To catch you up in a nutshell with my “so-called blogging life,” I’ve been busily engaged the last several weeks in trying to untangle a technological Gordian knot that took me by surprise and threw me for a loop, demanded a wholesale re-thinking of my options, and required what seemed to me prodigious labor to clean up the mess. I have personally experienced the dreaded Horror of the Domain Name Snatchers! (My domain name here, for example, was “growingintothemystery.com.”)
Retaining faint vestiges of innocence, I had not been aware that mechanized “bots” programmed with malicious intention are just waiting hungrily to “snatch up” domain names allowed to expire, even for one minute, in the hope the domain’s owner may prove sufficiently desperate, reliant upon, or generally aggravated to force a purchase back of his/her own creation that is essentially blackmail.
The faceless, nameless BASTARDS! In one fell swoop, I learned that I’d lost this domain and that of two other blogs I’d created to explore the phenomena that are our vacation rental properties: the house next door we call “the Mission,” and “Lost Reef Cottage,” in our backyard. I will spare you the agonizing detail, for you have done me no wrong justifying such treatment. Long and short: this blog will now be found at http://growingintothemystery.net/, and the others at http://lostreefcottage.net/ and http://welcometothemission.net/
There, I feel better. Thanks for granting me my bitching time. Now, we move on.
IF you’ve not yet heard of scribd.com, you will. Its lofty vision is to open up to the masses free publication of (literally) whatever in a meaningful, vital forum, and the masses appear to be eagerly doing its share. The site has been referred to as “the YouTube of the Written Word,” a comparison (for better or worse) with some merit.
Just for the Hell of it, I figured I’d play with posting here a chapter from my novel happening online, Death is an Impostor (http://deathisanimpostor.com/ ) as it currently appears on scribd in a “virtual book” format. And not just any chapter, mind you–but one describing an encounter with a Lakota Sioux mystic, the adventures of the ever fabulous (longtime friend and sometime lover) Jeff Danese, and now even— for the first ten million visitors only– an unforgettable tune available for free download! That’s right, music! (I tried to include grocery coupons, as well, but had no luck selling the idea. )
Please do take a look, and if you are so inclined, tell me what you think. A couple of hints to help you more easily rise to the measure of this historic moment. First, (1) see where it says “scroll” in the bottom left corner? Click there and a dropdown menu will open. Try”Book.” Then, (2) choose the Fullscreen tab from up top, and no sooner than you can say “Gee Whiz, a Bona Fide Technological Miracle, Right Here on my Very Own Computer!!” you’ll be perusing a genuine virtual book. (Please pardon the oxymoron, but something in the very atmosphere of the cyber-realm tends to swing open wide the portal to every manner of madness, including abundant paradox.) Then just use the arrows at the bottom of the screen to turn the pages.
[scribd id=44362117 key=key-o1jg4k15qc67exj2pq1 mode=list]
I am not unmindful that I may be getting a bit “techno” on some of you. If you find yourself frozen in front of your computer screen. trying without success to even imagine being interested in the whole idea, you get a free pass, here.
I understand. All of this computer stuff I’ve had to learn, the small mountain of obnoxious detail involved “behind the scenes” in putting together (and then rebuilding) a simple blog, or five, has been gained in trade for countless hours of my life. These are my choices, I have reminded myself in the luxury of that small still moment in which I breathlessly pass the racing baton from my hands… into my own waiting hands, tensed and again ready to sprint. At times I think to myself “Paul, what are you? Nuts?!” I look behind, and no one’s chasing. Yet I am off and running, again.
All of that being said, I have always seen the computer and everything it entails strictly as a means to an end. It is that end–that hope for sharing the important or enjoyable in new, timely ways– that has a great deal to do with you.
You– whoever you might be, out there– are the reason I sit down to write, my steady incentive to give it my best shot. It is my hope that you are there— or may come– that leads me forward. That keeps me “digging,” and sometimes when least expected bestows upon me for a time wings to soar.
Had you stopped today to think that you might be someone’s inspiration? And not simply in an abstract sense? Even someone whose face you might never see, or who might see yours? Yet so it is.
Thank you for being there.
Last night I received a short, wonderful email from my friend Niki that read in its entirety:
Thought you’d enjoy this quote….
“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” ~~Kahlil Gibran
Sunday Afternoon, Vizcaya 2006
This one is dedicated to Leslie, a hotshot Boston architect, her remarkable son Tommy, and the woman who will become his bride on Sunday, here in Miami. Hard for me to believe, but it’s been four years since the afternoon our paths crossed at the very spot captured above. Leslie and her son, visiting Miami to look at the U of M campus, had taken some leisure time to just relax and enjoy Vizcaya. There they chanced to find me on my feet, easel before me, thoroughly engrossed in the birthing of the canvas you see above.
So they walked up to have a look, we met, and in short order fell into an easy, comfortable conversation as I kept splashing away. They were both truly remarkable individuals, in different ways. Something of an “odd pair:” you know, a loving, powerful mother and her gentle and gifted boy, just become a strong man.
It was only a “little thing,” really, the whole event, but I am grateful that four years later Leslie and I remain in touch. So that, for example, I learn the good and great news that Tommy had found his “one,” and given a chance to say “Hey, I’m really glad we met, and I wish you guys all good things in your new life together, and as much Grace as you can stand.”
And true, this posting is but a small gesture, one small candle, perhaps. Yet in this quiet moment in which I’ve yet to release the piece, when it is still mine alone, I pause to feel the reflected heat and small light of this candle most earnest. Then, for some reason deeper than my understanding, I know that I have somehow been already blessed in the sharing.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
— T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
Detail, WPA or “New Deal” Art- Tile Installation, 1937, Coral Way Elementary School, Miami, FL. My alma mater, my siblings’, and our Father’s before us.
Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.
— Teaching, Oglala Sioux Tribe
WPA Art Tile Installation, Coral Way Elementary, Detail
Few of the more than 2,000 people on board [the Titanic] actually saw the iceberg as it went by, but the quartermaster, one of the few, said it resembled a windjammer, sails set, passing along the starboard side.” A passenger who had leapt over his bed when he felt a bump and run over to the porthole observed “a wall of ice gliding by.” In other starboard cabins, passengers with their portholes open found chunks of ice on their floors… Some passengers in the third-class recreation space, where several tons of loose ice landed, threw scraps of it at each other, and in steerage, men played soccer with ice chunks.
Below deck, there was no such frivolity, however.
– – Marianna Gosnell, Ice: the Nature, History and Uses of an Astonishing Substance
“When you look at it, it’s hard to believe this hunk of ice was behind the tragedy of the Titanic. This photo of the iceberg as well as 2 others in existence was snapped by a passenger on the Carpathia, the ship that answered the Titanic’s SOS call. As far as I have been able to tell, this was the first because the scrap of Titanic hull paint is the largest. The berg stood about 100 feet over the water and even threw some chunks onto Titanic’s deck as it passed, which some passengers played soccer with, believing they were safe. It’s now thought that substandard steel used in making the Titanic’s rivets was so brittle that pressure caused them to snap, making the plates push apart. The berg, which was seen to melt away and change while in visual range, it drifted off during the recovery of victims’ bodies and unlike the Titanic, was never to be seen again.”
(Both image and text used by kind courtesy of Rahni, who single-handedly runs a truly extraordinary web site, http://www.anomalies-unlimited.com/. Please check it out; if you haven’t seen the site there’s really no describing it.)
Detail, WPA Art, Coral Way Elementary
It seems appropriate enough to begin with the ending of the Titanic, because from that fateful evening in 1912 until (possibly) late last month, April 20 to be exact, the ship and its fate stood out as a singular and wonderfully dramatic illustration of the damage that can result when man’s unbridled hubris slams with full impact into the real world.
Yet for all the dread consequence of the Captains’ choice to run his ship full throttle through the dark of night on that frosty April evening, that decision does not seem to me to even approach in its spirit of naked hubris and wanton recklessness that displayed by the oil drilling operation, last month. The focus of its operations a full mile below, under the immense atmospheric pressures of that depth, it proceeded every day as if both the Gulf seas churning above and the ancient and mighty Earth itself far below had somehow been “tamed” to man’s providential dominance. It poked and prodded, freely and according to its whim, presuming to pluck and extract exactly what it would, and that alone, from among the vastly powerful and ancient forces at play just under the sea’s bottom.
Considering the known, probable and certainly devastating consequences of error, how could it not have seemed utter folly to dispense with safeguards that were not only well-known and available to prevent or mitigate the disaster, but actually in common use by the Company in other jurisdictions, that had the sense to require them? Truth is, BP was a little punch-drunk, high as a kite on the stellar profits going up, up and up every year. And the corporation, despite its obscene wealth, has earned a famous reputation among its peers as a notoriously “cheapskate.” It does not like to spend money, thank you very much. It much prefers making it. As much as possible, please. And again.
And besides: the Company could do no wrong, really. Like the tobacco companies in days of old, it enjoyed a certain swagger that had much to do with standing in the favorable negotiating position of “dealers” with respect to “using addicts:” the former holding a supply much needed by the latter. That unfortunate latter group would include you, and me, the people at work and your neighbors, and several million more around the world. We all damned well need our cars, other machines, etc., etc.
“BRAVO,” said the stockholders. No longer. No amount of money will ever make it right, unless you feel a price tag can be put on the planet Earth. Because that might just be what has been lost.
Do I sensationalize? Read on.
I. Mind-Boggling Disasters Make for Devilishly Hard Writing.
Never before have I struggled so mightily with a posting. Thank God. Generally, all I need to see me through from first word to the last period is some sense of my message, and (if I’m lucky) a general idea of how I plan to get there. I will start this one with a prayer.
Why? Because we need one. I hope that you, in your own way, might join me. The exact words you use, or whomever you might or might not choose to “address” it, are no one’s real business but your own and those with whom you choose to share. I suppose I refer here to the focusing of sacred intention, and I do believe that there is a Power in it. Individually, and somehow especially, collectively.
And if I have ever felt that a Great and Fateful Hour has arrived, and that we will very shortly need every bit of help we can get, in whatever form it might come, that hour has arrived.
The time is now.
This posting has been different, in a most agonizing way. I keep trying, because really I have no choice. At least seven or eight times now, nearly a full week, and all I’ve to show for it thus far are a few selected images stuffed in a virtual folder somewhere on this damned computer, some rambling paragraphs, and a state of agitation that allows me no lasting peace. Call me melodramatic, I do not care. But in the whistle of the winds that have been strangely gusting outside my windows for the last several hours, swaying the palms about, I have felt the Earth weeping. “She is bleeding,” I thought, seeing ancient black oil pouring forth where it has no business, in quantities too vast for the Earth to mount an effective immune response.
Stop for a moment, and think. Has not the Earth been good to us? Despite every manner of assault, insult, and wholesale destruction of her natural finery, have we not time after time received from her mercy, and not justice?
Where would any of us be without her? Where will any of us be?
Detail, WPA Art, Coral Way Elementary
Before pursuing our relentless inquiry right down into the ocean’s depths, let’s pause for a moment to consider Carl Sagan’s vision of this “pale blue dot”we call home. The man was most certainly a scientist with a wonderful imagination, and thus a pure poet. In 1990, as the Voyager spacecraft took its leave of our solar system, he had made request of NASA that the ship be directed to turn its lens back towards Earth one last time, to snap a picture of “home.” The picture is below, and the planet we all call home the tiny blue dot marked by the arrow, seen from a distance of nearly four billion miles. The words, and the boundless imagination behind them, are classic Sagan.
And even now, as if on cue, the rain starts to fall. She will give us all she has, until she has nothing left and can do no more. God bless Mother Earth.
They will say, “As it once was.”
A real heartbreaker. A “pod,” or family, of Dolphins, this weekend. What have we done? My God, where are they to go? As of this point the waters pictured are only oil-slicked, and the fish kill well underway even though their atmosphere is now only partially poisonous. The deep, dark sea of solid oil is coming. Like us, these are mammals that live and travel through their lives together as families. We lack the intelligence to measure theirs. They do exhibit attributes of playfulness, and of love. Say a prayer for them. And if you don’t feel that in your heart, stop instead to pray for your family. We are not far behind. We will all of us have to do something, and it may not always be clear exactly what is to be done. We share one home.
II. Exactly What Am I Writing About?
On one level, it’s simple.
Answer: an oil hemorrhage of unprecedented size in open seas, close to home. A disaster of epic and unimaginable proportions. A quickly moving target, its ripple effects widening into ever-larger concentric circles as it continues to grow mindlessly, and shape-shift by the hour, day, and week. In many ways, a mass of crude oil floating upon the open sea defies many of the laws of nature as we know and understand them to be. To quote the inspirational statement made by the CEO of BP Oil with regard to the cleanup efforts, “We are learning as we go along.” Fine, folksy approach. Kudos to the P.R. department. Now, if only our planet were not your classroom sample.
Generally, ripple effects weaken in their outward spread, weakening as attenuating links of an expanding chain. Not so with the ongoing ruin inflicted by an oil mass, especially one of this magnitude. It only gets worse. Exact effects are unpredictable, but they never, ever bring any good news.
One certainty we do have is exactly where the problem began, and the ongoing source of the continuing damage:
The real challenge becomes simply keeping up. Not only does oil never sleeps, it never stops moving. It is the oil of nature to engage all that it encounters. It knows neither hostility, hunger, nor mercy. It is ancient, and has been dead so long it remembers not its source. A truly awful enemy: without intention yet without exception, it will smother, glom on to, and finally kill every living thing in its path.
And then there are the wild cards of corporate malfeasance and deceit, governmental obfuscation, understandable Human denial, and an ongoing “soft-pedaling” by the media. A couple of days ago, I noted a front-page headline in the Miami Herald: Uncertainty Shrouds Oil Threat to South Florida.
People, we wish.
Uncertainty can indeed provide some comfort when facing the truly unthinkable, but here provides false comfort. There is no uncertainty on the question of if, only when. And about even that, barely any. The answers are awful. I am no fatalist, and would never counsel “giving up.” But…
We are facing a war against an enemy without a face and without arms, yet we’ve never imagined a force so hugely destructive. It bothers me that we, the People, have been lied to. The Government must remember that we might be worthy of trust, because they/ we have no one but one another with which to join arms. Lies and important “omissions” tend to aggravate any serious harm already inflicted. I am already so disturbed and angry, in various turn, much more so than I can ever recall feeling in response to any event outside the immediate sphere of my own day-to-day life.
I am desperately seeking redemption, here, so I have my work cut out for me.
Everywhere I turn, looking for hope, the view only grows more dim, and my toes slip a little deeper into the bog of despair.
In a way, wrestling with this post, and its message, has been such a struggle that at times I have devoutly wished that I’d not begun writing it. Whatever I come up with just is not likely to be worth the cost. But then again, damn it, it wasn’t exactly as if I had a choice. I had to do some work, here. And some hard thinking.
Even if no one listened at all; even if I knew for a fact that each and every of my readers were to turn away, for any reason or none at all (and I cannot honestly say that I’d blame them), I’d still have to try to express what I am feeling. And in the process, explore that very question in the hope of finding some answers. I find myself surrounded by reasons for despair, close at hand, while the glow of the shining beacons of hope I can make out only vaguely, on some promising but distant shore.
And so I am praying for Hope, for you and for me, and for those that we hold as treasure in our hearts. You are reading my prayer, here. That is why I truly do appreciate your taking the time to read, and consider. I try to take nothing for granted.
I write in an effort to try and “feel out” some answers. Hell, at this point I might be satisfied with a few good questions. Whatever might lead us in the direction of truth, no matter how awful, I’ll take it. For our benefit and that of all succeeding generations, we have critical work to do. We cannot even begin to strategize until the truth has been told, the cobwebs of corporate manipulation swept from our eyes, and our volcanic anger honored somehow, hopefully channeled in some expression that will not only make things worse.
So, for example, if it is indeed correct that any real “repair” is unlikely, we can stop living in fear of that very possibility, and figure out how to move forward. Whatever we do, and wherever we go, I feel that we might have a chance, so long as we go there together. Yet we are so damaged. Obama was voted into office, I believe, not so much for the “change” he promised, but because the American people had grown weary to the bone of the withering political cynicism that ran like a river of corrosive acid through nearly every decision, priority, and choice made by the previous administration. Nothing was safe; even our revered Constitution was a grievous casualty. We have surrendered to a world in which daily color-coded “states of alert” told us what level of cold fear might be prudent, in response to imagined threats, and yet survived. This threat is no phantom, and beyond resolution by any form of national or global diplomacy.
It is safe to say, I believe, that never before in all of history has Humankind been called upon to face the challenge now before us. As noted in the ancient Chinese proverb, we have been cursed to live “in interesting times.”
We need not give up our political differences, but can no longer afford to grant them the power to divide us and govern our relations. Diversity of thought is very much an American tradition, and to be honored. We must try to leave behind the tone of insult, personal insensitivity, and attack that have become part of political discourse; none of it necessarily belongs there.
If we cannot join together in one spirit as we get to work, I am not sure that we will make it. We must extend a hand to one another, and mean it, exactly as if the world depended upon it.
OH, Little Bird. You were innocent. May you again take wing in a cleaner, better place.
If it means anything, Little One, I will say “I am sorry, so very sorry, that it had to end this way.” I am sorry that you have been so thoughtlessly robbed of all that was,
and ever would be, yours. Most of all, your right to spread your fine little wings, and fly.
“On my own behalf, and that of all of my fellow Human Beings around the world, I apologize.” Rest in peace.
Detail, WPA Art, Coral Way Elementary
I SOUND a madman, I know, and hope to God that is all this turns out to be: misplaced, over-hyped rantings. I would be utterly elated to be proven the alarmist fool. If any of what I am feeling and starting to read might be true, however, the hour has arrived for what Jeanne Houston called “Leap Time.” If our species is to survive, she said, it will not be by sticking close to the path that we walk, and know. If we are to remain viable in a world that knows only constant adaptation and change, we will have to join together in taking a leap, possibly in a manner and towards a direction beyond our present conception.If we do not, she said, we shall all perish.
As a matter of survival, we the People must set aside our differences and once again focus upon our common humanity. So let us focus, if we must, on our children, nieces or nephews, and their children. We need to think bigger, and start acting in concert.
We are facing the battle of our lives. Forget Rush Limbaugh, forget Nancy Pelosi. And for Christ’s sake, stop trying to make the President an issue here. You may admire him, loathe him, or find yourself deeply distrustful of everything he does. I am not one to tell people what or how to think. But I will say, to the extent you actually believe the President responsible for the causation of this disaster, you are embracing and holding tight to an outright delusion.
If that feels to you an attack, think again. I am speaking in a very intentional manner, and do not want to lose you. Look: this great country, as the larger world of which it is a part, is fueled by a breathtaking and interlocking mosaic of delusion. One person’s delusion might touch very near to the heart of another’s most sacred dreams. That’s a philosophical conversation, a luxury in which we can indulge another time, when we have time. But even as you read these words the clock is ticking, and we are facing a crisis of a scale and immediacy that we have never known before, or perhaps even imagined.
So: my specific problem with indulgence in delusional thinking, in the here and now, is that you thereby render yourself more or less completely irrelevant in a time of crisis. And some of us will be very much needing the rest of us, if we are to somehow pull off the miraculous feat of finding a way to catch this swelling tsunami and ride it out, on top.
So I address this question to all of the American people, and I mean ALL:
Can we please start sticking to the point? Can we commit to keep our shared focus on any path that might lead us somewhere? Can we find it within ourselves to remember that we are each of us entitled to respect, and have feelings? Can we cultivate a sense of active pride in the fact that we are one people?
I need a “Yes” from you, there. Honestly. Because without you, I have no hope. Together, we stand a chance. Divided and isolated, we are going down in flames. Let’s not do that.
Key Biscayne Trail P. Crockett
There is no shame in it, needing one another. And not just as a preposterous proposition offered in this web log posting ,or for a moment, but as a way of proceeding into our future. So that we might each have a future; a luxury of time to spend with those we love, in the kind of world we have known and loved.
And so it begins: off the coastline of Mobile, Alabama, a few days ago now.
The sharing of simple beach time together, for example, without thought that a tar clean-up will be needed before getting back in the car. That is, if we are still able to go to the beaches, at all. (I read that the beaches of the State of Louisiana are “closed?” And that worse still, the closures are unnecessary, strictly speaking, because who in the Hell wants to be anywhere near an oil-smeared beach?)
Louisiana, beautiful Louisiana, you are only the first. Know that your people are held in the hearts of your countrymen, with pride, and as one.
Beach Rapture (Pass-a-grille) P. Crockett
One of countless sweet, simple days i have been privileged to hang out on the beach, in this case captured on canvas as I sat in the sand. The painting was done at Pass-a-Grille Beach in St. Petersburg, on the Gulf of Mexico. In retrospect, I suppose such times were so much a part of me that I took them for granted. Or, put another way, they have been too close to me to see. Now, I know a little better. I hope I get another chance.
Oh, what luxury: to pack up and head out for yet another glorious few hours on the beach, instead of having to stay home, or go to yet another movie at that awful mall. But it will be harder when the breezes on the shore have come to smell overwhelmingly of oil (as they will), that awfully strong chemical smell, and nothing like that clean salt spray we never really even bothered to think about. Looking back on it, we will realize that It’s the small things that make a life, and give it sweetness.
And the time may come when we will all swear that we’ll just scream right out loud, together and all at once (who really cares if everybody thinks we’re gone nuts, is what Dad will say) if we come across even one more baby or Momma sea turtle gone all stiff and covered in black washed up on the shore, so dead it’s hard to imagine it had ever known life. Or maybe even more so, another dolphin (its worse when a whole family tumbles in, sort of glued together like… bowling pins. But they’re not.) That is awful because they’ve just gone so still, and we remember how they used to play out in the surf, delighting us with the graceful arc of their dive. Plus, they always looked like they were smiling.
Even another shark washed up, sharp teeth and all. It’s just not the same ocean without them. Nothing out there really even knows if you bleed, anymore.
Come to think, it would be awful nice to think that anything was still out there, living carefree and beautiful like the fish always used to. As we imagined that they always would. The sea horses, the star fish, the stingrays, even the jellyfish. The sea was so alive.
And meanwhile the thick roiling clouds of black crude continue to gush out and upwards into the once-clean sea at ungodly rates, exactly as they have for 28 days and nights as of this writing, along with an unknown quantity of gases not at all fully understood, and themselves quite likely to pose a serious threat. Possibly sooner rather than later. Nevertheless, I have seen as of yet only the “business as usual” effort of each governmental agency and oil interest involved in the fiasco to “look busy” and cover their own behinds, not necessarily in that order.
If I seem unkind to some of the good people that are working heroically around the clock to do whatever they can, even as we still await the ominous and inevitable arrival of this new black and deadly sea that will forever despoil our shores, I regret that.
I have been thinking: it is in the People alone—that is you and that is me, to somehow work our way out of this.
Longer-term projection based upon volume of oil released and oceanic current patterns. WE did NOT ask for this.
III. Life In a Slippery New World: Reality Check.
This is an extremely dangerous time in which to make assumptions. We have not even begun to take the tally of that which has been destroyed, even in the very short-term. I am no expert, but I know enough to say with some certainty that the damage to be done will be exponentially worse than the worst you could imagine. There has never, ever been such a huge quantity of oil released into the sea, and that would be true even if the gusher will not still vomiting forth its dark poison exactly as if it had an intention to destroy.
As if life were not enough of a demanding struggle before this news broke. Now, on top of the white-knuckled struggle to keep roofs over our heads, deal with rapacious lenders and their credit cards, etc., etc., we stand together on the threshold of a whole other kind of nightmare. Hyperbole, or literary extravagance? Hardly. Think about it: even the most horrific of bad dreams reach their end upon our awakening. Not so here.
I’ve a feeling that coming to terms with a disaster of this magnitude is like grief; it cannot be done all at once, or (necessarily) according to any specific schedule. It may be like peeling the layers of an onion. It will not be easy, and many tears will be shed. Each new realization will be a small awakening, deeper into a bad dream.
My God, how I hope I am dead wrong. My Lord, how I fear that I am not.
And who have we to turn to, really? Who to even tell us the truth?
Honest to God: with corporate citizens of this disastrous caliber, who in the Hell needs Al Qaeda (or any other imported radical group) to bring down our country, and fast? Not even the most ingenious terrorist plot could have inflicted such severe, ongoing, and lasting damage, on so many fronts.
By all means: clue us in, please. A Giant evil squid? An 8-armed octopus, armed with 8 secret tools of sabotage? What??
Meanwhile, about a mile beneath the sea, a different kind of gaseous slime flows outward even more constantly. The blather above, that makes a sound, only seems as if it will never stop. The flow below, tragically, neither stops nor even pauses.
Even now, nearly a month in and the oil moving in our direction, we have no real idea of what is actually happening out in the Gulf of Mexico, nor any sense of scale to inform our response to whatever might start washing up on our shores. We have no information , and so cannot prepare. What is wrong with this picture?
I was disturbed by this headline, two weeks ago:
They should choose important words more carefully, I thought. We all know what a spill is, and we reach for that term “by default” when we hear of crude oil accidentally hitting water. “Spill” implies just that: a vessel emptied, or even the outflow from a pipe temporarily damaged. A spill, even when “fresh,” signifies to the public damage done in the recent past tense. In every such event we have ever had to deal with, the amount of oil released is not itself in question. There might be a substantial mess, but no mystery. That becomes helpful as the focus shifts to cleanup. In an important sense, it is much more of a noun than any sort of verb, or process unfolding.
I found myself blurting out loud to the newspaper, as if it could hear, or care, “This is NOT a spill.” The use of the term just did not square with what I’d heard, that the “leak” was still very much an open wound, and flowing. Crude oil was still being actively released into the Gulf of Mexico, exactly as it had from the moment of first rupture.
If the leak is serious, I thought, and oil is still pouring out, it’s no simple “spill,” and use of the word is flat-out misleading. If the damage is still being done, I thought, we’ve got an entirely different kind of problem on our hands, and definitely one that deserves to be addressed as such.
This headline might be closer to the truth:
I must say: the idea that the Government apparently does not want us to know the scope of the problem is itself highly disturbing. The idea is no paranoiac fancy, but an official policy documented abundantly both expressly and through conspicuous omission in reporting on this event. I can imagine a few reasons why it would prefer that the information not become public, but I find none of them satisfying, or even vaguely comforting.
if the world is actually going up in flames, for example, I’d rather not be handed a lemonade and advised to sit out the heat wave, Thank You Very Much
But maybe that’s just me.
I believe that we have a right to know. An inalienable, fundamental sort of right that should require no justification or reason. I believe that the rights of any corporation should be subservient to the Laws of out Nation. In turn, it is my belief that the proper purpose of any government is to serve its people. I believe it better that the government abide with a healthy fear of its citizenry, rather than the other way around.
Apparently others, in positions of much greater power, disagree.
1921. Amoco eventually absorbed by BP.
We are learning that much , much more oil has been released from the site, by tens of millions of gallons, than was ever reported to us by anyone. It will soon become clear that the “news” we have been spoon-fed, at the pleasure of BP Oil, or the USA GOV, disturbing though it might have been, may boil down only to a meringue mish-mash of omissions, statistics, lies, and damn lies intended to pacify more than inform. The American people, and indeed the citizens of the world, have been consistently lied to, “handled,” and tossed every imaginable shred of distraction since this crisis began.
The perennial question of governmental credibility, however, will soon be the least of our problems. The more we know, the greater will be our outrage. And with sound reason. The important question will become,What are we to do with it?
Take a look at this video:
IV. Coming Soon to a Shoreline Near You!
The monster is coming to Florida. As sure as the charted oceanic currents remain in motion, it is coming:
As of today, the damned oil slick was more than twice the size of New Jersey, yet only day before yesterday was only (only?) the size of Maryland. (Just for the record, I must note that this trend of gauging the size of oil slicks so very close to our coastline with reference to the size of states is highly disturbing. In a very short time, however, we will be seeing any number of things turn utterly freaky. As of yet, we’ve no real idea exactly how much so.
It’s bound to be a heart breaker.
Even as the slick grows, various novel formations of oil have begun coning and spiraling outwards, under the sea’s surface, in different directions. It is a novel experience, observations of such “pluming,” , since oil is lighter than water and thus tends to rise to the surface and form “slicks.”. Here, for the first time, we have sufficient quantities loose in the sea to displace huge volumes of water. Not good.
Upon reflection, the slick might bear a disturbing resemblance to an iceberg, in the sense that most of “the action” is happening inexorably, with great stealth, beneath the water and thus outside of our field of vision. There is much more to the oil than even the monstrous slick alone would suggest.
And, just in time for Hurricane season. Think about storm surge in a sea of oil, and you will soon long for the good old days, when driving winds and smashing walls of water simply tore to shreds all within their path. Utter destruction, but at least it was clean. Add an unknown quantity of crude oil into that ruinous equation, and you’ve got a different kind of clean-up required. One that we would have no clue how to undertake, even if we could begin to afford it. Not only everything upon the land, but the Earth itself there could quite easily become uninhabitable. For generations.
Utterly poisoned. A desert wasteland.
I’m just saying.
The odds of a hurricane hitting land somewhere among the coastal shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico this year are extremely high, possibly 100%.
And unfortunately, the oil will be everywhere. In quantities and patterns of dispersal even the experts can only now begin to guess about. My questions are many, and simple. I wonder: If a shoreline is already saturated, will the oil just keep piling on atop itself? Or will the field of ever-incoming oil in effectively extend the shoreline, forming a black scrim changing the very shape of our beloved land? Will the waves become sluggish, having become somewhat more solid than liquid? Will there still be foam? If so, will it still be white in color? Will the sand become hard? Will all beaches be closed for the rest of our lives, for reasons of public health?
Will the seagulls survive? And if so, how? I hate these questions. I don’t wanna know. I do NOT want to know.
But what I want, what any of us would really want, no longer makes any difference.
Maybe now you understand why I am feeling a little crazy.
Quite honestly, I find myself longing already for the good old days.
Why, time was, even a poor mountaineer who could barely keep his family fed was as likely as not to strike oil as he was shootin’ up some food, equipped only with the technology of his rifle (and company of his faithful dog):
And here was the extent of the environmental damage:
Sigh. But that was then.
V. Now, the Bad News.
The worst part of the present scenario, by far, is that we don’t know how to fix the leak. A growing number of experts are beginning to whisk aside the “spin,” and publicly opine that, in light of the the present mess still precariously perched on the sea floor at “Ground Zero,” and the intense atmospheric pressures involved and the sheer depth of the site, there is no known way to “plug the leak.”
A monstrous door of destruction has been opened that no science fiction writer could have imagined,just like that. And we don’t know how to close it. Wait a minute, you say, They opened it. You are telling me that THEY CANNOT FIX IT?
Right. Look: I have no interest in alarming anyone, but that does appear to be the case. At this time, we lack the technological skill to stop this leak, nor will that necessarily change within the foreseeable future. It might be YEARS, and it might be NEVER. In any event, either possibility might add up to the same result, a grand sum of zero.
I hope to God that I am wrong.
Listen “between the lines” to this story from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, reporting on the take of Janet Napolitano, the Head of our country’s Homeland Security Administration, on the subject. (Why has the very idea of a bureaucracy for “homeland security”always sounded so alien to me, so far from home, and left me feeling so insecure?)
WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who declared a Gulf of Mexico oil spill an event of “national significance” nine days after a deadly oil-rig explosion, on Monday said that the Obama administration had showed an “all hands on deck” response “since day one.”
Napolitano also said that the response to the disaster could be far from winding down. “Worst-case scenario is we’ll be at this for quite a while,” Napolitano told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. “We’re not at the beginning–we’ve been at it a month almost–but we’re not near the end as well.”
So, that is where we stand. I have marginal faith only in the Government, and obviously none in BP or any of the Big Oil concerns, but I do believe in you. I am speaking as seriously as I know how, so I need for you to listen. Please. It is in us that I’d put my money, and in that prospect alone can I scout out hope.
Morningside by the Bay P. Crockett
I thought a color-filled reminder that Biscayne Bay is not yet blackened and dead might be called for, as a question of balance. It’s not here yet.
Thank God for our Bay.
And with that touch of gratitude I leave off for now, because I am at last spent.
Thank you for lending me your ear. God bless and keep you and yours.
My brother Jeff recently sent along a YouTube clip that I thoroughly enjoyed, a travel advertisement sponsored by Chevrolet (“Let our behemoth mobiles be your magic carpets!”)with some great footage of Coral Gables and Key Biscayne as the area looked in the 1950’s.
An extremely rare pic of Alan (snapped on the sly) with his friends Winnie and Piglet. He greatly enjoys the company of both, but has an especially tender spot in his heart for little Piglet. Whenever Alan sees him “he is always smiling right back,” and “looking at him makes me happy,” says he.
As I’ve mentioned before, Alan is a huge fan of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, and especially Piglet. So I tend to keep an eye out for them as I bounce about the Internet in my occasional rambling searches for the next Great Image.
So I was charmed to come upon a photograph of the original toys loved first and so well by a young Christopher Robin Milne in the Chelsea section of London, England. Here were Pooh bear, Tigger, Kanga, Eeyore, and Piglet, all having somehow come to rest far from the Hundred Acre Wood (but not far from Central Park!) in New York City, in the central Children’s Room at the Donnell Library Center on 53rd Street:
When my brothers and sister were all children (and we were, honestly!) long, long ago, we grew up on A.A. Milne’s The House on Pooh Corner, and When We Were Very Young, brought to life in a wonderful way by the amazingly suitable illustrations of E. H. Shepherd.
More recently, I gave the books to my niece and nephew, the one-of-a-kind Alianne and her unstoppable brother Thompson.
There’s always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
“Where are you going today?” says Pooh:
“Well, that’s very odd ‘cos I was too.
Let’s go together,” says Pooh, says he.
“Let’s go together,” says Pooh.
“What’s twice eleven?” I said to Pooh.
(“Twice what?” said Pooh to Me.)
“I think it ought to be twenty-two.”
“Just what I think myself,” said Pooh.
“It wasn’t an easy sum to do,
But that’s what it is,” said Pooh, said he.
“That’s what it is,” said Pooh.
“Let’s look for dragons,” I said to Pooh.
“Yes, let’s,” said Pooh to Me.
We crossed the river and found a few-
“Yes, those are dragons all right,” said Pooh.
“As soon as I saw their beaks I knew.
That’s what they are,” said Pooh, said he.
“That’s what they are,” said Pooh.
“Let’s frighten the dragons,” I said to Pooh.
“That’s right,” said Pooh to Me.
“I’m not afraid,” I said to Pooh,
And I held his paw and I shouted “Shoo!
Silly old dragons!”- and off they flew.
“I wasn’t afraid,” said Pooh, said he,
“I’m never afraid with you.”
So wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
There’s always Pooh and Me.
“What would I do?” I said to Pooh,
“If it wasn’t for you,” and Pooh said: “True,
It isn’t much fun for One, but Two,
Can stick together, says Pooh, says he.
“That’s how it is,” says Pooh.
Here is the author with his son Christopher Robin, and Pooh. The bear, back when it was only a stuffed toy, was made by England’s Farnell & Co., bought at Harrod’s Department store, and given to the boy in celebration of his first birthday.
As I looked at these rather worn, tattered old toys, I couldn’t help but wonder “What makes these things much more valuable than gold or any kin
d of precious stone, no matter how vast in quantity, exquisite, or rare? Why might these tiny figures well be considered national treasures, belonging not alone to the Americas, or to their native England, but to the world? What can begin to explain the number of people that must make the trek to the Children’s Room in that particularLibrary, often with children of their own? And then just stand there, quietly, or whisper in hushed and reverent undertone to their loved one?”
“What first breathed such life into these humble toys (see how very small Piglet stands?) those many years ago, when even the oldest now among us ‘were all very young?’
And what is it about them exactly that touches people so, and always has, each new generation after the next? How can they remain so perenially fresh when everything else is always changing?”
And the answer that occurred to me, with a singular clarity, was simply this: Love.
One of my favorite Calvin & Hobbes Sunday strips, October 1993. (To view larger, just click on image and return to browser using back arrow.) It says so much. The great Bill Watterston, as his idol Charles Schultz years before him, undertook a long and bruising struggle in fighting to get a strip into the newspapers. He says it was the talking tiger that finally opened up that door. The rest is history.
Which in turn got me to thinking: Did you know that, without the gift of that vision you carry in your heart for those that you love, they might feel themselves more as these tattered old dolls than truly alive and filled with potential? In a sense, it is your love that fills their sails and sets them on course for each day’s journey.
Yes, you. You don’t have to be perfect to give good love. Look into their eyes, you’ll see. The important thing is to never give up. Love is never just for others, though that toxic notion is indeed commonplace.
And: are you consciously aware of the ones in your life that are giving you life, perhaps imperfectly, but as best as they can?
Just some food for thought. The problem with the word “love,” in probably every language, is that it means so many different things that it can come to mean nothing at all. And, it’s often reduced to the simply romantic, or even sentimental.
Yet these simple stuffed animals helped bring home to me, once again, the greater force, energy, and pure power behind that mystery we call, in shorthand and because we must call it something, love. There is nothing known in all of Heaven and Earth, nothing even close, to be called its equal. As poetically expressed by ee cummings:
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
“This is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.” Now, that is an immense physical force, none the less ancient or reflective of sublime rhythms because it might be reduced to theoretical calculations and equations in Physics.
And the real wonder of it is, it’s inside you right now. With every beat of your heart, every breath you take. It extends outward through your voice, and spreads with your touch. Why? Who knows?
But what of it? Well, that is very much up to you. Why not celebrate it, yes, even now?
I wound up creating for Alan a desktop wallpaper, and called it “Love Gives Them Life”:
Please feel free to download and enjoy it, if you like. I’ve also added a variety of other images there, because I enjoy facing a new image on my computer quite often (as long as I’m going to have to be sitting in front of the damned thing, anyway!):
Thank you. I know it’s not easy, sometimes. So, again,
As of second sitting. Below, the next.
Jade Vine 40″ X 40″ As of 3/15/2009, Third Sitting
I find myself in a bit of a race with the jade vine flowers. When it’s time to start dropping down in clusters and to burst out in unreal technicolor, it’s time. And there’s just no talking reason with them.
They do put on a show, for sure, but it’s as if they’re in a hurry to go back wherever it is they come from.
The painting as of the second sitting is in the post below. Sometimes painting is definitely not easy. When the “groove” isn’t there, for whatever reason, I can think of few things one might sit down to do that might feel such a battle and so personal, so challenging and relentless. That’s how it was yesterday. And yet I challenged myself a bit, and forced it. Usually I don’t. But the blooming vines gave me a reason, and besides: there’s always that hope of “click”…
And our cat Hoppers helped. Some time into that bleak sitting, he graciously leapt up on to the bench, near the painting’s center, and commenced to stretch out and relax.
I was so happy to have him there. We do love the boy. He is definitely a trip. Now, at least, the painting had an anchor.
Today, thank God, was different, and better. Everything about everything, about the day. And for that I am grateful.