What I learned (or realized again) and had a ball doing last year.
Who cares? That’s fair. You may want to skip down to the summary below.
Each year at this time I go through a personal reflection of the past year. Writing it down is how I organize and refine my thoughts.
My partner SAM is the anchor and happiness of my life. We’ve been friends for over 40 years and partners for 10 years now. I’d like to re-up for another 10 if she’ll agree. I know I can be a challenge at close range. Still, we make a great travel team, this year visiting all the Scandinavia countries, Estonia and Russia.
My sons are always on my mind – that’s part of being a dad. At this moment they are between level I and II (level I- taking care of yourself; II- taking care of another; III- taking care of a family; and IV- finally giving back to your community and being part of something larger) – they’re about where I was at their age. I’m very proud of them both.
Teaching turns out to be a wonderful activity for me – a chance to perform, inform, and coach on topics I love and with participants that push me to always do better. SAM (a lifelong educator) gives me lots of pointers. I am fortunate to have two schools – UNCA/OLLI and AACC/PLP that support my efforts.
My “men’s group” in Asheville – going on over 5 years – continues to inspire and gratify me in ways that are new and, at the same time, comfortable – practical wisdom and friendship. More about my group at http://groupsformen.blogspot.com/2015/05/esse-quam-videre-being-authentic.html. Old men have a lot to say but not many listen. My pal Nelson’s poems offer much insight, more at https://www.amazon.com/Brain-Slivers-Poems-Nelson-Sartoris/dp/1535125888/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483467532&sr=8-1&
Drawing and reading are how I continue to learn (OK, a little YouTube when I’m lazy…) I’ll spare you most of that, but I have become more interested in drawing familiar natural objects all around us: plants, critters, bugs, trees, etc. We’ll see where that goes. Peter Loewer is an inspiration. JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy was enlightening and timely.
Crafts (used to be a negative word – associated with dreaded craft shows) have taken on a new pleasant ring for me thanks to the JC Campbell School that SAM and I have enjoyed now for four years. When I was a lad helping in my dad’s woodworking shop the smell of sawdust made me feel good. I learned that wood as an artistic substrate has great character and can easily be shaped and illustrated. Fast-forward 65 years. Taking courses in carving and chiseling, veneer, and turning have made me feel that “sawdust smell” good again. By luck I had a chance this year to try “pyrography” the fancy word for woodburning, and, I’m enjoying that, including the odors (that draw SAM’s attention.)
As a refugee from the world of all things tech I am amazed and amused by what is unfolding into the affordable. High quality graphic arts on tablets and powerful and relatively easy drawing and painting apps. Oh boy, oh boy…
Then there’s the campaign and election – sick to my stomach. Two people I’ve met and respect: Scott Adams (Dilbert) and Allan Lichman (American University and CNN) predicted generally that Trump would win. I and most of the media and most of the pollsters missed that. I won’t add to the tsunami of analysis and progressive teeth gnashing that has passed by my world window this year. Brexit was a warning that polls can be wrong. But it’s clear now we are a very divided nation. I for one inhabit a bubble and therefore deserve part of the blame. There is a way forward, a healing if we all get outside our bubbles and begin to engage in civil conversation that has a lot of listening. And, communicating directly with our representatives as SAM does. Plenty of clown cartoons coming, but I won’t be laughing.
2017: looking forward to new adventures, family visits, and quiet times.
Summary. A fulfilling year of travel, teaching, creative work and learning with SAM. Health is good (LDL cut in half with veggie diet.) Depressed about the coarse and devisive campaign/election and the probable direction of environmental, international, and social agenda of our new leadership. Sigh. Let’s get out of our bubbles, listen more and have civil conversations. Getting older and wiser and still have some hair left.
Here are some wonderful pencil samples from the participants at my class at UNCA/OLLI Basic Drawing. We all had fun (I hope) and as usual, I learned a lot.
For a long while, its been a cartoonist’s field day with clown Donald being a cornucopia of foolish statements and looks – many of us just shaking our heads in disbelief. All the talking head pundits have been analyzing how this all could happen and predicting that the clown would knock himself out.
Meanwhile Hillary’s failed to excite (so far,) so we’re left with the possibility of a dangerous clown actually winning.
I get it. Trip reports are of little interest. Travel is a large experience that is mostly internal and cumbersome to communicate. I find the process of review and reflection, of selection and summary adds personal value to my trips. For a short visual view/photos try this link. (YouTube Slideshow)
This was one of our longer trips. SAM had visited the Scandinavian countries, I had not. We were on a guided tour with 38 other seniors from Canada, Australia, and the USA. Our tour director was a knowledgeable and resourceful Brit with over 30-years experience. We traveled through six countries covering over 2500 miles on bus, train, plane, and boat with miles of walking, staring and laughter in between.
Time of year was late July through early August. This was fortunate – shirt sleeve with occasional sweaters and two times with hooded heavy weather gear (provided.) I had a chance to experience the region’s long days and to see that at 2 AM it was just like early morning light outside . The hotels have very heavy window curtains. Back in the US, the Democratic national convention was a third-tier BBC story on the local TV. Everywhere people were laughing and shaking their heads about Trump.
Scandinavia is an easy and pleasant region to visit. In aggregate, the cities were very clean and friendly. English is widely spoken; good food, exciting landscapes with steep angles, vast forests, deep cold waters and plentiful wildlife.
We also visited Tallinn, Estonia – a day trip via a two hour ferry ride from Helsinki, Finland – a gem of a historic European city I’d never heard of in the Balkans.
Getting to North Cape, Norway (71°10′) the northernmost point in Europe was a long distance but well worth the views of the tundra. It was a unique opportunity to encounter Laplanders and their way of life above the Arctic Circle. The endless forests of pine and birch grow shorter and finally give way to moss-covered rock, scrub bushes and streams connecting icy lakes. Reindeer are plentiful and seem quite tame. The culture of the inhabitants in Lapland is nourished but being squeezed by development and technology. We visited sled-dog and reindeer farms and I had a taste of reindeer heart.
The Vikings. Alas Hagar, some of what I pictured and understood is myth. The time of the Vikings (roughly 800-1050 CE) was one of naval exploration and exploitation. Then they learned written language and joined the European populations. Gradually they evolved into a more peaceful and commercially successful society.
The cleanliness and social structure in modern Scandinavia was quite attractive. Today Scandinavians are both wealthy and heavily taxed. Taxes are used mostly to enrich the lives and futures of their citizens (education, health care and social services) and to maintain their infrastructure. For me, a compelling model. Lemmings were not seen, but I have dealt with them and the big myth elsewhere. Trolls were everywhere, but mostly as refrigerator magnets.
Russia (the parts that were shown to us) seems to me to be very concerned with, and proud of, their royalist czarist era. There are lots of rules and numbers. Uniforms were a bit overdone and entrepreneurial energies (hands out) were frequently seen. The old capital of St. Petersburg and home of Catherine the Great is bursting with palaces and cathedrals so lavishly rich and ornate they could have spurred a revolution.
On our two-hour canal boat tour around Saint Petersburg, a young man ran alongside our boat. At each crossing bridge he stopped above us waving with great enthusiasm. He never stopped. Gradually word spread and he attracted a following among our group in spite of the tour’s distractions of a music show, food and vodka shots. At the end of our ride our runner collected quite a few tips as we disembarked. He turned out to be a 13-year-old boy. Wonderful spirit.
We met and enjoyed the company of folks from around the world. I especially enjoyed the humor of our Aussies. They tolerated my Crocodile Dundee knife jokes and taught me a few new words like “mozzies.”
When one of them good-naturedly dubbed me a “cheeky bugger” my heart was glad.
“So it goes…” (K. Vonnegut)
Since moving to Asheville 9 years ago, UNCA OLLI has been a happy feature of my life. The best part is the folks I’ve met, sharing their rich worlds of experience, knowledge and wisdom. If you are fortunate enough to be still healthy and mindful at my age you may be aware there is great treasure in the lives of some of our elders. OLLI offers a rich curriculum of courses, workshops and social events. High among them have been classes led by pal Tom Sanders.
Tom was honored today as one of Asheville’s Living Treasures. From the press release… Thomas Sanders, 83, was born and raised in West Asheville. He taught religious studies at Brown University. Through Brown, an American studies group led him to South America. An expert on South America, he speaks Spanish (and multiple other languages, including Turkish). His religious studies background has taken him to many parts of the world including the Middle East. Thomas has always been active in civil rights and freedom of speech causes. After retiring from academia, he returned to Asheville and helped build the foundation for the College for Seniors program at UNCA – then called the North Carolina Center for Creative retirement, now Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. He loves teaching; as a volunteer at OLLI his classes span periods of history including the Scottish enlightenment, Fascism, Nazism, the French Revolution, U.S. colonial history and the Civil War.
Tom, as many of you know, is also a great hiker and has trekked the El Camino in Spain and the Mountains-to-Sea trail closer to home. Best of all he partners with fabulous friend Mary Lasher (featured here in this Journal.) On the occasion of his award, I was inspired to create a small illustration of Tom naked. That was fun.
My stories are not deep (as you probably know,) sort of like a handful of raw unsalted peanuts – a bit novel, unsatisfying, and leaves you wanting less. But, I keep trying.
But wait! After my story was presented in my flash fiction class and received some positive comments, I posted it here. Within 24 hours I was contacted by Netflix wanting to adapt it for a new Marvel series. They wanted to me to change the location to Hell’s Kitchen and have Bjorn wear a mask, I’m thinking about it. Advice?
So, in the mean time, and in case Amazon is following this, here’s a link to another true story about critters in my hood. Jeff Bezos has my number.
I took a wonderful course in “Clowning” a few years ago. Two things I remember: When you’re in costume you are more comfortable saying outrageous things or being just plain silly, and that about one-in-seven people are actually terrified by clowns.
ALERT! Political views ahead. Author is a cynical progressive who sees greed and stupidity on all sides.
Since The Donald (T-Rump) joined the GOP Presidential race last June, I figured he’d just be an amusing side show and would quickly fade. I underestimated the raw anger levels among many citizens and the incredibly weak field of candidates that the fractured GOP would put forward after Romney. I’ve watched all of the debates and marveled at the lack of serious policy discussion and civil decorum. I’ve been fascinated (and now alarmed) by The Donald’s apparent popularity. His statements and insults have been given wide free publicity by our media – heightening his credibility with the public. Bad journalism.
Drawing a caricature/cartoon of The Donald is so easy anyone can do it. In fact, any photo will do. I just leave a piece of blank paper (these days a blank canvas layer in my drawing program) and the next morning, there’s The Donald, all drawn.
The pundits all swore he would fail. So far the only real endorsement I’ve seen, besides his own, has been from Sarah Palin. Hee hee. OMG, now come the first primaries…The Donald wins. Granted the rest of the GOP field is still large and fractured and financed.
I’m not a pundit or a pollster. Still, I don’t see T-Rump attracting many Democrats or getting more than 1/3rd of GOP voters.
So for now, it’s just a yucky circus.
Still with me? There’s much more fun at The Trump Movie, just follow the link.
Washington, DC. We had a great blizzard for the last two days. Many Facebook posts of pictures of snowy backyards and decks and yummy casseroles and hot toddies. Nature has shown who’s in charge. Easy to talk when you’re retired and not part of the work-a-day world.
Thanks to all the drivers and emergency services that are helping folks. Boo on those 4WD SUV owners with something silly to prove (unless it’s helping grandma with something important.)
It gives us all a priorities pause. Sorry about the timing. Life will go on, if we’re lucky.
What do Socrates, Rosa Parks, Al Yankovic, Pamela Anderson and Wiley Miller Have in Common?
This is the time of year for making changes. Since we are what we eat (among other things) that seems like a good place to start. Influenced by the need to reduce arterial plaque, trim up physically, and two books: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (Esselstyn) and The China Study (Campbell.) And, yet…
Who cares? Vegetarians can be so annoying. They can’t stop talking about all the benefits of plant food and the evils of eating meat. When they visit, I always forget and feel like doo doo for not accommodating their simple regimen. Like converts to anything, ex-smokers, Prius owners, and Apple fan boys, vegetarians can be a pain in the ass. Wait, I’ll love being that.
So here goes. I join the other 2/3rds of the world’s population. Little lambs and cows can breathe easier.
I’ll miss my olive oil and stinky cheese, but will they miss me? Nope.
Now, back to things that don’t change like Planck’s and Avogadro’s constants and making some folks uncomfortable.