Bicycle lesson

Morris wasn’t pleased with the bicycle instructor that had been assigned to him. He was more OK with the idea that it was a skeleton than the fact it was an “it”. How was he supposed to address it – Mr.? Mrs.? Ms.? Then he started to wonder why women got a different title when they got married, but men stayed the same. But he didn’t have time to wonder very long about that. 

He needed to know the correct title so he would seem like an appreciative student. He looked again at his assignment slip – Terry Hasenmiller. No help there – that first name could go either way. He decided to settle on “Teacher” as a safe bet.

After the preliminary instructions when it was determined that Morris wasn’t a complete beginner at cycling, the instructor decided to go over all the tips and tricks on how to maintain a bicycle. “As my teacher always says ‘if you take care of your tools, they’ll take care of you’.”

Bicycles weren’t for exercise in those days. They were a necessity in a culture that seemed to be going faster and faster. A bicycle (never a “bike” according to Terry) was what made it possible to get a job or an education other than just from what was around you. The bicycle was the great weapon against mediocrity and even poverty. With a bicycle you could pedal your way out of whatever you’d been born into and make for yourself a better future. You were no longer limited by your circumstances – you could rise above.

This attitude is why Terry was still alive – in spite of being a skeleton. Terry didn’t let something as common as death put an end to a good life. Terry hadn’t always taught people how to ride a bicycle, but it made sense now. If it weren’t for the bicycle, Terry would never have known there was a different life, ready for the taking, just on down the road. If it weren’t for the bicycle, Terry would probably be just like everyone else in that town – poor and content with a sixth-grade education.

(Written around 3/30/19)

Advertisements

Tree-house

The tree grew from within the house, all on its own, slowly taking it over. The owners were amused at first, but then they had to move out. It hadn’t simply eaten them out of house and home; it had grown so that finally there wasn’t any room left for them. It had taken years, of course, so they didn’t realize that was what was happening. All they knew was that they felt an increasing pressure, a cramped-ness, an overwhelming sense of smallness. They thought they had outgrown their house, but actually it had outgrown them.

The Mueller family had bought the house back in 1976, back when they had moved to Philadelphia. Of course it wasn’t called Philadelphia when the area had first been settled, all those hundreds of years ago. Back then it was Coaquannock, named by the Lenni-Lenape tribe. The name meant “Grove of Tall Pines” back then. Now there was no grove, because the pines had been cut down by the new immigrants, the new settlers from across the sea. They cut down the trees to build their beds, their chest of drawers, their homes.

They had moved in just like this tree, quietly, surely, intending to coexist side by side. But then they too grew too big and started pushing out the people who were there. Back then it wasn’t just a house, but a whole area, a city, a state, then the entire country. They set up their own rules, their own laws, even their own names for the towns they had taken.

So much for “City of Brotherly Love”, the meaning behind Philadelphia. They only wanted peace for themselves. “Brother” meant people they fellowshipped with, not everyone. They followed the letter of the law and not the Spirit.

Perhaps this tree was trying to right a wrong. Or perhaps it was simply following in the settler’s footsteps. Or perhaps karma is real.



(Written 6/22/18)

On the Call from God

What does it mean to be called by God? Let us look at two similar examples from the Bible.

Exodus 3:1-12

Meanwhile, Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. Then the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire within a bush. As Moses looked, he saw that the bush was on fire but was not consumed. So Moses thought: I must go over and look at this remarkable sight. Why isn’t the bush burning up?

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!”

“Here I am,” he answered.

“Do not come closer,” He said. “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then He continued, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of My people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors, and I know about their sufferings. I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the territory of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. The Israelites’ cry for help has come to Me, and I have also seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 Therefore, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead My people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

11 But Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12 He answered, “I will certainly be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I have sent you: when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will all worshipGod at this mountain.”

And then, in a later book we read –

Jeremiah 1:4-10

The word of the Lord came to me:

I chose you before I formed you in the womb;
I set you apart before you were born.
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

But I protested, “Oh no, Lord, God! Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am only a youth.”

Then the Lord said to me:

Do not say, “I am only a youth,”
for you will go to everyone I send you to
and speak whatever I tell you.
Do not be afraid of anyone,
for I will be with you to deliver you.
This is the Lord’s declaration.

Then the Lord reached out His hand, touched my mouth, and told me:

I have now filled your mouth with My words.
10 See, I have appointed you today
over nations and kingdoms
to uproot and tear down,
to destroy and demolish,
to build and plant.

Both prophets protested, saying that they weren’t capable of doing what God asks.  But we have to remember that God sees with different eyes.  God knows our strengths better than we do – even ones that are currently hidden.  If God calls you to something, God knows best.  It is important to remember that you will be able to do what God is calling you to do if you do it WITH God, not by yourself.

(Bible translations are from HCSB)

A Wander book list

Aside from the mandatory “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman and “The Wander Society” by Keri Smith, what else is a wandering soul to read? Here is a brief suggested reading list.

Alemagna, Beatrice   On a Magical Do-Nothing Day 

Antony, Rachael   The Lonely Planet Guide To Experimental Travel 

Baxter, John  The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris

Bonnett, Alastair Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies

Cuff, Marcie Chambers   This Book Was a Tree: Ideas, Adventures, and Inspiration for Rediscovering the Natural World 

Deakin, Roger  Wildwood: A Journey through Trees 

Elkin, Lauren  Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London

Foer, Joshua   Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders 

Gooley, Tristan  The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs

Huth, John Edward  The Lost Art of Finding Our Way

Ilgunas, Ken   Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom 

Macfarlane, Robert  Landmarks

Macleod, Janice   A Paris Year: My Day-to-Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the World 

Miyazaki, Yoshifumi  Shinrin Yoku: The Art of Japanese Forest Bathing 

Rives, T.M.   Secret New York – An Unusual Guide. Local Guides by Local People 

Solnit, Rebecca    Wanderlust: A History of Walking 

Autism and ADD books

Elman, Natalie Madorsky – The Unwritten Rules of Friendship: Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends 

Grossberg, Blythe – Asperger’s Rules!: How to Make Sense of School and Friends    

Howley, Marie  – Revealing the Hidden Social Code: Social Stories (TM) for People with Autistic Spectrum Disorders 

Kelly, Kate – You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!  

Kranowitz, Carol Stock – The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder 

Meloy, C.G.  -Life & Spectrum: A Revealing Look at High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome 

Moore, Debra  – The Loving Push: How Parents and Professionals Can Help Spectrum Kids Become Successful Adults 

Myles, Brenda Smith  – Asperger Syndrome and Sensory Issues: Practical Solutions for Making Sense of the World 

Pera, Gina   – Is It You, Me, or Adult ADD? Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love Has Attention Deficit Disorder 

Train, Alan – ADHD: How to Deal with Very Difficult Children  

Tips and tricks for art journaling

Don’t worry about it.  You can’t do it wrong.  Whatever you want to do is correct. This is an excuse to play and express yourself in a new way. Nobody has to see it, so you don’t have to worry about it looking “right”. You don’t have to be an artist to enjoy art journaling.

Remember “A picture is worth a thousand words”?   You can often express yourself in ways you’d never have words for by doodling, scribbling, or splashing paint on the page. 

Cut and paste is a totally legitimate form of expression. I use magazine cut-outs all the time.

This doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby.  Often it is best to start out with a simple inexpensive journal that you don’t especially love.  If it is too precious, you won’t feel free to cut into it or paint on it.

It is good to pick a journal that you enjoy holding and is portable if you are going to sketch away from home.  I like one that has a spiral spine so I can work on just one side at a time.  Good paper matters – you want something that will hold up to what materials you are using.  If you are using wet mediums you’ll want to use thicker paper so it won’t warp.

If you are going to be gluing things into your journal, go ahead and cut out every 5th page before you even start.  This gives the journal room to absorb the extra bulk without making it splay open or breaking the spine.

You can combine scrapbooking, journaling, and sketching.  There are no limits to this art form.  You can glue in concert tickets or menus from a memorable evening.  You can take photos and print them out and glue them in. 

If sketching people who are moving (like musicians or workers), watch them for about 5 minutes.  They will have a ‘default” position they will return to. Roughly sketch that position.  When they move out, sketch what is around them.  When they return, add more to that part.

Most people won’t even realize you are sketching them because they are so distracted by what they are doing.  But try to be polite and discrete about it anyway.  People are best to sketch when they are being themselves. 

Sketching isn’t about making a photograph. You’ll need to leave some things out. The goal is to capture an impression – not to make a perfect replica of what was there.

Leave space in your sketch to write in notes.  Things I like to include – day, time, how long the sketch took, location, what was going on (why was I there – was there a special event?) and weather conditions if I am outside.  Consider using an interesting ink color.

There are many different materials to sketch with.  I like using watercolor pencils.  They are portable and easy to work with in the field. I add water using a small brush later.

The illegal alien

Charlie Jones was an extra on the set of a second-rate science-fiction series, but he never took off his costume. He couldn’t. The other actors just thought he was a method actor, that staying in his costume meant staying in character. They didn’t know how he could possibly endure the heat in that suit, or how he got the fake fur to be so lustrous and soft. The trick is that it wasn’t a trick. He really was an alien. Sure, he wasn’t a “Graglethorp” or whatever silly random assortment of letters the writers came up with. He was an Acthun, of the planet Acthunis, in the Gamma quadrant. Of course, his people didn’t call it the “Gamma” anything, seeing as they didn’t know Greek and they certainly didn’t think of themselves as third in line. “Gamma” only makes sense if you think of yourself as first (Alpha) and you’ve already found your first neighboring quadrant with more planets. It was kind of how many indigenous cultures simply called themselves “The People” since they had no reason to differentiate between themselves and other humans. As far as they know they were the only humans.

Charlie Jones had an Acthun name, but it wasn’t pronounceable to humans. Their tongues would need to be bifurcated in order to get the right trill. And even if he said it humans tended to cover up their ears because the pitch was so high. So he came up with a “normal” name, one that wouldn’t mark him as foreign. He really needed this job to work out and couldn’t afford to be discriminated against, even unintentionally. He had a family at home that was depending on him to send back money.

He couldn’t wire transfer it, or mail it. PayPal wouldn’t work for off-world bank accounts (not yet). So once he got his check cashed, he’d photograph half of the money, email the picture to the neighborhood administrator (who had a Gmail account like everybody else) and then burn the money so he couldn’t use it. The administrator would then credit his family’s account with the appropriate amount (once the exchange rate was taken into consideration) and then they could pay their bills.

There weren’t a lot of bills to pay, but even a little is too much when you don’t have an income. Only Charlie was allowed to work, being the only one in the family above 20 and below 50. And male, of course. Everyone else was forbidden by law to work, it being seen as too much of a hardship. Most Acthuns worked the same job nonstop for 30 years and then retired, some to plenty and some to poverty. The jobs were chosen for them in high school. It was believed that by then your personality and aptitude were locked. Everyone took a series of tests and their appropriate career was computed for them. Some care was taken to ensure that the job would be something they would like and be good at it, but it wasn’t an exact science. Mistakes were sometimes made, but usually the citizen just quietly endured, or took up drinking cactus wine to cope.

But not Charlie. He’d been unhappy with his job since the first week, after the (inadequate) apprenticeship was over. He was sure the counselor had made a mistake, maybe swapped his test with someone else’s, or transposed a number when typing in the data. S/he assured him that wasn’t possible because s/he been doing this job for 20 years and there’d never been a complaint.

S/he was an exception, a non-male who was allowed to work. Not a female, and yet not a male, but something other, undefined. The Acthuns understood that there were shades of reality, that rarely was anything 100% one way or another. They understood the concept of “gray” and were amused that was the term for extraterrestrial visitors used on Earth, along with “alien”. So they had a third gender, and these citizens were allowed to work if they wanted to, and could choose any job not already assigned to a male. But they were not obliged to work and could collect the same communal salary that unattached females and seniors were entitled to if they had no male to support them.

But Charlie had to work. It wasn’t optional. And he certainly didn’t want to work in the factory he’d been assigned to. Not for even a year, and certainly not for 30 years. He just couldn’t bear the idea of it. Why had he chosen to be born male? All children were told us – told that they had made a “soul contract” before being born as to who they be. This may or may not have been true, but it was a good story to keep the citizens in line. This way, they thought of their lot in life not as something done to them, but somehow their own fault.

Charlie was a renegade as far as the Acthun way went. He refused his assignment, rebelled against the convention that he chose his unfulfilling and frankly unsuitable career, and even his gender. So he sweet-talked a former classmate and stowed away inside the first transport ship to Earth. The Acthuns regularly made trips to and from Earth to restock and refresh from the vast breeding supply of cows there, who they used as mates. Their own gene pool had gotten shallow over the decades-long war/famine on their planet and they needed new blood. After enough survey teams had tested Earth’s nearest analog to their biology and found it acceptable, the ships began removing cows to use as broodmares. They never took bulls after that first unfortunate incident. It was decided that Acthun males could mate with the cows, but the females would only mate with other Acthuns. The cows were shipped back after five seasons, out of concern some do-gooder would start expecting them to be granted citizenship. Imagine that! A cow, a full citizen! It had been brought to the planet as a servant, a slave, even.  It could not be thought of as even remotely equal to them. That would upset the entire social system.

Charlie had no plans of being an Earth citizen. He was on the planet illegally, a true alien. So he kept a low profile – as low as possible, looking how he looks – and tried to make enough money to support his family and hopefully enough more to pay to get a second (and hopefully better) career assigned to him when he returned.