18 thoughts on “Partly Attentive, With Scattered Comprehension

  1. That’s a beauty of your work – allowing you to read your surrounding through senses. I think it brings you closer to God.

    I wish I could engage myself with the environment just like you instead of being confined indoors and staying away from the heat, for the fear of damaging my skin. I want to do something, to help. I don’t want to be the human who destroyed his only home.

    Lex,

    We do “read” the world through our senses, and sometimes I think we glimpse greater things through it. Have you studied William Blake yet, or read his “Auguries of Innocence”? I’ve always loved these lines:

    To see a World in a Grain of Sand
    And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
    Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
    And Eternity in an hour.

    The important thing is to care for what’s in front of us. Because we’re so interconnected, the good that you do there reverberates here. To say it that plainly can sound a little silly to some folks, but I believe it’s true!

    Linda

  2. Linda: Wonderful posting! It is through observing, and reacting appropriately when necessary, that we will best exist on this earth.

    The sky is a mix; reflecting the earth below at times, and transmitting through it views of places we can only imagine.

    Daniel,

    If anyone knows skies, you would – you have some of the best in the world.

    I think of words in the same way. Sometimes they are mirrors, reflecting life as it is, and sometimes we draw back the curtains and discover they are windows, allowing us to glimpse those “other places and possibilities.”

    I suppose that’s why people love words and skies – you never know when you set out what you’re going to see!

    Linda

  3. Such a beautiful, thoughtful post, especially in light of what’s happening in the Gulf.

    There are indeed more ways of knowing, and I think we all tend to get caught up in the “one right way” when really we should look at things from mutliple viewpoints and aspects.

    Becca,

    I can’t help but draw an analogy from your music. There are times to sing in unison, and times when harmony is called for to lift the heart and provide a richer, more complex experience. The beauty of harmony, of course, is that each musician has that personal and irreplaceble line to sing or play – but when all join together, the whole truly is greater than the sum of the parts.

    It’s no mistake that we speak of “the harmony of nature”. I pray the destruction that lies ahead will not be so extreme that we have no chance of seeing that harmony restored in our lifetime.

    Linda

  4. You express the most beautiful thoughts so beautifully that they become an inspiration. We have so much to learn from Nature and from you. Thank you.

    eMi,

    You create much beauty yourself at Eschucho Atentamente – we learn from one another how to look, and how to listen.

    Nature? Nature herself waits, to see if we can learn.

    Muchas gracias por su visita, y sus amables palabras.

    Linda

  5. Hurricane season. I won’t be missing it. No hurricanes in Panama. I have spent most of my 68 years living in hurricane-prone locations – Cape Cod, southeast Florida and New Orleans – and have learned a few things along the way.

    One of the worst things that happens during hurricane season happens at the supermarkets when the watches and warnings go up. Total chaos. People stripping the shelves and buying things that make absolutely no sense. Things they’d never buy ordinarily get thrown in their carts. I remember getting dragged to the store years ago by a friend who had to get his stuff together and watched people buying ICE CREAM for crying out loud. What happens then the power goes out?

    (During that visit, my LAST btw, standing patiently in line in the middle of all that insanity at Sam’s Club was an elderly couple inching their way towards the cash register. They didn’t have a cart load of goodies. Each was holding a plastic potted palm tree! No joke. The things you see when you don’t have your camera. Why in the world did they need to have those things right then?)

    So here is what I learned to cope with hurricane season:

    Every time you go to the grocery store starting June 1st, buy a little something extra and stash it away. If you normally buy two cans of tuna fish buy three. Pick up some things you don’t ordinarily buy that don’t go bad or require refrigeration…canned ravioli, a couple of jars of spaghetti sauce, canned beans, a package of rice. Put them in a closet apart from your normal food storage so you won’t be tempted to use them. After a few trips to the market you’ll have enough set aside to last you for a week or so. Don’t forget bottled water and juices. If you use milk get some of the stuff that doesn’t require refrigeration and store that away. When hurricane season is over then you can start using up what you’ve stored.

    If you cook electrically buy a camp stove. I have/had a two burner propane stove I got at an RV supplier that operates off a 20 lb bottle. If you have your own house invest in a generator. My roommate and I have a good-sized one so when Wilma swept through Fort Lauderdale we were able to run our refrigerator and watch the World Series on the t.v. as well as run a line over to a neighboring apartment so the young girl who lived there with her infant son could also have refrigeration.

    Often when the power goes out the water supply stops, too. Get one of those solar showers from a camping store, no power needed for hot water and the showers are comforting.

    When a storm is imminent fill your bathtub to the brim with water. No, you’re not going to drink it, but when the water supply is shut off how are you going to flush the toilet after the first time?

    Make sure the gas tank of your car is topped off and get a couple of 5 gallon gas tanks and fill them, too. No power means the pumps at most gas stations won’t be working.

    If you do that when the warnings go up put up the storm shutters and enjoy the spectacle of those who don’t prepare ahead going nuts at the stores on the local newscasts.

    Richard,

    Well, there we have it in a nutshell. That’s very nearly the procedure I follow, although I have some constraints you didn’t. With Mom, the only choice is evacuation, and that makes a few adjustments necessary. I’m not quite finished with this year’s preparations – I still need to get written prescriptions from the doctor and take their car in for its “physical”, for example – but by the end of June it will all be done. The biggest chore now is cleaning up and backing up computer files and making sure insurance photos are up to date.

    Your advice is good, and I hope anyone who drifts through who lives in hurricane territory and hasn’t experienced one yet takes it to heart.

    Your comment about putting up the shutters and watching the spectacle unfold reminds me of a part of cruising you surely enjoyed as well – getting to the anchorage early, getting the hook set and then sitting back to watch the goings-on as the boats come in. ;-)

    Linda

    ps ~ That ice cream? I understand that. It won’t be there by the time the hurricane arrives, anyway.

  6. OK, I am puzzled. Once upon a time the National Weather Service employed real live weathermen at airports for pilot weather briefings. They were stationed all over the country, often staying in one place for their entire career.

    They could give a weather briefing based on years of eyeball experience. They really got to know the “in’s and out’s” of their area. You could trust most of them with your life. Which, if you flew for a living, you did frequently. They have been replaced with machines, linked to a computer that analyzes data. Now you cannot trust the weather reports so much.

    So my quandary is: how will a computer replace Linda, patiently sanding away the slightest imperfection that I could not spot, while listening through headphones to a classical piece, with a Cheshire cats smile on her face? Just one of the things I miss.

    Ken

    Ken,

    I just was down on D dock today, looking across the fairway to Satori and thinking about you. The new fellow is working hard – good for him!

    Interesting about the pilot briefings. It makes sense – I just hadn’t thought of it. But of course it’s very much like the weather you can get on the cruising nets, too – there are some real weather gurus (and true characters) giving their forecasts every day.

    As for the chance that I’d be replaced with a computer? I’d say “Nil”. For one thing, a computer couldn’t take the heat. But for another, it’s an 18th century job, and no self-respecting computer would be caught dead doing it. They’d rather crash ;-)

    Thanks for stopping by. It’s always a pleasure.

    Linda

  7. When my aging hand held GPS first comes on, the screen says: “Do NOT rely on this instrument as your sole means of navigation!”.

    Especially when you need them most, in heavy weather, electronic aids can and do fail. There is no substitute for an helmsman who is fully aware of conditions and a navigator who knows position and the “road” ahead. Hopefully these are two different persons because the worse it gets the better it is to have someone else to check on (sometimes necessarily) hasty decisions.

    The North East Pacific Coastal inlets and the Salish Sea (formerly Strait of Georgia) experience complex weather due to the energetic weather from the ocean interacting with channels and mountain ranges. One of the best insights to this weather comes in the form of a book: “The Wind Came All Ways” by Owen S. Lange, Environment Canada. Illustrated and augmented with reproductions of Emily Carr’s paintings and poetry it is a pretty book and introduces the valuable concept of “Pressure Slope”.

    Ken,

    Not only can electronic aids fail, there’s always that little matter of “overboard” to be dealt with. Trust me on that.

    Of course, there’s also the matter of operator stupidity. I just shook my head when I heard the story of the woman who’s suing google because she took their “walking directions” to heart and was hit by a car. A little judgement is never a bad thing. ;-)

    I’d not heard of Lange’s book. I did look up a couple of reviews, and was reminded again how much variety there is in conditions around the country. It’s an oversimplification to be sure, but here on the Texas coast the basic wind question is: north or south?

    Linda

  8. Linda,
    Poor Dad, an old waterman who read the signs of weather for well over seventy years, is now reduced to watching The Weather Channel. He has something cantankerous to say about it almost every day.

    I often think of you spending your days in extreme temperatures. I know that it is exhausting, but you’ve certainly made your case for why you’ve chosen to spend your life this way. This is a beautiful post and anyone who reads it can feel the love and respect you have for your work and nature.
    Bella

    Bella,

    That just proves how well your Dad is doing. We all have something cantankerous to say about The Weather Channel these days! Fewer B grade movies, more forecasting, please.

    Your comment about love and respect for nature reminded me of my favorite “if I were Queen of the World” fantasy. Every five years, every academic and professional – every lawyer, professor, teacher, CEO, investment banker and so on – would be required to hang up their Blackberries and go spend a year doing manual labor at minimum wage. Right now, they’re paying $12/hr to clean up tar balls on Gulf beaches. I think a year of that might be good for Tony Hayward.

    Thanks for dropping by – hope you’ve still got dirt under your nails!

    Linda

  9. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to smell the rain? Being weather-wise is as important to your work as choosing the right grain of sandpaper. But only you could varnish a boat in heavy fog and make the end product beautiful (bit like writing in that way, wasn’t it?).

    This was lovely–photos, too. Yes, we do need two ways of seeing. And I truly believe that Mother Nature is very angry with us for ruining her planet; hope your prediction of eventual forgiveness is correct. Have you read Wendell Berry’s essays (agrarian and political)? You have similar philosophies, I think.

    Our bathtub was always filled before a big storm too…

    ds,

    Do you know what else Varnish John used to tell me? He liked to say the trick to success in our craft was knowing what you can get away with. That’s a knowledge you can’t get from books. The books would sure enough tell you there’s no way to lay varnish in sea fog – or do a number of other creative things. But sometimes you can get away with it.

    I think that’s one place where there’s a connection with writing, or blogging, or any creative endeavor. There are lots of things we’re told we “can’t” do and be successful – but sometimes we can get away with a whole lot!

    I have dipped into Wendell Berry, but only that – dipped in. I picked up a book of his about two years ago just because of the title ~ The Art of the Commonplace. I just pulled it off the shelf and flipped it open to an essay called “Think Little”. The first sentences I read are these:

    “If you are concerned about the proliferation of trash, then by all means start an organization in your community to do something about it. Be before – and while – you organize, pick up some cans and ottles yourself. That way, at least, you will assure yourself and others that you mean what you say….”

    That sounds an awfully lot like “start where you can start, and do what you can do”. ;-)

    Linda

    ps… that top photo is another from my own “third story window”….

  10. “This attentiveness, this engagement, this immersion of the senses is a different way of knowing, a different path toward understanding our natural world.”

    Couldn’t agree more. Lovely post, and I’m glad I don’t live in Texas. :) (I have visited Texas a couple times… in the winter!)

    Glad to see you had no trouble applying the CSS fix to block the Like/Reblog button.

    Dave,

    And many thanks, again. And another lesson was learned through all this: it might be good to be a little more attentive to what the Wizard and his crew are up to behind the curtain!

    Thanks for the kind words re: the post itself. Texas is a great place to live, but here on the coast we do begin long for October in early May. ;-)

    Linda

  11. Watching the weather on t.v…My second job when I moved to Louisiana half a lifetime ago was running a 47′ aluminum crew boat in the Kerr-McGee oil and gas field in Breton Sound. We actually lived on Breton Island, some 30 miles off the coast and the field probably ran 20 miles north of the island and some 15 to the south. It extended, perhaps, 10 miles west from the chain of islands, so there was quite a lot of water to cover.

    At that point my boat operating career had always been fair-weather sailing; very small sailboats, a 42′ motor yacht and a couple of large sight-seeing vessels. You only went out when the weather was good and if it got nasty you immediately sought shelter.

    In the oil field the operating principle was you go out no matter what or you go home and you don’t get to come back. As the “blue northers” of the late fall and early winter started sweeping through Louisiana it got really rough out there. The water in Breton Sound is relatively shallow, but with a fetch (the distance over open water that the wind travels) of some 30 miles the waves would get up to 10 or 12 feet high, slab-sided and very close together. As nasty as you ever want to be in a small boat, that’s for sure. But at 6 a.m. every morning we left the sheltered little lagoon at the island and went out and faced whatever was out there for the next 12 hours putting men on and and taking them off of oil and high-pressure gas wells. Dangerous work indeed.

    Naturally I would watch the late night news cast especially interested in the next day’s weather forecast to see what I’d be facing. Of the five crew boat captains on the island I was the only one that did. The others would all be in bed. One day I asked a Cajun skipper, Allen, why he didn’t watch. Wasn’t he interested?

    “What difference does it make?” he said. “We’ve got to go out anyway.”

    I never watched again. You went out or you went home.

    p.s. I shudder to think of what a horror is about to descend on the Gulf Coast this summer when the inevitable hurricane hits that unimaginably large oil slick. People think the shoreline is a mess now? Wait until an enormous tidal surge pushes all that goo a mile or so inland.

    Richard,

    “You went out or you went home”. Exactly. It’s rather like the difference between confronting a steady almost-rain and saying, “I can’t work in this stuff” or asking “How can I work in this stuff”. I’ve done both, trust me. But I learned pretty quickly that “I can’t…” doesn’t pay the rent nearly as successfully as “How can I…?”

    As for the Gulf, and what awaits us (because it is “us”, no matter which part of the shoreline we inhabit)…. Anyone who’s experienced a storm surge and has read anything about what’s actually going on out there now already has a visual in their mind of what could be coming. Some folks stay fixated on the images of oiled birds and tarballs like it’s the latest reality show. The rest of us are just getting ready.

    Linda

  12. I can’t imagine what the temperature will be in mid July if signs of summer begin to show in Mid-May, a time when we’re still having the periodic snow storms! I love all your photos here, especially the first and last one. Your post just reminds us there’s beauty around despite the catastrophe happening in the Gulf coast. So BP says they’re capping more oil now… can we still trust them?

    Arti,

    I think the question many of us are asking re: BP is, “Are we able to trust them at all?” They were not forthcoming in the beginning about the amount of oil streaming from the well. Their numbers still are suspect. They have used dispersants to keep oil out of sight, hidden in the water column. They have closed air space and threatened reporters, film-makers and photographers with arrest. The one thing we do know is that they are capturing more oil. What tremendous irony – today’s captured oil exceeds the amount originally said to be gushing from the well.

    On the other hand, I have nothing but respect for those who worked the rig and those who are trying to gain control of the well. There are wonderful alternatives to the mainstream media, such as The Oil Drum. Following an analysis of events done by engineers and geologists can be tricky (humbling, too!) but it helps to keep things in perspective. And I surely have learned a lot about oil and gas production.

    We did nearly cross with your last snow and our first heat. It’s easy to forget what a big world it is, and how varied. And yet, to paraphrase you, your snow is my snow, and my warmth your warmth. It’s the way of the world.

    Linda

  13. First, I loved this line: “For a new varnisher, weather was the enemy, and we skirmished constantly” and then gasped when I came to this one: ” You have to know it in the same way you know a person: by living in relationship, being attentive to moods, recognizing quirks and accepting occasional surprises.”

    The older I get the more I realize the less I have to do with officious sources and the more to do with my inner core, the better off I am. Weathermen? Rarely right. The heart? Deceitful above all things. But I’d still rather go by my own judgement than by what someone else is telling me from their technological readings.

    Bellezza,

    Different ways of knowing for different purposes, perhaps. Like you, I’ll use my own judgement about whether and when to leave ahead of a coming hurricane, but I never, ever would want to be without the technologies that make it possible for us to sidestep truly terrible weather events. There was a time in my life when I wasn’t nearly so charitable as you – I was willing to say of weathermen, “Never right!” Now, I’ve moved to saying “Sometimes wrong – and sometimes flat wrong!” But they, too, have their art intermingled with their science, and do the best they can.

    It’s that reciprocal relationship between art and science, technological wizardry and physical experience that’s critical. It occurs to me – perhaps it’s the level of reciprocity that determines the quality of judgement.

    Awfully glad to see that you can find your way back here from your new digs!

    Linda

  14. Well, I don’t know where to begin, other than to start with the compliment — without doubt, without hesitation, you are the finest writer I visit — and consistently so. When I see your posts, I can’t always read them right away — one quick look and I know I need to have time to savor them, to center myself and allow the time to sink into it. Your photos are wonderful, of course, but those words…

    I found this very interesting — we all like to moan and groan at the weather guy, whose predictions are sometimes spot on and sometimes not, and really, isn’t he allowed to make mistakes, too? I look at the sky and I see blue or gray; I look west and see “darker” and know something is coming, or I feel it in my sinuses. But I’m an indoor person, by and large; I’m not as finely attuned to the minute changes you observe.

    Rick is. As a cyclist, he spends a good deal of time outside and on the seat — I’m always amazed as we travel home from the lake in the car how he will spot rain. To me, it looks like a distant filmy haze. To him, it is rain. He’s usually right.

    Observation and intuition. In my Gypsy post that just went up I wrote about my new visiting holistic vet. What I didn’t write was how blown away by the experience I was. She asked me questions about Gypsy — his grooming, his grieving, other things. She was amazed by my observations, which could pinpoint things very specifically. For me, this was no big deal — you live with someone everyday, you notice (or maybe not, sometimes, but become immune). But when I was trained in acting, we were heavily trained in observation — everything from the taste and texture of things in one’s mouth (which actually, now that I think of it, that theatre work was actually the basis of my cooking with all six senses, which I wrote about a couple of days ago!). We watched people and had to write about it, then do it.

    And when you read, you notice the detail.

    Well, anyway (and this is going longer than I planned), I could tell her things that helped her. And she “listened” to him through me, catching his energy through me (I know, sounds woo and maybe so, but still…). When she was there, and after she left, I felt safe.

    I read “safe” in this post. The skill of observation lends itself well to our safety, knowing our limits, knowing when to batten down the hatches and when to stand on the shore and watch the storm roll in.

    I hope your world is safer than they say it might be this summer, that globs of oil don’t reach your Texan shores. But I know you will safe or as safe as you can be. You’ve got “the stuff.”

    jeanie,

    Reading about Gypsy and the vet, the first thing that came to mind was The Horse Whisperer. Perhaps some people have an innate connection with animals, but even those of us who don’t can establish and nurture those kinds of connections through the close observation you speak of. What a wonderful title that would be for a weather blog – The Cloud Whisperer!

    I think most of us get irritated with the weather forecasters because we want to “use” the information they give us. We want to know whether to schedule that bike ride, or take a sweater, or put some extra provisions in the cupboard. Being interested in weather for its own sake is the beginning of that different kind of knowledge.

    I love that you got the feeling of “safe”. And you’re exactly right, that knowledge of the world and acceptance of our own limits adds to that sense of safety and security. Sometimes we can’t do a thing to change the world – it will rain or it won’t, the oil will come or it won’t – but we can decide how to relate to the world. That’s a big gift in itself!

    You started with the compliment – I’ll end with a thank you. Writing is tremendously satisfying for me, and it makes me happy to think others find reading what I come up with satisfying, too!

    Linda

  15. Your words evoked memories of my granny predicting weather based on the activity of squirrels and birds and early dropping of pecans. Of my grandfather taking a quick look at a eerie green sky with swirling leaves and piling Granny and all of us ‘grands’ into an old vintage pickup, to head for the storm cellar at the country school down the road — the same school that my mother walked a mile to and from in her youth, in poor shoes and high show. Before seeing it up close and in person, I had always thought it was the stuff of legends.

    I experience the world through my intuition and imagination rather than through my senses, another way of knowing. But I appreciate your view of becoming one with nature and try so very hard to stay ‘awake’ to what is going on around me. Thank God, I am married to one who lives by his senses.

    Janell

    Janell,

    I accept your words about experiencing the world through intuition and imagination, but I really suspect your experience in that regard is “in addition to” knowing through your senses. The work you do with your gardens, the way you write about gardening, your ability to know what will work and what won’t obviously is grounded in your knowledge of and sensitivity to the natural world.

    It may be embedded so deeply you’re not even aware of it, or simply accept it as part of life. A gardener down here told me once that a green thumb is nothing more than being attuned to the secret life of plants, being able to “hear” the messages they speak and meet their needs in a constantly changing environment. Whether that’s true, I don’t know. But I hope it is ~ it’s a lovely conceit.

    Your words about the country school made me laugh. When I returned to my childhood home after a couple of decades, I was completely astonished. I remembered it as large and impressive – a palace, really. What I discovered when I saw it again was that it was a quite modest two story house, about 1/5th the size I expected. I’ve not seen it again, and now, in memory, it’s nearly back to its original size!

    Linda

  16. I don’t know which I enjoyed more – your post or some of the fascinating comments attached to it!

    I’m thinking of you a lot now, and how your place on earth has been horribly affected by criminal carelessness. It seems impossible that they had no contingency plans, no worst case scenarios, they just blithely carried on, and now look puzzled that it has all gone completely pear shaped.
    You kinda trust that those in charge are in charge, it’s horrifying to realise that they just have no idea.

    Jeannine,

    Only one thing could be more horrifying – the suspicion that they did have an idea, and choose to proceed along the path which brought us here without regard for consequences. On the other hand, as I said somewhere, assuming something can’t happen because it hasn’t happened is nearly magical thinking, and it seems as though there was a good bit of that, as well.

    My hope is that all of us – myself included – can take this opportunity to educate ourselves about practices around the world that are equally sloppy and contempuous of the world as a whole. BP is not the only offender, although they’re the focus right now. While we stare at BP, other companies are blithely continuing on with similar practices, and the pipeline infrastructure continues to erode. Shutting off this well and cleaning up this mess shouldn’t be the end of it.

    Glad you enjoyed the read, and glad you enjoyed the good effort of Bafana Bafana! There are some here who say US/Britain wouldn’t have battled to a draw if the winner had been granted the prize of dealing with BP!

    Linda

  17. Great post and love your layout…thanks for sharing.

    Alonso,

    Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your kind words. You’re welcome any time!

    Linda

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