Dust storms and the desertification of the literary mind

DUST STORM 1968
Image credit: Sydney Oats (CC BY 2.0)

Storms. Storms in my head! I thought that I could do a little throwback Thursday or something. I would go back through some of my older posts and repost one of them to get a sense of where I once was but it’s only come to frustration because I realize that once upon a time the downpour of words that bombarded the page was so different than the sparsity that I struggle to ration out lately. I read it and I think, where the heck did that come from?

Check out Getting Rich and the Tribble Epidemic, from December 28, 2013.

I sounded so glib.

Today, by comparison, I think my prose has dried out somewhat. As though a sandstorm has come through and blasted my creativity down to bare metal.Maybe that’s what it feels like to come back to writing after a long period of no-writing. Or maybe something has changed. The thunderbolts of inspiration don’t just light up my brain like they used to.

But for whatever reason I can’t seem to give up altogether. Every time I think about hanging it up — admitting that my writing is just another fad, a fly-by-night hobby — there’s something inside that won’t let it go, and when I look back I see what it is that I must be holding on to. I would like to think that perhaps some day I can find my way back to writing long form, the off-the-cuff essays, the flash fiction — to being, and moving forward from, the bedazzling literary cyclone that I must have been.

I actually work really hard on this. And maybe I’m a little too aggressive, because here I am the next morning trying to finish this reconstruction of my feelings about this on a screen when I could be doing other things, things that I also feel I need to do . . . but they must not be as important as this. Even though I have to go running and then go to work in a little bit.

Because when it comes down to it I guess I have to write.

Can I bring life back to the desert?

Desert Life
Image credit: Wiros (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Do you need to seed the clouds of creativity in your mind? Maybe try the one-word prompt from the Daily Post — you could do worse!

Woolgathering Wednesday

When I first moved to North Dakota from the Detroit area back in 2008, I knew I was undertaking a very unlikely journey. Up until the moment I decided to accept the invitation to move to another state and give myself a chance to make a fresh start almost two thousand miles away, I thought I was never going to leave Detroit. I’m fine here, I would tell myself and others. I had received multiple solicitations to move out to California before and had turned them all down for various reasons: high cost of living, earthquakes, the probability of sliding off into the ocean being somewhat higher than in Michigan . . .

But things had changed, you know? I finally saw an opportunity to get away from a negative cycle that had kept me from truly functioning as an adult. All the conditions were right, and so I rode the wave all the way out here.

Since arriving I have seen a remarkable change in the social profile around here. Where once I noticed that it was rare to see a black or brown person around town, the area is now teeming with people who have moved here for varying reasons in the intervening years, whether because of the economic crisis, war in the Middle East, oppression in Africa; or just because in this land of opportunity, at the right time, North Dakota was the place to make a new start. And it’s not just foreign people of color, but people from all around the country. From all walks of life. Different races and religions and all the things that have some people putting stickers on their cars that say “Welcome to North Dakota — now go home!”

For shame.

Everyone has their journey, and some of the best ones break down the boundaries that we build for ourselves and those that others have built. And it’s so sad to see the escalating media coverage of all that is negative in the world, from the plague of shootings that seem to have come out of nowhere to the general unrest that continues to plague the cradle of civilization. And somehow, while many of us have shut down and continue to isolate ourselves most vocally in our self-fulfilling paradigms, modern society seems to have transformed the human race into a fluid. One that’s crashing in waves on the shores of the first world. The proof is evident all around us. There’s a 2012 novel that was made into a 2015 film called Look Who’s Back that opens up the eyes to sentiment regarding, among other things, the mass immigration of Turks into Germany. The subject matter shows no age, I’m sorry to say.

There’s also the recent divorce of Britain from the European Union, something that one person oh-so-cleverly called “Brexit”, and now that ungainly portmanteau will likely see not only the insides of history textbooks, but the Oxford English Dictionary as well. And while I have no opinion either way, I believe that the British used their rare chance for a popular vote and I don’t blame them one bit. After all, I always wish the popular vote would bring some results in our nation. But one of the major arguments behind the whole affair is that the EU is too lax on immigration and allows too many immigrants in. I can’t say Brexit is all bad, however, considering my 401k is finally making significant upward moves for the first time in over a year.

And there is the ever-present sentiment against illegal immigration in the United States, Donald Trump’s trumped-up promise to build a wall along the Mexican border being only the tip of the iceberg. Under the twinkling ocean of our society looms a ginormity of sentiment that lays the blame for everything from lost jobs to climate change at the doorsteps of anything un-American.

The evidence is all around that the world is a giant machine lubricated by a fluid of humanity. Our journeys take us where they will, but wherever we begin we leave something behind and wherever we set foot we leave the indelible marks of our passage. This world, being thus enriched with each passing day, acts largely like the mythically ubiquitous, ungrateful millennial that popular sentiment currently tends to demonize in our social media feeds. And hey — no society can grow richer under the banner of a single heritage. While an area might retain its distinct flavor with just a little effort on the part of those who care about where they came from, it’s ridiculous to think that pushing newcomers away will make us any safer from the damage we might do to ourselves.

After all, it’s where we are going that counts.


Looking for a way to crash into a new blog post? Take a look at this one-word prompt from the Daily Post — maybe it will move you.

 

Tanka Tuesday 2016.07.12 —

Guest
Image credit: Andrey (CC BY 2.0)

 

bumbling off
the guest will take
leave behind
transferring spirits
communion of souls

 


 

Nothing is better than having guests to break up the routines of our daily lives. People like Mme. Ross and I — that is, people who don’t thrive in large social circles — craft our lives day by day in the comfort of our home and our lives there. The occasional gathering of our closest friends really brings something to our home, and we do our best to give back as well. We help our friends move, we make them our neighbors, and we share what we have with them. To live that life on a permanent, unbroken basis seems like an idyllic dream.

On the other hand, to go to work forty hours a week for people with ridiculous, half-hearted, loosely-applied restrictions on the use of personal technology; who rarely appreciate what I’m bringing to the proverbial table; and who seem to specialize only in making others feel stupid for being themselves; had begun to seem like an awful chore until the plant was given the week off for the 4th of July, and while I thought that going back after that week off would be like more of the same torture, it seems as though the days are going fast, maybe speeding me along toward the next Summer adventure.

Or maybe it’s just a small respite in that tug-of-war.

I sometimes feel like a guest in my own life — like nothing I do entitles me to comfort or indulgence. As though very little that I do gives me a reasonable excuse to be the selfish person that I often see in myself. I stay withdrawn, and the work life that drives to the rhythm of hammers on metal while presenting as a music video fit for the Doors’ People Are Strange becomes the theme I take home in my head as I frustrate myself trying to pound some inspiration into the hearts of those who feel like their only purpose at work is to make a paycheck. To work as little as possible, think as little as possible, never realizing that it’s easier than they’re making it out to be. I often end up taking that unwelcome guest home with me.

A little effort goes a long way, is all I’m saying. But what if I’m putting too much effort into the wrong endeavors?

It would be interesting if every day was a different event — a parade, a carnival in the park, a bike ride along the river. Somehow our culture insinuates the fulfillment of that dream in a life that often demands more of us than we can reasonably give. It stretches us dangerously thin, like worn-out bubblegum.

Where can we reasonably say “no”?

Now there’s something to chew on.

 



Looking for a word to cunningly inspire the perfectly-crafted spontaneous blog post? Try the one-word prompt at the Daily Post — probably the best thing since split infinitives.

Bottling lightning

Lightning strikes
Image credit: Rob Ross (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
The last few days in my land have been marked by brief, yet intense summer storms. The lightning that laced the orange sky was so frequent as the storm receded that both Mme. Ross and I tried to get pictures of them, but our efforts were met with very different levels of success. Mme. Ross has a consumer-grade DSLR camera to work with, while I have my iPhone, and I think that might have had something to do with the speed of her success. I held the camera still and snapped hundreds of photos as electricity zipped across the sky, calmly trying to track the explosions of ancient wars across the whole my view, only being able to catch a quarter of that view at a time and so hoping that I was not shooting a dark section while another was lighting up.

Lightning is quick. The whole thing occurs in the fraction of a second, so if you’re not close enough to be struck, then by the time you see it it’s already gone, and that’s the challenge in capturing it. As the arc is formed between the sky and ground, the air column in its path is transformed into a plasma — the electrons stripped from the oxygen molecules, making that column a conductor. The light of the arc begins travelling toward your eyes at the speed of light. The heat of the arc causes the air around it to explode thunderously. As the light travels in a wave toward the sensor of a camera, the options for capturing a pretty picture of a lightning strike come down to quick timing.

With fancy cameras it’s a very attainable thing but when you’re shooting with an iPhone you enter the realm of probability. Hundreds of shots, I think, are likely to yield at least one good photo. Because as I noted while going through those shots, deleting all the lookalikes as I went, when you’re too late you mostly come up with phantoms: large fields of diffusing purple light. Less frequently you get the arc in its full brilliance and it washes out the camera sensor because in all reality, it’s only an iPhone. Fancy phone, ho-hum camera (in the grand scheme of cameras, I mean.)

Like any wave, you have to time it just right.

In hundreds of shots, I got two hum-dingers. It was so worth it.

Lightning strikes
Image credit: Rob Ross (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Looking for something to do with that fancy-schmancy camera and/or phone? Check out the Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge.

Haiku Today 2016.07.04 —

DSC02887
(Image credit: Lyn Gateley)

 freedom rings
promises of life
autonomous

 


 

So here we are again: the 4th of July.

I’m starting to find that the older I get, the more I question the validity of the holidays we gather around. If you’ve been around you might be well aware that every holiday has its holdouts.

Its detractors.

Its naysayers. 

It’s hard to discuss a holiday without at least cracking open thought-boxes filled with hypocrisies and ironies that we pick up regarding these things as we ride out life — the unspeakable-in-polite-company stuff that rains on the parade. They’re easy to suppress, but hard not to think about.

Autonomy is a good one for Independence Day. It is, after all, about freedom . . . of a sort. And it’s an election year no less.

Cha-ching, jackpot.

I don’t talk politics if I can avoid it, except with Mme. Ross. And co-workers, when I’m sure it’s not going to be an issue. I hate it when others bring it up and say something that either makes them look bad or something that I disagree with. Usually that’s something that happens concurrently. So I’m not talking politics here either, but it seems that down the road we get to vote. 

If you believe in that kind of thing. Autonomy for the win!!

. . . right?

You know what I can get behind, though? Running. I can get behind running. This morning I took up my second ever race, and my first in a few years — a non-competitive 5k walk/run to help the Bismarck Cancer Center Foundation. That’s a little ironic in a way, because they focus on chemo and radiation therapies, which I sincerely hope can eventually become a thing of the past. But I figure, the human race sometimes makes baby steps instead of huge strides. It probably depends on who’s footing the bill, and I doubt that 600 runners are going to crack the cancer problem, know what I mean?

Man, I’ve been down so long — cue the B. B. King music here — I’ve been down so long, because of this injury to my feet last Spring. And while it really didn’t start there, I have to wonder why I ever had this crazy idea I could try to get into parkour in the first place. There’s no gyms, no trainers, no clubs around here to speak of where I could train. But we have to start somewhere, right? And I think this is where my running got off track.

To me, running is a different kind of freedom. You can take things and run with them, and that includes yourself. Then sometimes we stop to breathe, reflect, and we figure we might stick around for a little bit before continuing on. Before we know it, we’re stuck in the mud with a whole new set of habits, and getting back on that track well might be a lot harder that we originally reckoned. Sometimes we hit a downward trend long before we see it as such, and that’s unfortunate — but not impossible to reverse.

So after changing my diet and exercise regime to try and get myself to the point where I could do pull-ups, I found myself not only failing to make progress, but trending toward both lower levels of fitness and toward weight gain. Double negative. Then I step hard on a rock with one foot, the same day that I’m pretty sure I overtrained both my Achilles’, and failed to recognize the need for anti-inflammatory medication despite the fact that I hobbled for weeks.

It’s been kind of a hard aspect of the past year, not to mention the insult of a (literally) shrinking wardrobe and building on the failure to train for pull-ups, which I think is just ridiculous. I can push a 1,016 pound sheet of half-inch-thick steel through a shear, yet I couldn’t pull up 170 to 230 pounds from a dead hang.

Life continues to be a head-scratcher, even when we thing we’ve gotten most of it figured out. But that’s why I can get behind running. It’s a simple thing that most people are born to be able to do. It helps keep my head in the game. It guides me toward healthy priorities. Most of all, I think it’s presenting me a reason to look forward to holidays because it turns out that there are races in town that are organized around major holidays: the Turkey Trot, the Santa Run, Ribfest . . . 

Now I can definitely get behind that. That’s legit.


Phillipi
(Image credit: Leonora (Ellie) Enking)

 worlds breathe,
civilizations
find their place —
there’s no use fighting
what always passes.

 


Need an idea? check out today’s Daily Post prompt.

Header image by Felix (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Musical Monday — Looking Out My Back Door

Looking Out My Back Door
by Surfer Rob

Hey
It’s me again
Your little talking friend
From the planet in your head
I’d
Like to propose a toast
To the humble host
Of all the crazy shit
That’s been running through my yard

It’s been a while
since we’ve felt like this
a lot of lingering love
from a literary kiss
It’s got me thinking
and I’m thirsty for more
of singing “doo doo doo”
looking out my back door

Hey
is that a flying car?
maybe you’ve gone too far
or maybe it doesn’t matter
It’s
not a DeLorean
Maybe I’ll get me one
when I’m making fat checks
writing for TV
there’s killer robots there
they’re flying through the air
and mopping up rebel meatbags
And
they’re not the only ones
’cause blotting out the sun
is an all-consuming ooze
made from future processed foods!
I know it’s crazy but just give it time
while purple plant people plot
to plunder your mind,
until they’re Roundup Ready
and we’re runnin’ to shore
a-singin “doo doo doo”
looking out my back door

(cue the face melting guitar solo)

(outro riff with some tribal tom beats)

singing “doo doo doo”
looking out my back door
 


 
There you go. I wrote you a song, bringing back the nostalgia of 90’s alternative pop (if you hear it the way I do, something akin to Jimmy Eat World) with a little nod to Creedence.
 
Happy Monday!

Stuck for an idea? Try today’s Daily Post prompt.

Fill-up Friday — takin’ care of business

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t worked Fridays since about April.

With one or two exceptions, I’ve been home every Friday for a few months, and it’s both glorious and ignominious at the same time. I know that for three solid years I worked 48+ hours a week 90% of the year, and I didn’t like it. I don’t like being indebted to such an extent. And all it took was a few changes in leadership to cut off our overtime altogether. It felt like the water was draining out of the boat on its own, like “YES”. But then I realized what had happened.

We had become complacent with the number of hours I had been working. Mme. Ross needed a car. I needed a decent computer. We had to see this family or that. I had to go surfing.

You know I had to.

All of a sudden, all the payments we were making were biting a huge chunk out of the weekly take-home. And when it comes to pay, the bills get paid first, so things have been drying up for over six months with no overtime. Suddenly, it was like the air was slowly leaking out of our bubble.

Then, the hammer falls.

Our customer — our only customer, who by the way owns everything inside the plant — thought it might be a good idea to shut down for a few weeks to give them a chance to sell all the inventory that had been stockpiled due to their borderline manic drive for production.

Remember all that overtime? Well, we became quite good at what we do!

Our company managed to negotiate for five 32-hour work weeks instead. We get to work, they don’t have to pay unemployment, and they can ensure that some employees will still be left when the production shortage is done.

I know I’ll be there. I’m a sucker. Who’s got two thumbs and is a company man?

This guy.

Another bright ray of sunshine is that this week was only three days — 24 hours — due to the opening of deer season. Right now I kind of wish I was a hunter because it seems like I could have gotten some meaning out of Monday.

I refuse to use PTO to cover the loss, because if we shut down over Christmas, there’s no reduced hours. It’s just a total shutdown. But never fear, I’m Surfer Rob and I’ve got this covered. I cut down our monthly bills budget by over $200. Almost everything is paid off. For extra ducks, I donate plasma, which I absolutely enjoy. It gives me a chance to read a real book (made of paper!) for an hour. We have an extra daycare kid starting this month and that is definitely one of the pillars of strength in our financial lives right now.

But back to this business of Fridays. I keep telling myself, “you’ve got Fridays off. Why aren’t you posting at least once a week? The weekend is all ‘getting out’, and ‘getting stuff done’, I get that.” So for that end all I have to say is, I needed to clear up some concerns.

And that’s the Kwai Chang Kane way of saying it. If that dude was gonna kick your ass, he’d look you straight in the eyes and say without emotion, “I don’t want to fight you.”

As it turns out, life didn’t know I was gonna sweep the leg. I knew how the whole fight was going to go before a single punch was thrown. I saw into him, and I saw the lie of him.

Surfer Rob wins.

It wasn’t a flawless victory, but I’ll take it. And in the spirit of a (much) clearer mind, I inaugurate Fill-up Fridays: because I gotta fill them up one way or another.

So today I played Bioshock Infinite for a few hours after Lil’ Miss woke me up and declared that it was time to wake up and go downstairs. I love that about the weekend. That game, and others like it — I will now confess — is the reason why I needed a decent computer. By decent I mean “top of the line because I want to play awesome games” and that’s what I got. I’m a little behind on the latest games, and that works well for me because I game on a platform called Steam. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a service that is not unlike Vudu (not Netflix) because you buy your games through them and through them you assure that whatever happens to your computer you can always get them back and play again. Steam is awesome, it’s over ten years old now and the best thing about it is that you can compile a wishlist. On the right side is the price of each line item in your wishlist and you can see if it’s on sale; the old price; the new price; and the percentage off.

I check it daily. I never pay full price on Steam, and I rarely pay over ten dollars for anything.

When I first got my computer, I didn’t even know what Steam really was. I thought it was a DRM scheme — like while you’re playing your game the software periodically checks in to make sure you’re not playing a pirate game — but that’s not it at all.

Steam is a community, a marketplace, and a damn good place to get good games for dirt-cheap.

When I first got my computer almost a year ago, I got three games for free as a promotion for choosing to get an AMD Radeon card in my computer.

NVidia fans, shut your mouths. I know what you’re going to say because I’m a NVidia fan, but I saved $500 on the computer and I got three free games so whatever!

So this is cool — whenever I talk to friends IRL we inevitably bring up the games we’re playing because we’re friended on Steam. We talk about them. I talked to a friend recently who said “I saw you’re playing Bioshock Infinite; that’s a good game.”

I said “yeah, I’m really enjoying it.”

If you’re a video gamer of any sort — even if all you do is Angry Birds and World of Goo — then you might want to look into Steam if you haven’t done so by now. That’s all I have to say about that. They have stuff for everyone, and the communities to support them.

And I’m all about community.

After Bioshock Infinite, I had a few loose ends to tie up with this plan to end our financial downfall. Things went . . . not exactly according to plan, but all in all I can’t complain. So now we’re on a new track. A better track. Then I went to donate plasma, made a few more stops, and came home to knock out some chores.

All in all, not a bad Friday.

🙂


Stumped for a blog post idea? Try today’s Daily Post Prompt!

Thirsty Thursdays: exploring the wave–particle duality of writing

They say it’s a bad idea to apologize to your  readers for not writing.

“Never apologize.” That’s my motto. I mean, it’s not like I’m getting paid to write, after all!

So I make it a point not to mention it.

We know that sometimes writing does get put on the back burner for other pursuits – home repair and restoration, playing video games, binge-watching Arrow on Netflix, heavy drinking, etc. But that doesn’t mean that writing isn’t important. It’s HUGE, big enough to threaten the structural integrity of the cast iron grate on that back burner. It’s boiling over, and my tendency of late is to hope that it stays that way while I’m attending to other, somewhat less meaningful pursuits.

When I’m writing my mind is this closet that I’m always dipping into, and when I write, what I take out of the closet goes back in when I’m done with it. From time to time I would get an idea and try to find a nice spot for it in the closet. But when seasons change you might forget what’s even inside the closet; you just throw your ideas in there and shut the door again. Then one day you open the door out of some morbid curiosity and this is what greets you:

picture of a messy closet
Not my closet, but if I weren’t tidy that’s what it might look like. (Photo credit: Scott Rubin)

And yeah, there’s a whole shelf of haiku buried in that morass.

Sometimes writing acts like a wave. That’s what you went out there looking for in the first place, to just have this great big idea splash out of you onto the world. What you got, however, was much more than you expected. But that’s why we ride, isn’t it? It bears down on you with crashing, primal strength. You catch it so it can lift you up and carry you forward. You ride it out, a symbiotic force of nature. You come away from it exhilarated, and you can’t wait to catch the next one.

Sometimes writing acts like a particle. it’s just this little thing that by itself is hardly worth mentioning. But if you pump yourself up you can watch the spontaneous particle spring forth from a single atom in the gas-filled tube of your imagination, watch it bounce back and forth between the mirrored ends. You’ll see it coax other gas atoms to sacrifice just a bit of energy to release other particles to run with it, and each particle added to the run multiplies the effect until eventually that one particle has become a powerfully concentrated beam of inspiration, capable of cutting through writers’ block like nobody’s business.

Writing is a perpetual task. When you’re a writer you write for life. Even when I’m not writing, I’m writing. That’s why I never make promises when it comes to my writing: that promise would have to be delivered in perpetuity. I couldn’t do that because eventually I’d be forced to break my promise through one means or another, if you get my drift. So for me to call this post Thirsty Thursdays might invite one to infer an implicit promise that next Thursday will bring you another post called Thirsty Thursdays. I assure you that to make this assumption would be a mistake; there are no guarantees in life.

That being said, I think I’m going to try to tackle this closet.

Haiku Today 2015.10.19 —

One Love
(Image credit: Massmo Relsig)

we build dreams —
fading river docks
spurning sleep

 


Have you ever found yourself wondering what Merlyn’s deal was?

Like, here’s this guy — but not just any guy — one of the last few-and-far-between holdouts  of the eld: the ancient power and science being driven out of the world by the rampant colonization of the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons. 

Being driven out, and yet being driven by the hand of destiny to give one of them the power to civilize the known world. To finish the job once and for all. 

But things never go exactly as planned, and this was no exception. In the end, the efforts made by Merlyn Ambrosius in the interest of preserving the scant remains of the Celtic pagan tradition faded into history, and the power of a civilized Western Europe in the second millennium is now an undeniable fact. 

Yet Merlyn must have known this would happen, because there always seems to be this intimation that he had a sense of the future — visions, in fact, of things to come. . . strange visions indeed. So did he do his best to change the inevitable future, or was he helping push the world away from its mystic origins?

Doubtless Merlyn knew what lay behind the backdrop of ordinary life, and what would be the ultimate fate of a person who faded from this world, generally speaking. 

This magic was the old science, and if I was transformed into a mystical being with magic powers, I’d lift up that veil and have a peek at what lay beneath. . . 

. . . and the Universe says, “no spoilers, Surfer Rob!”

Because we perpetually act out this play — this little bit of theatre, while underneath the skin of consciousness, within each of us lies the eternal image of the divine Creator; because before and after there is only sleep, and in crossing over we regain the right to know what is known out there.

But as much as I like surprises, if I had the power I would pull back the shroud, reveal the Universe’s beating heart, and take in what I could; for how could I hope to understand the breadth of what is to be seen there? Could we really think that Merlyn knew what he was seeing in his visions of the future? Like Nostradamus, he likely only understood what the lens of experience allowed, and the rest . . .

naked curiosity. Riddles. 

Pure Discovery.


 

Do You Believe in Magic?  | The Daily Post

Haiku Today 2015.10.15 —

the cemetery
(Image credit: Kai Lehmann)

the cycle stalled —
remains to be seen
on littered ground

 


I think cemeteries are cool. Often the ones we visit for one reason or another have well-manicured lawns, roads, and walks. Those are okay, but the older cemeteries have a lot of flair that the modern ones don’t even attempt to replicate; and maybe there’s a reason for that.

Perhaps we — the modern society — are just hanging on to a tradition that no longer inspires us.

Humans have been preserving their dead for thousands of years. Mummification — examples of which have been found in ancient cultures from South America, Africa, and Asia — did not long pre-date embalming, though. Egypt had the most well-developed embalming practices of the known ancient world, where over five thousand years ago you could have met priests whose job it was to keep the body intact and awaiting the return of its soul.

But today, I wonder why we persist with what is obviously a parasitic practice performed upon the planet.

The line is that modern chemical embalming took off during the Civil War, when Dr. Thomas Holmes was commissioned by the Union Army to preserve the bodies of soldiers who had died far from home so they wouldn’t arrive at their doorstep all gross and corpsified. The truth is that experiments with the practice pre-dates this by a few centuries. We experimented with various alcohols, essential oils, and spices. After Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson died at the Battle of Trafalgar, just about fifty years before the start of the Civil War, he was preserved in brandy, wine, myrrh, and camphor. 

Dr. Holmes, however, preferred arsenic. 

After these human pickles arrived they’d be dropped in a pine box which would be dropped in a hole in the ground. Often they were buried in proximity to their comrades. Eventually the boxes rotted away, and the earth came rushing in. The bodies, for all the efforts of the good doctor, gave way too. After all, you can’t resist the forces of nature forever.

And in gaining access to those raw materials, the soil was ambushed by the toxic substance that permeated the tissues therein. Arsenic leached into the ground, and from there into the water supplies.

Not to mention it’s hard to prove poisoning by arsenic once a body has been embalmed. 

So nowadays, the use of less toxic chemicals is standard practice (less toxic, but not non-toxic.) We bury our dead at great expense, considering the cost of the casket and the burial vault, which is often required by a cemetery. The vault is just another box, but it keeps the ground nice and flat.

So this raises the question in my mind, do we harm the planet more as we live, or when we are unnaturally interred post-mortem?

New cemeteries are boring; I’m going to be honest about that. Old cemeteries are where it’s at. So instead of banging at the same old drum of embalming and interment into a terrestrial storage locker, why aren’t we pursuing wholesale practices that help return us to the ground in a more natural fashion?

There’s cremation, which was a good first step. But burning someone creates carbon emissions and the possiblity of mercury emissions from tooth fillings. Alternatives to that include alkaline hydrolysis, which renders the soft tissues to an inert liquid; natural burial, which allows the body to break down naturally in the soil; and promession, in which the body is flash-frozen, pulverized, freeze-dried, sifted for metals (tooth fillings and implants,) and then buried in a biodegradable casket, which allows for full breakdown in less than a year.

I like that idea. Plant me in the ground with a tree on top. Mme. Ross wants to be turned into a tree too; we can be planted side-by-side, so that we can cross-pollinate for as long as those trees stand.

At the end of the post, I just want to go back to where I came from when I’m all done. Let the living have the Earth.

Where the closest ocean is all in my mind . . .

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