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.

Haiku Today 2015.10.13 —

spinning
(Image credit: Arend Vermazeren)

Earth and I:
lives in parallel,
always spinning

 


I was thinking the other day about this species of tension that people tend to have, between addictions and unmotivated desires; by “people,” of course, I refer to myself. 

But maybe you get what I’m talking about.

There’s stuff I need to do. Things I badly want to get done. Finish the playhouse. Cut back the hedges. Get ready for cold weather. The list is long but the spirit’s not willing. Earlier in the year I had all this motivation and made things happen, but now I feel like my priorities have shifted without observing the courtesy of giving any notice whatsoever. I started to blog again. Started to knit again. Started getting sucked into this fantastic game called Cities: Skylines for hours at a time. Is it the changing of the weather, I wonder? Or did I make the mistake of switching gears too soon? My hands do these things as though they have a mind of their own while the other work languishes.

As the days grow shorter, I find myself spinning more than anything, in the rush to prepare for the coming season. Too much to do, and plenty of time too . . . 

. . . but not nearly enough motivation. 

Spinning around...
(Image credit: Danbo’s World)

Haiku Today 2015.10.08 —

Mist hanging on the trees
(Image credit: Ib Aarmo)

a splendid rise
through obscuring mists —
undefeated

 


 
Have you ever noticed that sometimes there’s a stigmatic backlash whenever the concept of fairness comes up?

This bears mentioning, because in society we have concepts of fairness that are upheld by legislation, regardless: equal opportunity employment, fairness in the workplace, in medicine, in real estate, etc. Whether or not it works is not the issue though, but how sometimes the response to a complaint that something is unfair is that “life is not fair”. Stop being a baby. Suck it up. 

The anticipation of such a backlash can be an obstacle to change, right?

And sometimes, when I feel as though I’ve been treated unfairly, I begin to question myself and my own motivation for feeling that way; maybe I’m missing something. The information I have might be incomplete. Or perhaps I’m just frustrated that something isn’t going my way. 

What’s more is that the farther in the past these things are, the more perspective we gain from their passing from view. We wouldn’t be where we are now if that didn’t happen — so does that change the spin of fairness we ascribe to that event? 

Besides, not getting a fair shake isn’t the worst of life’s evils — things like natural disasters, poverty, famine, perpetual war . . . 

. . . not to mention clowns. 


 
Unfair | The One-Minute Writer

Wicked Witch | The Daily Post

Haiku Today 2015.10.06 —

Mirror to the sky
(Image credit: Alosh Bennett)

my island, home —
mediocre seas
make it grand

 


 
When we used to live near the Capitol in Bismarck, I might have said that the most beautiful place in the neighborhood was the Capitol grounds. The expansive green lawn populated with statues of local heroes and gardens of native flora. The running path I often used. It was a park and a public space where I would go to fly my RC helicopter or play on the lawn with Mme. Ross and Little Miss Laney. 

But when we moved to our new home it was a little different. It’s not that the neighborhood is unsightly in any way, but I just wouldn’t describe any part of it as particularly beautiful. There are really nice houses marked as heritage homes by the historical society and there’s a nice running path behind the high school that never fails to please the eye, but to me there is no place like home; it’s my island. My home base. 

Just like the house I grew up in. Every day started and ended at home, with my family –more or less. 

And though you can’t change the past, you can always change the future because you never know the shape of it until it’s too late to do anything about it. So I make it a priority to make my home everything I had and more. Because it’s not about the bay window in the kitchen and the front and back decks, the swimming pool, the real wood-burning fireplace, the shrubs and trees and the chain link fence. It’s not about the dutch door at the top of the basement stairs or the piano in the basement, unloved and forgotten. 

A family’s home is about family life, and as such my home is a work-in-progress canvas upon which I impose my art. I’m proud of it, and of the work Mme. Ross and I put into shaping it into the most beautiful place in the neighborhood. 

There’s no place like home — after all, that’s where I keep my treasure. 

🙂
 


 

Our House | The Daily Post

Local Beauty | The One-Minute Writer

Haiku Today 2015.10.05 —

Mirror
(Image credit: Moyan Brenn)

fragments of truth,
crashing reflections
never break

 


 

It’s kind of a no-brainer to say that a blog is a personal space, and that as such it should reflect the personality and values of its contributor(s). Rob’s Surf Report is no exception, but it’s been a strange, random sort of evolution. 

I started the blog with the intention of learning and writing about surfing, but life never seems to push me in the right direction when it comes to that. But after rebooting — after months of community interaction, forming the writing habit, spending actual time in considering my desires and goals as they related to my blogging, I decided to stick with the name and to change the philosophy because Rob’s Surf Report had become a different sort of beast. It was more about riding out the waves of day-to -day life, of dealing with the ups and downs, and of finding the takeaway in that daily practice. 

In a way this blog betrays that mid-course change as you might find in some dark corners the vestiges of my original (misguided) intent. But what the blog has become, hopefully, mirrors what I think is my greatest strength (since good looks don’t last forever:) my capacity for reflection, and making connections. For throwing stones, watching the ripples radiate, and then bringing the picture back together in a different light. 

I’m trying to come back to that now, to find ways to do it better, more skillfully — but like any art it requires practice and patience. While the latter is another strength of mine, the former could quite possibly be my undoing. 

It could be better than ever, though. 

I can work toward that. 

🙂


Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall | The Daily Post

Strengths | The One-Minute Writer

Haiku Today 2015.10.01 —

lightning-storm-clouds-lake.jpg
(Image credit: r.nial.bradshaw)

lightning drives,
seeking connection
across worlds

 


Why is it that sometimes the hardest thing about some endeavours is finding the drive to get started in the first place?

We have a billion things to do. Make coffee, clean up, go to work — doing our part in countless ways, and so naturally we have those things that we begin with little effort, but whose completion becomes something of an inconvenience, possibly to the point of falling by the wayside: a half-trimmed hedge that nags at you until it begins using the neighbor’s voice to make itself heard. And yet when there are things that should be quick and easy to do, sometimes we . . .

We hesitate. 

This past Thursday morning it was lightning and rain, so I couldn’t run. That was totally legitimate. Friday it rained. Saturday too. I just won’t run in any rain unless it catches me by surprise. Sunday had me feeling like it was getting ridiculous with all the rain, but Autumn is here and she’s decided to bring the full of her cold, cloudy gloom to our skies. That’s what killed my motivation this weekend. I never got out to the garage. I never got to run. I never found the words.

I noodled around in my vintage-style Flash T-shirt and tried to work up the motivation to throw on my gear and shoot out the door like a bolt of lightning . . .

Instead, I remained static in the cloud of weekend activities.

I’ll do it this morning though, before I get ready for work. I can actually feel the charge of motivation building up.

Isn’t it odd how it’s easier to fit something like that in when you’re supposed to be busy?

Tanka Today 2015.09.30 —

040/365v2 The Incoming Tide
(Image credit: Mark Seton)

washed out
but never washed away —
the tide
inevitably
returns things mislaid

 


 

What do you do when impossible notions intrude upon your peace of mind? 

Like how recently I caught myself thinking, ‘maybe I should admit that I’ve given up on writing and blogging and whatnot, and learn to deal with the fact that I’m not the kind of person that does those things anymore.’ I think this more and more as time slips away while I make no meaningful contribution to the blogosphere, and yet I can’t pull the plug on it because I can’t stop thinking about it — about writing. It’s a silly, presumptuous thing for me to pretend like I have nothing to contribute — in effect hoarding all the little thought-gems that get mined from my mind. It’s selfish and at some point it needs to stop. 

I defy the notion that I’m a non-writer who obsesses about writing and lets the fact that he’s not writing eat away at him and his fingernails.

I’m always so preoccupied, so heavyset with goals and plans and to-dos that it’s ridiculous to think that I keep forgetting to bring a notepad with me to write down the little seeds that become ideas, leaving me wondering, “what’s the big idea?”

I think the Summer came and ran away with me!

Some of the things I have planned involve finishing the playhouse I built for my daughter before it decides to snow, slinging the kayaks to the garage wall for the winter so we can use the garage loft for storing rummage sale boxes, fixing the little hole in the roof of my Jeep so water doesn’t leak in when it rains (for now I have duct tape on it,) and building a ramp for my barbecue grill so it’s not such a pain to get from the garage to the patio about a dozen feet away — because of two stairs, it must either be lifted/lowered or wheeled around the entire house!

Another thing I’d like to do is build a rack for the kayaks that would attach to a small trailer, but first I would have to learn how to weld. So at work I’ve tried using my charm and chutzpah — not to mention putting my reputation for good work out there — in an effort to get transferred into the weld department; so far, though, I’ve gotten nowhere with that. It’s not as though I want to learn to weld for just the one project, but I’ve been interested in welding for a long time. I’m a fabricator, after all, and welding is a fabrication skill — one of the few that I don’t have under my belt. 

So for now, it’s just a plan. Between now and then if I find myself washed back out to sea and washed up on some foreign shore, or even swirling around in the Pacific Garbage Patch, there’s sure to be some adventure to find, some trouble to get into; I may be at the mercy of the tides, but I’ll be damned if I won’t find a story to tell now and again. 


Lazy Learners | The Daily Post

Haiku Today 2015.06.15 —

ALT-TEXT
(Copyright © 2015, Robert W. Ross CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

a boiling page,
we etch our spells onto
the dreaming sky

 


Suddenly we are in a frenzy to find a good deal on a pair of kayaks. How did we get to this? Mme. Ross and I said last autumn that it would be cool to try kayaking together this year, to take on the swift Missouri River in a pair of plastic boats with a single paddle apiece, and only a life jacket to ensure our safety. 

This past weekend we went to Harmon Lake, a man-made body about eight miles north of our town. There we were able to rent a couple of stand-up paddleboards (a.k.a. SUP) for an hour and we spent some good time paddling around the lake with Little Miss sitting on one or the other, trying to help paddle with her hands. I found I was able to stand on this calm water with relative ease, and I decided that I was hooked on this. I’m not a big “let’s go swimming!” kind of guy because I really think it’s boring, but I really like the exploratory feel of getting out on a craft and physically guiding it. Mastering the mechanics of paddling, steering, and turning. Standing up and knowing that I can be seen standing on a board after failing to do so when surfing last summer (which is not at all uncommon.)

Mme. Ross was also hooked. After we pulled back in at the beach she asked to try out a kayak, and we paddled back out, I on a board and her in a green kayak. 

Now we’re looking to make water sports our “thing” this Summer, and in years to come. The equipment will likely pay for itself versus the rental fees, and it just so happens that we have a spare car we will gladly sell to help finance this adventure. It’s almost like the Universe wants us to do it. 

Are you having your Summer adventures yet? I’d love to hear about them in the comments . . . 

now get out there and explore.  

🙂

Meta

He ran.

Not rushing . . . an easy trot.

From the flower cart he snagged a rose, tucking three dollars under the corner of the lady’s till. She only felt the wind from his passing.

He could run faster. He had somewhere to be, but showing up late was good cover. He just wanted . . .

not a rose, but an Iris–

. . . to leave a little something to brighten her day.

He swung by the News and left the flower on her keyboard, being careful not to cause a whirlwind of loose paper as he streaked in and out again.

Nobody saw him.


This 99-word Flash fiction is my response to Carrot Ranch Communications’ Flash Fiction Challenge:

June 3, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a rose. It can be straight-forward, romantic, funny. What is your rose today and what is its story? Who craves the rose or shrinks away? Why? Let the prompt fully bloom in your imagination.

“Help Not Wanted” — Rob’s Sunday Soliloquy

Have you ever considered that a robot might be doing your job some day?

How about your spouse’s job, or your parent’s job? What if only 1 in 100 were employed? Or 1 in 1000?

This morning I woke up to find a Planet Money podcast waiting for me on my phone. It’s called This is the End. Planet Money tends to clock in around fifteen minutes, so I cranked it up and set about making coffee. They’re talking about how jobs are going away in successive recessions and not coming back, because at the end of that recession the businesses that had to downsize for the recession is able to recover their lost productivity through automation. They begin to explore the idea of what a jobless future will look like.

I listen, I process – jobless automatically means poor, right? Because you need a job to earn money and buy at least the stuff you need to survive.

I imagine.

I can’t imagine, however, a future of widespread, abject poverty. There must be, I thought, some way for people to make money. For one thing, there’s no way a person would allow all of their friends and family to starve, or to go homeless and be beaten to death by the elements. In a way, it reminds me of my mother’s response back before the year 2000, when I told her about the government’s program to phase out analog television in favor of digital, and how we’re going to have to purchase a box for every old-style television we have that we want to watch our shows on: she said, “there’s no way they’re going to do that. They can’t do that. There would be riots in the street.”

cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0&...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But there were no riots; digital TV took over without much fanfare. Sure, there might be a few analog channels yet, but the technology phased us away from the old paradigm, and now we find ourselves in this future where we really aren’t all that worried about it. We watch our shows – perhaps some of us not as obsessively as we used to, but I like to think of that as “growing up and getting in step with the real world” – and the idea of rioting doesn’t even enter my mind.

I do, however, remember a certain amount of disgust over my inability to pick up digital signals no matter where I was. The television industry had failed to provide a viable replacement for analog TV, but at that point I felt like the point was moot anyway; I already had access to much better content, because guess what? Netflix had started this streaming video service that actually worked pretty well. In seamless fashion, our “revolutionary” snail-mail DVD rental service stepped in right when a lot of us needed them, and we haven’t looked back since.

So who or what is going to step in for employment?

One of Planet Money’s guests for today’s show is Andrew McAfee. He’s an associate director at MIT who studies how information technology affects business. They asked him how this jobless future might work, and what it would look like, and guess what?

He said it makes his head hurts to think about it.

No kidding, right?

Forty years out in this “ridiculously abundant economy” McAfee says that “[w]e’re going to be freed from want and from privation. . . . However, in that economy do we have prices? Do we have money? If so, how do you get that money, because you don’t really have a job in that economy; there aren’t very many of what we used to consider jobs, and that was the way we distributed the money you could use to buy things, and that system . . . works really, really, well.”

That’s when it hit me: we’re all going to be Muppets.

Bear with me for a moment here.

When you strip it down to the studs the only way to “make” money is to create value for someone else, or by extension, for society at large. When we create value, the money seems to roll in all by itself because we’re used to performing and they’re used to paying for it . . . so what’s left when a massive paradigm shift has taken that assumption and turned it on its head?

I have an idea – how about we go wherever we want and do something we enjoy?

I know it all sounds kind of pie-in-the-sky, but this seems like it could be the Star Trek future coming at us fairly fast: an abundant economy, no want or privation, i.e. no real need for money. So why worry about money?

Ding!

It’s like the old TV, we don’t need it anymore so just let it go.

Money? Psht! What’s that?

So what do you do?

The answer to that is, you live your life the way you want. In a future where the work is taken care of and there’s no need to provide the basic needs for yourself or your family, you’re free to pursue the things that interest you. Every person will find their talent and fit in where they can do the most good, not because they’re forced to by the economic model of the day, but because they want to, and eventually because that’s what they love to do. This transcends doing right by the family, and instead places the individual in a position of responsibility to the society as a whole.

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

Because of this, people will probably still entertain. People will probably still write and create art, and they will certainly explore worlds without and within. They’ll research, study, and innovate. They will push the boundaries of science and philosophy ever outward, because we love to do that. We were made for that. We’re insatiable for it. The people of the future will, in fact, create value by being good and happy citizens who have the leisure to make society a better place by just . . . having fun.

I know it’s hard to imagine, but it’s a lot easier to believe than thinking that in a world where robots do all of our work, we’re left out in the cold to suffer with scant means; because that would be a world torn apart by war – a neo-luddite war against the machines and the corporate oligarchy that use them to displace the masses: those who will stop at nothing to tear the whole system apart and build a new world where they will be free to do it all over again.

That might make an interesting movie, however.

Of course the world of the future will look alien and outlandish to us – do you think our parents at our age even dreamed that we would have the things we have today – the cell phones, the Internet, driverless cars? In that light, some skepticism on the part of pretty much everyone is understandable when someone says that someday we will be largely unemployed and yet everyone will be happy and money will truly be no object.

It’s like saying we’ll have tigers for pets and they won’t eat us alive.

But then again, why should they?


This is the End | Planet Money

If you like audio drama, I also highly recommend listening to The Last Job, an audio play by the PRX podcast The Truth, in collaboration with Planet Money.

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

%d bloggers like this: