Favorites Of January, 2018

I’ve compiled my favorite photos from January in a YouTube video.


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References To MLK – The Good and The Ugly

The Good

Lyrics from the MLK Song:

Well it really doesn’t matter most of the deeds I’ve done
It really doesn’t matter the prizes I may have won
I’d like for somebody to say I tried to love someone
When I have to meet my day

In the crawl for justice
I helped somebody run
In the walk for the hungry
I fed someone
And in the march for peace
Tell them I played the drum

Mavis Staples gives the lyrics much greater emotional impact.

Buddy Guy takes the lead on “Skin Deep“, a song in similar vein produced by Playing For Change.  He’s joined by more than 50 other musicians spread across the U.S. in this song that tells us that “Underneath We Are All the Same.”  The video starts with a quote from Martin Luther King.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness.

Only light can do that.

The Ugly

This is very, very ugly.  Dodge Ram Trucks using an inspirational, Martin Luther King speech to sell trucks in a Super Bowl commercial.  What’s next, using the Sermon on the Mount to sell mini-vans?

Listen to it here and try to ignore the commercial bits.  The speech is uplifting:  Dodge Ram Superbowl Commercial



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Different Perspectives

Different perspectives – same flower, a gerbera daisy.






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I’m Fine

Image result for griot bluesA common bit of dialogue in the English-speaking world:

Hey, Joe, how are you?

I’m fine, thanks,  What about you?

I’m fine too.

Now that the two have gotten the preliminaries out of the way, they can proceed to having a good talk.

I’ve lately been trying to find another way to answer the question “How are you?”; some version of which is heard in just about every meeting of two people.  If I took the time to answer the question truthfully it would take twenty minutes and be boring and depressing.  Does anyone actually want to know the truth?  My niece says she does.

My most recent ploy is to use phrases borrowed from song lyrics.  Here are the two phrases I’ve tried thus far.

The first is from Drunk As a Skunk ¹ off the album Griot Blues by Mighty Mo Rogers and Baba Sissoko.  The song starts with a one-sided conversation between Baba and Mo, then poses an eternal question, “I’m in love and what can I do?”  Another good line spoken by Mo just before the end of the song:  “She’s breakin’ my heart, but it’s a good break.”  The line I’ve tried to use when asked how I am is:

If it gets any worse, I’ll be in a hearse.

This hasn’t worked so well.  It just invites more questions, and I quickly have to admit that I’m not serious, and that I just wanted to use the lyric in a conversation.

The second line is from Ghost Woman Blues ² from the album Smart Flesh by The Low Anthem.

I ain’t no lamp, but my wick is burning low.

This also doesn’t work so well.  It just causes worry on the part of the other person and a desire to know more about why I’m so down; not to mention tons of advice on what I should do to fight off my black dogs of depression and insomnia.

I think I need to look for some lyrics that are more upbeat.  Maybe something from The Sound Of Music.  Someone asks me how I am and I reply

The hills are alive with the sound of music.

I can try it but somehow I don’t think it will work.



¹ Listen to the song here:  Drunk As a Skunk

² Listen to the song here:  Ghost Woman Blues




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Airplane By Jackson

Today I’m featuring a guest artist.  This is indeed very fine art:  wonderful use of color and a fine composition.  Abstract realism.  (The artist is my nephew Jackson.)

Airplane By Jackson







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Favorites of December, 2017

I’ve compiled my favorite photos from December in a video that is available on YouTube.



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Eighteen Percent

Frightful Five

Amazon just sent me, “a valued member of Amazon Prime”, an e-mail telling me they are raising the price for Prime from $10.99 to $12.99.  Two dollars a month doesn’t seem like much, but it’s an 18% increase.  How does Amazon justify an 18% increase when inflation has been negligible for years and Amazon has been raking in the profits?  Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is now the richest person in the world.  Money Magazine estimates his net worth at a paltry $90.6 billion.

Amazon is one of the so-called Frightful Five along with Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft.  Farhad Manjoo writes about

. . . the core of the Frightful Five’s indomitability. They have each built several enormous technologies that are central to just about everything we do with computers. In tech jargon, they own many of the world’s most valuable “platforms” — the basic building blocks on which every other business, even would-be competitors, depend.

These platforms are inescapable; you may opt out of one or two of them, but together, they form a gilded mesh blanketing the entire economy.

So why is [many expletives deleted] Amazon demanding from me, just an old schmuck on a fixed income, an extra two dollars a month?

Should I cancel or just roll over in a submissive posture and accept the increase?

Any reasonably coherent answers will be appreciated.

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Beautiful Music, Beautiful Places

The first beautiful place is next to a glacier in the Arctic, with beautiful music done by Ludovico Einaudi.  The video was put together by Greenpeace and voicesforthearctic.org.  Notice how Ludovico gasps  in surprise at the beginning of the video when startled by falling ice .  No trick photography in this video – He is there.

Then there is Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia.  2CELLOS, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, perform a Mumford & Sons song.


Enjoy this beautiful music and then do everything you can to help protect the wonderful places on our beautiful planet, the only one we’ve got.

Countries, societies, people all over the world want to value, treasure, and protect our beautiful, natural places whether in the Arctic, a National Park in Croatia, or Bears Ears National Monument in Utah .  We in the United States have a president and an administration that do not share these values.  They want to remove protections so that our natural heritage can be exploited for financial gain by a few grasping individuals and corporations.  Don’t let them steal what is ours.

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Favorites Of November, 2017

I’ve compiled my favorite photos from November in a video that is available on YouTube.

Best Of November, 2017



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Portrait Of the Artist As a Frozen Man

Sorry, this isn’t about the Disney movie, it’s about my day out in the cold working on my project to photograph the Chippewa River from source to end.  It was cold: 2° F with a wind chill of -10°.  I was not uncomfortable because I dressed for the weather.  (I recently purchased what I suspect was the last pair of XXL long johns in Stillwater.  I admit my outfit was not very fashionable, but it worked.)  The only problem was my hands.  I had to take off my choppers to take photos.  In areas exposed to the wind, I could only manage two or three shots until my hands became too numb to operate the camera.

When I stood still, all I could hear was the wind hissing through the dry grass and the river ice occasionally booming and popping.   When I walked, I heard the fresh snow squeaking beneath my boots and the old, frozen boards of the bridge deck creaking and snapping under my weight.  I didn’t see another soul all afternoon.





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Give God the Blues

Some of the lyrics from the song “Give God the Blues” by Shawn Mullins off the album Mercyland:  Hymns For the Rest Of Us.

God don’t hate the Muslims
God don’t hate the Jews
God don’t hate the Christians
But we all give God the blues

God don’t hate the atheists
The Buddhists or the Hindus
God loves everybody
But we all give God the blues

God ain’t no Republican
He ain’t no Democrat
He ain’t even Independent
God’s above all that

Bigger than religion
He’s got a better plan
The sign says, “God’s gone fishing
For the soul of every man”

God don’t hate the Muslims
God don’t hate the Jews
God don’t hate the Christians
But we all give God the blues

And God don’t hate the atheists
The Buddhists or the Hindus
God loves everybody
But we all give God the blues


The entire Mercyland album is well worth checking out.  It’s a compilation with various artists:  Emmy Lou Harris, The Civil Wars, The North Mississippi Allstars, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and others, all providing hymns a bit different from those you hear in church.



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What a Beautiful World This Is

A Beautiful World


I’ve been swamped in pessimism lately; pessimism that threatens to become cynicism.  The problem is that I don’t want to be either a pessimist or a cynic, but I thought that all the evidence I was seeing or hearing about the world today suggested that pessimism was justified.  Is it?  Even if it is justified, would it be possible to somehow escape the clutches of pessimism?

I talked to my good friend Nick, the potter and bartender.  He wisely pointed out that pessimism leads nowhere and produces nothing except despair.  He helped me realize that even though intellectually I was wallowing in pessimism, I’m living as if I were an optimist – doing new things, seeking new challenges, always trying to develop my skills and educate myself.

Then, I stumbled across three things this morning.

First was Andrew Sullivan’s weekly long read in the New York magazine, “Trump’s First Year Has Been a Disaster. Here’s Why I Have Hope.”  Sullivan points out that “so many . . . indicators in the world are remarkably good right now.”

In a similar vein, Kevin Drum, who blogs for Mother Jones, posted this morning:  “I’m Just a Big Ol’ Optimist About the Future of America Under Donald Trump.”  Kevin starts

I’ve been meaning to weigh in on the latest raft of pieces about the decline of American democracy, the decline of Western liberalism, the decline of globalism, and the decline of everything else in the era of Trump. In a nutshell, I’m far more optimistic than most of the people writing about this. Unfortunately, I haven’t really thought the whole thing through rigorously enough to make a little essay out of it.

Actually, you might consider that good news. However, I do want to lay down a few markers. Here they are:

Read both these articles for welcome counterbalance to the doom and gloom in much of today’s news.  (Note that neither article is by a Trump or Republican loyalist.)

My other stumble this morning was on YouTube where I stumbled on The Artist Series, videos produced by The Art of Photography.  They are each about fifteen minutes long and are interviews with outstanding photographers.  I watched the one with Keith Carter.  Carter talks about the death of his wife at the end of an illness.  Her last words after looking out the window of their home from her death-bed were “What a Beautiful World This Is.”

After watching that video, how can one possibly remain a pessimist, much less a cynic?


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2018: Waiting For a Change

Happy New Year 2018

First, check out these songs:

A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke

Waiting On the World To Change – John Mayer

People Get Ready – The Impressions

The Times They Are a Changin’ – a Dylan song beautifully sung by Tracy Chapman

then consider:

Care more for what you do than what you have

Love not hate

Respect all other human beings, no qualifications

Nurture our planet, its air, water, soil, plants, and all its inhabitants

Observe the Golden Rule; it works

Change is gonna come from each one of us.  As Red Green would say, “We’re all in this together.”  Stay positive and keep the faith.

Happy New Year and best wishes to all during 2018.

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Left Hand Turns

A few years ago I took a photo of two, left-hand-turn signs in a field of fresh snow against a cloudless blue sky.  It’s one of my favorite photos.  In the intervening years, left-hand-turn signs have continued to grab my attention until now I have a small gallery of such photos.

No Left Turn



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A Dark Wood

The day before yesterday I finished “In a Dark, Dark Wood”, the scary thriller by Ruth Ware*.  Yesterday I unexpectedly found myself in a dark wood.

My hike took longer than expected, and I forgot that daylight savings time ended recently.  It gets dark very early these days.

So I’m trudging through a dark wood.  There is absolutely no wind, and no creatures are stirring, not even a mouse.  They have all gone south or into hibernation for the winter or have bedded down for the evening.  I can hear a jet far up in the sky but nothing else.  It’s actually a beautiful evening.  More than once I stop to enjoy the quiet and the beauty of the color left behind by the setting sun, color that shows brightly in the crisp, clear evening air.

I was in the Dunnville Bottoms in the floodplain of the Chippewa River in Western Wisconsin.  Here are some scenes from the dark, dark woods in the bottoms, mostly oak forests with many old, gnarly, spooky oaks.



I thought the book was neither scary nor thrilling, just an average, somewhat entertaining who-done-it.



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Gloomy Weather

A paraphrase:

There´s no sun up in the sky
Gloomy weather
Since my gal and I ain´t together
Keeps raining all of the time
Oh, yeah
Gloom and misery everywhere
Gloomy weather, gloomy weather*
Expert photographers advise when the weather is gloomy, make gloomy photographs.  Here are some from the last few days.  (PS., it’s finally sunny today, cold but sunny.  There are high thin clouds so the sun is not strong, but a weak sun is better than no sun at all.)


* Lyrics from Stormy Weather written in 1933 by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler and since covered many, many times.

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Favorites Of October, 2017

I’ve compiled my favorite photos from September in a video that is available on YouTube.

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It’s Not Supposed to Snow!

It was only October 27th, just a few weeks after the fall equinox, but it started snowing as I sat at my kitchen table eating breakfast.  I’m usually in a torpor at that time of the morning, but when, after a half hour, the scene outside my windows looked like the scene in the photo below, I decided I had to get out with my camera.  The results are farther down.  I only got slightly soaked.  It was heavy, wet snow, windy and cold, but I had fun which was my objective.

Outside My Window


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Aging Disgracefully

St. Croix Islands Wildlife Preserve

Who wants to age gracefully?  Not me.  Old folks just wanna’ have fun.

I sure do, but my doctor suggests that I have morning depression.*  That means I feel wretched in the morning, but if I’m lucky I’ll perk up later in the day.  By the time bedtime rolls around, just like a toddler I don’t want to go to bed; I want to stay up late.

When I woke up this morning, I “was stiff and sore and grumpy.  It felt as though rigor mortis was getting an early start on me.  Sleeping for eight hours is enough to make anything go numb.  Anything that still had feeling to begin with.  Worse yet, there was not a drop of Diet Coke to be found anywhere.  I needed to pee again.   I’m old and have a bladder the size of a lima bean.  Don’t get old.  If Peter Pan shows up, just go.”**

So what do I do in the morning?  I’m not sure I remember.  I know I eat breakfast and check the latest news on the internet.  (Tip for morning depressives:  Never read the latest news in the morning.  You will end up with absolutely no hope.  I of course always read the news in the morning.)

My doctor prescribed light therapy.  I got a light box a few days ago, but it still sits unopened in the box it came in.  I’m too depressed in the morning to open the box much less set up the light.  I’ll do it some night when I am more energetic and haven’t drunk too much beer.

I’ll finish this wretched post by quoting two of my heroes who I’ve quoted before and will likely quote again.

What?  Me worry.    – Alfred E. Newman

Keep on truckin’        – R. Crumb

* In case you were wondering, morning depression (not to be confused with morning sickness or associated with pregnancy, something I’m not likely to experience, being sixty-nine years old and the wrong gender ) is also known as diurnal depression, diurnal variation of depressive symptoms or diurnal mood variation.  I’ll stick with morning depression.

** All quotes are by Sheldon Horowitz, the eighty-two year old protagonist of the novel Norwegian By Night.  I’ve slightly altered the quote to be in first-person and the appropriate tense.



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Advice In Unexpected Places

Thank You For Being Late

Thomas Friedman’s recent book, Thank You For Being Late, is in the Globalization/Political Economy genre according the the ISBN code sticker on the back of the book.  One usually doesn’t look in such books for suggestions about creativity, but that is what I found in the first chapter, also titled Thank You For Being Late.

Creativity involves having ideas and then doing something with them whether you turn those ideas into – in Friedman’s case, a column in the New York Times,  or in my case a photograph.  Friedman says

. . . a column idea [or an idea for a photograph] can spring from anywhere:  a newspaper headline that strikes you as odd, a simple gesture by a stranger, the moving speech of a leader, the naive question of a child, the cruelty of a school shooter, the wrenching tale of a refugee.  Everything and anything is raw fodder for creating heat or light.

How can one nurture the ability to recognize ideas when they appear?

. . . you have to be constantly reporting and learning – more so today that ever.  Anyone who falls back on tried-and-true formulae or dogmatisms in a world changing this fast is asking for trouble.  Indeed, as the world becomes more interdependent and complex, it becomes more vital than ever to widen your aperture and to synthesize more perspectives.

Friedman paraphrases and then quotes Lin Wells of the National Defense University.

. . . it is fanciful to suppose that you can opine about or explain this world by clinging to the inside or outside of any one rigid explanatory box or any single disciplinary silo.  Wells describes three ways of thinking about a problem:  “inside the box”, “outside the box,”, and “where there is no box.”  The only sustainable approach to thinking today about problems, he argues, “is thinking without a box”.

Friedman continues:

. . . it means having no limits on your curiosity or the different disciplines you might draw on to appreciate how [the world] works.  [A person needs to be] radically inclusive.

As a photographer, thinking without a box means not being constrained by accepted norms of beauty or of what makes a compelling photograph.  It means not being constrained by the rules that are trotted out by the experts who then tell us to freely ignore them.  It means not being overly influenced by the latest hot stuff on Instagram or what is winning contests on ViewBug.  It means shooting from the heart.  As Friedman says, “What doesn’t come from the heart will never enter someone  else’s heart.

For me it means walking down an alley behind the stores that present their trendy, polished facades to the main street.  In the alley is where you find the unexpected and serendipitous examples of unexpected beauty.  Below are recent examples of beauty I found in alleys.

Side View Of Galloway Grill

Galloway Grill – Side View







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Sundown On the Chippewa

Yesterday around sunset I was at what I consider the most beautiful vantage point on the Chippewa River, or at least it was last night.

Panorama From the North Bank Facing South

I was also on the exposed bedrock along the river near Jim Falls, Wisconsin.  The river has carved out numerous potholes.  I went there yesterday to photograph the potholes.






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Favorites of September, 2017

I’ve compiled my favorite photos from September in a video that is available on YouTube.

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Beethoven Envy

Image result for beethovenYes, I envy Beethoven; not his creative genius or ability to write beautiful, awe-inspiring music.  I envy his ability to sleep.  Beethoven actually complained about sleeping too much:

 Tell me nothing of rest. I know none but sleep, and woe is me that I must give up more to it than usual. *

For those of us to whom a good night of sleep is no more than an elusive hope, it is impossible not to envy Beethoven.  Looking at Beethoven’s lifestyle gives some ideas about achieving such sound sleep:

He sustains this strength of his by means of vigorous ablutions with cold water, a scrupulous regard for personal cleanliness, and daily walks immediately after the midday meal, walks that lasted the entire afternoon and often extended into the night; then a sleep so sound and long that he thanklessly complained against it! His way of living is substantial but simple. Nothing to excess; he is no glutton, no drinker (in the evil sense of the word) as some have wrongfully described him. **

I think I’ll try walking all afternoon and see if that helps my sleep.  Ha!  I’m lucky these days to walk for a couple hours.  I bet Beethoven didn’t have to pursue an endless search for a mattress that didn’t cause nightly agony in one’s back and hips.  I feel more like the princess who encountered the pea than I do Beethoven.  The doctors tell me that exercise will not worsen any of my nagging afflictions and is more likely to improve my life.  I’ll keep Beethoven in mind when I walk today and keep trying to be more active.  Hopefully, as I become more active I’ll sleep better.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to envy the great Beethoven and just keep trying to be myself.

Related image


* From Brainpickings 

** Romain Rolland, Beethoven’s biographer, as quoted in Brainpickings

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Cow In the River

There's a cow in the river.
Having a drink I suppose.
It would be pleasant,
standing in the river and having a drink,
instead of being on this old, rusty bridge.

The river is actually Verdigre Creek just before it flows into the Niobrara River in northern Nebraska.  The bridge is the 885 Road bridge.




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Old Omaha

I spent the afternoon wandering around The Old Market in Omaha, Nebraska, camera in hand.  I ended up the day with some sunset photos on the railroad tracks in Columbus, Nebraska.  Here are the best shots of the day.

In Omaha

In Columbus

Sunset Over the Railroad Tracks

Clouds Above the Elevator


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Ghosts Of the Photographer

Ghosts Of the Photographer

The Photographer And His Ghosts


Ghosts Of My Niece

Malena’s Ghosts


The Photographer Hard At Work

The Photographer Hard At Work On the Chippewa River


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Experimenting With Flowers

Yellow and Blue

I’ve been experimenting with new things to do with photos of flowers.  Here are some of the results of my experiments.



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Stumbling Through the Corn

I went out yesterday to photograph the Chippewa River in Wisconsin.  I was distracted by the corn fields growing in the bottomlands of the river.  Here are some corn field photos, taken either in the field or on the edge of the field.


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Good Words

Sometimes, good words are found in unexpected places.  Yesterday, I twice and unexpectedly heard (saw) life lessons.  The first time was while watching Series 1, Episode 2 of Endeavour, the BBC program about a young Inspector Morse.  At the end of the episode, Detective Inspector Thursday offers Detective Constable Morse advice about music.

Go home.  Put your best record on loud as it will play, and with every note you remember that’s something that the darkness couldn’t take from you.

Later that day I walked past Valley Bookseller here in Stillwater.  A bright yellow poster in the window advised me to




Snack Nap Read

When I got home, that’s just what I did.

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A Week’s Worth

I made two day trips this week, one to explore the East Fork Of the Chippewa River in Wisconsin, the other a drive through the rolling hills southeast of Independence in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin.

Trempealeau County

East Fork Of the Chippewa River and Things Found Along the Way

One Shot From a Stillwater Parking Lot

Transmission Towers

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Poetry and 1950s Music

I’ve never been interested in poetry, so I surprised myself recently by registering for a workshop for beginning poets.  Imagine me writing a poem.  As things turned out, I dropped out after the first day.   I am however, still thinking about poetry.  I’m not giving up on it just yet for a number of reasons.

My good friend Nick whose judgement and taste I respect values poetry and recently loaned me books by three of his favorite poets.  One of the three is Charles Bukowski.  I like some of his poems.

Chapter 3 in The Immortal Irishman, a biography of Thomas Francis Meagher,  is titled Poetry In Action.  It begins with reference to a poem that set Ireland afire during the potato famine in the 1840s.  This was for me a demonstration of the power of poetry.

It was poetry, the bend of words to frame a cause, that lifted Ireland from its gloom in the last good months before catastrophe [the potato famine].  Thomas Davis, educated at Trinity; the Protestant son of a British army surgeon, came forth with a burst of verse that roused a generation. . . . In a country where most peasants were illiterate, the poetry of Tom Davis spread by word of mouth – stanzas repeated on a sheep path or a loading dock.

. . . Meagher grew infatuated with this rarest kind of subversive:  a poet with power.

Yesterday’s Brain Pickings Newsletter had a post about fear of poetry for which there is actually a term:

Metrophobia, or the fear of poetry, is surprisingly common. Many people first develop this phobia in school, when overzealous teachers encourage them to rank poems according to artificial scales, break them down, and search for esoteric meanings. [definition from Verywell.com]

The post say this:

But meditation is somewhat like poetry — a lamentable number of many people hold a stubborn resistance to it, a resistance that “has the qualities of fear,” borne out of a certain impatience with learning a new mode of being that doesn’t come easily but, when it comes, brings tremendous and transcendent satisfaction.”

I am skeptical that poetry will ever bring me such satisfaction, maybe some, but I’ve never encountered anything that is tremendous and transcendent, and I doubt that I ever will.  In the same way that I’ve never had epiphanies or road-to-Damascus moments.  Again, I doubt that I ever will.  Whatever changes or improvements or insights I’ve had have come slowly over years or decades as a result of experience, perseverance, stumbling and getting up again and moving forward and getting hopefully a bit further down the road before stumbling again which I certainly will do.  On the brighter side, I know that I will always get up from my stumbles until that final big one.  I’ll always get up to appreciate the moment, the day, the summer, a thunder-storm, a little taste of the summer, music (I’m listening to Greg Brown singing about his Grandma canning a bit of the summer).  Being able to write this entry.  Being able to listen to great music right now (Zambesi, a great instrumental from the 1950s done by Lou Bush who I had never heard of until I stumbled on this song, a cheery song.)  Being able to look forward to today, tomorrow, next week, my trip to Madeline Island in a month.  (Another instrumental, Skookian, Perez Prado, another fine, cheery song from the 1950s)  This can of La Croix sparkling water that I just popped – Blackberry Cucumber.

So I guess I’ll at least continue to read Bukowski although it’s hard for me to read even his poems for much more than ten minutes at a time; probably better than nothing.  Before I started this entry, I watched a short video on meditation that stated that the research shows that its benefits come with only five to ten minutes of meditation a day.  Five to ten minutes of poetry will at least keep me in the poet’s game.  (Stranger On the Shore, Acker Bilk, the song that got me going down this road of searching for 1950s instrumentals.  I heard the song as part of a sound track, recognized it as a song I love, and then promptly forgot its name and the name “Acker Bilk”.  I succeeded in finding the name through research which led me to a half-dozen other 1950s instrumentals worth a listen.)

How Much Is That Doggie

I started to look at Billboard Top-100 lists from around 1958.  There didn’t seem to be any earlier than that on the Billboard website.  I see now why rock-and-roll arrived with such force and was able to take over the popular music world and shove the old music aside.  The hits of the fifties, the best sellers, are a soup of unbroken insipidity, cute sometimes likable music that stirs nothing in the soul.  It’s easy to see why my generation preferred listening to rock over songs about doggies in the window and the like.


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