Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Crosswalks & Goat-paths

One thing about traveling is you meet a lot of people. That's true of life in general I guess, but the difference with traveling is you never see most of them again. Add any kind of a team or class context to your travels, throw in some adverse situations, and you end up with a lot of people that you feel like you know and that you will probably never see again. Of course, you don't know them in the context of their own lives or communities, so it's not really the same as never seeing a longtime friend again, but it's still enough to make you think sometimes.

Occasionally though, you do get the chance to reconnect with somebody, and that's always a neat experience. Yesterday I got that chance when a family from my church graciously let me hitch a ride to Toronto, Canada with them. A couple months ago when I'd said I was interested in going to TO, one, because I'd never been there, and two, because a guy who'd been on the team I hiked half the LMT with lived there, they'd invited me to go along on their next trip. So it was that yesterday I was walking around with Adam, who'd I'd hiked 200 kilometers of mountains with and then never seen again.

Of course, this time we were on the streets and crosswalks of downtown Toronto instead the goat-paths of the Lebanon-Syria border. And instead of trying to keep up with our slightly over-enthusiastic guide as we slid down gorges and forded streams, Adam was showing me around his old stomping grounds from college. And instead of the unforgiving Middle-Eastern sun beating down on us at 2000m elevation, it was chilly and so cloudy that I didn't see the top of the skyscrapers we were walking around the bases of. So the context was a little different, but then it always is really. What matters is it was one of those anomalies in the pattern where you do cross paths with somebody again. And like I said, that's always cool.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Summer Nights

Last night I was just getting out of the shower when the door to the garage I live in opened. It was my brother, asking, 1. if I'd heard the coyote in the woods below our house, and 2. if I wanted to go try to kill it.

So five minutes later––the five minutes being spent becoming partially clothed, finding a flashlight, and loading shells into a 12 gauge shotgun––I was off marching across the field lit by the moon and the chaotically swinging beams of flashlights held against shotgun stocks in pursuit of an eerie howling sound.

The last few nights have been uncomfortably hot and muggy, and by the time we'd gone down the length of the briar-filled power line that cuts through our woods and ended up in the swamp at the bottom of the hill, I was feeling like I needed another shower. Neosporin, insect repellent, and some bandages would have been nice too––but a shower covers many sins.

We never got the Coyote. I never even saw it, though my brother claims he did for a second in the swamp. It was fun though. There's something about nights this time of year in this part of the world that is fun. Maybe it's just that it's been so cold and so dark for so long that you forget what it's like not to have to be inside at night.

This evening was similar––in spirit if not in form. It was the beginning of the much awaited (by a few people) Glass Fest in Corning, and also the last 2300 party at the Corning Museum of Glass for the year. I'd only started attending them this winter, as it was the first winter in three years I hadn't been in Tennessee or somewhere else. And always, it was dark out when it finished up. This evening though, when the band played their final song and we dropped our glasses at the bar and hurried to the parking lot ahead of the crowd, it was still broad day light.

It's really amazing what a difference that makes in the mind. My mind at least. It seems like today, with everything we have and most of our mental lives taking place on phones or computers or in books that something like warmer temperatures or the brightness of the sun wouldn't change how we feel that much. But somehow it does. And the night didn't end when a month ago it would have.

Maybe this is all just the product of being back in the "north" for the first full year in a long time. I know I haven't felt like this in awhile. But I also seem to remember feeling like it a long time ago, back when here was the only place I'd ever lived. So maybe there's something more to it. And maybe it's an obvious 'duh' thing and it's stupid for me to write a post wondering about it.

But there really is something different about nights in the summer. And I like it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Yesterday on my way to work I passed that soggy La-Z-Boy at the state line that I mentioned in my last post and thought that I should take a photo of it for the benefit of "my readers" or something pretentious like that. Since I was already past it and in the wrong lane though, I decided that rather than causing a high-speed traffic accident I'd wait till I was on my way home. So that evening, as I pulled off Sagetown Road onto 328 South, I disconnected my iPhone from the cassette deck, toggled on the camera app, rolled down the passenger window, and prepared to take a drive-by photo of the offending piece of furniture. But as I approached the speed trap where it had been sitting for the past week––up to that very morning––I was hit with a confounding realization: The soggy La-Z-Boy was gone.

This afternoon I went for a run up Coryland Road––right past Coryland Park and our deceased porcine friend who I mentioned a couple weeks ago. I can happily report that he is indeed still there, if slightly more bedraggled in appearance.

I have yet to figure out if his presence there has anything to do with the gigantic remotely owned Pine Hill Pig Farm that blights the side of Coryland Hill, destroys the road, and occasionally turns my runs into choking, vomiteous, life-threatening affairs when their manure trucks are out spin-spreading fecal matter all over the township, as they have been for the last week.

I made an interesting discovery about those manure trucks today: My jogging pace up the steepest point of Coryland Hill is embarrassingly close to their big-rigs when they take off with a full load. That makes for a rather awkward mile when we start uphill at the same time. If I didn't cut my pace, we would have just passed each other again and again until we reached Coryland Church at the top of the Hill and the ground levels out.

It seems that there's a bit of a storm brewing with Coryland Church. At least that's what it sounded like when one of my grandpas burst into our house yesterday.

"There's been chicanery!" he declared. I'm not entirely sure what that word means, or if I should be publishing it on my blog, but it seemed apt.

Now, this grandpa is far from the churchiest person in our family. In fact, I think he wouldn't be caught dead in one (quite literally). However, he does have a very strong and involved interest in protecting the sanctity and integrity of the old cemeteries that dot the countryside around our area. One of those cemeteries is the Old Coryland Cemetery––which is not actually the one that sits next to the church; that's the New Coryland Cemetery. The old one is some distance from the church, and has fallen into disrepair in recent years. My grandpa, along with some others, formed some kind of loose organization to try and protect it many years ago. However, when they approached the church for funds to repair it, the board apparently claimed that it wasn't their responsibility, and that it now in fact belonged to the organization that my grandpa and others had formed to protect it.

It seems however, that in the midst of the shale gas boom several years ago, when Fortuna and Talisman Energy's landsman were going door to door offering hundred thousand dollar checks for the gas recovery rights to parcels of land, that the church board somehow forgot it had disavowed responsibility for the little cemetery––and told Talisman it could address checks for it to them rather than the preservation organization that they'd previously claimed legally owned it. So yesterday, my grandpa found out that for the last four years the church has been collecting thousands and thousands of dollars that rightfully should have gone to the preservation organization. And furthermore, the board still has no intention of repairing the fallen headstones.

So there you have it. Scandal in Coryland PA.

I really have no idea if anyone will eventually fix the cemetery. Or if anyone will take the pig out of the park. Or who put the pig in the park. Or who put that La-Z-Boy in the speed-trap on 328. Or whether it was the person who put it there, or someone who took an eye to it, or the NYSP who were responsible for its mysterious vanishing yesterday.

But one thing in all this is for certain:

There's been chicanery.

Monday, May 13, 2013

10 [more] things I ask myself while driving home after midnight

At some late hour of the night five months ago after driving home from New York I wrote a post titled "10 things I ask myself while driving home after midnight." Having just driven home from New York late––though not quite after midnight––I figured it was time for some additions to the list:

  1. If in a 55mph speed zone adjacent to a 30mph speed zone someone's relatively large dog enters the highway and runs into me at 15mph while I'm driving 59mph, which one of us can be said to have hit the other?
  2. In the entirely hypothetical situation that that actually happened, metaphorically speaking, should I feel bad about the fact that someone's relatively large dog could now be used as stationary?
  3. If I did [do] not really feel that bad about this, should I feel bad about the fact that I didn't [don't]?
  4. Is feeling bad about the fact that you don't feel bad about something in any way equivalent to feeling bad about it? Because I think I could at least manage that.
  5. Should I feel equally as bad about not feeling bad about the opossum that I just smeared as I was thinking about whether I should feel bad about not feeling bad about obliterating someone's dog?––if that had actually happened in real life, I mean....
  6. Is an anthropocentric or biocentric value system correct, and what bearing does that have on the previous questions, or incidentally on the unidentified large rodent that I just splattered as I was wondering how I should feel about killing the opossum? 
  7. Why do the New York State Police on rare occasions stakeout just off 328 before it intersects the border between New York [Trepidation!] and Pennsylvania [Freedom!]? 
  8. Why––as of seven days ago––is there a rather soggy looking La-Z-Boy recliner perfectly blocking the place where the NYSP have been known to park their cars in aforementioned stakeout? 
  9. Who was the inspired genius who put the La-Z-Boy there and why has he not been nominated for an award––say a cigar, or a handshake, or an advisory fellowship at some large libertarian think-tank, or something roughly equivalent?
  10. If you do a great deed in the service of humanity without intending to, is it still a great deed? 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

"The obscurity of the night, reveals the brilliancy of the stars"

The other day I was bored and wished I had something to read when I realized I have an entire shelf of books in my room that I accumulated over the course of dozens of college classes but never actually read. Looking at them, I settled on Mexico: A History by Robert Ryal Miller. It'd been required reading for a Mesoamerican Anthropology class I took my sophomore year. I'd started it and found it interesting at the time, but when it became apparent that my professor had no intention of actually testing us on the subject matter, I decided my time would be better spent on other things.

Reading through the first 40 pages last week, I was surprised simultaneously by how much I did and didn't remember about Mexico's pre-Columbian civilizations. Then I got to page 46, and noticed the corner was turned down. There was a book mark further on in, so I knew this wasn't where I'd stopped reading four years ago when I last put it down. Rather, there was something on the page that had stood out to me, and I was just now, four years later, getting back to it. It was a piece of poetry, written sometime around 1430 by the Náhuatl (Aztec) philosopher-king Nezahualcóyotl. No, I don't remember exactly how that's pronounced, but I do remember why it stood out to me:

      The obscurity of the night
      Reveals the brilliancy of the stars 
      No one has power
      To alter these heavenly lights,
      For they serve to display
      The greatness of their Creator
      And as our eyes see them now,
      So saw them our earliest ancestors,
      And so will see them
      Our latest posterity. 

Does that sound familiar? If you've ever read the book of Psalms in the Hebrew scriptures it probably does.

In King David's Psalm 19, he writes:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

In Psalm 8, he writes:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Isn't it just a little bit amazing that separated by a few millennia and the Atlantic Ocean, two kings, David and Nezahualcóyotl looked up at the night sky, and were inspired to write poetry with such similar thought streams? There's more though. In the next stanza, Nezahualcóyotl writes:

      The grandeurs of life
      Are like the flowers in color and in fate;
      The beauty of these remain
      So long as their chaste buds gather and store
      The rich pearls of the dawn,
      And saving it, drop it in liquid dew;
      But scarcely has the Cause of All
      directed upon them the full rays of the sun,
      When their beauty and glory fail,
      and the brilliant gay colors
      Which decked forth their pride
      Wither and fade.

Now from the Israelite prophet Isaiah:

A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

Fascinating, no? People who could not be further separated by history and geography look at the seemingly eternal beauty of the cosmos, and then look at the fleeting, impermanent beauty of life on Earth, and their response is to write songs acknowledging the sovereignty of the Creator they believe in.

This is probably the part of the post where I'm expected to a) Start raving conspiracy theories about pre-Columbia contact, aliens and a precise date of the apocalypse––somehow leading to your need to purchase precious metals through my affiliate program, or b) Start banging you over the head with: "You must believe in God because of this, that and the other thing."

I'm not going to do either of those. Instead, I just wanted to share something I found that struck a chord with me the other day. It's something that struck a chord with some very different people many years ago when they looked up at the stars.

And maybe it strikes a chord with you too.

Photo Credit: NASA and STScI. Public domain under contract NAS5-26555