TIME and a World of Change ~ Part II

Public domain image--wish it was my own! https://goo.gl/EaQ6wq
Public domain image–wish it was my own! https://goo.gl/EaQ6wq

The nuance and precision and beauty in the motion of living things and landscapes is often lost to our eyes, because too few frames a second can be processed in our brains. All we see is a blur of action without details. But the eye of the camera, with a little sourcery, can slow motion enough for us to see the intricacies of motion. Continued from Part I.

Here a housefly was able to turn upside-down just at the last thousandths of a second–a maneuver that filled many full seconds in the clip I watched in amazement as a tiny acrobat stuck the landing on the ceiling.

I think of this wonderfully complex skill every time I swat an annoying fly that disturbs me at my desk. Damn you, Disney!

A robin in flight cambered its wings and even changed the pitch of individual primary feathers–using the same skin muscles that give us goose bumps, which is the best act we can do with our puny feather-counterparts we call hair.

Visible before my young eyes, the impeccable timing and skillful motor planning of an ordinary bird prepared to land, like an aircraft increasing drag and slowing its approach before touch-down.

The target for the bird as I watched was a single distant and tiny branch, not a miles-long strip of concrete. Bird, from full speed to full stop in mere seconds. Beat that, Boeing!

I think of this when a garrulous swarm of September starlings rushes from nowhere to temporary perches in the pines out my window, every dark-pearlescent one of them a consummate gymnast tumbling and diving in air. The judges give them a perfect 10.

So the take-home for a fifth-grader in 1960: Rapidly-happening things could be slowed down enough to show details of motion too fast for a ten-year-old city boy’s eyes to take in.

There was more going on around me–just out in the flower bed under the front window–than I would have known, but for these few brief photographic special effects. But there was more!

This is the second excerpt from this topic taken from One Place Understood–a book in my mind only, maybe always, but at least until summer of 2018. Go to Part One

This short video shows precision flying by red kites (a kind of hawk) swooping down for bits of bacon (watch how they say no-thanks to the break scraps!)

TIME and a World of Change ~ Part I

Static shot of animated wind patterns by way of windytv.com
Static shot of animated wind patterns by way of windytv.com. Click image to go there and see it live.

I am a child of the age of Disneyland, and my brain’s view of time was permanently altered by what I saw there for the first time.

Sunday nights, home in front of the round-screen television set (the size of a major appliance), my favorite Disney programs–the nature specials–looked at the planet’s places and animals. There were creatures and parts of the world that I would never have known or imagined without being shown them through this window of light and motion.

This vicarious adventure, as it remains eternally etched in memory, consisted of more than simple narrated visits by loquacious experts in pith helmets interacting with creatures doing what they do in their native places.

Maybe even more importantly, Disney’s special uses for the eye of the camera showed me for the first time two marvelous ways of seeing I had never imagined–what we now call slow motion and time-lapse imagery. We take it quite for granted today, but it was magic to me back then, and–as you might have discovered–I’m convinced our perceptions of the natural world and of each other can still be changed for the better by seeing the world in extra-ordinary ways today.

I remember ultra-slow motion stop-action sequences of bullets slowly piercing the full diameter of a watermelon. And then there were falling drops of red paint rebounding in a graceful splattering ballet of motion not visible to the naked eye because it happened faster than our brains and optical software could process it.

In visual poetry, a green and twining rose stem gyrated upward, reaching out, searching in a spiralling pirouette, and soon appeared from nowhere a red sprouting bud bursting to bloom in less time than an Ovaltine commercial! Plants were alive after all!

This is a first excerpt from this topic taken from One Place Understood–a book in my mind only, maybe always, but at least until summer of 2018.

► Do you have memories from early television that, looking back, changed your understanding of this world we share? Leave a comment.

Clockwork Orange:

"Lord make me a bird, so I can fly far. Far far away."
“Lord make me a bird, so I can fly far. Far far away.”

The only similar feeling of horror and sadness and disbelief that I feel this morning was when Ronald Reagan won in 1980.

Reagan was an actor, a pretender and an environmental despot who vowed to turn back a decade of gains since the first Earth Day–hard-won victories brought about largely by America’s young people,  to ensure the health of the planet’s air and water, forest and fisheries that would sustain humankind into the next millennium. Much of what I believed in and hoped for was repudiated and set into reverse with that election victory. I was physically sick, as I am this morning.

I know an American president cannot act alone; at least that was true until Donald Trump. I know that the people from the gonzo world we’ll call the “reality community” can still exert influence on policy. But the majority that elected this man are people with whom I share far less with  than I had thought when it comes to an understanding of the perilous state of the planet or of the poor-who-is-not-white with a red cap. The willful ignorance and indifference to anything beyond the personal here and now of this voting block has made me want to burn my homo sapiens membership card.

Welcome to the bizarro world of ME HERE NOW—though I think those who think they’ve won the ultimate victory for unenlightened self-interest will come to have serious questions about the promised “greatness” of their lives in four years.

This haughty indifference from high places towards the health of the planet is even worse now than in the early 80s. while the threats are vastly more serious today than then. And I have even less hope in my lifetime of a return to reason and compassion and dedication to informed stewardship–which is not to suggest that a Hillary win would have insured this end. Far from it.

I left teaching biology in 1987, in no small measure because I could not bear to watch the world unravel when the fox was inaugurated to guard the hen house—an abode whose jubilant feathered residents this new fox pretends to know and represent. We will see how that works out for the red-capped masses.

My life didn’t end then, but I made a serious course correction to steer toward a different destination. Today, I have no compass and the maps have proven inaccurate.

But I can’t imagine mornings at my desk with this utter lack of purpose and hope. I also can’t imagine being able or willing to stomach consumption of current events for the next four years. If I were a younger man, I might have the fight in me to push back against the retrogressive tide of the next four years. I am not a young man and I don’t have the energy or heart for it. I’ve seen enough.

So my Internet habits will change. My writing habits will change. My view of the world–as it really must have been all along, hiding in my blind spot–has already changed profoundly this morning. I have been living in denial of that truth. So now: what?


WayBack: Fragments June 2002


Towards the end of writing elsewhere about the start of the writing habit–and later, the shift toward writing from, for and about nature–I’ve been revisiting the earliest days of the blog via the Wayback Machine

So don’t say you weren’t warned that I might more inclined to excerpt from the history of Fragments than to add new posts while I’m working (with more discipline than usual) on material for “One Place Understood.”

I will, however, try to connect old posts to new images–like this one–of very few–taken from the east side of house and barn.

Why am I guilty of adding to the teething sea of words that waterlogs our poor brains in this age of “information”?

Hmmm. I am not doing it for the fame and glory. Far as I can tell, I get about 10 unique visitors daily (some are clones of prior visitors) and am ‘linked’ on, oh, about two other weblogs. There has been an occassional reference to some snippet I have written (I specialize in snippets, which are like haiku, except not as cerebral, without meter, and they don’t usually have a point).

I guess if Fragments has a point, it is this:

It has opened my eyes and ears to things that before I would think: that’s interesting, I would like to share that with someone, no one is around to listen, forget it. Now, even if no one reads it, these little brain cookies have the potential to reach thousands all around the world. Weblogs are about potential.

“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” said Alice (or was it the Hatter, or…) Writing in a permanent, accessible and widely available form gives me a motive to write, and accountability to others, strangers, family, gifted writers. I confess to a long-latent urge to write, more than that, to have a purpose and an object of my writing.

I can’t say that I have found that yet. But this weblog is a first step out of the boat onto the glassy sea of faith. If it makes me a better writer, even if it is only for my own satisfaction, then I am willing to get water up my nose a few times.

We are geographically and socially isolated here on Goose Creek. That has got to change. We must find community, connectedness and a place to serve. Granted, electronic relationships are a poor substitute for the protoplasmic sort. But the sense of being ‘in the current’ of the social phenomenon of weblogging honestly gives me a small taste of doing something communal.

Who knows how the web of connections via Fragments might open up opportunities to meet people in my county, region, state? Again, potential.

Lastly, (and the congregation breathes a sigh of relief), this online diary thing can be a legacy of who I was, what I thought, where I lived, what my world was like…for my children’s children’ children. I know precious little of those who begat me. I never cared to look until recently, and now, most are gone along with their memories.

Maybe fifty years from now, my great-great granddaugher will dig a CD out of a dusty trunk, copy it onto a microdot, and project it from her wristphone, and learn more about our times and about one link in her chain of ancestry. I will have given her roots i never had.

Parable of A Paradise Lost

Once there was a man who lived on the island of Pangea. The man owned two head of cattle, one bull and one cow. But he owned no land on which to pasture them.

But as fortune would have it, through no merit of his own, he was approached by a vastly rich landowner and given charge over a pasture of immense size–so seemingly limitless that the man would never worry over the boundaries of it.

He was allowed to use this fertile and well-watered land for his own purposes, with these two requirements from the one to whom the land belonged: that the meat and milk that would come from the growing herd should sustain the well-being of the people in the village; and that the health of the soil and water not be diminished by the growing herd.

And so the man lived well and grew his herd, and grew and grew, because he saw no limit to the grass and clear streams and lakes and pleasant forest for his cattle. The people of the village were content at first, but soon insisted that the man must bring them twice as much meat for their tables.

But lo, the years passed and herd’s numbers swelled beyond counting. And one day, the man noticed a single cow whose eyes were sunken and yellow, the skin taut across the bones of her shoulders and hips. He thought little of it, and instructed his herdsmen to breed his stock faster because the rotund people could not be satisfied.

One day, as the man surveyed the rolling hills dotted with black and white, tan and red cattle, a great amber cloud rose in the west above the land he thought of as his own. The great river that flowed down from his cattle on a thousand hills that day was not clear as it had always been, and it rose on its banks far lower than he had ever seen it in all his days.

But he thought little of it as he grew richer each day. After all, there was no end to the demand for more and more of his cattle to provide more milk and meat for the bellies of the village folk.

Until a time came when vultures swirled here and there on the distant horizon, dozens at first, then hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands. Amber clouds of dust blotted out the sun. The river ran red–if it ran at all. And the great herd that fed the people of the village had no grass to eat. They had no water to drink. And their carcasses littered the land as far as the eye could see.

Word reached the owner, who demanded a reckoning with the man to whom he had entrusted the immense and fertile pasture.

“What have you done to this land I gave you to use for your own comfort and to feed the people in my village?”

“Master, I could not see the boundaries, so vast a land is this. I did not know that there could be an end of the grass and the water and the pleasant forest on a thousand hills.”

And the master said: “Foolish man. You live on an island, so you knew the grass must end at the shore. Your cared only about the numbers of the cattle, for they fed your belly and made you rich. You saw the amber cloud rising. The lean and feeble cow stood before you, but these signs did not change your stewardship of the herd. You were not a wise servant, counting only your cattle, taking no account of the destruction of the fertile land that sustained them as they sustained you.

“The gift of soil and water I allowed you to use has been brought to nothing by the greed of the one to whom I gave so much, by the gluttony of those who ate long after they had had sufficient to sustain them from the bounty of this land.

The vultures will soon find much to fill them off the bones in the village. And the island will no longer be a pleasant and fertile home for your children, or for any children ever again. I gave you Paradise and you have given me back a desert.”