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Sunday, October 23, 2011


        alexandre istrati, composition en vert

What is real is not the external form, but the essence of things...
it is impossible for anyone to express anything essentially real
by imitating its exterior surface.
                                            ---Constantin Brancusi

One of an endless list of reasons I love the mountains is that they are "nature" that cannot be overlooked. It's true that back in the time of Jesus it was possible to move a mountain by prayer. Now in West Virginia and E Kentucky they move mountains one dumptruck load at a time. No prayer about it. It's like emptying a sandbox with a teaspoon, but it gets the job done. Living in the mountains I see long streams of cloud roll down the side of Bullhead from a lake of low-flying cloud backed up at the long ridge from Bullhead to Green Mountain to Laurel Springs. The cloud seeps through the gaps in long streams like smoke sometimes, other times like a big conscious white blob that crawls over the ridge between Bullhead and Green Mountain, the site of the firetower before satellites. The cloud crawls into the valley below, Glade Valley, over to Pine Swamp and Gap Civil, until it fills the whole basin with white cloud seen from above at Air Bellows. It's colorful at sunrise.

The way of the Tao is the way of what we call nature, from galaxies that float in infinite space like smoke spirals, moving like smoke, like water, to the rocks I walk on from the house to the car, to the birds at the feeder, Caterpillar the cat who only watches the birds at age 14, the changes that come over us at certain ages, like spilling food and drink on the front of one's shirt starting around 60. I think of it as natural and go about with spotted shirts in front like it's not any kind of issue. I think of that as an expression of being with the flow of the Tao. Accepting those kinds of changes is going with the flow. Resistance to such changes by wishing it wasn't that way or hating getting old go against the flow. We have the Tao te Ching and a library full of scriptures as visible and comprehensible accounts of the nature of the flow of life we are part of.

Down through civilization we've had monasteries for people who wanted to get out of the chaos of mind and into the flow. Our civilization has been pushing the envelope through the 20th Century to see how far collective humanity can go ignoring the flow. One thing we've done is come to the time we're in now, when it's time to pay up, and foreclosure is the consequences. We've lost craftsmanship in making things. Everything has gone over to machines and hierarchical corporate/military structures. When the skyscraper made of cards falls, our basic self-preservation skills will be forgotten. We will have to relearn how to take care of a farm. Books in libraries and used book stores on gardening, composting, keeping orchards, growing grapes. Global warming is making the mountains good for growing grapes for wine. It's also making the mountains unfit for fraser firs, the Christmas tree that has been so successful here making a lot of money for a few and giving cancer to the many. This part of the mountains is as far south as they grow.

Like Amos Wagoner at Farmer's Hardware is reported to have told a customer who was griping about this town and these people, ignorance, the cliches, "Nobody asked you to come here and nobody is going to miss you when you leave." This is the entire county's attitude toward Christmas trees. Nobody will miss them when they're gone. County government will miss the tax from them. Then they can tax grapes. Perhaps the future of the mountains is to look like the Tuscan region of Italy with few trees, rolling hills and grapes growing everywhere. Growing grapes makes more sense when it comes to concern for the topsoil. A tree, you cut it down, you have a stump and topsoil ruined by years of pesticides and petroleum-based fertilizers. Grapes, you pick them and they come back next year on the same vine. Making sense isn't the issue, however; it's making money. The way of money is contrary to the way of the Tao, the spirit, the way of nature. I don't think it's because it is money, because money has a flow too. It's the love of money. That's where everything starts going haywire.

Bernie Made-off lived the high life for quite a few years. Now wife hates him, son killed himself, name made into a bad word, and a cell in a prison for a home. In the way of what we might call the spirit, the poor can hold their heads up. It's free for everyone. I think of all the people in my country alone, let alone the rest of the world, who have a natural, God-given talent and slim possibilities for expression, especially born in the working class. For myself, to honor the way of the Tao, I must give expression to my natural-born talent for visual art or be frustrated. I've not done a great deal and I've certainly not distinguished myself artistically. That's not been my purpose. I don't believe in competition. It's been a good thing in this time of inventive creativity, as wars, too, advance discoveries in science and other fields. I've come to see that living the Tao, or the way of the spirit, has more to do with attitude toward life than proximity of trees.


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