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Monday, January 4, 2016


nose to the ground
Early afternoon I went out the door with dog and new walking stick. She saw me pick up the stick and flinched slightly. It told me something about her past and her insecurity. I assured her the stick was not for hitting dogs. We don't do that here. I would use it to hit a dog attacking my dog friend, only then. Dog protects me. I protect dog. She's not yet saved me from a bear attack, but she makes it possible to walk in the woods again without concern for four-legged surprises. Dog would smell and see it before I would, and bark aggressively, alerting whatever it might be to leave primate alone. Primate has a ninja dog blood brother, in this case sister, who will die to protect him. The barking alerts me to look for what it is dog sees, most often a twig shifting in near distance, maybe a squirrel running for a tree after seeing a dog. She bounded with joy walking toward the road. She knew we were not going to the car, but beyond the car into walking stick world, paradise for dog's inquiring nose.
rhododendron walking stick
The wood for the stick came from an old rhododendron in the woods behind the barn, dead for so many years the wood cracked from the drying process. The bark was paper thin, loose and falling off. The bark under the exterior bark was fused to the wood structure. This layer of bark I carved off with the pocket knife. It takes several hours to carve the bark away and round the tips. The end that is the handle needs to be smooth as glass for walking comfort, sometimes in the palm of the hand. Also rounded the tip that touches the ground to inhibit splintering and splitting.  The wood has been dead for so many years the rotting process had begun. Rotting starts in rhododendron with black lines like drawn with an extra-fine-line pen running in abstract patterns with the wood's flow lines and some discoloration in abstract absence of pattern. It has the strength of the living wood, as dry as the wood can be before decay sets in. I think of the abstraction of lines and discoloring something like the patterns retained from memory of experience in the soul, called impressions and sanskaras. Mental impressions, mind tattoos, experience carried from lifetime to lifetime. This is my stick for the rest of this lifetime.
dog head and water flow
In my own personal symbolism, the stick represents the journey of the soul. I've never used a walking stick in the years I roamed the mountains following a dog. In this time of advanced age, I'm not as firm on the feet as I one time was. I walked over varieties of ground with the stick to get a feel for handling it over different terrain. It is good for balance, extra good for climbing a steep hill and walking down a steep hill, good for a sideways slant. The stick is a good brace for jumping from one big rock to another, a hand to hold. In the past, a walking stick became a nuisance I carried over my shoulder soon after starting the walk. I'm slower now and not so lithe on the feet. A walking stick makes a good assist. It is good to lean on during a break, standing still watching dog play in the water, run over the ground, up hills, over trails of the night people, following her nose like it's attached to a meandering rail.
lady in red
Early in the walk, I came upon a place to approach with attention to foot placement. Went within to my "center," just below the navel, focused balance there, instead of in my head, and balance came so naturally so quickly it felt something like shifting gears. I took an interest in photographing water flow over small rocks, over sand, over big rocks, channels of flow, looking to catch the lines of flow on the water's surface like the continually changing flames of a fire. Walking in the woods makes dog deliriously happy. It lifts primate's spirit as well. We will take longer walks as time goes by. Winter is a good time for walking in the woods. The serpents sleep in hidden places. I like not being concerned about stepping on a snake. Another thing I like about walking with a dog is they find snakes first. The dog alerts me to the snake and we walk around the snake. Dog's senses are hyper-alert out in the woods. I'm enjoying seeing a dog run free in forest, a dog only familiar with city life on a leash. It's how I felt in the beginnings of living in the Blue Ridge, let off the leash. I'm used to it by now, it's the grain of my life. Dog is refreshing foggy memory of wonderment in the first years of walking over these mountains. I review my own awe in the time of discovering these mountains were the terrain of my spiritual path of liberation from self by way of understanding, attitude toward life, allowing, and mere being.  

the same place maybe 3 seconds apart

photos by tj worthington



Saturday, January 2, 2016


trees in the rain
An image of John Lennon just now ran across the movie screen inside my head. I recalled seeing a headline a week or so ago of his son by his first wife telling the world John Lennon was not a nice man at home, that the kid never saw any love in him. John wrote songs about love, but didn't live the love he wrote songs about. Therefore, he was a hypocrite. What does that have to do with anything? King David wrote the most beautiful songs about love ever, period. He was a rogue. John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, was a slave trader. I read in John Berryman's Dream Songs and see video of an interview with him, I don't see all his poems in him. I see just a man whose mind pieced together with words and rhythms some amazing compositions. I don't see suicide in his poems when I read them. I don't see suicide in Robert Lowell's poems either. How they ended their lives is as irrelevant to their art as the brand of tires on their cars. I felt a degree of sorrow for the kid who tried to be a star with his daddy's name and it didn't take. He sees his half-brother, Yoko's son, bathed in luxury, privilege and wealth as son of John Lennon. Julian was left out, never made it to stardom and evidently turned bitter. What a dreary old man he might be, "I'm the neglected son of John Lennon...he was a sorry-ass hypocrite," in the pub night after night.
The last two evenings being year's end and year's beginning, another turn around the sun, I decided to see my favorite movies. Last night's choice was Hero, a film by Chinese director Yimou Zhang. Hero is at the top of the list of the most beautiful films I've seen. This was the fifth or sixth viewing. It is billed an action movie starring Jet Li. The action is choreographed martial arts ballet in flowing clothes of colors that sound like a Chinese violin. It is an historical drama given a touch of fairy tale. Then today I chose to see another favorite film, King of Masks, a Chinese film by director Wu Tianming. A good Chinese story, a gentle roller coaster ride of the emotions, of an old man and a child he bought in the market to be his heir. He was the last to carry the traditional art of the mask, an entertainment of changing masks seemingly by magic. He needed an heir to pass his art form to and bought a little boy. Turns out he was cheated, the boy was a girl and he did not want a girl, the art could only be passed on to a boy. From there it goes round and round to a tear-jerker happy ending Chinese style. A story of everyday life realism with the sense of a fairy tale. Exquisitely beautiful photography in both films. 
Didn't do anything else to acknowledge the change of calendars. Haven't even put up the new calendar. Aimed to walk the dog today. Justin stopped by on his way to his deer stand and brought some hay up from the barn in his big pickup. He advised staying out of the woods today. Jan 1 is the last day of hunting season. Everybody was out. I said we'd stay on the road, in that case, and he advised blaze orange if I want to walk the road. Decided to let it go. Lead won't be flying in the woods from Saturday onward. A week ago, Justin killed the big bear living in this area. He estimated it 425 lbs, said the "cape" was 150 lbs. He wants to make a rug to hang on the wall. For a hunter, it's a good trophy. This was the bear he'd said earlier was going about in daylight. He said it means the bear was getting brave. A good one to cull from the sloth. I saw it on the back of his pickup within twenty minutes of being shot. I have a hard time with killing. I have no judgment of hunting. It's necessary, I know it, just don't care to participate in it. I also know my attitude about not killing is a minority of one. Justin knows I'm not a killer, he also knows I admire his skill with a bow and a gun. He brought the bear down with one shot. He said the bear came into view just as it turned dark, "A black bear is hard to see through a scope in the dark."
I've known Justin since he was a baby. We were friends in his childhood the same as I am friends with his baby, Vada. Vada is a feist, just like her daddy was. It's like the same kid, one a boy, one a girl. Vada is becoming a rowdy little kid. She and her daddy play rough and she loves it. It's in her horoscope. She got in trouble in pre-school; when she fights little kids her size, she hurts them. Her dance class had a recital a few weeks ago I'm sorry I missed. She ruled in it. Vada was the star performer and did it like she was born to the stage. Crystal told me after their trip to Disney World, Vada dressed up as Elsa was to walk behind Cinderella around a big circle of people clapping. Not Vada, Crystal said, Vada doesn't follow anybody. She walked around the circle holding Cinderella's hand. I would so love to see Vada grow up. She'll be out front in whatever she does. She is a balanced blend of her mommy and daddy. And her daddy will go crazy when he sees her drawn to rowdy boys. By the time she's in high school, she will have as many deer kills as the best of the boy hunters. She'll make all A's, be head cheerleader, play baseball and be homecoming queen.
photos by tj worthington