Sunday, September 14, 2014

Waiting for the Beans

Thursday, September 11, 2014

That Day. This Day

Calhoun's Cannons For Sept 11, 2014

It is difficult at times to repress the thought that history is about as instructive as an abattoir.
                                      Seamus Heaney

This day, the airwaves are flooded with September 11th remembrances -- all those endless tape loops of planes and buildings and dust and chaos.  And death.  So much death.

I don't plan on watching any of the specials.  Nothing new there.  Just heartache and sadness, the old wounds. On  the TV news, the twin towers will fall again and again, each rerun more awful than the other.  The Falling Man, that horrifying signature photograph of a man who jumped from the burning heights, will still remain halfway between sky and earth  -- Schrodinger's cat in a business suit, permanently existing and not existing.  There is no saving him.  The script cannot be rewritten, the film unspooled. He will fall forever.

A day after that day, while the TV news was still filled with scenes of unbearable ugliness, without really being conscious of what I was doing, I went out and bought a wine-barrel planter and some flowers.  It was rather silly, this thought that the horror in New York and Pennsylvania and Washington DC, could be countered in any way by some petunias.  But there it was.  The need to put something of beauty, something living, into the ground.

Locally, Mr. Tutt must have felt a similar urge because within hours of the onslaught his huge crane appeared on the corner of Los Osos Valley Road and South Bay Blvd, a giant American flag waving  on the top of the crane's arm.  And on the truck itself, as if by magic, local citizens, driven as I was to somehow reclaim something living, something renewing, had started putting vases of flowers on the truck-bed of this touching, home-grown memorial shrine. 

But no amount of flowers could begin to counter the darkness that was unleashed on that bright blue day.  The stain of an unnecessary war upon a region already cracking apart from barely contained sectarian violence, state-sanctioned torture, murder, destruction, death;  the absolute worst human nature has to offer.  Osama had opened the box and the insanity was unleashed. Celebrated.  Reveled in.  A world gone mad. 

And so it remains today. Lessons unlearned.  Hard to disagree with Seamus: The world as an abattoir. Countless dead, all that pain and loss, and for what?  A new skyscraper pierces the heavens where the ghost of the Twin Towers stands: Business as usual.  Osama bin Laden is gone, his cerebral dreams of a pristine, purified caliphate degenerated into a sadistic British thug done up as a badass rapping Ninja Warrior holding a bloody knife in one hand, a reporter's head in the other.   You-Tube Jihad.   

Muhammad himself would weep in shame.

So on this day, no re-runs for me, thank you.  The past is irredeemable.  And, anyway, we have far sadder things to focus on.  As I sit typing this, the radio news has announced the latest U.N. report that the world's CO2 numbers are now well past the no-return, tipping-point numbers. 

Which means on this day, the dire consequences of global warming are now unstoppable.  Locked, and loaded, they have targeted all of us.  Ignoring science and dismissing our future, we have flown our own planes into our own Twin Towers.

It is a supreme irony.  Now, like The Falling Man, we are all Schrodinger's Cat.  And no amount of petunias in wine-barrel planters or crane trucks with flags and flowers will save us and our children from what's coming.


Sunday, September 07, 2014

Flower City

Blowsy.  Seriously, that’s the dahlia for you.  Overdone, overwrought, seriously overdressed.  But spectacular.


Except the smaller versions which can be prim Miss Priss, especially served up as single-serve blooms delicately scattered on a table. Then they’re all Miss Manners.


Morro Bay celebrates its 50th Anniversary as a City this year and also was  celebrating its city flower, the Dahlia, with a Dahlia Daze event at the community center.  There was a dahlia exhibition, contest, sale, lectures.

Including a most informative one on the issue of Monarch Butterflies and milkweed.  Throughout the butterflies migration paths, the only source of food for their larva, the milkweed, is being killed off by pesticides and loss of habitat.  And, no milkweed, no Monarchs.  So farmers and ranchers are being encouraged to plant milkweed throughout their property and in fallow areas alongside their crops.  Homeowners are also encouraged to do the same.

Except if you happen to live in the narrow coastal strip.  In that microclimate, planting milkweed to help the Monarchs is counterproductive.  According to Peggy Coon of the Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove, planting milkweed along the coastal strip lures Monarch to lay eggs on the plant.  Then, after the larva hatch and are happily munching, the coastal cool weather causes the plant to die back before the Monarch larvae have gone into their chrysalis mode.  So the poor larvae, lured to a bad neighborhood by well-meaning humans, starve to death.

So, if you live in Los Osos, ixnay on the milkweed. But, you are encouraged to fill your garden with all sorts of winter-blooming flowers for the Monarchs to sip nectar from.  Lantana is a good choice since those plants are both drought tolerant and loaded with flowers for butterflies.

But, if you live in San Luis Obispo, (Or over the hills in Paso) plant all the milkweed you like.  Milkweed thrives in that hotter, drier environment. So you get to plant both milkweed and winter-blooming flowers.

Then everyone can head down to the Pismo Butterfly Grove when opens daily October 31st through February 26 to host these spectacular (and threatened) butterflies. Or Morro Bay State Park’s eucalyptus groves or Hazard Canyon in Los Osos. 

Dahlia’s, on the other hand, clearly like the coastal cool. Makes ‘em run amok. Like your Aunt Sadie after one too many gin and tonics on a New Year’s eve.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bird Thought

don't brag about flying
the way we

They don't write books about it and then give
they don't take on disciples and spoil
their own air

Who could dance and achieve
liftoff with a bunch of
whackos tugging
on you?

Tukaram (c.1606-1649)
Love Poems from God
trans. Daniel Ladinsky

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Another American Story

A 9 year-old girl goes to a Lake Havasu City  “Bullets and Burgers” outdoor shooting range.  She was on vacation with her family and had a “bucket list” and shooting an Uzi was on that list.  What a 9 year-old was doing with a bucket list, I have no idea.  Bucket lists are usually reserved for cranky but endearing old men with terminal diseases. But I digress. 

So the instructor, Charles Vacca , 39, set her up and began instructing her in the finer points of Uzi shooting.  The instructor and the little girl were  captured on video by, I presume, her proud parents.  There she is, cute as a button in her pink shorts, little pink barrettes in her hair ,which was falling in a long braid down her back. Standing next to her, bending down to help her hold the gun, is the instructor.

The first single shots go fine.  Then Mr. Vacca sets the gun on automatic and the young girl, with no idea of the strength and control needed to keep the kicking gun steady, loses control and it veers up and off and puts a bullet into Mr. Vacca’s head. He dies a few hours later.

At this point in the story, the first impulse would be to laugh and say something about “gene pool.”  But I kept thinking about that little girl.  Thanks to her parents, she will spend the rest of her life with the ghost of Mr. Vacca, the man she killed, haunting her dreams forever.

All because her parents did not know what my parents knew and what any sensible parent knows:  When children ask for dangerous, age-inappropriate things, the correct reply is a very short word that begins with the letter “N” and ends with the letter “O.”

Interestingly, the news story on this incident noted that in 2008 an 8 year-old “was firing an Uzi at a pumpkin when the recoil caused him to lose control of the weapon and he shot himself in the head.” 

That’s the problem with Uzis.  They were designed for adults with good hand strength that can control the recoil.  And they were intended for use as a weapon of war, a small, rapid-fire automatic, a highly maneuverable weapon designed to kill as many enemy soldiers as possible in a close combat situation.

They were not designed as a toy for a child to play with as part of her bucket list.  Except in America.