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December 31, 2009 - The Dalai Lama Visits A Shrink

A hypothetical doctor's office conversation between the Dalai Lama and a clueless therapist...

Therapist: Good morning Sir, shall we get started...?

Dalai Lama: Yes, let us.

T: State your last name.

DL: Lama.

T: Excuse me...?

DL: Ha ha. I am kidding. My official title is 'His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.' My original name was Tenzin Gyatso. However for simplicity, you may call me 'H.H'.

T: Mmmm, O-Kayyyy!... Scribbles "H.H." and "...Possible follow-up questioning along the lines of 'delusions of grandeur". Underlines.

T: What is your line of work then...Um, H.H.?

DL: I am the religious and temporal leader of the Tibetan peoples, as well as other Buddhist followers from many nations.

T: Un - hunh... Checks box next to: 'clergy.' Underlines 'delusions of grandeur' again.

DL: However, I prefer to think of myself as a simple monk.

T: I see... Circles 'delusions of grandeur', scribbles 'bipolar...?' in the margin.

T: So um, H.H., What brings you here today...? Are you having a stressful time in your life...?

DL: No, not more particularly stressful than any other. I often think of the events of my life that led me to being exiled from my country by a foreign government and of those that destroyed many of the religious icons and sacred statutes of my peoples that were thousands of years old, and the difficulties of being the spiritual leader of many thousands of followers from outside their borders in a country that is not their own. However, my reason for being here today is really not to analyze my thoughts and ideas, but more because I am interested in how a person in your position is known to help people by simply speaking with them.

T: Hack! Clears throat loudly. Sorry. Well... It's just that I'm used to being the interviewer in a clinical situation instead of the one who is being interviewed. Hmmm. I'm not exactly sure what I can offer through discussing my methods that would really help you. We psychologists tend not to analyze our methods with the patients, lest they get conflicting 'ideas.'

T: Changing subject... How about I go through my normal routine of questioning, and that way perhaps we can learn a little about one another... Scribbles 'personality questioning avoidance.'

DL: That sounds appropriate.

T: So... Tell me about your childhood.

DL: I was born 1935, to a family in a small farming village located in northeastern Tibet.  At the age of two, I was recognized as the reincarnation of the previous and 13th Dalai Lama, taken from my family, and sent to attend monastic education in preparation for my being the religious and temporal leader of the Tibetan peoples.

T: What! (choking) Are you crazy?! (Pulls himself together) Excuse me, bad bedside manner. The government took you from your family when you were two years old...?! How did your parents react....?!

DL: They were very pleased and supportive. There was much celebration and rejoicing after I answered several questions and performed some tests correctly. I had anticipated the event as long as my earliest memories can attest.

T: Gah, buh, a two year old...?! Then what did they do to you...?!

DL: I began my official monastic education at the age of six.  The curriculum consisted of five major and five minor subjects.  The major subjects were logic, Tibetan art and culture, Sanskrit, medicine, and Buddhist philosophy, which was further divided into five categories: Prajnaparimita, the perfection of wisdom; Madhyamika, the philosophy of the middle Way; Vinaya, the canon of monastic discipline; Abidharma, metaphysics; and Pramana, logic and epistemology.
The five minor subjects were poetry, music and drama, astrology, motre and phrasing, and synonyms.
After studying and meditating with my tutors for 17 years I sat for my final examination in the Jokhang Temple, in Lhasa.
I completed my education and was awarded the Geshe Lharampa degree, a degree equivalent to a doctorate of Buddhist philosophy.

T: Sounds like a strict authoritarian upbringing. Scribbles 'rough childhood'. Underlines. What did you do next, take a break and hitchhike around Europe...?

DL: No, in 1950 I was called upon to assume full political power after China's invasion of Tibet in 1949.  In 1954, I went to Beijing for peace talks with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping and Chou Enlai.
Then in 1959, after a rather brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by Chinese troops, I was forced to escape into exile and live in Dharamsala, in northern India, the seat of the Tibetan political administration. For this I feel I owe my people everything, and have worked as much as possible through my non-violent dialogs to free them.
I first proposed the Five Point Peace Plan for Tibet as a step towards a peaceful solution to our country's worsening situation.  I envisaged that Tibet would become a sanctuary; a zone of peace at the heart of Asia, where all sentient beings can exist in harmony and the delicate environment can be preserved.
The government of China has so far failed to respond positively to any of the various peace proposals that I have put forward.

T: Beginning to write 'whack job'... Wow, Yes, that's quite a story... Do you often feel depressed...? Say more than 2 days a month...? Do you enjoy doing fun things...? Do you often think about death...?

DL: I am normally neither distressed nor ecstatic. My own daily practices, that is my prayers, take about four hours.
In my case, my practices include much visualization of death and rebirth.  In my daily practice, the deity mandala, the deity yoga, and the visualization of death, rebirth, and intermediate state is done eight times.  So, eight times death and eight times rebirth. I am supposed to be preparing for my death as I do so, and yes I think about it quite often. I do this about four hours every day.

T: Scribbling... Uh - huh... Notes: possible death obsession. Recommend MMRI II as baseline phobic, psychological, and pathological analysis/verification of symptomatic possible PTSD, clinical depression, delusional dysfunction and or fabrication of complete personal situation in an attempt to mask anxiety or total grandiose illusions...

T: Well...! It certainly is a nice day outside, H.H., glances at watch... and I see our time is almost up. If you'll talk to our medication manager on your way to the front desk, I'm sure they will get you started on a program that could lead to some real progress for you.
I would like you to come back at least once every two weeks to do some simple testing - please call to my assistant to set up a schedule. Do you have insurance...? Be sure to present your card to the people behind the glass at the front desk. Oop, there's my secretary with my eleven o'clock. We can discuss your questions further on our next visit. The lobby is right that way. Thanks for dropping by Mr. H.H., have a nice day now...!

December 30, 2009 - Colors of Winter

Yesterday Sharon, Happy, and I took a walk down the middle of the creek.
We donned our snowshoes (well, Happy had his on) and checked out the ice.
What looks like a long crack down the middle in this photo is actually a mountain bike track, (someone's Pugsley, with studded tires, I suspect) so it must be safe. At least for one person on a bike.
Seriously though, I expected worse after we got dumped with a big, cold weather snowstorm with about eight inches of dry powder, then pelted with rain, hail, and more rain that froze as rutted slush everywhere. It's rough going in the car, like wagon trail material. My friendly naturalist Scott from Wood Lake said their marsh was only about two inches of ice and six inches of slush, as the powdery snow had insulated the thin ice layer they started with. They have a lot of runoff inlets into the pond though. Not so in our neck of the woods, at least for now our creek was five inches of clear black in most places, but the top layer was rough and crusty like a good round of bread.

Hap enjoys the round earth.
You can see the snow is so bulletproof in this photo that the snowshoe cleats barely make it in.
Some people say that in Minnesota, 'Winter has no color' or that it's a 'Monochromatic Season.'
I think our eyes just get adjusted to it or maybe that we're squinting from the cold too much (as we were on this day.)

There is something about the sun around the solstice that tells you what time of year it is.
Maybe it goes way back into my animal roots, or brings out the built-in 'bio-clock', but to me the sun being so low and yellow in the afternoon, it's drawing out the long shadows, the blues of the snow and the sky on a clear day in December make it hard to duplicate any other time.
There is definitely a 'starkness' about it because of all the silhouettes and harsh shadows, but I still wouldn't trade it for a life in Tahiti. Mmmm, maybe a vacation in Tahiti, but not a life.
Ice, cold ice. Is it a living thing?

It has some of the definitions. Maybe even more than some organic Eukaryota or really smart computers. It's so ethereal, amorphic. How long does something have be without form to be amorphic anyway...?
It's ice, it's cold, accept no substitute. That stuff in your glass on the beach in Tahiti, that's not ice.
This is ice. It's gravity's offspring. As are we all, I guess.
Speaking of, I can't remember falling in snowshoes as many times as I have during this short season more than any time in the past. I haven't dunked my camera 'too' badly, yet, but I'm pushing the envelope. So far I've covered forwards and backwards, stay tuned for more variations if the conditions ensue. Must be these new-fangled bindings.

Onward, and fallsward.
Minnehaha Falls, hopefully.

Next stop, Minnehaha Station, have your tickets ready.

Of course the track is only about 80 ft. long and not connected to anything, plus it's buried beneath ten inches of snow, so put your thinking cap on over your stocking cap and pretend. I can almost picture a little station with "Minnehaha" written on it, to drop us off by the Falls. How quaint.
The Falls show us blue ice with a tinge of slush. Nature likes to mix it up and paint with a big brush. A huge brush. And a microscopic one at the same time. It's wild. Literally.

Okay, let's head back, I'm cold, my nose is about to drop off.
What? That? That oval? No, it's not a skating rink, that's the road!
Wait, you're right, I guess it is a skating rink. Silly me.
Before we get back and put our boots on the heater though, I have a little unfinished business to take care of. Hang in there, nose.
I posted the other day about 'The Pump' and it's dubiously interesting history.
I felt that I couldn't really come up with any photos that showed it in a contextual view (I know, shame on me) so I stopped and popped a couple during our hike from the creek's point of view:

Here's a wide-angle view of the little inlet, with the pump stanchion in the middle, the brick platform, and the leaning Catalpa, long may she wave.

Strange little deal. Can you imagine a deer living in those 'woods' for a couple months?
The freeway is right back by the electrical towers in the background.
By the way, I called the DNR when we first met the deer down there,and asked if there was anything they could do, as I was afraid she was going to get hit by a car for sure. They said, well no, they don't do anything with animals in the city unless there is a threat to human life. Fair enough. I tried to convince them that a deer running down any of the local streets or out onto a busy freeway qualified, but they weren't buying it. Well, I guess they were right. I assume she wandered back to the State Park, about three miles away. Don't know, never saw her again.

Once a dove, always a dove. (The proper name for a pigeon is a Rock Dove...)
Happy Winter!

December 27th, 2009 - Back to Surreality

As I have previously mentioned, Ashland, Wisconsin lies at the corner of Twilight Zone Street and Surreal Avenue.
Our latest foray back there for the Christmas holidays only stands to reinforce that adage in my mind.

And so, this is Christmas.
I think this is where the president of the local power company lives. I noticed the lights down our street alternately dimming and surging for short periods on Christmas Eve, at about the frequency of the chase lights in their yard.
Well, it just ain't Christmas without about a megawatt of lights and an inflatable Moonwalk for Santa's elves to fly around in, that's for sure.

Meanwhile, it's hard for me not to think of this "Picture of the Day" I saw on National Geographic's website recently of gold miners in Ghana. It really struck me hard.
This was not taken in the 19th century; this was taken in the 21st century. Harsh.
Let's just take a step back for a second and think what it takes to get us that next 'wear-it-once-a-year' gold earring. Last year Americans spent over $1 billion on Christmas ornaments from China. In 2007, Americans spent more than $39 million buying nativity scenes shipped in from the far East.
What I want for Christmas is for us to think about who we are.
I have to admit, our family did pretty well on scaling back the consumptive 'purchasing for the sake of purchasing', and oblivious wastefulness that has bothered me in past years.
I'm proud and encouraged to see more and more people in the First World realizing that they actually are part of some global excesses. I'll leave it at that. For now.

Okay, back in northern Wisconsin, the lines of latitude and longitude are converging on weirdness.
Outside my mom's bathroom window, an apple still on the tree maniacly grins more of a Halloween sentiment than a Christmas wish. Mmmm. Golden Delicious. Maybe a little too golden.

We drove up after, through, and during some pretty big snowstorms, which turned into rainstorms, hailstorms, and then back to snowstorms.
It was really just like being in one long dim precipitate cloud from mid-week until we left on Saturday afternoon, when we saw the sun for a short time once we got back on the road, then we drove back home into the cloud of even more mixed precipitation.

Strange snow creatures began to appear in town, such as this Jurassic Park of sculptures in a front yard near Beaser Park.
(Site of my former elementary school, the same building where my grandmother attended kindergarten. "Beaser wheezer, lemon-squeezer, stick your head in an ice-cream freezer...")
Okay, sorry for the brief departure there.
Above we have the Stegosaurus, Brontosaurus, and something resembling a Manatee, all faithfully represented with the expressiveness of really wet snow.
The family of sculptors themselves all came to the front window of their house as I was taking the picture, very gratified to have their work captured digitally. Snow is such a transient medium, as we have learned from Frosty the Snowman, and you have to hope it's appreciated before it morphs into something else or disappears completely. I should have tried to capture them in the front window responding to the moment of fame with their art in the foreground. Ahh, L'esprit de l'escalier, why do you torment me..?

Here, Happy the Dog gets his Christmas talking-to from my mom.
What an expression. Sharon says he's doing his Mongoose/Meerkat impression. No doubt. That is a spot-on observation.
As we were driving up there,
I had been thinking about two places that I wanted to visit/revisit on this trip.
One was the strange farmhouse that we came across on a during our Thanksgiving trip, the other was this train trestle that had been haunting the back of my mind for some time.

My dad and I used to hang out at this train trestle when I was a kid, as 'Fish Crik' runs nearby, and I remembered it like something out of "Stand By Me" (with the outrunning the train scene) or every time I saw a film like "Kelly's Heroes", "Where Eagles Dare", "The Guns of Navarone" or that movie that ends with a standoff at the Canadian Border on a huge train trestle, can't think of the title.
It's a big one. I talked to my cousin Paul before we went looking for it as he was/is a mechanical engineer and used to go fishing out there too. He said it's a bit of a standout.

If I heard him correctly, it's the tallest weight-bearing trestle of it's type in the whole of the state.
It used to be a railroad bridge,  now has had it's tracks lifted and has been converted to rails-to-trails corridor; for snowmobiles in the winter, and hike/bike on hard pack gravel in the summer.
I don't know how high it is. I should have taken some guesstimates off of the trees, but it was raining/sleeting and we were on snowshoes, freezing our hands off, by continually soaking our gloves from bracing off of the hillside as we made our way from the top to the bottom by cross-cutting the approach hill, which was very steep.
The new snow was very wet and the going wouldn't have been too hard if it weren't for the fallen logs and branches that you couldn't see lying under it. You'd take a step on the side of the hill and slide sideways in your snowshoes for about three feet on the bark of a slimy wet branch, plowing a bank of wet snow until it either piled up and stopped your slide or you slid off of the branch.

I found a listing on a website that sounds a bit like this bridge, but I don't think it's the same one. The one described on the website is a 'traffic' bridge that's 151.3 ft. long, built in 1925. This one has to be at least that long, maybe even older (at least originally, it's all wooden girders and poles, covered in creosote) and I'd say at least 80 ft. high from the valley floor. The stuff dreams are made of. I had to laugh after I took the picture above by hanging my camera over the top of the retaining fence. I had to stop and check to see if my camera was in black & white mode. That's the kind of day it was. It is a color photo, you can see the blue of my snowshoes at the bottom and the green saplings if you click on it and look at it larger. heh.
Sharon thought it was a pretty interesting excursion and we had a good hike in from the closest road, across the bridge and down through the valley and up the other side.
As I was exploring the wash directly under the bridge, I found some fresh either wolf or coyote tracks (probably coyote but you never know).

They ended near this weird double-culvert, and I thought for sure I was going to get some beady red eyes by sticking my camera in there and taking a flash shot, but no. Just some old detritus and a huge Dorito bag that something had dragged in there and ravaged.
Didn't get time to check out the other side...
I can remember as a kid my dad and I putting our ears down on the tracks in the middle to see if we could hear or feel any trains coming from far off, and to see if we should "start running" (see Stand By Me reference). This was long before the movie.

Our other stop was at the house by the windmill that we found during our sunset drive over Thanksgiving.
It got really dark while we were there last time, and I wanted to go back out there and see the house in the daylight. You see, I'm a bit smitten with it. I don't think Sharon is as smitten as I am, but it is for sale.
On a whim I typed the address into Google and sure enough, up popped the Realtor information: Wisconsin farmhouse on five acres, two-car garage, yours for $74,500 while you "restore it to it's original grandeur." Amazing. Either it's in rough shape or haunted. The taxes are only $861 a year, I think my mom living in her two-story in town without acreage pays more than $1500 or something for hers.

It's got nice fruit trees alongside; looks like apples, and maybe a plum tree out back.
A nice summer doghouse for Happy alongside, complete with hay.
There are a couple other big trees, (Aspens?) and the awesome porch, facing west and north toward the lake (Superior), a ways off. Maybe you could see it from the roof on a clear day.
If someone would offer to set us up in it, I would be happy to work out a deal for them to share in the royalties of the novel I would plan on writing there. The creaking windmill across the road adds to the ambiance.

So that's it. I don't know if Ashland would continue to be as surreal if we lived there, or if we would just become a part of it and be one of those houses with too many tacky lawn ornaments and junk cars in the driveway.
It shows a new side, sometimes subtly, every time we see it, I'll grant it that.
Even the pine in my mom's backyard had a new face during this last storm. The next morning the heavily-laden branches from this night were catapulting snow everywhere as it warmed up.
It's all part of the surreal movie set that is Ashland, Wisconsin.

December 19th, 2009 - The Pump

I came across this photo of me and Happy the Dog the other day while looking for something else, and liked it enough to crop it down and make a Facebook profile pic out of it.
It was from a self-timer shot taken on November 7th, 2006, during a dog walk along what we in the neighborhood call "The Lagoon", which is sort of a pond of slow water on the last bend of Minnehaha Creek, before it is broken up by a man-made weir and heads under Hiawatha Avenue to make the 53 foot drop over Minnehaha Falls.
Some years it's a mucky slough, and other years it's a pretty clear dark pool with some fairly deep holes. It's great skating in the winter after the first good freeze and before the snow cover moves in.
I really pushed the envelope one year and had a spider-webbing of cracks coming out from beneath my skates as I trusted it a little too early and had to quickly head for the shallow edges where the ice was thicker. It was so thin down the middle but the ice was so 'elastic', that you could actually see the surface becoming a bowl shape from my weight. Ice is a weird thing.
It's actually more complicated than just being a "thing", it's more like a constantly changing amorphous entity.
Er, something.
I've also seen mink running across the creek while skating there.
Anyway, I thought Happy had a great expression in the photo. My friend Lena commented, "I can't decide if Happy is happy in this photo, or grinning maniacally while plotting our destruction..."
I said that I thought that it was because the self-timer was beeping and Happy was immersed within his dog-walking domain, and was assuming a "you had better let me kill that thing for you before it gets us" mindset.
My friend Gabi Sloth said that Happy had the "Mona Lisa Syndrome" in the photo. Heh.
Another friend, Trish, said she liked the pic. I didn't think it was anything too epic, but it got me thinking about the particular spot where it was taken. It is a spot with some very interesting cultural and local history.
The full-size image looks like this:

This particular part of the Lagoon we call "The Pump."
You can sort of see the top of the rusty, five-foot-high pump mechanism to the right of Happy's butt, near the edge of the brick abutment.
The whole purpose behind the place is a little bizarre by today's standards, but I guess it wasn't in 1925 when it was installed.
The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board's historical documents describe it this way: "The flow of Minnehaha Falls was not entrusted to natural forces. In 1925, a 731-foot-deep well was dug in Longfellow Gardens “to maintain the small, picturesque lakelet” (The Lagoon) and to “serve as a reserve reservoir for Minnehaha Falls.” I think it only was in operation for a handful of years.
"The well was not, however, able to meet the challenge presented by long, dry summers. Water was sometimes diverted from Bassett’s Creek into the 'Chain of Lakes' to help prime the falls, but occasionally more dramatic interventions were occasionally required. In 1964, the park board reported that “we had to supply water from City water mains (by opening fire hydrants upstream) to make a 'display of the falls' for the Svenskarnas Dag celebration held at Minnehaha Park at which gathering President L. B. Johnson was the guest speaker...”
The Falls must go on.

This is a view of the lagoon from the east side, looking west from the weir (I'm actually standing on the narrow four-foot high concrete wall that channels the water down into the weir, and hanging on to the chain-link fence with a few fingers from one hand while holding the camera and bracing with my telekinetic powers).
The pump would be located to the right of that golden brown area of reeds towards the center-right, sort of tucked into a tiny inlet.
As I've said, the iron pump stanchion and brick platform are still there, and are what Happy and I are sitting on in the photo.

Inside 'the pump' itself.
The armature and parts for a motor powerful enough to draw water up from 731 feet below the ground are still there. I can't imagine how that electric bill would fly nowadays, even if we could get over the environmental aspects of pumping perfectly good drinking water into a creek that is on Minnesota's Impaired Waters list for no reason other than to have a pretty waterfall.
As you can see in the first photo, the place has all kinds of weird rock that must have been brought in from other places, as it just doesn't look native, or even really match the other rock.
There are large volcanic boulders and some granite and marble-looking stones, not to mention the decaying red-brick that makes up the platform itself. I'll go out on a limb and guess that was probably produced from one of the nearby brickyards, as Minneapolis and Saint Paul had flourishing brick industries during the 19th and 20th centuries.

There is also a huge (albeit unwieldy-looking) Catalpa tree that blooms with super perfume and crazy flowers for about a week during the late spring and early summer.
It is beginning to head for the creek with a "Leaning Tower of Pisa" effect and I won't be surprised when one of these days it takes the plunge.
I will make my best effort to salvage the wood for my friend and woodworker Buthidae however.
Even the cut wood itself carries the sweet perfume.

The Leaning Tower of Treesa.

I dread that day, if indeed I do see it in my lifetime. It's a beautiful tree. To me, anyway.

I'm sure others would say that it's non-native and pretty scrubby-looking when it's not blooming.

But at times in the summer, if you sit on the pump block and just focus on that one tree, you can imagine yourself in some place like Louisiana, with the humidity, the sweet perfume, the wind blowing its frilly blossoms into the lagoon, and the broad green leaves catching the sun.
When it isn't blooming, it's working on twisting out some strange, often asterisk-shaped seedpods. Some dry out before the winter without loosing their seeds and shake like tiny baby-rattles in the cold winter winds.

Many are quite bizarre.
Some are like nearly straight record-breaking peapod-like shoots almost a foot long, others are these circled masses, curled corkscrews and helices, yellow moons, pink hearts, orange stars, and green clovers.
Um, well, half-moons anyway.

They definitely are off in their own universe though, orbiting themselves, clutching branches of spiral galaxies, that sort of thing.

There are some other older trees near the pump site that have long since gone down and become part of the ground cover. Moss, lichens, and fungus abound, and on dark nights I have witnessed some of it glowing under my ultraviolet light.
During the winter a few years ago we actually had a single resident deer living near the pump for about a month. I was shocked to see her munching away on the grass early one morning when HapDog and I were walking down there, and she was equally shocked to see me and HapDog up so close. She got up, doubled-back in a long circle as we moved on, and came back into her spot behind us. This is a spot not more than 200 yards from busy streets on three sides. She of course had picked the most isolated spot with the most tall grass and cover. Then one day, she was gone.
That is a very short history of 'The Pump.' I suspect there are many more spots like this in everyone's neighborhood, maybe not always quite as natural or wooded, but full of history and with their own little biographies.
It's up to us to find them out.

December 17th, 2009 - Tales of Squalor & Addiction in a City Without Pity

Some time ago we had "an Elf Door Tree" in our neighborhood proximity.
It is gone now, but not forgotten. It, like a few rare others scattered about our fair city, was a place to leave your wishes, your dreams, your found objects.
Just a simple door in an old tree that provided a magical social networking depository for those in the know. Notes left would be magically responded to. Alms were offered. Alms were taken. Wishes were sent. No one knew who resonded. Everyone, no one. Scenes changed. Situations evolved, stories were acted out, or so it seemed. As I said, it was a magical place. Sometimes bustling and full of life, sometimes empty and bleak. Sometimes hopeful, sometimes tragic. You get the idea. It tore at your heart and made you open its door.
Recently, some historic documents resurfaced that told a story of our elf door from years past.
A sad, but hopeful inner-city story.
It goes a little like this...

The curtain opens on the Elf Door in the old oak tree.
Who made the door..? Why is it there...?
What is that plastic bird doing over the door...?
More importantly, what's behind the door...?

These things beckon us to open the door, so that it can tell it's story for us in this space in time.

The door opens...

Oh, this don't look good.
Real social drama be playin out here.
Bout a week ago our story took a sad toin where our Poor Little Monkeyboy sadly gave up his 22 year AA chit which had been in the crib for a few weeks.
Now it looks as though poor Monkeyboy has slipped  back off the wagon and is wrestlin with a rather Kafkaesque  needle and bug problem. Tragic. Meanwhile his bad pusher, Dr. Purple, sleeps his off. The pink dinosaurs, oh man. Oh, man.
Someone has tried to help by leaving a couple Bubblicious to get Monkey's mind straight, but no, he's gone, gone down the thin blue line. Ouch. Monkey be lookin rough.

Next day, things brightened up a bit for our hero when the Boneman showed up to smite the heathen lance with a few choice bible scriptures...
Dr. Purple folded under the guilt, or a bad cut o' junk.
And the sweet alms poured in. We're on your side Monkeyboy! We've all slipped now and again. It's a hard road.

Then lawdy the sun came out! Monk's life came round a bit when Little Brutha needed a lidda helpa his own..
Sometime it's good ta have a little someone for to take care of to get ya thinkin' straight.
Monkey scored some financial assistance and things was lookin up.
Dat Mean ol' Dr. Purple be always loomin tho. Always loomin.

Then de bad ol' evil lance-pusher got him his own crack probem ta deal wit!  Sho 'nuff!

Yiy! Hep meh! Hep meh! Da toimites got meh! Damn!

He be out in the cold now, that's right.

What goes round, comes round Needleman...

Still on the wagon, but it's day to day. Ain't no tellin', as Jimi Hendrix was fond of sayin...

Another day dawns, and things is lookin' up. Somebody done spiffed up de place, and weeze all Livin' Fo The Day.

What else kin we do...?

Barrel O' Monkey Shaman came ta town ta protect the crib's portal from loons, crazies, and rival gangs.

Monkeys gots ta stay togetha.
Sho' nuff said.

The soul bros. be lyin' low, but lookin' good!
Now they got the powah of the Pink Rabbit's Foot on they side!
Things in the crib have gotten a lidda squalid, but the powah of the Foot can not be denied!
Use the Foot, Leroy!
I am yo fatha!
Monkeyboy has gone back to 'the Pen', the only tool he knows to purge his soul. And Dr. Purple ain't nowhere in sight. He be beat, for now.

Best of luck Monkeyboys.
Keep the faith my brothers, fight the fight.

There's a million stories in this city without pity...
Miss you, Elf Tree.

December 16th, 2009 - The Snow Must Go On

Back in 2006, after I was cut loose from the photolab scene forever (well, mostly), I was lucky enough to have an understanding, encouraging, full-time salaried wife with a steady job and full health care.
This gave me the opportunity to take long introspective walks with the dog nearly every day to unload my head, usually near dawn, which led to my eventual career path change into becoming an interpretive naturalist.
This was before this blog was begun, and ultimately the walks led to photos that I took every day, and that often sent to Sharon at work after writing up a little supportive text. I soon realized that I should begin this style of journal as a blog, and IU was begun in late 2007.
I recently came across some saved versions of a few special photo hikes I sent to Sharon, and what with the weather being as it has been lately, it seems only natural to share some of those winter shots now, as they were never published on the blog.
Thinking back, I really appreciate having the opportunity to take these hikes everyday with the dog, and get my thoughts sorted out. We saw some great things, and I began to notice the bounty of things changing everyday, even though we walked nearly the same route every day. I learned an immense amount about nature during this time.

As a point of reference, most of these photos were taken on March 13th, 2006, except this one which was taken the day before.
This is along a trail below Edgecumbe Road near Crosby Lake in West Saint Paul.
There are these wild limestone and ice formations there, reminiscent of those natural sand sculptures in Colorado, to me anyway. Sort of the cheap Minnesota version.
We hadn't had much snow up to this point, I think we got an early storm in November, then it was bone-dry for months. That was about to change...

Overnight we got dumped on with a foot of heavy, wet snow.
Hap and I walked down into the 'Lower Glenn' along Minnehaha Creek below the falls, and it was eerie.
So quiet 'in the bowl', but very windy in the treetops, and just about the time you got all zen and in the moment... CRACK! POP! The trees literally started exploding around us! The weight of the wet snow had them sagging so heavily, they would catch a gust and just couldn't support it anymore and BLAMO.
I saw one that was at literally 5 inches in diameter and 30 feet tall break about 3/4 of the way up and fall in the creek about 20 feet away from us. It was spooky. Incredibly loud. I began thinking maybe coming down here in this enclosed area wasn't such a good idea...
Earlier I was adjusting my camera and a sapling snapped right next to me and sprayed some snow down my back. I thought someone was playing tricks on me. You could hear them off in the woods going off like gunshots. We didn't spend too much time in one place.
Nothing looked the same as on the dry land hikes, everything was like it was being compressed down...

Happy looks like mini-pup here, dwarfed by the snowy trees.
He was romping seriously and in his element. He wasn't legally supposed to be off-leash, but it wasn't healthy for him to be on, either with me slipping and sliding or having to constantly duck under overhanging branches, so I let him go. He was having the time of his life, he kept coming back to me and biting my gloves, trying to get me to play. He has the funniest gait in the snow, it was cracking me up. Something like a kangaroo. He didn't want to get his doodle wet I guess. Can't say I blame him. He would bound through the snow and come back with a wild look in his eyes and then tear off ahead again. Dog ecstasy.

There's a boardwalk under there somewhere.
We could barely walk down it, there were so many broken branches and the rest were hanging so low in most places you almost had to crawl under them.
Happy is doing his 'walk through the minefield' routine. He gets all distracted with snow falling on his head and is not sure where to step next.
It was very cool to be there before any other footprints showed up.

The Falls themselves were spectacular, ethereal, and surreal.
Between the heavy flakes coming down, the blowing snow 'falling up', the steam and mist from the falls, and the snow falling out of the trees, it was mystical.
You can already see evidence of branches breaking off even here where it was relatively sheltered.
It was actually quite warm down in the glen, except for the snow blowing into every crease in your clothing.
The wind blowing off the creek when we got up out of the bowl was brutal. I iced up immediately walking home and Hap was trying to keep his lashes from freezing up.

Coming down the stairs on a white blanket.

Another interesting thing, and this tells you it's March and not December, is that many of the river trees had their sap running. This birch had little golden 'sapcicles' where it was accumulating on the catkins and then turning to slush before it could fall off.
Sometimes the whole trunks were colored.
Somewhere I've got some close-ups of some of these, they look like chunks of wet brown sugar. Being from a birch I suspect they don't taste like it though.

What was that about the Inuits having twenty-one words for snow...? I'm not sure that is really enough...