Activism

U. S. Customs House. Very welcoming.

I try to avoid writing about politics here, but recent events have driven me to be more active.  Usually the extent of my political action is giving money to causes I support.  I have to do more.  I think of my days at Colorado State when we would decide whether to go to the daily demonstration or do something else, like study.  The country was in turmoil over Vietnam and Watergate.  I did my small part.

Now I must again do my small part.  No more just watching Rachel Maddow and deploring the latest attempt at destroying at destroying anything remotely progressive.  I must act, take to the streets.  This won’t be the first time, I went to a rally supporting our Muslim neighbors and had fun wearing my Bad Hombre t-shirt.

Today it is the lunch time protest at Senator Cory Gardner’s office in downtown Denver.  I’m not sure these demonstrations and marches have a great impact, but they are a way to use my First Amendment rights, which seem to be under attack these days.  The current upheaval is in the NFL, and is a classic free speech issue.  The unfortunate result of the turmoil is increasing the polarization going on in our nation since the Reagan era.

I went downtown to a Federal office building where Senator Gardner has hidden his office.  As with most Federal buildings, you must go through security.  I always have to get wanded because my right knee is titanium.  I was alone in his office suite, no going beyond the closed door.  I talked to a nice young man acting as receptionist.  I stated my position and he took notes.  No drama.

The issues this week are about health care and race.  The Affordable Care Act needs work.  The impass in Congress is preventing any rational attempt at fixing the ACA.  Repeal attempts keep failing.  The reason for the attempts to repeal the ACA is, simply, race.  It is a black President’s program so it must go away.  Oh, and it is expensive.

When a new social welfare program goes into place there is always opposition, but. People begin to realize things are better for lots of people.  They just don’t get repealed, they get cleaned up.  Traditionally the Democrats come up with the programs and the Republicans do the housekeeping.  With race behind the Republican’s opposition they have blocked themselves from assuming their traditional role.  Nothing gets done and the status quo lurches along.

There is, of course, money involved as well.  Rich Republicans don’t want to pay for making poor people’s lives better.  Three reasons: greed, race, and Social Darwinism.  Republicans are always opposed to higher taxes.  They want to keep the money for themselves, even though they have plenty.  Poor blacks and hispanics don’t deserve a damn thing, they deserve to suffer.  The reason poor people are poor is because they are inferior to rich people.  Mitt Romney so much as said it.  It don’t work that way, folks.  Poor people are poor for lots of reasons, but not genetics.  The argument they are inferior is half a step from Naziism.

It’s not surprising the radical rightists are on the ascendancy.  We have always had them, but usually events shut them up.  They have to believe they are superior to others, usually because of a deep reservoir of shame.  They deserve our compassion.

There is the real problem.  Social welfare programs are a reflection of compassion.  Governments should be in the business of helping the people.  Good health care reflects compassion.  It is sad so many of our government’s resources are devoted to warfare, not compassion.  We are all in this together, so let’s give everyone a break, use loving kindness.   Hate and insensitivity are not the answer.

There’s Hurricanes in Florida and Texas Had Rain

Colorado Desert

I am a child of the desert, and the guy sitting next to me in the coffee shop is from Saudi Arabia.  Those of us from dry country usually don’t understand why people would choose to live in wet, low country with hurricanes.  Yes, there is the ocean, but we can always go to Lake Powell or Lake McCounaughy.  We do have a few tornados and hailstorms, and one of the canyons floods every 15 years or so.

On the gulf or Florida coast they get a hurricane at roughly the same intervals, but the damage is widespread and many more people are affected.  For some reason, most of the people in the world live close to a seacoast.  Yes, trade is easier and things tend to grow there (not like our Great American Desert).

Too low, too many people, too wet.  And yes, the oceans are headed inland.  It will be even wetter.   It is somewhat harder to make a living here in mid-continent and the seasons can be more harsh, but grand catastrophes are rarer.  I must confess a warm ocean is good for visits, but I did not like the mid-Atlantic, but maybe it was because I was on a troopship.

Another problem with seacoasts is many of them have a tendency to shake.  The tectonic plates collide on the coasts, thus mountains and earthquakes.  I prefer the ground under me to hold still.  When we visited Carol’s daughter in Menlo Park CA, I was a bit nervous being halfway between the San Andreas and Hayward faults in a flood plain.  The real irony is that the U.S. Geological Survey regional office is there.

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Here in Denver, there were big earthquakes once when the Rockies were rising, but it has been a while.  We had a flurry of small ones when they were pumping hazardous waste down a drill hole at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.  When they stopped pumping, the earthquakes stopped.  That lesson was ignored in the Oklahoma oil fields where they pump fracking water back down drill holes instead of treating it.  Most of the state is shaking.

“Do it cheaply, don’t bother with doing what is right.”  It seems to be standard procedure in the extractive industries such as oil and gas and mining.  The solution is regulation, but the oil business owns the government in Oklahoma and Texas.  They are close to owning the U. S. Government.

I seem to have drifted into a rant.  Weren’t we discussing living on the coast?  The coasts stand to reason from a short term economic standpoint.  The rivers are there, shipping is cheap, it is fairly flat, and the climate tends to be moderated by the ocean.  Except when it is not.  Hurricanes, nor’easters, increasingly wetter monsoons, and sea level rise is scary.

Tidal Flood in Florida

How would you like having sea water pouring out of the storm drains in your street at high tide?  What about having your crops inundated by incessant rain?  Do you want the roof ripped off your house and be without power for many days?  Then there are tsunamis.  Take a look at the Japan tsunami on YouTube.  If none of this stuff bothers you, live on the coast.

Veterans

I am a veteran.  I served in the U.S. Army from 1962 to 1965.  I am from a hick town in Western Colorado.  I hadn’t done well in my first attempt at college and needed to get out of Dodge.  Other than oil and gas and the uranium mines, there weren’t many job opportunities.  I worked for the Park Service for a while, but the job was seasonal, 180 days per year.  It takes years to get a full time job.

So, it was time to bug out.  The two courses most guys took were going to Los Angeles or the military.  My friends who went to L.A. All starved out and had to get money from parents to come home.  My choice was the military.  My preference was the Navy, but the enlistment was for four years.  The Army was three years.  I enlisted for a European tour.  I did pretty well on all the aptitude tests so the guy offered electronics.

I didn’t think I was interested in electronics, so what else did they have?  How about missiles?  Fort Bliss in El Paso is a big missile post so I said OK.  I was put in missile electronics.  It turned out to be good.  After basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri I went to electronics schools at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

I was trained as a radar repairman on an obsolete missile system.  I was sent to duty in another missile system outfit.  We played a lot of volleyball.  When that unit deactivated I was sent to a  Hawk surface to air missile outfit.  A radar is a radar, so I went right to work.  It turned out to be two fairly good years in a decent outfit.  The other guys were a lot like me; college hadn’t worked out, so the Army.  I liked Germany, the Army not so much.  I did some traveling, drank some beer, and came home.

A good thing about military service is the benefits.  I went back to college and the GI Bill paid for a lot of it.  Now I have the VA if I need it.  I have hearing aids from the VA for the hearing loss from shooting a fifty caliber machine gun.  I also get a small pension.  Overall, not so bad.

I also get to give Marine veterans a hard time for being marines.  They seem to think they are hot shit.  Well, I’m glad they are on our side, (mostly).  Navy and Air Force vets are OK.  As for Army vets, you need us, we are all trained killers.  Huh, not so much.

The Vietnam war heated up after I got back in college.  I am a social sciences major, learning history and war literature.  That war made no sense at all, so I was fairly active in my opposition.  The difference being I was a Veteran, with the sense of commonality with those poor saps in Vietnam.  I spoke out in support of those serving.  I respected servicemen then and to this day.

Go to a VA hospital sometime.  Most of those vets really need the help.  The VA tries, but overload and bureaucracy makes it a scary place.  The providers themselves are, in my experience, great if you can get in to see them.  The military is smaller these days, but the damage inflicted on those deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan is awful.  That is a lesson we didn’t learn in Vietnam.  A war without clear goals takes a toll on those who fight in it.

I am against war.  I am a pacifist.  I oppose the U.S entering into foreign adventures where people shoot at one another.  I am a veteran and proud of having served.

Back to Real Life

Colonoscopy, a Peak Experience

As you have read, I went through a real downer after falling down the stairs.  I’m mostly over the episode, the body is mostly healed, and my psyche is on the mend.  Along with the trip down the stairs I got my three year endoscopy/colonoscopy and had a trip to the cardiologist.  I have an appointment with the gastroenterologist coming up for another butt chewing.  Who better than a butt doctor?

The cardiologist wants me to have an echocardiogram to see the extent of scarring on the wall of my heart.  I apparently had a heart attack sometime, and there is some damage.  I don’t remember anything, and my heart function is fine, but they want to check if there could be a problem in the future.

I go to many of Carol’s doctor appointments as well as mine.  I am tired of all the medical offices.  The people there are almost always great, but, the waiting sitting around reading six month old People Magazines.  I guess this gives old retired people something to do rather than sitting in the recliner watching old Law and Order reruns.

All this medical stuff is scary.  A good friend recently had a mild heart attack, but after 40 years of cigarettes, it is seriously scary.  He keeps telling me I need more exercise, but it is mostly projection.  At some level, however, he is right.  He is so scared he devotes much of his time to exercise, mostly pickleball and swimming.  When we have coffee he is usually limping from overdoing it at pickleball.  One of these days his leg is going to fold over backwards at the knee.  Well, maybe not, both of his knees are titanium and don’t fold backwards as readily.

I’m working on diet changes, getting Physical Therapy, and doing more Mindfulness Meditation.  Maybe someday I will start being more mindful when not actually meditating.  That should reduce the falling and tripping.

Other benefits of the meditation are the three refuges:  the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.  The Buddha is not some kind of God.  He was a man, albeit a fully realized man who devoted his life to helping others become realized.  The dharma is the body of his teachings along with the wisdom of his followers over the last 2500 years.  The sanghas are the groups of followers meeting to meditate, learn the dharma, and pay homage to the Buddha.

Sangas aren’t unique to Buddhism.  Christians call it fellowship, the body of Christ.  Human bonding is important for living a spiritual life.  Sunday evenings, the Insight Meditation Community of Denver meets in an Episcopal church near downtown Denver.  As always, it took some time for connections to form, but I now feel close to everyone there, even if they may be from California.  In addition, meditating in a group is always special.

Someday science will figure out what the spiritual energy is that forms within and between people following a spiritual path.  The energy is common to every spiritual path.  Sometimes it is called mystical, but there are many who would say they aren’t mystics.  The only thing blocking the bond is hate.  People can feel a bond of hatred, but it is in no way spiritual.

My hate example is the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka.  One of their tenets is that God hates.  Do you believe it?  A friend is the Unitarian Universalist minister in Topeka.  Their tenets are love and helping others.  The Westboro congregation is actually at cross purposes with their beliefs.  Their protests have brought people together all over the country to stand in opposition to hate.  Love grows.  Hate destroys.

Aftermath

 

The Infamous Stairs

Falling down the stairs two weeks ago has turned out to be a life changing event.  I knew I was getting old, after all the URL you used to get here is DOFBILL, for Doddering Old Fart.  I have been using it for several years.  But, friends, this last excursion down the stairs hurt.  It still hurts.  I started physical therapy again for balance work.  I haven’t been able to get motivated for doing anything.  Getting here to the coffee shop to write took until noon today.  I am usually here by 9:00 AM.  All I want to do is lay in bed and watch U Tube videos.

I did manage to work with the painters the other day.  Our new stretch of fence looks good.  However, I dropped the tote tray full of painting tools and they all spilled.  They are still on the floor.  I talked to to Carol about all this, and she wisely figured out what is going on with me.

I am in mourning.  I guess I should have figured it out by myself, but I was too numb.  I retired in 2011, I sold the motorcycle.  I knew I was more and more limited physically, but this fall brought it all home.  At 74 years, I am old.

This was reinforced yesterday when I went for my three year endoscopy/colostomy.  I got chewed out by the doctor for not following the rules.  No caffein, no chocolate (!), no booze (I had already quit a year and a half ago), no spicy food, on and on.  I told Carol if I can’t have spicy Mexican food, life isn’t worth living.  What a stupid remark, as she not-so-gently pointed out.

I have limitations, have had them for years.  I just had never gotten to the acceptance phase.  Bouncing down the stairs feet first brought it all home.  In John Mellencamp’s Jack and Diane, he sings “Oh,yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone”.  That line has had residency in my head for two weeks.

Well, the thrill is not gone.  Some of the thrills, however, are gone.  No mountain climbing.  No motorcycling.  No more solo four wheeling trips where I could stay stuck for a week before anyone came along.  I have to let go of risky stuff.  The odds have changed.  I am an old man.

After mourning comes acceptance.  I am in that process now.  The sages say the task of elders is looking inward.  I am doing Insight Meditation for that reason.  My meditations do take me inward, but much of the time I am thinking about outer stuff.  In fact the best inner work I do is at the keyboard.  A good writing session sets the stage for good meditations.

Not all the outer world things have to go.  I can still get into nature.  The sunrise is still there.  The Japanese Beetle season is about over.  I still have a life.  So, what’s the big deal already?  There is my sense of humor, and it is intact.  Part of me knows it is all right.  If I can still make bad puns and turn phrases upside down I still love life.  Carol would probably be happier if I had a more conventional sense of humor.

I haven’t mentioned the most important thing in my life.  The people.  Starting with Carol, my soul mate and the everlasting love of my life.  All we do, all we are, and those morning cuddles.    Her children, who have become my children as well.  All our friends.  The poignancy of losing friends.  The memories.  Yes I can let go and still live fully.

Down the Stairs

One of the things I do with this website is chronicle my aging process.  Last week was a big one.  It rained Thursday followed with a brief hailstorm.  The hail was mostly pea sized, but it came pretty hard for a few minutes.

I went outside to look at the damage (not bad), and came back in.  I headed downstairs with some urgency to get to the toilet.  My shoes were wet and I stepped on the front edge of the top step, the part without a nonskid strip.  My feet went out and somehow I ended up bouncing down the stairs face down and feet first.  It seemed to take a long time to go down one flight of stairs, cussing all the way.

I broke a rib on the left side of my chest, scraped both shins, bruised my right lower leg, and really whacked my left hip.  My hip grew a good-sized lump and my rib hurt like hell.  The rib may not be broken after all.  A few days later it feels a lot better.  My last excursion on the stairs resulted in two broken ribs on the left side of my back.  They hurt a lot longer than this one.

I spent a couple of days mostly in bed.  It was hard to walk with my hip and that rib hurt every time I coughed or laughed, not that I was doing much laughing.  Tylenol did nothing.  Tramadol helped quite a bit, but I don’t like taking very many.  My hip really objected going up the stairs.    Right foot on the stair, left foot up to the stair, rinse and repeat.  Now, I am pretty mobile.

I guess the incident could be described as shock and awe.  After several falls in 2015 I got several weeks of physical therapy which helped tremendously.  The therapist was good and fun to,work with, and I got a lot of balance back.  It seems as one ages, the tendency is to rely much more on visual cues for balance, not using the proprioceptor nerves in the feet or the inner ear.  The PT brought most of it back.  my additional task to be mindful at all times.

It turned out I may have some damage to the vestibular nerve v in my right ear.  I use hearing aids due to hearing damage when I was in the army.  Armies tend to make loud noises, and back then no attention was paid to hearing protection. The vestibular nerve carries auditory and balance signals to the brain.

When I turn right, especially in the dark, I get wobbly.  Lately the problem is a lot worse.  I have to brace every step on the way to the bathroom at night.  I’m going back to physical therapy.  The head therapist where I go says she can help with the vestibular nerve problem as well.  I wish physical therapy worked for tinnitus.

I am also headed out to the Disabled American Veterans office to look into having my service connected disability reassessed.  I have a 10% disability for tinnitus, and hearing loss as service connected with 0% disability.  It took five years of appeal to get the 0%.  It may work for me now.

About the Department of Veterans Affairs, I have always had good providers, but the bureaucracy is worse than the U.S. Army.  The waits are long as well.  I pretty much stopped using the VA because it was such a pain getting my Ritalin prescription for ADD refilled.  I guess I’m going back.  Ain’t aging fun?

The Upper Peninsula

Recently we visited Michigan.

Grand Marais and Lake Superior

Michigan is two realms, downstate and the U.P. as the locals call it, where we visited.  They call themselves yuppers, for U.P., the Upper Peninsula.  It’s the North Country, well north of Toronto, heavily wooded and bordered by Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.  My wife has an old friend who is from Grand Marais, a tiny town on the south shore of Lake Superior. It is 40 miles to the nearest supermarket or hospital.

Patty grew up there, and like most natives, had to leave to make a living.  After a career, she went back home.  I can understand why.  The U.P. is a magical place, and Grand Marais, with its 400 people, is one source of the magic.  The land, the lake, the history, and the yuppers combine to make a spot unlike any other.

Historically a fishing and logging town, it is now a retirement and tourist community.  The campground, with its tents and RV’s, has as many people in summer as the rest of town.  There is a K-12 school with 28 students, a few stores, restaurants, and motels; small houses with no fences, some new houses seeming out of place, and that’s about it.

The people talk funny.  Lots of Finns and Swedes settled there, and that Nordic accent prevails.  No one says yes, it’s yah.  The word the becomes da, and the vowels are round.  They are friendly, open, welcoming people with no pretensions.  I fell in love with them.

The land is second growth timber, still supporting a logging industry.  The trees are a mix of hardwoods and conifers.  The larger trees are about 24-30 inches in diameter.  Walk into the woods, and there are old stumps around four feet across.

The Old Coast Guard Station, now the National Lakeshore Ranger Station

 

 

 

We did some wandering at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, just west of town.  The Park Headquarters is in the old Coast Guard Station in town.  The lakeshore has a waterfall, views of the lake and its lighthouses, the sandstone bluffs giving the park its name, and the log slide.  It is the first National Lakeshore.

 

Lake Superior Log Slide

The log slide was used to slide logs into the lake from sand dunes about 175 feet above the lake.  There is a trail with wooden steps leading down to the waterfall and the lakeshore.  We watched the young people frolicking in the water and running/sliding down the log slide.  The beach is rounded cobbles up to about softball size.  Just away from the beach is sand with people looking for agates that formed from water trickling through ancient basalt lava flows.

Another day we went blueberry picking in a logging clear cut.  Lots of blueberry plants were hiding in  west the bracken.  We kept an eye out for bears attracted to the blueberries. The berries went into pancakes and muffins.  Driving off the pavement is a bit dodgy due to the sand.  We had to back down one hill.

Another notable thing was the silence.  I live in the city, with a constant background of noise.  Grand Marais was quiet.  I am sure the town is even quieter in winter with three or four feet of snow on the ground on the rare day with no wind.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

 

The logging and fishing history is important, but the shipwrecks are a thing of legend.  The south shore of Lake Superior is a lee shore.  A lee shore is when the shore is leeward (downwind) of a sailing vessel.  In the days of sail, Lake Superior schooners were often blown onto the south shore by the fierce north and westerly winds.  It is difficult to sail upwind in a big blow, and the lake is famous for its storms.

Lake Superior Schooner

You probably know Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”.  Ships under power weren’t immune to the storms.  Standing on the shore of that immense lake, I could feel the draw of that big lake, and began to appreciate both the beauty and the danger.  Today, the shipping is well offshore.

I never felt I could fall in love with flat country, but I do love the U.P.

 

The Empty Quarter

Portion of Flat Tops Wilderness

Well, its not a quarter of Colorado, but it’s big and pretty empty.  North and west of the Colorado River and south and west of the Yampa River, the only towns of any size are Rifle, Silt, Newcastle, and Glenwood Springs along the Colorado; and Meeker in the middle.  Craig and Hayden are on the  Yampa.  I don’t count Rangely on the White River west of  Meeker as a real town.  It is just a bunch of oil field junk with a few forlorn people. I recently traveled through the heart of the region.

I am a Western Slope native, so I have been over the relatively well traveled roads.  I-70 (previously highways 6&24) and SH 13 from Rifle to Craig.  As a kid, I went fishing on Rifle Creek with my parents.  The

White River

White River drains the White River Plateau and The Flattops.  Piceance Creek drains the Piceance Basin and enters the White between Meeker and Rangely.

Meeker is a pretty town in the valley of the White River.  It’s a farm and ranch town with a sad past.  The Meeker Massacre in 1879 was the end of the Utes huge reservation  lands in Western Colorado. They were shipped to Eastern Utah.  The reason was the systematic U.S. Policy of cooping the Indians up or killing them.  There are grisly details, but it was just another example of the U.S. Policy of mistreating Native Americans that continues to this day.

Maybe you have heard of Trappers Lake.  It is an enclave surrounded by the Flattops Wilderness, a huge area of timberland dotted with many small lakes.  The only access is on horseback or backpacking.  It’s wet country, catching the storms as they leave the lower country to the west.  Hunters, fishermen, and tree huggers are the only travelers.

I never backpacked there, but two friends humped there way in years ago.  They talked about the beauty,  but mostly about the rain.  One of them had one of those convoluted open foam pads with no cover.  When the water came into the tent, he was lying on a sponge in a soaked down sleeping bag.  They left early.

West of SH 13, along the Grand Hogback,

Grand Hogback Between the Colorado Plateau and the Rocky Mountains

you are on the Colorado Plateau.  Go east, and you are in the Rocky Mountains, but not the Rockies you are used to.  The hogback is a remnant of the uplift that formed the Rockies.  The equivalent on the east side are those red rock hogbacks called the Flatirons, Red Rocks, and the Garden of the Gods.

No big mountains here, just a region of high plateaus.  The reason? Volcanism in the form of lava flows.  The White River Plateau was uplifted along with the rest of the Rockies, but instead of being eroded into those jagged peaks we are used to seeing, the basalt from the lava flows formed a resistant, flat caprock.  It’s not rugged mountains, but it has a beauty all it’s own.

Flat Tops Trail

The is a scenic byway between Meeker and Yampa I took for the first time,  At first, it is in the White River valley, then climbs up on the plateau and heads on east to Yampa.  The view to the south is where the Flattops drop down to the river.  It’s not a gentle slope.  The basalt caprock is underlain by the soft White River Formation.  The steep slope is subject to landslides, leaving large open, green slopes surrounded by timber.  It’s great summer range country for sheep and cattle.  It is also some of the prettiest country in our state.  I think I met two pickups on the road east of Buford, where the road turns off to Trappers Lake.  It’s gravel much of the way, but good gravel.

West of SH 13, on the edge of the Colorado Plateau, is the huge Piceance Basin.  It is a Structural basin next door to the Uinta Basin, mostly in Utah.  The basins are separated by the Douglas Arch, crossed by Douglas Pass, country where I spent a lot of time in my youth.  The arch is a western extension of the Laramide Orogeny, the mountain building period that formed the Rocky Mountains.  The edges of mountain ranges usually have foreland basins, areas of subsidence.   I am sitting over the Denver Basin.  The Piceance is the equivalent west of the mountains.  As the mountains rose, the fringes sank, creating huge synclines filled with the erosion products of the mountains.    The basins formed huge inland lakes which filled with sediment that became the Green River Formation, famous for its fossils and oil shale.

The Greater Piceance Basin

Because of all that rising and sinking, pockets form, trapping reservoirs of gas and oil.  The Piceance is one of the most productive natural gas fields in the country.  Rangely’s oil is also from the Piceance.  I drove the road running along Piceance Creek, which drains the basin to the west.  The area is all about natural gas, with some ranching along the creek.  There is a gas plant every few miles, and lots of truck traffic.  The basin used to be the home of a huge migratory deer herd, the deer summering in the Flattops and wintering in the basin.  The herd is still there, but all the drilling has greatly reduced the numbers.  Lots of elk there as well, their numbers increasing somewhat, probably due to less competition from deer.

The area is known as the Roan Plateau, which drops off to the Book Cliffs, an escarpment runnng from Palisade, CO to well past Greenriver UT.  It feels like home country to me, with memories of deer hunting in the Douglas pass area.  The scenery isn’t as dramatic as the red rock country to the south, but has its own beauty.  Plus, it isn’t as cluttered up with people.

Piceance, Uinta, Roan Plateau, Book Cliffs, all names for roughly the same country.  My list now includes going up into the basin proper, known mostly by Ute Indians, ranchers, oil field people, geologists, and aging wanderers.

Dukkha

Dukkha is the Pali word originally translated as suffering.  Pali is the ancient Indian language, along with Sanskrit, used to write down the discourses of the Buddha.  Usage of Pali tended to move south to Sri Lanka and South Asia, while Sanskrit was incorporated in the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism.

The Buddhist group I attend is  part of the Theravada tradition, most of those bringing it to the west studied in Sri Lanka or Thailand.  There are differences, but to me the differences can be compared to Lutherans and Baptists.  The essential message is the same.

Dukkha is central to Buddhism.  It can’t be precisely translated.  Discontent, craving, anxiety, dissatisfaction, suffering, and hopelessness are typical translations.  I’m sure you get the idea, we all experience dukkha.  The goal of Buddhism is the end of dukkha.  Without dukkha, a person is totally in the moment, seeing life as it is, not how our egos want it to be.   All our lives, we are attempting to shape our world into what we have decided it should be.  Ain’t gonna happen, folks.

Therefore we live lives of striving or despair because things aren’t what we think they should be.  Well, things are what they are.  That’s all.  I want comfort, security, love, time for adventure, and no Japanese Beetles.  I have love, but the other things seem to be lacking somewhere.  Perhaps the best illustration is the difference between pain and suffering.  My knee hurts, my fingers are getting stiff, and I itch.  I’m human, that stuff is inevitable.  I don’t want it to be true.  I get upset when I itch, and the damn Japanese Beetles won’t go away.  I feel discontent.

Insight Meditation is the practice of sitting and following the breath.  Just the breath.  Not thinking about ice cream, the breath.  When thoughts about ice cream or anything else arise, simply return to the breath.  Later, when thoughts arise, observe them without engaging them and watch them pass away.  That itch in the left ear canal, observe it and note it goes away.  Or not.

The key is not getting involved with the itch.  It is an itch over which I have no control.  I want to stick a Q-tip in there, but it won’t help.  The itch does what it will.  Let it be.  Chill, dude.  Am I good at this?  Not so much.  That’s why it is called a practice.  I have noticed some progress, but it is slow.  I don’t get as irritated in traffic.  I am a bit better at putting up with Carol’s Hallmark Channel movies (not really), and I am a complete failure at accepting the beetles.

I have a touch of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  There is an ongoing, futile attempt to control one’s environment, so strong it becomes ritualized.  For me, the coffee maker has to be in it’s exact place WITHOUT ANYTHING IN FRONT OF IT.  When a cup is sitting there, my neck and shoulder muscles tense, and I utter a quiet oath.  So what’s the big deal anyway?  Nada.  That’s dukkha.  My day will go just fine if the cup stays there.  Surprisingly, it will probably get moved, and there was no need to get all uptight.

Breathe in, breathe out, watch the reaction, watch it pass away.  The world is as it is.

Where Not To Live

Living in Colorado, I may be arrogant about all the inferior places in the country, but the ones on this list are unsafe.  They are also popular.  It seems people like to live on the edge.

San Andreas Fault

At the top of my list is anywhere near the San Andreas Fault.  When two tectonic plates are bumping along one another, things get shaky.  Just look at those aerial photos of the gouges the  sliding plates created.  Lots of energy goes into motion of that magnitude, and there is plenty left over to bring buildings down.  The  Los Angeles and  San Francisco areas have a lot to offer.  Climate, scenery, the Pacific, and all those geologic features created by the colliding plates.

The place of greatest folly is the Portola Valley.

Fault in Portola Valley After 1906 Earthquake

Just west of Stanford University, the valley is not a stream valley, it’s a fault valley.  The valley is full of big houses located not near the fault, but on it.  Well, not right on the fault, you must build fifty feet away from the fault.  Portola Valley is one of the richest zip codes in the country which is a good thing; the people will have the money to rebuild somewhere else.  There is a strict building code, but the fault is just too damn close.

A relative used to live in Menlo Park, one of the charming and wealthy communities in Silicon Valley.  Her house was midway between the San Andreas and Hayward faults in a flood plain. What are those people thinking?  Pretty country, though.  She had redwood trees in her front yard.  One of my favorite ironies is that the west coast office of The United States Geological Survey is in Menlo Park.  What were they thinking?

Shaking in Parkfield, Oakland, San Francisco, Northfield, Palmdale, and soon.  The entire Los Angeles area is at risk.  There hasn’t been a big quake in some years.that means increasing amounts of energy is being stored along the fault.  It’s not if, but when.

Mt. Rainier

Those tectonic plates are at it it the Pacific Northwest as well.  There are earthquakes there, but the real danger is those pesky volcanos.  All those striking photographs of Seattle nestled beneath Mt Rainier?   It is an active volcano, folks.  It has been a while, but every day is one day closer to the next one.  Mt. Hood is due as well.  Are you old enough to remember Mt. St. Helens?  1980.  Not many lives were lost, it is in a remote area, but the blast flattened the forest for miles.

The real danger from those big volcanos is pyroclastic flows and lahars.  The eruption releases massive amounts of ash and larger chunks (clasts).  In addition, parts of the mountain blow apart, and the whole mess heads downhill.  It is hot, coming out of the volcano, and wet from the ice and snow on the mountain. There are huge landslides contributing to the mass, which can travel as fast as 300 mph.  Everything in the flow’s path is buried or carried with the flow.  What is scary is that Seattle, Tacoma, Eugene, and other towns are in the path of the flows.

Track of the Lahar after Mt. St. Helens eruption.

In an earthquake, buildings collapse and maybe burn.  A pyroclastic flow kills everything in its path.  If the heat doesn’t do it, the ash in the air is so dense it fills the nostrils of any animal.  It also buries land with upwards of several feet of ash.  Lahars travel down valleys and is a mass of ash, rock, water, and any other thing in its path.  It flows down the valley and when it stops, it is the consistency of concrete. No living thing survives.  Stay away.  The Puyallup Valley is most vulnerable from a Rainier eruption.

Don’t live right on the coast either.  Earthquakes can generate tsunamis that will sweep away anything in their paths, sometimes far inland.  In addition, sea level rise will drown lots of development.

Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountains. Fault at base of mountains

Moving east, the Salt Lake mountain front is overdue for a big earthquake.  The city developed at the base of the Wasatch Mountains, with a huge fault at their base that moves fairly regularly.  Watch out, people, Zion is going to shake.

Another place to avoid is Florida.  A beautiful place with amazing wildlife, the peninsula is just a slow moving disaster punctuated by somewhat lesser disasters.  The biggest problem, it is all limestone.  Not just limestone but limestone honeycombed with water filled voids.  The voids are growing as the abundant rainfall soaks in and dissolves even more limestone.  Sinkholes are the result.  There are more all the time.  In addition, Florida is low and flat.  Low enough for much of it to go under as seal level rises.  It’s happening.  Every flood tide, water flows out of manholes in subdivisions north of Miami.  The rise will continue, and Mr. Trump isn’t helping.

Charlotte Harbor

Oh, and there are the hurricanes.  They sure do make a lot of messes.  Climate change is predicted to increase the number and intensity of the storms.  My late in-laws lived for a time in one of those retirement trailer parks on Charlotte Harbor, on the Gulf coast.  The trailer  park is gone, thanks to Hurricane Charley in 2004.  My in-laws had moved to Mt. Dora before the hurricane.  Mt. Dora is in the middle of the state on high ground (around 300 feet).  They have had 77 hurricanes since 1930.  One of the storms knocked out power for two weeks.

The only time I have had real reason for fear while in an airplane was when we flew into Orlando during a thunderstorm.  We were on approach when I saw the storm hit us.  The visibility went to zero and turbulence rocked the plane.  The pilot shoved the throttles forward and went around.  By the time we circled around, the storm had moved on.

The entire East Coast is also hurricane country.  The ocean also seems to want to move inland.  Don’t be in the way.  The ocean is rising.  The coast is moving west.

New Orleans After Katrina

The Gulf Coast is also a danger zone.  Subject to hurricanes, low lying areas can also be flooded by rising rivers.  The Mississippi Delta is also no place to live.  It is sinking.  The Mississippi River mud is going over the continental shelf, thanks to the Corps of Engineers channeling the river straight to the gulf rather than allowing it to build the delta.  The river is going to win.  It will not allow itself to be contained for long.  Louisiana, beware.

Go up the river to New Madrid, Missouri south of Memphis.  Earthquake country.  The last time it shook, bells rang in Boston.  That was in 1812, when the population in the quake region was small.  It is small no more.  St. Louis is vulnerable.

Tornado

Now that we are in the Midwest, let’s discuss tornadoes.  The entire region is at risk, with devastating storms anywhere.  Tornado Alley, from Texas through Oklahoma and to Kansas, Missouri, South Dakota, and Iowa has the most danger, but anywhere east of the Rockies has some risk.

The general idea here is that nowhere is completely safe, nature being what it is, but there are some areas that I would not live in.  I think I will stay in Colorado away from those canyons that like to flood.  Oh, wait, if Yellowstone lets loose, we’re toast.

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