When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.
A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.
So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”
“Remain in the world, act in the world, do whatsoever is needful, and yet remain transcendental, aloof, detached, a lotus flower in the pond.”
There are these ponds in the park at the end of my block. I think they are mostly there for flood control, but they look great. I’ve taken photos of them over the years.
The ponds are surrounded by hiking/biking trails – it’s on my work bicycling commute. I always enjoy riding past or around the ponds – except on the days/times that the trail is too crowded.
Not too long ago, I noticed a guy sitting by the pond watching his black lab out in the water. The dog wasn’t far from shore – but still the water barely came up to his dog knees. That’s when I realized the ponds are a lot shallower than they look. They must be silted full.
Sure enough, a couple weeks ago, as I rode to work, I noticed an orange temporary fence around the pond and machines installing huge sheets of plywood, making a road to the water’s edge on the other side of the pond. Then, some workers started visiting the pond all day and night, using big portable pumps to empty the water out.
Then came in the giant shovel machines to scoop out the black muck. It was so vile and watery they had to lime it and then stir the mix with the long arms of the shovel buckets to stabilize it enough to scoop it into waiting trucks. The smell was awful – that mud had a lot of grass clippings, trash, and who knows what mixed with it and it had been sitting down there underwater for years.
One day there was an elderly woman sitting on a bench with her tiny dog held in her lap. They both were watching the machines work – unbothered by the smell of the muck and the diesel fumes from the straining engines. Everybody else seemed to be ignoring the scene.
Finally, they seem to have finished. I wondered what the bottom of the ponds would be like – they were too big to be concrete lined. I forgot that there is caliche limestone only a few feet below the surface (that’s why nobody in Dallas has a basement) and it looks like they scooped some of the rock out (it isn’t very strong) when they made the ponds – making big oval saucer-shaped indentations in the earth.
The equipment is being loaded up – I guess they will start letting the ponds fill in now. The calendar says fall – but it’s still summer here in Texas – not sure how long until we get enough rain… we’ll see. When they are filled I guess they will look exactly the same as they did before. Deep water looks just like shallow.
“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
I have written about it, here, many times before – All my live I have always wanted to live on a creek lot. For the last decade or so I do, sort of… it is more of a ditch lot – the creek is tamed into a straight line in the middle of the block, exactly between property lines. No natural watercourse flows in a straight line.
It is tamed in terms of location and direction… but not in terms of flow. Usually a quiet narrow strip of water barely moving, when it rains the water rises and becomes violent.
The last storm (not the big one, a couple days later) I took some photos from the Yale Street Bridge right when the rain ended and again, the next morning.
The crazy thing how fast this transformation occurs. Despite the buffering of the flood control ponds upstream during a thunder-boomer the water will come down in a wall and the creek will rise in seconds. When it ends the water drops almost as fast, leaving only a line of detritus as a reminder of the violence that was there minutes before.
These are by no means photographs taken under extreme conditions. That little bit of water visible in the before photos will almost completely dry up in July and August, evaporated under the deadly Dallas Texas summer sun and inevitable drought. This was only an ordinary spring thunderstorm, I’ve seen the water significantly higher (over the bike trail, for instance). I simply can’t get a photograph of that because of darkness and/or fear.
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
There is always someone like the duckling in the lower left corner. In unknown danger, not in with the group, crossing upstream, almost alone. Is it you? Really? Are you sure?
“We have annexed the future into the present, as merely one of those manifold alternatives open to us. Options multiply around us, and we live in an almost infantile world where any demand, any possibility, whether for life-styles, travel, sexual roles and identities, can be satisfied instantly.”
For me, the most amazing aspect of a car crash – even the simplest fender bender – is the sound. The sharp snap of breaking safety glass, the thud of impact, the groaning of thick bending metal. Behind it all is the sound of entropy increasing, of the inevitable disaster that lies behind the veneer of our day to day lives. The reality forced upon us that there is no going back… time only runs one way.
“But how can you walk away from something and still come back to it?”
“Easy,” said the cat. “Think of somebody walking around the world. You start out walking away from something and end up coming back to it.”
“Small world,” said Coraline.
“It’s big enough for her,” said the cat. “Spider’s webs only have to be large enough to catch flies.”
He has been there every morning. Today, watching his behavior closely, I realized what he is doing.
When I came to my car he was nowhere to be seen, but his web was stretched out from the mirror capsule to the door. It was oval, complex, symmetrical, and beautiful shining gossamer in the rising sun.
As I drove down the road, suddenly he emerged, fighting the wind, moving over his web as best as he could.
Why didn’t he stay put? Why did he come out of the safety of the mirror housing to flap around in the speeding air?
I watched him (as best as I could… I had to drive) and suddenly realized what he was doing – what he was doing every morning out there.
He was eating his web. First, he gathered all the disparate strands into one, thick, sturdy rope and once that was accomplished, he devoured the strand surprisingly quickly. Only then did he return to the safety of the mirror housing.
I wasn’t sure if I saw it right, so I looked up “Do spiders eat their old webs?” on the internet. Sure enough, they do.
From Indiana Public Media:
Look around many homes and businesses today, and you’ll see recycling bins full of paper, metal cans, and plastic.
In a world of limited resources, it makes sense to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible. That’s why humans aren’t the first to try to conserve natural resources by recycling. Spiders have their own program to recycle valuable protein.
The spiders we’re talking about are the orb-weavers, the ones that make those rounded, intricate webs you see shimmering between branches in a garden or forest. To increase their chances of capturing prey, orb-weavers’ webs are often located in high traffic areas. This makes damage to the web more likely, either when a scrumptious morsel gets tangled in it or when a bumbling human gets hung up for a few seconds!
Some orb-weavers remake their webs every day, whether it’s damaged or not. Since spider’s silk is made of protein, all this web-weaving requires considerable amounts of protein. What if a nice, protein-rich insect doesn’t get trapped in the web every day? What’s a hungry orb-weaver to do?
That’s where the spider’s genius for recycling comes in. When the orb-weaver takes apart an old web, it actually eats the silk. The protein from the old silk is never wasted, from the spider’s digestive system, it goes to the silk glands to be made into a new web. Even if a spider misses a few meals, it can still go on spinning webs. This is thanks to the efficient recycling program that lets spiders conserve protein by eating old webs.
You learn something new every day.
“Look at your waiter’s face. He knows. It’s another reason to be polite to your waiter: he could save your life with a raised eyebrow or a sigh.”
One of the last Sears stores closed in a giant parking lot (that used to be a mall, a long time ago) a few blocks from my house. This creates a vacuum sitting on top of a vast sea of tarmac. The local chatter is full of re-zoning talk. The first step is to change the zoning to allow restaurants with drive-thru service (really? That isn’t allowed in Texas Suburbia?) and everyone on the neighborhood interwebs is excited about the proposed chain restaurants that will start to fill the area (truth be told, one of them is something I’ll enjoy having in easy bicycle range). At first I was a bit aggravated – who wants more chain restaurants? We need locally owned, original (ethnic) food, not more giant corporate chains.
But after thinking a bit, I withdraw my objection. There are plenty, and I mean plenty (and by plenty I mean more than you could eat at in a lifetime) locally owned, original (ethnic) food in my ‘hood. If you are not from here you think of Texas as a giant redneck bastion of right-wing evil. But Texas in general and my suburb in particular (especially my side [the poor side] of said inner-ring suburb) is surprisingly diverse. I boast, with only a little hyperbolic exaggeration, that I can eat the cuisine of any country you name within walking distance of my house.
There is a life cycle of a restaurant building. It may start out as a chain, staked upfront by distant investment bankers, built to careful specifications developed with focus groups and people with MBA’s that would never eat fast food in their real lives. These chains last… maybe a decade, then they either go broke or move to somewhere more shiny and modern. That’s when the locals, usually immigrants take over. The best eating in the country is in one of the constellation of family-owned eating places in the shells of ex-fast food establishments that now serving up noodle soup, or tacos, or chicken on spits, or baklava and shwarma, or mysterious lumps in delicious sauce from a wok fired red-hot over a vertical jet engine cooker… or something like that. You know what I mean. Every city is like this.
So, when I moved in there was a chain Pizza Buffet called Mr. Gatti’s down on the corner of Belt Line and Jupiter. Well, a few years ago it closed down. It actually moved to a really nice, new location (with beer!) a mile away – which went under after a year. A string of low-quality pizza places tried to make a go of it in the building. The first one, obviously under-funded, tried to save money by painting out all but the first letters on the sign and going by the moniker, Mr. G Pizza. It didn’t last very long.
Over the next couple of years the place went through several iterations, some only lasting weeks. Whenever I see a restaurant open and close that quickly, I wonder if some sort of an investment scam is going on. At any rate, I lost track of the place and never thought of it. I drove by that corner a lot, but the traffic is bad there and I tended to look at the other cars instead. Then one day, not too long ago, I went through there as a passenger and was able to spot a new sign at that location. It said:
Pho… Burgers… and Tacos! I have never heard of this combination before. There are a lot of burger joints in my neighborhood, gobs of tacos (one of the last Taco Bueno locations is right next door), and God only knows how many Pho-slinging establishments… but this one is All Three!
I had to go and try it out. Despite the threat of rain, I saddled up my bicycle and headed down. Unfortunately, although the location is not far from my house, it is difficult to access by bike – I had to do some sidewalk riding to get there.
And it was very good – better than I expected. Very clean and well-arranged. Very friendly and attentive service. I was glad to see there were a healthy smattering of customers – hopefully it will remain in business for more than a while. I know I’ll be back.
So, the big question is what did I order? This time, for some reason, I had the hamburger. It was freshly made and served with an excellent and unusual spicy sauce on the side.
Next time… Pho. And then Tacos.