Elwha Hike

The Elwha basin in the Olympic National Park has had a huge dam removed, and salmon (and other fish) are returning.  I decided to take a bit of a break from humans during August, and this was one of the places I chose to vanish into for a while.

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Lots of dayhikers come this way I am guessing.

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This is “Michael’s Cabin,” an early settler up in the area.  The cabin is preserved in memory of a few of the folks who moved up into the mountains in the 1800s.

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Nice place to live!

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Or camp… perched above the flood plain.

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The mosquitoes attacked right at supper cooking time!  I’m not a fan of bug spray, so glad I had the bug repellent kerchiefalong that Rhi gave me.  May look odd, but worked a charm.

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Morning visitors.

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This kind of lichen is a symbiosis of algae and fungi that include some photosynthetic bacteria who are capable of taking nitrogen out of the air and turning it into fertilizer.  Enough to supply an old growth forest!

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I don’t mind that someone has built a bridge for me.  It so beats scrambling muddy!

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Reminded me of the Robert Frost poem about ways diverging in a wood and of lesser paths taken.  Riffed on that theme for a bit.  Word juggling as I hiked.  Paths constantly diverge in a quantum wood. Each decision or action could go one way or another or many others.  What if each path is taken by an alternate self? Hundreds and then thousands and then millions of alternative universes.  Maybe it is some of them I glimpse in dreams.

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Just an occasional salmon berry to remind me how late in the season it is up in the mountains.  (Yes, they taste great.)

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Who says trees are incapable of grasping and lifting? It just takes them a while!

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Something about high-up country that I find liberating; good for the soul.

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Headed down now.  But I will be back…

 

 

 

 

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Beach North of La Push on Washington’s Pacific coast

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Wild beaches of the Pacific Coast call me.  But it is only seldom I visit.  Even when I lived in Seattle, they seemed near, but somehow out of reach in a “normal” week.  Perhaps if I lived closer…

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Made it to the coast north of La Push, Washington in mid August, 2014.  Equipped and with permit for wilderness camping.

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Definitely my kind of wild! “… in Wildness is the preservation of the world”, indeed. HDT had it right.

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I think I could spend many many days among this kind of sculpture… 

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… these ancient patterns.

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and how quickly the light changes!

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These trees are not logging debris.  These giants were knocked down by storms over the years.

Rialto Beach

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My campsite, just behind these logs…

Campsite by Hole-in-the-wall

 

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…and the “restroom” just up slope.  Yeah, it is called “wilderness camping” for a reason.

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Up before dawn with no alarm clock. Rose on blue for a while until the fogs arose again.

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The seagulls overnight by the side of Ellen Creek outlet.

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Walking along the beach in the morning,

I get a vision of walking here in every season;

collecting just a few stones each time.

I leave these snow flakes for a winter walk.

Yeah, i will return here for you.

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Velella velella, blue sailors, up and down the beach by their thousands.  A blue as deep and clear as the deepest oceans.

http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20140824/NEWS/308249952/invasion-of-the-blue-sailors-8212-jellyfish-like-creatures

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Miles and miles of beach, clear of human impacts

until nearing the access road

art appears from beneath the sands

exposed creations of days before

perhaps

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Definitely back in the human inhabited lands now. 

Visited Forks for a cappuccino on the way back to Port Angeles.

Forest Fire Threat alert signs have been replaced there!

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The 10th Muse

Probably everyone who visits an art museum more than once is a closet or out-in-the-open visual artist of some sort or another.  Look at artwork by Picasso – the comments might be “so childish” or “so perceptive!” depending upon who they are with, but the underlying message is the same = I could do that!

And they could.  Picasso’s daughter at age 5 did a finger painting that sold for $250,000.00 because it was signed (honestly), Picasso.  Pablo laughed uproariously when it sold for such a high price, but kept the money.

Okay not everyone.  Classes of students being dragged against their will to the art museum might not have everyone enthralled within the first few minutes.  But those who return of their own volition?  Yes.  They are artists every one of them.  No exceptions.  Untrained. Possibly.  Without practiced eye-hand coordination.  Very possible.  Not thinking about how they might create something beautiful or clever themselves.  Not a chance.  Every one of them is an artist wannabee, if not an artist in fact.

This could be the salvation of humanity.

Caravaggio turned the traditional protocols of how to do paintings of human bodies on their heads by painting directly from the model.  No sketch. No preliminary.  Just bang. Go for it…  If he wasn’t nursing a hangover or a wound from brawling.  Painted a phenomenal number of paintings in his short-cheated life of 38 years.  Those inspired by his audacity, perspicacity, insight, bravery – may have painted better paintings than he did (if better means anything when it comes to art) but it was his genius that transformed the art.  Not everyone is a Caravaggio.  But, I’ll bet you everyone who visits an art museum would love to be able to paint human forms with the skill he did, even those who deny it verbally.  Who doesn’t want to be a magician?  Trick the eye of the beholder into seeing a 3D human body with conflicted emotions when looking at some minerals embedded in oil resins stuck to some plant fibers?  So cool!

Back to the museum visitors:  What about turning museums into teaching learning centers?  If all the visitors are budding painters, draughtspersons, and so on – why not couple training in how to do this stuff.  Drawing improves your ability to see.  That is not hyperbole or PR or whatever.  Painting improves your ability to see.  so does intentional art photography.  Any of these visual arts require that you be in the present and pay attention and focus.  This is not fluff.  You can measure the changes in the brain with an MRI.  You can assess the improvement in a biology exam.  If students draw in detail what it is that they see under the microscope, they see more and do better on tests about those organisms or cell structures.  If they do not draw WITH ATTENTION TO DETAIL –  their grades reflect it.

So, you join the museum.  Pay your annual dues.  But instead of just dropping by every once in a while to see a new exhibit, what if there were drawing instructors there every day of the week?  Painters standing by?  Several classes a day.  Not as some high priced “add on” but part of what the museum did?  Would you go?  I would.

There were nine muses according to the ancient Greeks.  One for history, one for dance, and so on.  I was sure there was one for painting or drawing or the visual arts.  Nope, just looked it up: Calliope -epic poetry; Clio -history; Euterpe -flutes and lyric poetry; Thalia -comedy and pastoral poetry; Melpomene -tragedy; Terpsichore -dance; Erato -love poetry; Polyhymnia -sacred poetry; Urania -astronomy.  I was wrong.  Despite there being art museums, there was no muse for the visual arts.  So we need a tenth muse!  No big deal.  The Greeks didn’t have everything figured out for all time in the 3rd century BC.   How about Perceptione, muse of painting, drawing, and photography.  Or maybe that territory is already staked out by some other Goddess?

Of Cancer, Greed, and GMOs

I get asked from time to time my opinion on GMO’s. People expect an answer, either pro or con. But like most things in biology, it’s complicated! Which often means that there is not a clear yes or no, that it is nuanced, that it includes lots of factors.

But, GMO crops are bad, aren’t they? Some countries have banned them. Etc. Etc. My reply is often that it depends. What has been modified and how? Some transnational mega corp takes a native crop seed and modifies it so that it won’t breed viable seeds in the field and needs to be hybridized to grow, and then requires the poor farmers to buy seed from them very year? And if you don’t participate, the corps takes you to court to harass you for stealing their patent when their pollen blows in the wind onto your crop? Yeah, that is psychotic greed in full swing. Modify crop plants to tolerate poisons so that you can spray huge quantities of your own patented poison (Round-Up for instance) and trash the ecosystem. More psychosis and short term thinking. Some scientist modifies a self-seeding viable rice plant to put more vitamins into the rice seeds so kids don’t get vitamin deficiency diseases? Sounds good to me. What if someone modified a corn plant so that it produced a complete protein with all needed amino acids in its kernels, and didn’t require fertilizer, and tolerated drought conditions? What would your opinion be? Would there be downsides? (You betcha there would be! For starters, humans would survive in unprecedented numbers and trash even more ecosystems, driving native plants into extinction.) Someone else modifies the genes of a house cat so that her kittens glow in the dark? Frivolous, in comparison to what else they might do, but… You might not believe the number of folks I’ve talked to that wanted to get one as a pet! There are always consequences to things we do. Some we call good, some bad. For a while. Then sometimes we change our minds later.

People are often afraid of what they don’t understand. They dislike it, especially if you get quick results. Cross breed and cull wolf puppies for a few thousand years until you get the genes for not only a husky capable of babysitting, but also a hairless lap dog, and a herder, and a swimmer that points to birds in the bushes – take your time with it and people don’t complain about how you changed the genes of the animals’ lineages. Insert a small suite of genes taken from a dalmatian and put it into a poodle to get spotted poodles and people’s opinions appear to change dramatically.  Kinda like you cheated by not having to go through many generations of cross-breeding to get the same result?

Should GMO be required or allowed on food labels? Of course! So should ice cream be labeled for ingredients like formaldehyde, rather than being exempted from labeling laws. And meat should be inspected using modern technology to protect the consumer against food infections a.k.a. “Food poisoning” or be labeled as having only been inspected by sight and smell.  But that is all about honesty in labeling, not about GMO itself.

The massive amounts of fructose added to our foods are probably more dangerous to our collective health than whether the corn was genetically engineered to produce an insecticide. But that is a “probably.” Something that should be researched before it is simply added to our food supply. People prefer certainties to probabilities. Perhaps such is why we tend to hold onto religions of all sorts, and various other beliefs. Religion deals with belief and certainty. Science deals with probabilities and measurable levels of uncertainty. Maybe this is also part of the religious fervor we see among those opposed to the use of gene modification techniques. A certainty that it is bad.

But often, those opinions change when the effects are direct, visible and prolong the life of humans. Cancer may be caused mostly by environmental conditions, like food and pollution and which microbes you associate with, but if dealing with cancer can be done by manipulating our genes, rather than the more difficult task of changing our life-styles, then GMO is likely to be seen as A-Okay by most of us, including those who oppose all GMO otherwise. Have a look at these recent breakthroughs and you will see what I mean.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-weapon-against-cancer-comes-from-patients-own-bodies/

http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/53784650/#53784650

Your immune system can kick out the bad guys and kill cancer cells. Your immune system can also kill you by over reacting. (Nothing in biology is all good or all bad.) One of my classmates died of leukemia when he was ten. He would be my age today, otherwise… I’ve lost many other friends and family members to cancer since then. Would they have opposed having their genes modified? What if the cancer recognition system in the immune cells could be passed along to their kids? Would you want that gift for your kids?

Of reductionist computers and wholistic pesto

There is a lot of meaning in our everyday lives.

So my mantra for the week has been and is continuing to be “Finish things!” Whenever I am working on something, no matter what that may be, from writing to reading to washing dishes or weeding the flower beds, I come up with new things to do projects to begin, new paintings to sketch, photo art on glass mobiles for the window, etc,etc. So inevitably over the years I have acquired a sufficient number of incomplete tasks to “choke a horse.” And it turns out the horse is me! All those incomplete projects stack up, each one eating just a little bit of my attention, even when I’m not working on them. So instead of starting a whole series of new projects, my intention for the next few weeks is to complete as many old ones as I can. ( I can’t recall the number of people I have advised to do this for their own mental health. So, it’s time  I followed my own advice, eh?)

Typing on straight keyboards has always put stress on my wrists. It does for many folks, but I took the plunge and spent money on ergonomic keyboards, where the keyboard bends to fit your wrists instead of your wrists bending to fit the keyboard. (We’ve known about this problem for decades, yet people still spend thousands of dollars on carpel tunnel syndrome operations instead of adjusting the keyboard to their body. Wacky! But it keeps surgeons and insurance Banksters in high profit margins…) Anyhow, keyboards go bad after a while. And usually folks just buy a new one.  I’ve always been of a mind to try and fix things rather than just throwing them away. So I set a couple of ergonomic keyboards aside as they went bad, to fix later when I needed to. Today, after rewiring the overhead light in the kitchen to accept some old compact fluorescent bulbs I wasn’t using elsewhere, I decided was time to attempt such.  Amazing how much harder it is to take modern equipment apart than the older stuff that I trained on. (Been doing computers since the 60s when the first modular circuit boards using transistors came into use! No more switching out bad tubes!) Completely trashed the wireless keyboard just figuring out where they hide the screws to keep people from repairing them.  Better success with the wired keyboard. Got it apart, cleaned it a bit, put it back together again. Works fine now.  It is kind of funny how mechanical things are often repaired simply by taking them apart and inspecting them.  Living things… not so much!

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But, it got me thinking. How many kids grow up these days taking things apart to see how they work? Building crystal radios? Fixing door-bell wiring? Even taking apart old computers before they get taken to recycling when the newest model has been acquired? Our science today is built upon a model of reductionism for the most part. This is analytical science. Analysis is cutting things into pieces, Seeing what it’s components are. Give a primate a complex object and they will try to see what is inside: Kids, chimps, bonobos, … (Give a dolphin a complex object, and they will be Beep at it . They can see inside things that way, no tools needed. But only works for very low resolution differentiation.). So, mass marketing has trained us to just think of just consuming more and more stuff which is designed to break; And the garbage piles up, along with corporate profits.  Sit on your cellphone = Broken BlackBerry screen, equals many hundreds of dollars for a new Blackberry. Instead of $20 for a new screen, and having to watch a ten minute YouTube vid on how to replace the screen. No skill required. It IS the 21st century after all. Finding out how to fix things is easier than ever before!

However, more important than being able to fix things, and at the same time lowering the overall consumption-of-as-much-as-possible –  which is trashing the planet… this taking  things apart as a kid relates to science and analytic thinking , medicine and health and .. yeah a lot of things. College students rarely dissect anything in anatomy and physiology anymore. They do it in a virtual screen world instead most of the time now. The little computers everywhere have entered the land of magic for most folks. No clue how anything works.  It is all just magic!  No more need for even a calculator.  It’s an app on your phone. With no learning to think quantitatively by drawing proportionally, or using an abacus, or manipulating measured blocks, kids learn to punch in symbols on a small computer and read what comes out with no concept of what they are doing. No learning to use a slide rule or other analog computer that simulates rational thinking (rational as a term derives from figuring ratios after all.) Just straight at symbolic semiotics from age two.  And we wonder why scientific literacy is on the wane?! Ha! Interrobang

A heart-healthy meal

A heart-healthy meal

Sooner than I thought, it was time to make something to eat. Today’s evening entree: gemelli pasta al dente pesto (pesto made from home-grown basil – frozen in ice cube trays and bagged in a previous year) garnished with the first basil picking of this year – YAY!!! –  and the first purple basil I’ve grown in something like a decade! Contrast flavor; grape tomatoes. And the last glass of a bottle of organic red wine. Something old -something new. Nothing blue… Well maybe blue cheese and port for desert. And this meal leads me to wholistic thinking.

Italian food of the type described above is associated with lower blood pressure, healthier hearts, and so on. Most modern medical science comes at this data from the reductionist perspective described at the beginning of this article, and tries to determine which ingredient in what amounts causes the healthier heart. And pharmacologists coming from such a perspective tend to deride and ridicule those using herbs because they don’t know what amount of what biochemical they are taking. What reductionist science, by it’s very nature does not do well, is to see multifaceted multifactorial causal patterns. I have a friend who takes resveritrol capsules (that cost way more than a glass of wine). What if it is not just the resveritrol in the wine, but the alcohol, tannins, and other biochemicals in the wine, mixing with beta carotenoids and phyco-pigments and vitamins of various types in the tomato interacting with aromatic compounds from the basil, and it is the synergistic effect of all of them… And maybe combined with a happy family around the table which also lowers secretion of stress hormones, (which kind of meal setting I lack these days, as you can see in the picture),  What If it is all these factors combined. Not just an isolated single bio-chemical compound. Then modern medical science does not do well with it. No profit for Big Pharma there anyway, I guess.

Ecology is one of the few sciences that looks to try and understand, or at least begin to have a look at, the level of complexity in the world.  But even there in ecology, it is the simplified abstract models that have gained much credence amongst scientists. One carrot -> one rabbit -> one lynx.  More lynx -> less rabbits -> more carrots.  Maybe some dozens of kinds of algae feeding a handful of grazer plankton feeding some small fish or sea-jellies. But not hundreds and thousands or millions of species interacting. But at least it’s a step in the direction of looking at multiple interactions. We probably need a medical paradigm change, ecological medicine, rather than narrower tunnel vision to figure out cancer or heart disease or auto-immune dysfunction, etc. Looking to genetics that accounts for an extremely small percent of cancer won’t get us there. For example, the BRCA genes in the news currently account for 1 to 3 percent of breast cancers, at most. Diet and environment account for approximately 80% of such cancers.  Yes, we should change where we spend our money on cancer research.  But no, without computers as extensions of our brains, we lack the ability to deal well with such levels of complexity, other than on some deeper intuitive level. (And of course it is that deeper shaman-mind where most reductionist scientific discoveries come from too.) But we won’t get there if we trust some programmer in the cloud to do our computing for us without understanding, at least to some degree, how that works. Or if we never learn to think quantitatively, analytically, and synthetically. Creative thinking builds on these.

Analysis and synthesis are supposed to complement each other. So cook good nutritious meals for the kids that you all share together. And do let them take apart the broken television and put it back together before you take it to the recycling center. And DO let them do it when they are first curious to – not “later, after you grow up.” Curiosity is precious. Foster it!  (BTW – Do unplug the TV first before it gets attacked by kids armed with screwdrivers and pliers.  I learned that particular lesson the hard hard way as a teenager while fixing the radar during a storm in the ice berg lanes of the North Atlantic. The radar needed fixing, but could not be shut down, much less unplugged.  I do not recommend that particular school of hard knocks for kids!)

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Solipsism

Perhaps “understanding the universe” is an appropriate purpose for humans. Maybe, understanding the universe includes understanding how we create it. We have all noticed that engagement with the details of living can distract us from contemplation and understanding … Or, when the “chopping wood and carrying of water” in daily life becomes a meditation in and of itself, then the daily chores can help raise awareness –

Are curiosity and creativity different?
One looks outward with interest to see what is there.
The other FLOWS outward with brilliance to bring something new into existence.
But, what if we create what we see?
Literally.
What if we bring into existence everything we are aware of?
Including the eyes we see it with and the brain that records what we see, and the people who see things differently than we do, and the shimmering waves of quanta corpusculating through the ether?
Space coming into existence repetitively; automatically.

Creation of space and time: old chores, gone onto “autopilot” so long ago we have forgotten.
(You are so hugely more capable than you currently imagine!)
Create some space and time for yourself and we will all benefit.

So speculation aside…

If, in a sudden flash of insight, you came to realize that you actually DO create your own reality – literally. That you create everything you perceive… Would you do anything differently than you are now?

The Colors of Trees

Oak bark is peachy-pink at dawn

turning swiftly to yellow and then yellow-grey.

As morning progresses the yellow-greys slowly become grey or greenish grey depending upon the presence or absence of lichens or algae on the bark.

It isn’t ever brown.  Not even when it gets wet after a storm.  Then it is dark grey.

Why did we color the tree trunks and branches brown in kindergarten?

I’ve looked at lots of trees, from the arctic to the rainforests of South America.  Lots of shades of greys, white, olive-tan, green, blackish, etc.  The self-peeling Manzanita’s brownish-red, or maybe the reddish-brown of the redwoods in Ladybird Johnson Grove are the closest things I’ve seen to an actually brown tree-trunk.

We have all seen this if we looked.

Yet, I bet everyone reading this, colored their tree trunks brown as a kid.

Why?

Was the box of Crayolas missing a pink and a grey?

Did you follow what the others were using to draw?

Did your teacher tell you what color to use?

Or invalidate the color you did choose first on your own?

I am curious about this for several reasons.

If you can remember why you used to color tree trunks brown, let me know.

If you never did, let me know that too.