These are the times that try men’s souls.

–Thomas Paine

It has been a wild and crazy ride, both individually and as a society. And, as I write this, it is just as wild and unforgiving as it has ever been, both in my personal life, and in that of my friends.

In a way, I am actually surprised that our society has not seen an equivalent backlash to that demonstrated in Watts, or Kent State, or in the camps of Jim Jones and Charles Manson. There are many more people affected in the current economic and cultural upheaval than then.

Certainly, countries as a whole have been more internally churned (South Africa during the apartheid demolition, the Soviet Union and Germany during the Wall demolition, Poland during the days of Lech Walensa). I suppose that, in a certain fashion, the very freedoms over-exercised in the aforementioned times have taught many of us that over-exertion of freedom leads to nothing but destruction. We have enough uncertainty without the burning and looting and murder of those times.

I sense a more compassionate outlook from average folks, who toil mightily for crumbs, against all odds and against all the externally imposed economic constraints. At least at a local level, a lot of people are pulling together both organizationally and interpersonally. I am but a small beneficiary of some of that good will.

I also note that the backlash against certain segments of our economic body has given average people a lesson in what political backlash can engender. Our country has fallen victim to the liberalism which that backlash put into place, for good or ill. Given the number of people affected, I think ill prevails.

Of course, as always, things happen for a reason. Lessons are still to be learned and unlearned. These meditations, I hope, cover some of those lessons and perhaps, for some, point to ways to move forward in a positive, less-despairing fashion.

Ornithological Sociology (or, Birds On a Wire – In a Snowstorm)

I am privileged to have a regular watering hole where the help treats me with the utmost respect, and (to bring to mind a simpler time) a bit of deference. Said watering hole also gives me a vantage point from several directions to observe the behaviour of one of our species of sparrow.
I write this in the midst of one of the best (or worst, depending) snowfalls we’ve seen in a few years. Mercifully, at least it shall, in part, mitigate the opportunity for wildfires in the area for the upcoming summer.
During my brief visit, I was pleased to watch several individuals of what I will initially call ‘chipping sparrows’, since they resemble greatly individuals of that species with which I became familiar in the flatlands roughly 2500 miles east. They’re a fun, if skittish, bird to watch.
There were roughly twenty individuals, mostly males (as far as I could tell, my eyesight being what it is nowadays). I was on an outdoor patio, watching them congregate (in what I approximate as thirty to thirty-two degree temperatures, with a breeze approximately 10 knots, and intermittent snow) in an aspen approximately 25 feet high. After their usual jostling for tree position (a separate topic), they congregated over the period of three minutes on two power lines within my view.
Being able to watch the order of congregation was quite interesting, and I believe I have gleaned at least a small part of the reason (mostly by extrapolation from Richard Dawkins’ Selfish Gene).
I was able to observe (subjectively, of course) that mating pairs (of which I estimated as three) were closest to each other, by comparing their physical distance to that of the other individuals on the two lines. I also noted that where there were pairs, latecomers to the line walk would insinuate themselves next to those I identified as the females in the mating pairs. Those females who received such attention tended to scoot toward the mate which with they had arrived.
I also noted that the endmost individuals had more separation from other individuals than did the mated pairs, or the other prospective suitors. The endmost also seemed to be the least likely to be aggressive toward the mated pairs, or any other females.
Dawkins’ theory of ‘bird census’, in my extrapolation, is also a mating census.
I am also going out on a bit of a limb to say that mated pairs use a version of ‘iris recognition’ to ensure that the nearest individual of the opposite sex is their previously-accepted mate. Since there are no actual sounds coming from any of these birds, there is either a pheromone recognition, or (since they do seem to interact visually) some sort of visual pattern recognition.
I have to determine some way of scientifically distinguishing what visual cues this species uses to discriminate.

Astrological Archaeology (currently outline only)

Age of Cancer – individuation of primal generalization (the bone thrown at the monolith)
Age of Gemini – speciation
Age of Taurus – clan formation
Age of Aries – unconscious aggression
Age of Pisces – organizational stricture to mitigate individuated/clan aggression
Age of Aquarius – personal responsibility within social framework

Jaynes – role in age of taurus and pisces

Ages vis-a-vis mayan calendar

astrology as context for Gaia as opposed to species

thirty-fold manifestations of ages

brachman epoch

The Goddess In My Heart (a continuum of haiku)

Sword hangs from her belt;
shield at rest against her hip;
wisdom radiates.

In darkest Hades
I live a terrible life –
shadows everywhere.

Separation rules.
Hell is truly when one is
apart from loved one.

Have I not the words
to give her the love she needs?
Hearts impervious.

Too much left to do.
Life becoming shadowy
with each passing day.

Brittle winter night –
wonderful to be holding
loved one in comfort.

Happiness escaped
long ago and far away.

When one is in love
dead leaves take a special glow
knowing she will leave.

Please Legalize Green (so the price of whiskey will come down)

I know I’ve had a lot of
fun times in my life
and some of those fun times
could’ve caused me some strife
I’ve no regrets
I have forgets
but someone please make the priorities light
Please legalize green
so the price of whiskey will come down
I don’t do cross-eyed stoner well
and I like a drink in town
and sometimes I have to go out
just to be seen
someone hand me a single malt
and pleeeeeze – legalize green
I played with the herb
in my far younger time
all it did was put me to sleep
when I was playing live
I couldn’t do it
Had to play right through it
had to make my priorities jive
I know lots of folks
who toke and toke
without a fear in the world
but my brain just
jokes and jokes
when tokin’ makes me hurl
Copyright 2010 – bernard wolsieffer & aurelius resartus

A friend, a musical context and a piece of pretend pie

I cry at stupid things. I cry at silly places in movies. I cry when I hear a waltz. I cry when life gives me spoiled lemons. I wish I knew where my life is going.
I have a friend who refuses to say where we’re going. I can live with that, except that I do not understand that refusal. I’m old enough that I don’t need to have to try to understand such ambiguities.
Ah, well, my own ambiguities are enough to deal with on a daily basis. I’m feeling my demise quite closely. I sense it with every slip of my already silly tongue. Give me an opening line, I’m likely to retort in singular or in plural, depending. Jolly Mon, I’ll be joining you sometime in the relatively near future.
I do get a sense that I need to find water. And what’s ironic about that is that a friend from a prior employment is talking about Wyoming. Oy.
Oh, the pretend pie. I live so much in my head that the pie is always before me, and quite out of reach.

Heart and Autumn Leaves

It is my time of year – Autumn; it has been my favourite season since I can remember.
Early on, it was the return to high school which, in part, meant returning to the music department, where I spent a majority of my class time for the last two years then. It meant the Packers would be back at it, doing their utmost to take the NFL Central (no, they hadn’t merged with the AFL yet).
For a while it meant returning to campus to attend classes and recitals and playing part time in a couple of the local pubs, while drinking espresso and cheap beer, and maybe the occasional whiskey, while being ignored by the vast majority of the house.
It meant wet fallen leaves and mulchy smells, and coolness at night. It meant playing bridge at the coffeehouse until very late at night with others all of whom should have been doing homework instead; additionally the dew-laden walks home afterward were pleasant enough, especially if it was late enough for it to be sunrise and watch the dew sparkle in coloured light.
Autumn’s entry foreshadowed my birthday, Armistice Day (for which one town in which I lived had a parade), my mum’s birthday, and Thanksgiving.

For some reason, I have always been most romantic in autumn. That doesn’t mean necessarily boy-girl romantic – it is more a sentimentality I feel. Sometimes it carried over into winter; more often not. Winter is a very practical season – you have to be practical just to get around. Spring is lewd and insouciant, rather like a drunken frat boy in Ft. Lauderdale. Summer is frivolous and just plain hot. Autumn is, by comparison, serious without being oppressive, meditative without being reclusive. Sentimentality is borne of such unlauded and unappreciated solemnity – what Lawrence Durell called ‘Jewish melancholy’. It goes along with my general introversion.
Cooking out in autumn smells and tastes different in autumn – mostly because the smells of autumn spice the food like no other season is capable.
It is the part of the year when one may once again dress like a civilized human being without sweltering. I much prefer that to shorts and t-shirts. I actually recently challenged a friend to tell me the last time she saw me in public in a t-shirt. She couldn’t do it. I also appreciate seeing other people with some sartorial sense. I much prefer a tasteful set of clothes on a woman to seeing that same woman in a bathing suit in public. That also has been part of my aesthetic preference for as long as I can recall paying attention to it at all.

I think, due, in part, to my sentimentality, I am also emotionally more vulnerable in autumn. Certain movies and shows affect me differently. The wee handful of friends affects me differently. Some sounds spear me through the heart – especially saxophone; I think I listen to jazz more in autumn than other times. Monk and ‘Trane, and Dexter Gordon are staples.
My heart is going through a rough patch this particular autumn. I suspect most of it is apprehension of the winter. I feel somewhat like the guy in a Thurber story – I believe the title is ‘The Gentleman In 916’. In it, a man living alone, whenever he emerges from 916, is assailed by couples, which confuses him. It confuses me, as well as makes me somewhat wistful for someone in particular. I expect that wistfulness to be self-correcting after a while; being around her sometimes makes me confused, at any rate.

Memories in an Amphitheatre

On my hike up to the second round of auditions, I stopped off for a coffee, read for a bit, then wandered over to the amphitheatre to revisit the scene of some of my theatrical crimes.
I’m joking, of course. We’ve done some fun productions there over the past several years. We’ve had some rough times, some usual hijinks, and one really awesome validation of what we were about.
During A Midsummer Night’s Dream, there’s Carl climbing up the sides of the stone and mortar upstage wall as Puck. Never had a mishap during all the climbing in rehearsal and during production.
During Taming of the Shrew, some of the cast members and I were back discussing things at the dressing tent. Among them was some drug-addled jackhole (never was quite certain how he got cast) – he threw a lighted cigar at David, upon which he left. So far as I remember, he never returned and his part was re-cast.
Most of our productions were during summer and early autumn. One of them stands out as one of the finest vindications of a production I’ve ever seen. That particular year, it got chilly fairly quickly after sundown. And at the end of act one, it started raining – not just a bitty shower that one could shrug off – it came down pretty well. The house scattered – some to the clock tower, some to the library about 70 yards away. Cast and crew battened down the hatches: got all wardrobe and props into the dressing tent, threw tarps over the ellipsoidals that served as our lighting, and scratched around for brooms.
Mercifully the rain didn’t last more than eight or ten minutes. We had a quick cast and crew huddle to get the stage and the seating back to normal. One of the threads of discussion was, “Do we even attempt to do act two? Will there be anyone to watch?” Some of us looked around, and we could only see a small handful of people huddled under the clock tower. Then we agreed to get things back to close to curtain state as we could. A couple of brooms pushing the water off the seating, another broom on stage. The clouds broke, we could see some stars behind the squall line. One or two of us zipped over to the clock tower to see if anyone was going to come back. Some of them knew that others had gone to the library, so they went there.
Magically enough, nearly the entire house returned for act two. I believe by head count the house only diminished by two or three. We knew then that what we were doing was, at least by that standard, the right thing. The second act was awesome – and at closing curtain we applauded the house for hanging with us. This was, perhaps, our finest hour.

Memories On A Wall

Sometimes I have trouble deciding quite what I’m still doing around. There are times (more so now than before) when I have a problem deciding my purpose.
I was recently invited to audition for a friend’s senior seminar project in theatre – I agreed quite readily. So I trotted myself up to the campus for the first session of auditions. Turns out I was only one of two people who showed up for that first session.
I am here now for the second session, where madame director will decide on her casting. While I am waiting (as I often do when waiting in this building) I review the posters of past performances produced here. Since I haven’t been here in quite a while, I note a handful of new posters with which I was familiar during their run, but hadn’t seen on the wall. I am pleased to note not only shows I’ve attended here, but also shows in which I had an active role.
Ah, I have a legacy. I’m quite certain that only a small handful of people remember my part in these past productions; to have them commemorated this way is a validation of a lot of my heart and hard work, with what for the most part were stout people. I am once again vindicated in my purpose, at least for a while longer.