Thursday, September 2, 2010

This one's for me (and Leslie)

This is a long one, a rambling one, and very possibly a short-lived one. I'm reclaiming turf no one wants anyway.

Shark jumping, anyone?

Well, the Facebook post got over 1,200 hits, but when all is said and done, I changed no one's mind, and it's not a post I'd want to read 3 months after I stroke, bored to death in my wheel chair, wiling away the few hours I have left.

My Dad, a royal pain in the ass in so many ways, enjoyed life. He had a lot of strokes, enough that he volunteered to take a moth-balled A-4 Skyhawk and plant it anywhere in Iraq (with him still strappedin the cockpit) the POTUS ordered. He spent one of his precious last few days careening down a Cape May avenue in a motorized wheel chair, right smack dab in the middle of the double yellow line, laughing--at least I think it was laughing, hard to tell with all the paralysis.

My sister's wake was so joyous some folks crashed it thinking it was a wedding reception.

My Mom's last act of consciousness was a laugh.

We're an odd bunch.

A couple of hours ago I was thigh-deep in a warm, dark Delaware Bay, scurrying up trouble. Comb jellies glow when disturbed, an eerie electric blue as evanescent as phosphenes. Close your right eye, and push on it--see the light? That's a phosphene. Ain't English grand?

I was tromping through the water, whooping like a Confederate on Little Round Top. I'm not sure the jellies enjoyed it half as much as I did, no way to tell. Most of the ones I lit up tonight are going to be beached by Earl in the next few hours. It's kind of neat that I know these things, but even neater realizing that the jellies know things I cannot possibly ever understand.

Why was I on the beach? Hunting ghost crabs. I have a dream--some day I will lead children on ghost crab expeditions, freezing the critters with my flash light, sharing ghost crab tales as the kids marvel at the crabs..

I held my glasses out towards one of the crabs--it pounced on the ear piece,pulled it towards its mouth, then rejected it once it had a taste. This, of course, is of no interest to the reader. But it is of interest to me.

I knew the jellies might glow tonight because I wrote about them last year. Life's funny that way--we are all dependent on cycles, cycles dependent on the sunlight hitting the Earth. If the jellies were here last year at the end of summer, it's reasonable to expect them again now.

They did not disappoint


Everything alive today has been evolving for over 4 billion years. "Evolution" is a misnomer, not a word originally used by Darwin. He called it "descent with modification." Even the seemingly simplest organisms are blessed with gifts beyond our imagination.


A hurricane is looming just off-shore. Earl. Oh, it's just a Cat 2.

I like motorcycles. I used to lgo fast on motorcycles. I like going Category 2 fast--96 mph or better.

If you've ever ridden a bike at those speeds, you know that the wind becomes personified. It's real. It can hurt.

Now imagine trying to carry an oak tree through that wind.

I pray that it misses. A pox on those who wish otherwise.

I just cursed, and cursing works. Humans have selective memories. If one of my readers decides to root for Earl despite knowing that I may be harmed by it, then breaks his big toe in the next 3 months, he may well attribute the broken toe to my curse.

Or cancer. Or death of a loved one. Or any other event that is so terrible that we pretend its probability is near zero (despite the evidence that none of us get out of here alive).

Tonight I saw flashes of light emanating from the shallows of a muddy bay--I don't see this often. If Earl changes his mind (see, anthropomorphizing) tomorrow and destroys my home, I will blame myself for messing with jellies. I cannot help myself.

We find reasons for everything. We are evolutionarily wired to do so.


One reason Facebook resonates so is because of our need to belong. We used to belong to nature. In the 20th century we separated ourselves enough to find solace in clans without nature. Now we no longer need the clans.

We just need electrons.

Here I am beaming a series of electrons into your eyes. I'd rather have you here, sharing grits and grog.

When it gets down to it, I don't give a rat's butt about Facebook or Twitter. I care about the very few who get down this far on a post. /me waves to Leslie and John and Jessica and Sean .

A life dependent primarily on electrons is not a well-lived life. It may be lucrative. It may be exciting. But it's not a life.

I'd rather live the life dependent on photons, on the sun, on the phosphorescent critters less than a mile from here busy eating, and flashing, and reproducing, and God only knows what else.

Facebook cannot do that.
The Delaware Bay can.


John Spencer said...


I am really loving my teaching gig this year. I have one group of students all day. I've yelled at them twice, which is more than I yelled at my classes last year. I've dropped the ball a bunch. I have a window this year.

It's more human than ever before. And oddly enough, as I enjoy teaching and parenting, I'm finding myself caring less about my blog and even less about Twitter - despite the fact that my number of subscribers and followers and retweets all increase.

I don't have a bay to go to. Words like bay and sea and waves can start to sound really pretty, but if I get a little saline in my mouth memories of a California childhood flood back (not that we lived near the bay) - but on most days those words don't resonate.

But a back yard and sunsets and swing sets and laughter are ultimately what pulled me away from my screen time.

When I go a few days without a tweet, no one cares. It's not bad, but it's a reality that few of my thousand-plus followers actually follow. When I don't go outside, someone notices. Usually two someones.

I'm with you. I don't really know much about Facebook or Twitter. To be honest, the back yard and the swing set and the sunset and my kids and my wife can all be just as mysterious to me. It's just that when I'm with them, I don't confuse mystery for illusion.

Tyler said...

I'm not an especially creative writer. I have a large vocabulary and I write very precisely. I've written too many batch records and SOPs and structured reports in my lifetime, mayhaps.

It's uncomfortable for me to write the words that first come to mind. I pre-edit my words before they even flow from my fingers and become electrons.

Maybe that's why I appreciate writing like this so much. It makes me want to write what is really careening around in my jumbled soul, instead of what my amygdalae think people want to read.

doyle said...

Dear John,

My blog posts drop precipitously in September--we get busy, the light's fading, and the students temper our summer pedagogical dreams the way only pupating humans can.

We're bay people, true, but as you know (and as you share with your words), only the local truly resonates.

The more powerful among us, who wander from province to province, nationalizing standards, sniff at "provincialism"--but unless you know your own backyard, you have no chance of truly knowing anything.

At any rate, I got your (now worn) books sitting close by. I get to read your words whenever I want 9or need) to read them.

Dear Tyler,

It's my amygdala, ironically, that does most of my blogging.

(If it's any consolation, I spend more time editing than I do writing--even when the words appear a bit slapdash sometimes.)

I strongly recommend that you take a look at Peter Elbow's books, particularly Writing Without Teachers. He gets the amygdala loosened up a bit.

Anonymous said...

Dr. D,
I've been reading your blog since... I don't know. 2008 maybe? As a lonely first-year lateral entry science teacher (and a really, really young one, at that) I went searching online for the people I couldn't find in my school. I found you. I read all your posts, especially the ones like this. Usually more than once, actually.
You don't know me from Adam and there's no reason you should, but I wanted you to know that your words and your ideas have been important to me. When I read what you write, I remember how much I love being outside. I remember why I fell in love with science in the first place. And I remember that the important things to teach my students are so often left out of the curriculum.
I'm taking my students outside today. It's not much, just a start (it's supposed to be 95F today, so we're not going out for long), but it's something. There's not a lot of nature around my school - it's in the middle of the overdeveloped neighborhood where most of the kids live - but I want them to realize, at some point, that life is happening all around, even in the cracks of the pavement they walk down every day.
Anyway, all that long ramble was essentially to say - I'm still reading. And I'll keep reading as long as you keep writing. It may not be the best thing you can do with your time, but it's meant a lot to someone.
Thank you.

nashworld said...

I was going to post a comment today... but then I just read what "anonymous" just left, and I think there isn't much I could say to even add to that.

There times when a certain blog comment pretty much seals the deal for all future commentary. I've seen it happen on my blog many times for one reason or another. I'd say this is one of those examples. It's going to be pretty damn difficult for someone to read that level of passion and connection and not just go... "yeah, what he said."

So since I believe that post is the "final word" here... I'll just leave a period at the end.


doyle said...

Dear anonymous and nashworld,

I think I just got the Holy Grail of blogging--one of the best comments ever followed up by a comb jelly video with a personal dedication.

Thank you both--made my day!

Kate said...

I've been away from my reader, and on this golden September morning I chose just a few folks to check in with. And I find this. Of course, there is nothing to add but my wish to read and reread your words.
Hopkins again:
Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks rise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! What lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?

I am back to school this week. And I would miss your curmudgeonly self should you choose to stay only outside.

Joyce said...

I'm not really articulate, nor am I patient or dedicated enough to think of something clever or witty or overly heartfelt. Instead I can just say,

"Thank you for being you."

Thank you for your insights, your wisdom, your parenting [I'm rather fond of Kev because of marching band and Andrew. Don't really know Kerry well >.> she was before my years in HS] and your willingness to share your world with ours. I look forward to reading your work every time I log onto my Google Reader =)