Monthly Archives: November 2014

Living History

The sun was beating down on our heads ringing every drop of moisture from our exhausted bodies. Even with all the modern equipment we had, and warnings from our guide to drink often, it was still a major trek. Such exertion may seem eccentric in this day of virtual reality vacations, but the business of providing those vacations was ferociously competitive. The only way to compete was to provide the most accurate experience possible. Living History, our company, prided itself on providing the most accurate scenario on the market. By traveling to the ends of the earth and getting as much footage as we could, our clients were free to create their own stories. No matter what they would be fully immersed in the experience. So, here we were, sweltering under the southwestern sun, to film inside the ancient pueblos and monuments.

Even at this late date in history, the mystery of the Anasazi was still not completely solved. Decades of research and new scanning techniques had made it fairly clear that a massive change in climate had robbed them of their primary crops. Focused on competing interpretations of their ancient religions, the war among the tribes and their outside enemies eventually cannibalized the culture. In fact, although debated for many years, it became inescapable that at least one religious faction within the tribe practiced cannibalism. Such tidbits made the world of the Anasazi a popular vacation destination and we were here to get the best footage we could to create that experience.

The monuments in Chaco Canyon had once been accessible by dirt roads mostly suitable for off road vehicles. Because of modern grave robbers and a public with a penchant for blazing their name across history, the park service had long ago closed the monuments to vehicular traffic. Hiking was the only way in. Expensive permits were required, and a guide was mandatory. All expenses which made the trip out of reach for all but the elite. One more reason it was a perfect setting for one of our virtual trips.

We hiked in 13 miles to the authorized camping site. It was not until early evening that we were able to establish our base camp, sort out our equipment, and prepare ourselves for a quick evening meal and much needed sleep. Filming would start in the pre-dawn hours. Camera crews, programmers and writers would be working together in real time to create the Anasazi Vacation.

I fell to sleep the moment my head reached the pillow. The coolness of the evening reaching me with something close to a chill, but not quite. My team was assigned the cliffs behind the complex. We were to scale the rocks to the plateau above for a spectacular view of the complex and the valley where it lay. With sufficient detail we could use computer imaging to rebuild it to something resembling what it would have looked like when inhabited. Integration of our work into the overall database would provide a more thoroughly accurate feel for living inside the complex during its heyday. I needed sleep. The night would be short.

Shorter than I expected.

Sometime around midnight I was awakened by chanting. Low, melodic chanting that seemed to be a chorus of several hundred voices. That was not possible. Our whole crew may reach a total of 50 members – but not hundreds. Was someone being funny? Or had someone simply found a good recording of what we thought the Anasazi sounded like?

Unable to sleep I crawled out of my sleeping bag and crept softly to the open tent flap. The full moon looked close enough to touch, big, white and alive with every feature. Across the lighted canyon floor I saw a glow coming from the ancient kiva. Nothing in camp was stirring. I put on a light jacket and my walking boots and stepped out of the tent. I didn’t see anyone, but the chanting continued and the light from the kiva flickered as that of a fire. Shaking my head I retrieved my camera and set out for glowing pit.

Ancient-Puebloan-trade-network-chaco-canyon

Located on “Ancient Puebloan Trade Network” Public Domain

2 Comments

Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, My Bookshelf ~ Current Era, My Fiction - Very Short Fiction

The Wave

It was supposed to be a simple book review. Read the book, jot a few notes, and off we go. Of course the book was 563 pages long, but nobody was going to stick around for the encyclopedic version, after all, they could just buy the book. In addition to the text there were 142 pages of notes and index. How does one make that interesting? Well, something happened on the way to solving The God Problem (by Howard Bloom). But, then, that’s what reading is all about.

Book stores are magical places, at least in my opinion. Browsing through the aisles of a well-stocked bookstore, new or used, small or large, is like shopping for the door into summer (bows to Heinlein). You are surrounded by worlds created by the human mind, fantasy, perceptions of reality, scary, comforting, educational, or just plain fun. It is an antechamber to a whole collection of universes real, and imagined. It is my favorite indoor place.

I rarely approach a trip to a real book store with something specific in mind. Shopping for particular titles is something anyone can do with a computer now days; but to browse, to wander, to explore – that must occur with book in hand. And this was such a book. How can one resist such a title? I surely couldn’t. Knowing that the point of view was going to be a lack of faith, I decided to take the plunge. And I found magic. Magic that made sense to me, whether or not I chose to be a person of faith. This then, is my adventure into a magical place, a place where the cosmos creates, invents, grows, becomes.

Since I was quite young I have had the Second Law of Thermodynamics pounded into my head. This is used to explain that evolution can’t happen because things become less organized through the force of entropy. Therefore there has to be a creating hand. Well, I had a problem with that, not for the reason you might think, but because I didn’t see a common slide “downhill” or to “disorganization.” I saw purpose. I saw renewal, I saw great spirally galaxies, star factories things that grew and reached for the light.

Oh, but wait, you say, dust to dust, erosion, volcanoes, hurricanes, novae. What do you do with that? I see it become new life, feed new plants, replenish failing minerals, creating the elements required for life itself. Out of catastrophe I saw the potential for greater things. I found a kindred spirit. He led me to the heart of the birth of the cosmos and introduced the simplest rules. He redefined the idea of a wave, and I traveled far, far away.

A wave is not really a “thing.” A wave is something that is made up of the “things” that are present at that point, then it moves on. Always made up of different molecules, different floating bits, but still the wave traveling at whatever speed across vast distances.

I am a wave, a wave made up of the atoms, cells and molecules that make up my body today. Fed by what I eat, mentally fed by what I read and learn, discard or add to my own view of the cosmos around us. I exist as a changing flow of thoughts, atoms, cells, bits and pieces. How easy, to be a wave and allow the cosmos to guide me on the path.

If you want to learn why A does not equal A and why 1 plus 1 may not equal 2 – come play, we’ll be waiting.

God Prob

2 Comments

Filed under My Journey with Job, Natural Sciences from the Observation Deck

Forgotten Memorials

A breeze swept through the plaza as the old man sat on the bench and spread his bread before the pigeons. Clustered around him or flapping up to the bench near him, the birds cooed and scratched, looking for each crumb. All too soon the bread was gone. The old man stood, brushing final crumbs to the birds and slowly walked away.

Amy stood by the statute of some forgotten hero sitting on his horse. Both rider and horse were green with time and covered with the evidence of many a bird visit. Amy had watched the old man for days. She had grown up in this tiny village and knew everyone by sight. But not him. How had a stranger, one so obviously bent and forsaken, end up here? In a tiny off-the-path village? She had no idea where he stayed or where he had come from. Too shy to approach him, she watched for any clues. This was going nowhere she would have to come up with a way to approach him.

The next day she hurried to the plaza in hopes of arriving before her target. Buzzing with curiosity and a little bit of fear, she sat on the bench and opened a sack with bread. Hesitantly, she began to feed the birds. Using the bread sparingly to make it last, she waited. Just as she was about to flee to the safety of the green horseman she heard steps approaching.

Swallowing hard she looked up to see just who it was she had come to think of as “the bird man.”

He wasn’t old. At least, well, not any older than her father. But he did look tired. He hesitated only a moment and with a small, momentary smile, took a seat on the same bench. Methodically he took the loaf he had brought with him and began to feed the birds.

Now, what, she thought. She sighed, “Who—who are you?”

He moved a pigeon off his knee and turned to face her on the bench. “Can you tell me why you decided to approach me?”

Amy thought. “I think it’s because you seemed to belong here but I had never seen you. It just seemed odd.” She looked down at the pavement where the birds were pecking and cooing at her feet.

“What do you know about the history of the plaza?” He asked in a gentle tone.

“Not much, really. I guess I never thought about it.”

“Not all that long ago, perhaps when your father was somewhat younger than you, something happened in this plaza that changed the town forever.”

Amy shook her head. She could think of nothing she had heard about that would have changed the town she grew up in.

He shook his head. “Then it was time I returned.”

Startled, Amy looked at him. “I do know you, I just can’t remember from where!”

“You see me every day,” he said so softly she barely heard. Slowly he pointed at the statute in the center of the plaza. “Perhaps you should read the plague.”

Amy slowly stood and walked toward the green horseman. She tried to remember if she had ever read the thing, or if it was just part of the furnishings of life in this tiny, backwater town. For possibly the first time she could actually remember she looked up at the face of the rider. Jaw agape, she spun around to look back at the man on the bench. He had vanished. He was nowhere to be seen. She turned again to look at the face of the not-old, old man sitting atop his steed. Composing herself, she began to read.

June 4, 1939

On this date, John Winthrope of Winthrope Estates, road his horse into the plaza. He stopped at the bench where a woman who had fled the St. Louis on a life boat tightly held her child. The crowd filling the plaza was demanding that the sheriff turn her over to authorities. Mr. Winthrope stepped down from his horse and lifted her into the saddle. He led the horse back through the plaza, remounted with the woman and returned to his estate. Two weeks later she died of tuberculosis. Mr. Winthrope had her diary published in the local paper. It was with great remorse that the town accepted responsibility for her burial. In September Mr. Winthrope left for Canada to join the war against Germany. He left the child with a local couple against his return, but he never came back. The child became one of us. One to remind us of the unknown consequences of our harsh decisions to keep others away.

Amy began to shake as tears rolled down her eyes. She looked again at the man on the horse and knew he had once more visited the bench in the park. She may not have known the history of the town, but she did know that her father was adopted. And now she knew why he maintained the little church as a nondenominational community center. No, she would not be leaving this tiny little town. There was much to do to welcome a new generation of people in need, people “not like us.”

Leave a comment

Filed under My Fiction - Very Short Fiction

When the forecasts talk back.

Few professions seem to be more devoid of all imagination than accounting. The general assumption is that the day to day grind of processing numbers, finding “bottom lines” and figuring out what someone thought they were doing is, well, beyond boring. Accounting, to some folks, ranks somewhere in the neighborhood of watching paint dry. By extension such folks assume that the people whdragono perform these tasks are unimaginative creatures, condemned to watching spreadsheets grow and morph. Well, it isn’t quite that way. At least not for all of us. You see, I’m an accountant and I should know.

Actually, I’m a special kind of accountant, one that spends at least part of her time looking into the fogs of the future and making “educated guesses” on what might happen. This is really pretty important. People spend money on what they think will happen, not on what happened yesterday. Don’t believe me? Give someone a few thousand dollars. Are they going to remember they were broke yesterday and couldn’t find enough to eat? Not very often! So, “looking into the future” becomes a discipline, a way of saying, what might happen. And that is where the possibilities begin.

I will admit that most forecasts, budgets and predictions are just another set of numbers manipulated based on historical information and pushed forward with (ahem) reasonable expectations. But every now and then the practiced forecaster can catch a bit of something special. Something just over the horizon if only. One night, I had a helper.

It was a typical night. Well, a typical nearing midnight, eyes sagging, falling asleep kind of night when I first glimpsed my own tiny dragon. The project I was working on was creative, did require some knowledge of the arts, and also required some background on what makes people want to contribute to a project for the pure pleasure of it; not because it has some promised return. That is not particularly easy.

After writing pages and pages of answers to questions on a tax form, my eyes became quite droopy. The words were blurring and I was positive I had said the same things already, probably had knowing tax forms as I do. Did I miss a question? How can I make this sound like, well, it has meaning and should be supported? “You need a little spark there.” What?

“Yes, just there. It sounds like you’re selling shoes, not music.” I’m talking to myself now? “No, you silly woman, you are not talking to yourself, I’m trying to help you here!” I’m only drinking tea, who is talking to me? “Right here, right on your monitor stand, your own special dragon. I can see what is on the screen and you sound more boring than a tax auditor. You have to pep this up.” I am tired, I had better shut this whole mess down.

Suddenly, a tiny spark flew into the air and there was a faint odor of wood smoke. And I saw him. A tiny blue and green dragon posing near my monitor and pointing with his front paw at a particularly long and dense passage. Well, he was right. It was horrible. Even if no one ever read it, it was horrible. I sighed.

“So what would you suggest, Mr. Oh-so-smart?”

“Go back to the reason you took this thing on to begin with.” (Delivered with tiny puffs of smoke.) “Tell these people, if anyone ever reads this, that this is the most important idea in the whole county. That bringing the passion of Baroque and Classical music to a rural resort in the middle of nowhere is a spark of inspiration, an opportunity that few if any of these people would ever enjoy without this particular program. Tell these people that in a world full of ugly news and terrifying tragedies, that you can still celebrate the beauty that humanity can create. And you can do it in a secluded, mountain valley during a weekend retreat with world class artists and terrific food.”

Well, even if no one ever reads this stuff, I think I’d like to go.

1 Comment

Filed under My Fiction - Very Short Fiction