Balance, etc.

Peter Stokes- slacklining in the park

For me, one of the key things about climbing is the need to be fully present and in the moment. When I was younger I didn’t understand that concept very well (for a variety of reasons), and found myself flailing and struggling horribly one afternoon on a hill near Boston at a hang gliding place. I had successfully launched a week earlier, and perhaps I thought that, like some sort of machine, my progress would be linear and ever upward. Life doesn’t always work that way, though, and through time and experience with other practices (music and my various trades among them) I figured out that maintaining a “practice” means understanding and accepting where I’m at at any given time and not being completely attached to one particular outcome. Learning to “check in” with myself isn’t just a way to determine my level of enthusiasm but also a way to see if I might be in a state of mind that could lead to an accident. At this point I’m a complete beginner at slacklining but I’ve seen how the things I’ve successfully used in climbing are serving me as I enjoy trying this new and exciting sport. I’ve included a youtube video below the photos here with someone who just turned 60 demonstrating some basics and describing some of the benefits slacklining gives him…

Peter Stokes- practice slackline rig in the garage

Practice rig in my garage made from a truck tarp strap and ratchet

 

Climate Change? Really? Who would’ve guessed?

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It’s certainly true that we humans are not objective critters, and the scientific peer review process can be flawed. However, the stance that we have to have every single data point in before we decide on something would have prevented many of the things we all use from coming to fruition. In this particular case it’s a position designed to prevent us from making changes that, global warming or not, would make our planet a better place to live. Yes, regulating carbon emissions and the like will probably impinge on our freedom to do things the way we always have, but that’s pretty much how societies evolve- I used to have the freedom to burn tires in my yard, but enough people came to realize it was harmful that now there are fewer places to do that (damn… I love a good tire fire). Will regulations like that give the powers that be more power over us? Maybe, but the energy infrastructure we have now doesn’t exactly empower the individual much beyond choosing which oil company or utility to hand our earnings to. There’s an equally good chance the next technologies will get us off of some of the centralized models we currently use for electricity and transportation. Or they might, if we would stop letting the current vested interests control the discussion.

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What a trip….

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It’s been almost a year since Jim Velnosky (the Poisoned Squirrels Drummer) passed… in that time, I’ve thought a bit here and there about what our band and the friendships between it’s members meant to me and to the people who loved coming out to hear us. It was a rather tumultuous time in my own life (I didn’t yet know what made me jerk and shake or what to do with it), but one of the things I noticed was how Jim and I had both moved to the Colorado high country to have a closer relationship with whatever each of us considered God to be. There were some great times and some difficult times, but I’m pretty sure everyone in the band grew from the experience, personally and spiritually as well as musically- I know I did. One of the most interesting and intense things we did as a group was our 1992 road trip through Utah and Nevada to play at a huge anti-nuclear testing rally in the desert outside of Las Vegas. We had changed the focus of our music away from a sort of experimental noise toward a more “accessible” sound, often with a political or spiritual message in the songs (while retaining the twisted jams we were known for), and our work was starting to get through to larger numbers of people. We pitched tents on a sandy hillside above the main stage area, and the parking area “scene” rivaled anything I’d seen at a Grateful Dead show. This was adjacent to the Red Rocks area and I’m told it’s since been swallowed up by developments, but in 1992 there were wide, sweeping desert views with incredible rock formations just west of us, and the city off to the east. The PA system was powered by 30 yards of solar panels, and some really interesting, talented acts showed up. There was a march through downtown (photo above), as well as all sorts of educational stuff at the festival, and what seemed like decent media coverage. The Colorado contingent in the crowd made sure we knew how much we were appreciated! After the 3 day event ended Ken (our bass player) headed to California for a retreat while the rest of us spent the obligatory night walking around the Strip (followed by seedy motel) and then headed east. On the way home we hiked in Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, and went through Capital Reef (before it became a national Park) where I somehow managed to drive an Izuzu Trooper while sitting on the driver door window sill. Camping in Kane Springs Canyon outside Moab made for a nearly perfect desert night, and Jim and I talked about the sorts of things people often do under millions of stars after an adventure… I’d been to the desert before this (including a 1987 rally at the Nevada test site), and I’ve been back many times since, mostly for climbing and hiking, but that trip with the band was, well, quite a trip! And the US eventually stopped nuclear testing…

November 22, 1963

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I’m not old enough to remember where I was (I was 2 years old), but likely I was at home with my family in Tennessee. No matter- the things I’ve heard since about that time could fill a book, but enough of those exist already. One of the recurring themes is how we, as a nation, lost our way toward a brighter and more compassionate future, and I can understand why people said those things- the race riots, the war, and numerous other stuff seemed to point to exactly that. Not to mention the various theories about the JFK’s assassination itself (and what that might mean), about which I can only say it seems obvious the Warren Commission’s report fell short of reality, but how far short I’ll probably never know. Here’s the thing, though- as a society we may not have fallen so short after all. There was the Voting Rights Act in 1964, the war ended (after far too long), numerous efforts to help feed the hungry (though some of those are in jeopardy every few years), many more people of all backgrounds attending college and becoming leaders in most every sector of society, and an increasing recognition that everyone matters, even if not everyone is on board with that yet. The number of states that are willing to honor (in some form) marriage equality is another testament to how far we’ve come. I don’t mean to trivialize the very real problems we face- we still have a long way to go with race relations, wars, the environment and a hundred other things, but I think JFK’s vision has been gradually coming true- I see it almost everywhere I look, though it hasn’t happened as quickly as we would have liked.

Veteran’s Day, 2013

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On this Veterans Day I’m thinking of my stepfather, Charles Reilly, who served aboard the USS Robinson in the 1950s. We’re incredibly lucky here in the US for a number of reasons, including a huge natural resource base, immigrants from every country on earth, the ability to separate (mostly) church from state, an egalitarian ethic (even if we don’t always live up to it), lots of education resources (even if you have to hunt for them), and our military- in a perfect world we wouldn’t need that, but this is the world we have, and the men and women who served in the military allowed all of us to succeed or fail here in relative peace (even if some of us squander that peace on our streets). Our leaders have made serious mistakes with how the military is used (as many veterans will say), but that doesn’t change the fact that we need our service personnel for the time being, even if we wish we didn’t.

The society you want starts with you

The massacre in a Colorado movie theater recently has had the usual and predictable effect of everything from calls for a total and complete nationwide firearms ban to calls for more citizens packing heat in more places more often. None of this is particularly helpful or realistic, but perhaps that’s not the point- maybe folks just need to vent. Understandable. When my sweetie posted something about the perpetrator that included the term “compassion” many understood right away what she was talking about, but not everyone. The term “compassion” is not automatically a pass for behavior society finds abhorrent. No matter how enlightened we are, it will still be necessary to segregate dangerous people, it will still be necessary for law enforcement to have deadly force available among it’s other tools, and it will still be necessary for citizens to defend themselves. But by practicing some compassion, we might be able to eventually achieve a society in which less of this tragedy occurs. If we want to be angry and engage in retribution we’ll have lots of support and sympathy right away- it’s entrenched in our culture (the rabid anti-gun folks are just as good at this as the rabid pro-gun folks)- but if we want a better place for our kids I’d suggest thinking about the cycle all that anger and retribution perpetuates…

Meditation…

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Wonderful and cool thing happening at the house this week… Cindy’s meditation teacher, Paul Muller Ortega, is doing initiations. One of his teachers was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (the one in India the Beatles made famous), and as it happens, I was initiated by Maharishi in 1972. I was 11 at the time, and while I remember several things about the experience, there’s a fair amount I don’t. I do, of course, remember my mantra as he gave it to me, and though I haven’t practiced meditation with much regularity it’s always been in my “toolbox”…. a pretty good tool.

Ultimately, we’re all beings of faith… some people have faith in the randomness of things, and that there is no unifying force… I have faith that many (if not most) things do not happen by accident, and that love is like hydrogen- you can’t run out of it. What will you do with yours?

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