Me and Mortimer, Chapter Eight: “The Superior Craft of Whittling”

While I was havin’ my coffee this mornin’ before tacklin’ that stack of files the office clerk loaded on my desk last night, I was watching Mortimer use his prized wood chisels to carve the company logo into a oval slice of pine wood that the company had cut special for this project from a old pine tree that grew on the north side of the main company building. The company is buildin’ a new employee cafeteria on the spot where that pine tree was growin’, and the tree was in the way so it had to be cut down.

Mort’s been so busy carving on that piece of wood he ain’t even interested in talkin’ to me, even after I prodded him with questions about his so-called special love of wood carving, so I’ll just talk to you about things in general today.

The engineer wanted to cut down the tree and haul it to the dump, but a lot of the employees got together and asked the company to save a slab of the tree—sort of in memory of that tree many of the employees had had their open air lunch under in years past—and make it into a plaque and hang it on the wall in the new cafeteria. The boss thought it was a good, nostalgic idea.

Nostalgic nonsense from a bunch of employees who ain’t workin’ hard enough, if you ask me! A tree is a tree, and there’s a whole bunch more growin’ in the forest just west of town, if you ever want one—or a hundred, even, if you need more.

Anyway, gettin’ back to my story. The company is payin’ Mortimer extra to carve their logo into that piece of wood, and Mort’s sure taking his time in carving it! Every little detail has to be just so! Sez it’s pride in workmanship: doin’ a job right, he sez, but I think he’s just wastin’ a lot of time and company money. Sheesh! If that were me, it wouldn’t take more than a afternoon to finish that thing, and think of all the extra money I could pocket!

I always say, the guy that can make a dime without overworkin’ hisself is smarter than the guy working overtime for the same dime just to please the boss. But, I guess, each of us has his own values, and not all values are as superior as mine!

Mort really takes special pride in them wood chisels of his. Tells me that they was quite expensive when he bought them some years back when he took a design and wood carvin’ course at our local tech. I read stories where more modern wood carvers are now using electronic chisels instead of the old-fashioned hand chisels, but I guess ol’ Mort hasn’t modernized his ways yet.  Sez he feels that the real craft of wood carvin’ lies in using hand tools. Gives a fella a special pride and feel for the wood and the finished product that electronic chisels just can’t give you.

Mortimer thinks he knows a lot about design and wood carving, ‘specially since he took that course at Tech, but I tried to show him he really don’t know nothing about the real craft of wood carving, like I learned as a kid, and what we then used to call, whittling.

When I was a kid, in my home town where I grew up, a kid was considered just a baby until his dad figured he was growed up enough to own his own pocket knife. Then he’d be considered old enough to be part of the gang of the older kids.

I remember, on my sixth birthday, my dad presented me with my first pocket knife.

“Son,” he said, “I think your old enough where you can safely handle your own pocket knife!” I was real proud of my dad for figerin’ that I was a big kid now! I loved my dad, and I think he had more brains than Einstein’s pussy-cat!

My first knife was a Swiss Pocket Knife and had a black handle and had two blades, a small and a big blade. Never did figure out what the small blade was good for, so I just used the big blade for whittlin’ and carving things.

Now that I was part of the Big Kids Gang, we’d spend a lot of our time in the willow bushes by the town gravel pit. By using a trick only us Big Kids knew, we could whittle real-workin’ whistles out of a piece of willow bark. I remember, we’d blow and blow on them whistles, thinkin’ it was lots of fun, and that’s how we spent a lot of our summer afternoons.

One problem we Big Kids had with pocket knives was that most of us would end up cutting our thumbs with the knife until we learned to respect and use them properly. ‘Cause I was smarter than most of the other Big Kids, I only cut my thumb twice before I learned to use it properly, but Reggie Allred was just the opposite. Reggie was bigger than me, had curly black hair, and was the goofball of our group. He cut his thumb more times than a duck said “Quack!” after laying its batch of eggs in the marsh.

Reggie and I became best friends. I remember once, Reggie convinced me to join him in sneakin’ under widow Anne’s window in the afternoon while she was trying to sleep—she slept a lot in the afternoons—and we’d try to drive her crazy with our constant whistlin’. She took it for a while, and we were almost ready to give up on our prank, thinkin’ it wasn’t working, when she complained to my dad, so my dad took away my pocket knife for a week and made me promise never to bother widow Anne again.

Anyway, all this reminiscin’ is meant to show you what real whittling—or wood carving really is. Kids now-a-days, with their iPads, just don’t know what real fun and craftsmanship is about!

Anyway, it’s getting’ near lunch time and I still have to do all that filing. Normally, I’d just leave the filing and do it all on Friday afternoon, but my wife made Mort promise to snitch on me and tell her if I ever slacked off again, ‘cause if I did, that meant no supper and no TV when I got home from work, so I’ll stop talkin’ for a bit and do the filing, then I’ll talk to you again after lunch.

——————————

Well, ol’ Mort never even took all of his lunch time that he’s entitled to, he’s so involved in carving that company logo. I think that’s treasonous on his part—I mean, not takin’ all of his lunch time. If he keeps doing that, pretty soon the company will expect the same from the rest of us, and I ain’t about to sacrifice my free time! No, sir! We got union laws in this company, and I aims to respect them!

Oh—before I go home early this afternoon—goin’ home early ‘cause I finished my filing, so no use staying around here, I gotta tell you something. In case you hadn’t already hear about it, Mortimer’s getting married this Saturday! That’s right. He’s finally found someone that’ll tolerate his company brownnosing attitude and marry him! Me and the wife got an invite to his wedding. I wanted to go fishing this Saturday, but one look from my wife—she shoulda been a Sergeant Major, I tell you; I pity the guy who’d ever say “no” to her!

My wife bought them a expensive Wedgewood bone china breakfast set as a wedding present. When I heard what she spent on that breakfast set, I was gonna mention to her that I coulda, instead, bought that expensive fishing tackle box with all the fish hooks I’d ever need in it, that I always wanted, but I hadn’t finished my supper yet, so decided to say nothing!

I haven’t met his future wife yet, but I hope she’s gonna be good and firm with Mort, ‘cause that guy can sure use some smartening up, if you ask me! I gave you an example earlier, where Mortimer didn’t even believe me when I explained to him that whittling was a superior art to wood carving, and that’s just a small sample about the way he thinks!

Oh well, not everyone can have the superior upbringing like I had. Some of us, like ol’ Mort, for example, just gotta learn the hard way that you gotta grab what’s yours, and not wait for someone to hand it to you—like Mort not taking his full lunch hour at noon today. That’s breaking union rules, and it can get me so mad!

Sheesh!

I turns to Mort, who’s got his back to me, and sez, “Good night, Mort. I’m goin’ home now. Don’t forget to lock the shed when you leave!” I figured I’d best tell him that I was leaving, in case he turns around and finds I’m not here anymore.

 

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A Sunday Chat with Myself: Are we an Advanced Society?

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” —Søren Kierkesgaard

This morning I sat myself comfortably into my office chair, leaned back, took a deep breath, held it for a moment, then slowly exhaled.

I was totally Relaxed and free of all the ‘happenings’ of the past week.

Sunday morning—it was that time of week for me to escape from the world and think metaphysically: to reflect on how the past week had impacted my life. For me, gratitude is the first thought that comes to mind, like being forever grateful for my overall health, income security, a nice, comfortable home, specialized, well-trained police that shield me reasonably well from predators … even our weather has been quite normal, compared to some of the storms, floods, forest fires and heat waves that are plaguing the rest of the country. It is such a joy to feel how lucky a person I am!

Our advanced society has given me many comforts, safety and protection that other nations, especially less developed ones, don’t enjoy. For example, the desperate “boat people” we hear about who sell everything they have and give it to a risky and mostly dubious “helper,” then, shoves them onto overcrowded boats where they must gamble their very lives to come to my country where they hope for a better life: a way of life I take for granted almost daily.

However, as I continued in my “grateful reverie,” my Super Self started challenging my good feelings. Sure, I had a lot of things in my life that brought me pleasure and comfort—I lack from nothing, physically—but how am I doing in my spiritual evolution? After all, I did come from somewhere other than this earthly, physical world—and for a reason, and I’m sure it wasn’t to just see how much worldly stuff I could collect!

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” — Charles Dickens

According to Zecharia Sitchin’s view (he’s renowned for his translations of early Sumerian writings into English), the Adamic race had its origin “quite suddenly”—over a period of just a few thousand years, evolutionarily-speaking—in this fertile region some 6,000 years ago. That 6,000 years, has given us enough time to evolve physically to a modest degree, but what about our spiritual evolution? Sure, as I said earlier, we have a lot of nice, modern things in our lives—homes, TV, wireless communications, good health plans, etc.— but in some other ways, spiritually, we’re still as barbaric as we were in our beginning! Envy, hate, greed, lust, cheating, lying—I still can’t leave my home without locking my doors due to the risk of home invasion: do you see change?

On the other hand, I subscribe to several charitable and meditation groups and we do a tremendous amount of good in helping to raise the level of human consciousness. My Church, alone, sponsors several charities to help individuals improve their lives, like food and clothing banks, disaster relief, educational foundations and research funding.

The bottom line is, we are moving forward, both in physical technologies, and in spiritual growth and compassion. It’s simply a matter of what side of the fence we focus our thoughts on as we analyse the world. Personally, I’ll take the cheerful, compassionate, grateful side, and leave the negative, fearful stuff up to the subscribers of the evening news media!

“When the light is imminent, the darkness gets agitated.” —Dr. Barbara De Angelis, Gaia TV

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Me and Mortimer

Sometimes life just ain’t fair! Take this mornin’ for example. My wife and kids got up early, even before the neighborhood sparrows had started their infernal, irritatin’ chatter, so that she and the kids could get a early start on their trip to Vancouver Island. The kids, especially, was up even before my wife got outa bed, yellin’ and screemin’ and runnin’ around all excited and makin’ enough noise to wake a grave digger’s catch of the day!

Of course, the family decided—without my input, as usual—to use the family car for their holiday, which meant I would have to catch the bus to work all this week.

Before she closed the door behind her on the way out, my wife made sure I was awake so I wouldn’t sleep in and be late for work. Sheesh! As if anyone could sleep through the racket those kids was makin’!

I glanced at the alarm clock. Seven o’clock? I ain’t gettin’ up this early, so I rolled over to catch a few extra zees before I’d hafta face the day for real. Besides, it only takes me fifteen minutes to drive to work, so, why get up this early?

Like I said, sometimes life puts you behind the eight ball, no matter what you do. Those extra zees I decided to take turned into an hour-long nap, and I still had to make some breakfast before heading out to work! And, I’d completely forgotten that I’d have to take the bus all this week, which means it takes longer to get to work than by car.

Of course, bein’ late, I missed the bus I shoulda took, so I had to wait for the next one, which made me half hour late to get to work! Sometimes, I swear, if I didn’t have any bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all!

Fortunately for me, when I finally did get to work, Mortimer was already out mowin’ the grass around the company parking lot, so he never noticed me sneak in late and wouldn’t be able to snitch the fact that I was late again to my wife—or, so at least, I thought.

Meanwhile, back to the present.

That Mortimer!  Sometimes I have to shake my head when I see how he forgets his priorities. He forgot to make coffee again, leaving that responsibility up to me. How many times must I tell him, first guy into the office in the morning, makes the coffee!

So, naturally, the first thing I had to do was make a fresh pot of coffee. While I was waitin’ for the water to boil, I opened the mornin’ paper and read the headline: “Senator Drymann refuses to support Parliament’s bill to buy ten new fighter jets for our armed forces.”

For you folks out there who don’t know, Drymann’s the guy our Prime Minister recently appointed to The Upper Chamber and he’s been makin’ a real name for hisself among the flower power radicals by refusin’ to support any kind of bill the government tries to introduce that will increase defense spending.

Sheesh! You’d think those young tree-huggen’, pot smokin’  radicals had better things to do than spend their time parading in front of the parliament buildings, acting like they knew better than us old folks do about what’s best for the country.

That news headline got me so mad at ol’ Drymann I was ready to sit down and write to him and tell him he was wrong for not supporting our troops … but I see the water in the coffee pot’s boilin’ so, instead, I had to close the paper and go make the coffee. At the same time I was makin’ the coffee, Mortimer comes into our office, grass stains all over his knees where he’s been kneeling, and oil all over his hands.

“You have to come and help me with the lawn mower,” he sez to me, completely ignorin’ the fact that I was already busy with my own priority—makin’ the coffee—and didn’t have time to help him with his stupid lawn mower. “The blade broke and I need someone to help me tilt the mower and hold it so I can unscrew the broken blade and install a new one.”

I was about to give Mortimer a piece of my mind for interrupting my important coffee-making chore and to go find someone that was doing nothin’ that could help him with his lawn mower … but then I thought, maybe this could be a good time to discuss Drymann’s stupid decision with him and see what he thinks, so I turned off the boiling water and went out to the parking lot with him instead.

“Here—I’ll lift up the mower on this end, and I want you to hold it in that position while I take off the blade.” Mortimer lifts up the side of the mower and waits for me to grab hold.

“Why don’tcha just get a piece of two-by-four and prop up the mower? Then you wouldn’t need my help.”

“Just hold it steady—like this!” He snaps at me.

Sheesh! I thought it was a good idea. Anyway, I dismiss ol’ Mort’s snarky comment, thinkin’ he’s probably having a bad morning, with his lawn mower being broken and all that, so I asks him, “What ya think of Drymann’s decision not to support our troops?”

Mortimer stops unscrewing the bolts on the lawn mower blade and looks up at me, sort of funny like, like as if I hadn’t made myself clear.

“You know,” I sez, making it more simple so even Mort could understand, “voting against the bill for our government to buy those ten new jets.”

“I think Senator Drymann made a very responsible decision in voting against that purchase,” Mort turns back to unscrewing the bolts and removes the broken blade. “I’d like to see our country become more interested in promoting peace, rather than fighting wars we don’t need to get involved in.”

Huh!” Mort’s remark shocked me to the core. I hadn’t expected that kinda unpatriotic talk from him! “You mean, we shouldn’t defend our country and not give our troops the best fightin’ machines we can?” I didn’t think Mort was that kind of guy, not supporting our government in fighting terrorism.

“Defending our country can often be better accomplished through peaceful talks, rather than preparing for war.”

“Well, I say, the best way to have peace is to prepare for war!” I snapped back at Mortimer in a finality that prevented any chance for him to disagree with my superior views. He now had finished attaching the new blade, so I was able to let go of my end of the lawn mower. Good thing, ‘cause my arms was getting’ pretty tired holding up that stupid, stinky thing.

Mortimer just shrugged off my superior argument, and, instead, began priming the engine on the lawn mower. “That’s why it’s such a privilege to live in a democratic country like ours where each of us can express our opinion, and not be silenced by dictatorial rule.” The mower started real easy so Mort wasted no time in leaving me stand there while he finished cutting the lawn.

“Yeah? Well, I think ol’ Drymann’s just a sleezy politician not caring about whether our country’s defended or not!” I shouted after Mortimer, but I don’t think he heard me over the racket that noise machine of his was making.

Having to walk all the way back to my office in the tool shed from the parking lot really left me tired. I looked at the stack of files on my desk that needed putting away, and that made me feel even more tired. At that point, I really wanted to quit—but I knew my wife would get really angry at me if I did, so I started filing …

… “Coffee!” I shouted aloud. With havin’ to help Mortimer, and him getting me angry about how Drymann was letting down our troops, made me completely forget that I hadn’t had my coffee this morning. I walked over to the table and turned on the coffee pot, then sat down and again open the morning paper, ignorin’ the headlines about Drymann.

I needed a rest!

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A Sunday Chat with Myself—More on Gratitude

“Gratitude  is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” — Cicero

At my age I need a little more rest than a younger man might need, so I frequently retire during the day for a short nap. We have a large long-haired grey cat who, as soon as he sees me heading towards the bedroom, follows and snuggles up against my chest. I comment to other family members that we (the cat and I) are enjoying some “quality time” together: he is enjoying my company, and I am enjoying his company.

I have no problem believing that I can have ‘quality time’ with a cat because I believe that there is only life—consciousness—in the universe. The cat, in consciousness, is equal to my consciousness. Conscious awareness is like living in an infinite cosmic ocean of self-awareness that I—and my cat—are all part of. I look at it this way: take a cup of water out of the ocean. That cup of water, although briefly separated from the ocean, is still “ocean.” So, there is no difference between my consciousness and the cat’s consciousness. We’re all … uh, consciousness!

… But yet, there is something different between me and my cat. Although we share similarities – consciousness – we have different destinies: different callings. For the cat, as long as it is fed and watered, and receives its share of love and comfort in my home, it is quite content to live out its days with me as being … well, just a cat!

On the other hand, I need more in my life. I need physical and intellectual challenges. I need more than the simple ‘animalistic’ need to love and to be loved. I need recognition of being of some importance in life! So, what is it in me that makes me crave love, affection, learning, etc., while my cat is quite content to live a simple life? And, more importantly, how do I go about fulfilling these cravings that I have?

Through self awareness, I realize that if I do something nice for a person I get a really good feeling for my effort. That seems to be my reward: if I do something nice to a person, I am rewarded by feeling good, so there is truth to the Biblical saying, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If I do something that makes another person feel good, I feel good in return.

On the flip side, if I do something mean to another person, the result can leave me with some uncomfortable, guilty feelings; or, if another person does something mean to me, I can feel hurt and angry. Furthermore, I have a choice in how I wish to treat the world, or choose how I wish to react to how the world treats me.

And that’s what makes me—my self—different from that of my cat: I have a broader range of choice of how I choose to react to the world around me.

Desire, “the feeling that accompanies an unsatisfied state,” also comes into play here. As far as I know, my cat has basic animal survival instincts that can only be related to desire—it needs shelter, food and an assurance of safety, but I can, through my more evolved attributes of desires, actually manipulate what I wish to accomplish, or not accomplish through my desires. In other words, I feel that I can accomplish, through my extra God-given gifts of choice and desire, much more in life than my cat can.

I have so much more to be grateful for than my cat has!

Or do I?

On second thought, maybe it’s my cat, not me, that has been given a God-given gift of simplicity that I don’t yet understand, and through that simplicity, has gained more reason to be thankful than I do through my complexities in life. So, when the cat and I snuggle up on our bed to enjoy our “quality time,” I feel that both of us are silently, each in our individual way, giving prayerful thanks and appreciation for all that our Creator has blessed us with.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”  — Epicurus

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Amazing Intelligence in Animals—the Pig

“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”  —Winston Churchill

If you’re like the average person on this planet, you haven’t spent much time wondering what animal will dominate the world once humanity has managed to destroy itself and leave our planet up for grabs for the next best host. In fact, I’ll bet that you haven’t spent even a minute wondering about that!

But, for the moment, let’s suppose that, last night, after you’ve exposed yourself to an hour’s worth of evening news with its threats and warnings and shortfalls about how we’re in danger of annihilating ourselves, you felt a sudden needed a break from all that negativity, so you stepped outside for a breath of fresh air and gaze up at the vastness of the night sky, with its Milky Way and the trillions of other stars winking and blinking back at you—and wondered—if mankind did manage to obliterate himself off the world, what animal would be next in line to step forward and take their opportunity at making the world a livable place, and hopefully, do a better job of stewardship than we did?

If you guessed the lowly pig, you’d be in the right top-ten pick. According to Weird Nature, the pig is seventh in line as being the smartest primate on earth! Pigs have been known to outsmart dogs and considered by many experts to be on equal footing with the Chimpanzee for intelligence.

A male pig is called a boar and a female is referred to as a sow. A group of young piglets is referred to as a drift, and an older group of pigs are called a sounder of swine.

I know, as you’re enjoying your second helping of barbequed pork chop, grilled to perfection on your newly purchased back yard barbeque, the intelligence of a pig isn’t exactly what’s on your mind during that epicurean moment. But, did you know that pigs are considered smarter than dogs?

“It’s when you live in a pigsty that the pigs start to complain about who they have to share with.” —Anthony T. Hincks

And did you also know that the popular belief “dirty as a pig,” is false? Pigs, if given half a chance, are among the cleanest of animals in nature. Weird Nature claims that a pig, even beginning with their young piglets, will refuse to defecate anywhere near the area where it lives or eats. That’s better cleanliness than many of our other domesticated animals!

Pigs are social animals, living complex lives, and readily learn from each other through observation. They will often try to “work to outsmart each other,” adds Weird Nature. Pigs can be trained to perform numerous functions and tricks, and just like a dog, have been used in stage performances to show off their learned talents.

In their eating habits, pigs can be classed as “opportunist omnivores.” In other words, they’ll generally eat what’s available. The diet of feral pigs is mostly plants and tubers, bulbs, mushrooms and even grass. Feral pigs will also steal eggs from ground nesting birds and will eat lizards and other non-mammals.  Farm pigs that are allowed to live a natural life feed mostly on corn, rice and wheat, or whatever the farmer has available for them.

Similar to dogs and a few other mammals, pigs love to play in mock fighting with each other, and are excellent at walking through mazes to claim their prize at the other end of the maze. They can even manipulate a joystick, or on-screen cursor similar to what chimpanzees can do.

So, the next time you bite down on that perfectly barbequed pork chop, give thanks to the intelligence that you are eating!

“Our difficulties in understanding or effectuating communication with other animals may rise from our reluctance to grasp unfamiliar ways of dealing with the world.” —Carl Sagan

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Me and Mortimer—Chapter Six, “Gone Camping”

Well, like I promised, I put my foot down and insisted the family go campin’ with me up at Pine Lake instead of goin’ to Marine Land. The wife didn’t wanna go campin’ with me—sez she’s not one to rough it and sleep outdoors in a tent—Hmph! I guess, like most delicate women, she prefers shopin’ malls and sidewalks instead of fresh air and nature! And the kids—’specially the kids—they didn’t want to go campin’, no way! They had set their heart on visitin’ Marine Land on Vancouver Island, and no amount of persuadin’ or bribin’ on my part could convince them otherwise!

Sheesh! Kids, now-a-days. They just don’t have no appreciation for nature anymore! Anyway, like I said, I put my foot down and told them, it’s my way, or the highway! Even threats of lowerin’ their allowance wasn’t gonna persuade them otherwise.

Turns out, when I gave them that kind of an ultimatum, they preferred the highway. So, come late Sunday night, when I was packin’ my pup tent and fishin’ gear into the car, I decided to give them a final chance: enjoy nature, or eat smog in the city.

Again, they stubbornly chose smog over fresh air! So, come Monday mornin,’ I just started off for Pine Lake all by myself!

Of course, nobody told me that it was a long weekend so there was more campers at the lake than ants in a anthill! I had to drive around for a while, but finally found a spot that was a bit distant from the lake itself. The ground was a bit soggy from last night’s rain, but my pup tent had a waterproof floor, so I wasn’t gonna get wet sleeping at nights—at least I hoped not to get wet.

I just got my tent up and settled down when a guy with one of those god-awful dirt bikes, snortin’ noise and exhaust, comes roarin’ down the trail, almost on top of me, not slowin’ down or carin’ about my safety, and splashes mud all over me and my tent! I jumped up and was gonna grab his bike and throw it in the lake, but he was too quick for me.  He just goes roarin’ off, laughin’ like a insane hyena that had just escaped from the zoo, sprayin’ more mud in my face on the way out.

I forgot to pack some extra water for washing, so I had to walk all the way down to the lake to wash off the mud. Of course, it was dusk and the sun had just set and the night air was gettin’ cool, so after washing myself, I shivered all the way back to my tent where I had forgot my towel. I lit my small camp stove, and it gave me enough heat so I could stop shiverin.’

What a way to end my first day campin’!

I was woke up early next mornin’ by a bunch of noisy crows squabblin’ over some smelly thing they had found near a tree stump. I threw a stone at them and they scattered. I tried goin’ to sleep again, but couldn’t, so since I was awake anyway, I thought I might’s well get dressed and try some fishin.’ Trouble was, a dozen other guys had the same idea, and all the nice spots were already taken. So, again, I had to move up a ways over some slippery rocks before I could get into an area of water that I thought might hold some fish.

Lucky for me, I caught my first fish in less than half an hour of casting! But, now I had a problem. No use me catchin’ more fish, ‘cause I could only pan fry and eat one fish and I didn’t want to quit and go back to my tent so soon so I released that fish back into the water, and baited my hook with a new worm and kept on fishin.’

That was a mistake! Noon came, and I had not caught another fish! A guy just down a bit from where I was fishin’ caught four beautiful, nine-inch-long lake trout, so when he packed up and left I took his spot, hopin’ I’d have the same luck as he had.

Three o’clock, and no luck! The fish just wasn’t biting for me today, and I was startin’ to get a bit tired, standin’ like this in the water in my waders, so I just packed it up and walked back to my tent. Lucky for me, I was smart enough to pack some extra grub—just in case—so I opened a can of Spam and had it for supper, pretending it was a lake trout that I had caught. To help with the taste, and make me feel  better, I even imagined that I had fried it in butter, lightly salted and turned to perfection, over my camp fire.

Evening was turning out to be just perfect. There was no wind, and the lake was calm and smooth as glass, reflectin’ all those nice evening colors of the sunset. God just don’t make more beautiful evenings than like tonight!

But, that nice evening didn’t last long. A bunch of young punks, closer down by the lake itself, decided to have a party! I could see them haulin’ out cases of beer and settin’ them next to a huge fire they had built out of dead tree sticks the lake had washed ashore.

My hunch was right. By midnight, them punks was hootin’ and hollerin’ and makin’ more noise than a bunch of howling banshees at a family reunion!

I guess somebody musta complained to the cops about them, ‘cause it wasn’t long after midnight when two park rangers came by and sorta busted up the party and ordered the punks out of the park.

I started walkin’ down to the punk-party-that-was to add my complaint to the park rangers, but it wasn’t necessary. By the time I got down there, the punks were already on their way out. But, talkin’ to the rangers, I did find out some news I was glad to hear. Remember me tellin’ you about the guy and his dirt bike that nearly ran over me? Well, turns out that he hit a fallen tree just a bit past me and my tent and he and his bike went flyin’ and tumblin’ down through the brushy slope, nearly into the lake itself! He ended up with a broken collar bone and a broken ankle. And I didn’t have to throw his bike into the lake. When he hit that fallen tree, that tree did a better job on his bike than I could have even imagined!

Well, the rest of the week at the lake was pretty quiet. I did catch a few fish and ate them for my supper—I like ‘em best when they’re fried in butter and with a bit of salt on them, so the week wasn’t entirely wasted.

I guess I could mention to you about a little incident that happened on Thursday. Thursday, just before noon, I had caught my fifth lake trout of the week—a real beauty, I might add, only this time I wasn’t gonna be silly enough to throw it back into the water and keep on fishin’ like I did on Monday. No sir, not this time! “Once fooled, shame on you. Twice fooled, shame on me,” I always ses.

I unhooked the fish from my line and carefully laid it on a rock outcrop in the water just behind me and kept on fishin’. Well, not even a minute later—with my luck, wouldn’t you know it—and quicker than a politician can deny he said somethin’ stupid, a sea gull swooped down and snatched that fish off the rock, and before I could turn and grab it back, it and my fish was gone!

“I hope you choke on it!” I yelled and shook my fist at that departing thief. I was so upset I just spit in the lake and quit fishin’ for the day. Lucky for me, I still had one can of Spam left, so I had that for supper!

Lookin’ back over the week, it was disappointing. I got a rash on my arms from all those mosquito bites—and, of course, forgot to bring insect repellant with me to stop ‘em from bitin’ me. I tore a long rip into the seat of my pants from a branch I accidently fell against, so after that, I had to watch that I didn’t expose my backside to anyone I met on the trail, and I accidently spilled into the water the remaining can of worms that I was using to bait my fishin’ pole. All told, I was havin’ a bad week, so decided it was time to get outa here!

When I arrived back home late Sunday night I found my wife and kids had their travel bags all packed and ready to go first thing Monday mornin’.

“You had your holiday, now we’re having ours!” she bluntly told me, without so much as askin’ how I enjoyed my campin’ trip.

“—Oh, and here.” She passed me a postcard that the mailman had delivered to the house. It was from Mortimer.

“Welcome back to work on Monday!” the card read. “I missed our arguments!”

Sheesh!”

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A Sunday Chat with Myself—Microplastics

It’s when plastic takes on a life of its own that the food chain will be disrupted.” —Anthony T. Hicks

Sundays are usually a quieter time when I can relax and reflect on the metaphysical things in my life—the moral and spiritual side of living that give value to my being here on earth.

Today, my thoughts turned to the dangerous role microplastics are starting to play in my life. It’s still not quite mainstream media yet, but it’s getting there. One reason, I suspect, why “big media” is still dragging its feet on exposing this problem is because big business—which big media is part of— will be a big looser if we ever start to cut back or replace plastics.

But, I wonder, is all this “ignoring the problem” by media a way of hiding the “wolf in sheep’s clothes?

First, what are microplastics, and why are they dangerous? According to Wikipedia, microplastics “are small pieces of plastic that pollute the environment … the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration classifies microplastics as less than 5 mm in diameter.” There are two classifications of microplastics: those that we are purposely creating—Primary Microplastics, like small pellets that are used in packaging and air blasting, or “scrubbers,” used in hand cleansers and facial scrubs.

I’ts when we go fishing for plastic that we wonder where all the fish have gone.” —Anthony T. Hicks

One danger that microplastics pose in their use in air blasting as “scrubbers” on machinery to remove rust and paint is that they are repeatedly reused until they are so small that their cutting power is lost. In that use, they become contaminated with heavy metals that are a health hazard to all living mammals.

Secondary Microplastics are the product of the natural breakdown of plastics in nature—on land and in the sea—as small as 1.6 micrometers (0.00006299 of an inch) in diameter. These microplastics, as they are ingested through our food, are so small that they can easily penetrate stomach or blood vessel linings and enter the body at will, entering our vital organs, where our body can’t control their presence, thus wreaking all manner of havoc.

So, what can I do, personally, to help alleviate this problem? I can start using cloth shopping bags when I go to the grocery store. When I buy a single item in a store, I don’t need the cashier to place it into a plastic bag for me to carry out when I can just as easily carry it holding it in my hand.

When available, I can buy bulk items like cereal, other food mixes and the like, instead of spending a lot of extra money paying for packaged boxes of the product.

Recycling plastics as much as possible is another major way in which we can reduce the amount of plastics in our landfills.

Pick up garbage (that’s mostly made of plastics) irresponsible people discard along pathways, sidewalks or roadways and deposit them in proper garbage disposable units.

Organizations have sprung up that are devoting their time and resources to plastics cleanup, both on land and in our oceans, and my deepest respect and admiration goes out to them for the responsible work of planet-earth stewardship that they have taken upon themselves.

However, just to satisfy our goal to clean up other people’s garbage is not going to save us from extinction! Humanity has to wake up, and each one of us has to take our share of responsibility to restore Gaia to her original, pristine “Garden of Eden” state that we found her in when we first came here.

With a little thought, it’s easy to find more ways to cut back on the use of plastics, but plastics are so engrained in our way of life, it would be almost impossible to completely remove them—at least not in our immediate future.

According to The Independent, global plastic production has increased dramatically. Between 2004 and 2014, the amount of plastic production rose by 38 percent!

The United Nations reports that “[this] is the most dangerous environmental problem facing the world today.”

“Millions of tons of tiny debris from plastic bags, bottles and clothes in the world’s oceans present a serious threat to human health and marine ecosystems,” warns the Independent.

Unless we do something, collectively—and soon— I must ask, who do you think will be the next dominant species on earth after we’ve annihilated ourselves? The Cockroach—again?

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