Jake ran, his feet treading on a soft cushion of dew-covered grass, down a narrow goat path bordered by heavily pruned pencil cedar trees. Ahead, clad as always in his worn gray suit coat and pants, Mzee Kang’ethe outpaced Jake, easily widening the distance between them. Kang’ethe was 72 years old and smoked 2 packs of Sportsman cigarettes every day. Jake was exactly fifty years younger and had never smoked in his life, yet he struggled to keep up with the older man. Continue reading “Kang’ethe and the Matatu”
His parents were wise, building their nest high under the eaves of the house, where the downspout from the gutter formed a sheltered platform inaccessible to all but the most determined of predators. I noticed them early in the spring, flitting about the back deck, gathering materials for their home construction. Continue reading “The Little Cardinal”
Upscale Shack readers will recall my 2014 review of Dr. Richard Carroll’s first book 2000 Miles around the Tree of Life, which recorded the author’s experiences hiking the Appalachian Trail from start to finish in the mid 1970’s. In his latest book, The Emperor and the Elephants (ISBN: 1935925709), Carroll recalls his Peace Corps service in the Central African Empire (today known as the Central African Republic, or CAR), in the late 1970’s, and his subsequent years working as a conservationist in Central Africa .
For nearly 100 years, the land that is today the Bubye Valley Conservancy (BVC) of Zimbabwe was not wilderness. The land was a cattle ranch. Wild animals were intentionally wiped out, for fear of disease transmission, and to eliminate predators that would kill cattle. For nearly a century, the land hosted a cattle monoculture, devoid of wildlife; and elephants, rhinos, leopards and lions were completely wiped out. For a century this land was the furthest thing in the world from wilderness. Continue reading “The Myth of Wild Africa”
There’s a quote I heard recently that was represented as Taoist, but I can’t confirm its origin. It certainly sounds like something Lao Tzu could have said. It goes: “A man who desires to be miserable will find plenty of reasons to support his cause.”
This quote perfectly represents for me the current state of politics within the Republican Party in America. Donald Trump panders to people who desire misery through his platform of pessimism and gloom. Continue reading “The Politics of Pessimism”
For no particular reason I’ve been thinking about gadgets lately. Those inventions that claim to “make life easier.” If a gadget could truly make the trials and tribulations of life easier, then I’d be all for it. But I’ve never seen a gadget that could mend a broken heart, or deal with the horrible attitude of a surly employee on a Monday morning. If only there was a gadget that would pay my mortgage, that would make my life easier.
Here are five examples of inventions that I could live without: Continue reading “Most Useless Inventions”
The raucous music of birds foraging at the feeder beneath my window wakes me just after sunrise. The metallic click of Dark-eyed Juncos, the buzzing trill of the Carolina Chickadee, the clear bell-like chime of the Song Sparrow. Local residents, the migrants having not yet returned from their long winter vacations to Mexico and Brazil, boasting of their travels and flashing their gaudy breeding plumage. Frost still coats the windows, a crust of ice covers the dog’s water dish; Spring is still 3 weeks away by the calendar. But the signs are there. Continue reading “Not Yet Sprung”
I’m an impatient writer. I tend to write in cloudbursts of creative energy. Stories come gushing out like torrential downpours, 5000 words flooding onto the page. Writing is in some ways a birthing process. Ideas germinate, gestate and at some point, when they’re too big to be contained, they just have to come out, there’s no stopping them.
But just as in giving birth, the work doesn’t stop once the baby is born. A story needs nurturing, it needs to mature. It needs editing, rewriting, revising, workshopping. It needs fresh eyes, new perspectives. If you’re lucky, and if you’ve given it enough care, someday it will get published, maybe years after you first scribbled it onto a napkin in the haste to capture the kernel of the idea. Continue reading “Birth of a Story”
I keep pondering the issue of life. What it means. Life on earth. We know that life on earth has existed for around 3.5 billion years, and that the sun will grow in intensity until it makes the earth uninhabitable to life in somewhere between 1.75 and 3.25 billion years from now.
Time is running out. Life on earth is somewhere in a late mid-life crisis. Continue reading “The Final Frontier”
Yesterday, as I was waiting for the train, I leaned against a column at the station and recognized it to be of the Ionic style of columns. From somewhere deep within the recesses of my brain I recalled the 3 basic styles of columns: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. We had been forced to memorize these in elementary school for reasons that escape me to this day. Perhaps the curriculum was a vestigial remnant of the classical education. Rather than teach us Latin or Greek, they taught us about columns instead. Maybe thinking that a smattering of knowledge about classical architecture would help us in some way down the road. Continue reading “Useless Information”