Archive for the ‘exploration’ Category

Genesis of a new novel, Search for Blue

October 5, 2019

The Traveler had been carrying his burden for a long time: a restless soul. Traveler’s roots were deep, but not necessarily set into a specific place on this earth. After traversing many a mile of land and sea, the sojourner had been driven westward, in search of some destination that could not yet be clearly identified. So it might be said his deep roots stretched deep into life itself, rather than a place

At least for now.

From an Old World starting point,

OldWorld

he had sailed o’er sea channel, into stillness and storm, outside of the norm, through the  outskirts of somewhere, and beyond the other side of nowhere,  arriving for a season upon some ancient isle. But finding very little solace there, traveler had redirected weary legs to ascend yet another ship’s gangplank, so that he might be transported to that great land he had heard tales of, beyond the blue.

The seaport where he disembarked was, as it happened, a frontier for foreigners not unlike himself. They had uncovered motivations to—for whatever reason—not remain where they had begun. And so, having hung their hopes upon such vague restlessness, they undertook yet another phase of the great journey to somewhere yet to be determined.

Ever moving and moving from this place to that, Traveler eventually found himself ascending a long piedmont hill, and so it seemed when he had reached the top of it, the extended journey was now delivering him to a wide westward-looking vista.

Pausing to catch breath, Traveler trained his eyes on a string of  faraway ridges. Obviously high, yet . . . it seemed . . . gently-sloping. . . forested they were, and having no cragginess that he could see from here. That string of mountains  stretched like great slumbering beached whales across the entirety  of his new horizon. From  north  to south . . . blue, and blue to blue on blue, and more . . . blue.

NewWorld

He had never seen such a thing.

Search for Blue

The Riddle of Red and Black

September 22, 2019

Guy Noir, the Prairie Home detective, spent many years trying to puzzle out answers to “life’s persistent questions.”

Some of those life questions are very important, such as how will I make a living?; what career should I  choose; is there life after death? 

Others are not so important as that, but nevertheless persistent, which is to say. . . they keep coming back again.

This morning I find myself researching, in order to answer a question that has perplexed me for a long time, ever since Pat and I started visiting the Hawaiian Islands about a dozen years ago.

The question is: What’s up with these red rocks and black rocks that seem to constitute the entirety of this Hawaiian island archipelago?

Spoiler alert: I haven’t completely figured it out yet. I will be describing herein my path of wonder, not necessarily giving you an informed report on the subject of red rocks/black rocks in Hawaii.

While I have not yet fully discovered why some Hawaiian rocks are red and others are black, I have managed to gather some learning along the way.

In many ways, I am person who is driven by an appreciation for lifelong learning.

The ancient dynamics and pyrotechnics through which these islands were formed is described in noteworthy detail here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_Hawaiian_volcanoes

You can learn far more about this subject by following the above link. 

But getting back to my little take on it . . . In our ten visits to Hawaii, the photo that I snapped which best shows what lava looks like is:

Formless

This dark gray/black solidified lava flow is called pāhoehoe. You see it throughout all the islands, but mostly on the big island, Hawaii, because it is the newest island, and the one that still displays an observable continuance of recent and still-active volcano activity. It’s fascinating stuff, especially for a curious person like me who took a geology course a long time ago.

We enjoy traveling these islands, year after year. In noticing the vast array of different volcanic rock formations, this question about the red rocks keeps popping up, as “one of life’s persistent questions.’ This never fails to fascinate me. 

Here’s a pic, taken a few years ago on Maui, that shows two layers of black rock with a layer of red rock between them.

RockStory

So we can see that there is some kind of “story” told in these rocks, some sort of history.

Geologic history, Earth history. Hawaiian Islands are perhaps the best location on the planet to identify features by which Earth reveals itself, by telling, in the rock, its own story.

SO, what about that strip of red rock in the middle? you may ask? I’m glad you asked.

I don’t know, but I did ask a Hawaiian about it.

As she began driving our tour bus up into Waimea canyon, I asked Jana about the red rocks, and she said the difference was:

“Rust.” The red rocks have rusted. And, she said, they are older.

I greatly appreciated her immediate answer. It has helped me a lot. It does seem, however, a little too simple for my over-active mind to accept completely. Nevertheless, her concise explanation was confirmed a few days later when I found online a Galapagos report from Cornell U:

     http://www.geo.cornell.edu/geology/GalapagosWWW/LavaTypes.html

Herein I found an authoritative source confirming that the difference in color, in some cases, is “a reflection of age. The older ʻaʻā . . . has weathered and the iron in it has oxided somewhat, giving it a reddish appearance.”

And that’s good enough for me to understand a little bit about what is going on in these vast, ancient islands, which represents processes that have built up our vast, ancient earth.

Meanwhile, back at the beach, I found, two evenings ago, a different working out of the red/black interface.

KaRoksRedBlk

In this scenario, I surmise that, somewhere along the ancient timeline, red rocks were weathered down to red sand and grit, then deposited at low places. During that time, the volcano or the weather must have torn black boulders loose. The black rocks tumbled down into red sands as what you see here. It appears to be black lava rocks trapped in red sandstone, nowadays being gradually dissembled by the thrashing Pacific Ocean.

Or something like that. That’s my answer for the riddle of red and black, one of life’s persistent questions.

  Glass Chimera

Head in the Clouds

September 10, 2019

Have you ever had  the feeling that our view of things is  somehow clouded ?

CloudDapl

It seems that we are somehow not seeing things rightly; we are missing something; we fail to read the signs of our times correctly.

I think we are similar, in some ways, to that guy the Beatles mentioned . . .

Well on the way

Head in a cloud

The man of a thousand voices

Talking perfectly loud

But nobody ever hears him 

Or the sound he appears to make 

And he never seems to notice . . .”

Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the fool on the hill.

But one thing I have learned—it’s my story and I’m sticking to it— Somehow each one of us will find life easier to manage if we find a way to see the bright side of any given situation.

Because there are, you know, the storms of life that hover in our expectant travel path . . .

CloudStorm

Let’s be aware of the storms, but not let their darkness totally occlude our hope for brighter horizons to come.

To get a balanced perspective, we need to see the good and the bad in this life. And we do well to strive at  accurately evaluating how those two entities are  opposing each other in any given scenario, or . . . how they may be intertwined as some kind of difficult-to-discern mixed blessing or cluster-fuhgedaboudit.

We oughta take notice of Joni’s observation:

“I’ve looked at life from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow, it’s clouds’ illusions I recall . . . I really don’t know clouds at all.”

So let us understand that, realistically, we do not fully know clouds—that is to say, metaphorically, life’s ups and downs—at all, even though we may believe that we’ve got it all under control.

For instance, we don’t wanna be stuck on Cloud 9 when Cloud 10 might be the better way to go!

And although many traditions may tell us of an Uncloudy Day, let’s not be sideswiped by that unexpected sidewinder that could, in this present scheme of things, drench us with unmanageable discouragement.

Although we often  catch sight of some new development— that rising cloud the size of a man’s hand—let us keep eyes trained on it long enough to anticipate whether it brings the needed  rain or just fizzles to nothing.

And let us try to evaluate what pursuits are truly helpful in this complicated life. We don’t need to be stuck, for instance, in PC mode when it could have been more advantageous to collectively store whatever good we can find in “the cloud.”

As for me, I’m hoping to, one fine day, be caught up in the clouds with the one who brought me here.

CloudBrite

I surmise that this faith expectation is probably the ultimate “looking on the bright side.”

Glass half-Full

what the Original artist did

July 28, 2019

While universe was expanding in all directions, Creator chose one lump and began working with it, rearranging its underneath mass so that water could rise to the surface. The hydrogen/oxygen element would move in a purposeful way instead of just sloshing around.

Creator spun that world into motion so that the sunlight which struck its surface would brighten half of world for a day while allowing the other half to return to darkness during the same interval.

Thus did this division between the lightened side of world and the darkened side establish a cycle which would become known to us as day and night.

Then Creator used the interaction of sunlight and water to introduce an earthly cycle by which water could morph between two different states: liquid and vapor. The liquid would generally flow on, and within, the surface, while the vapor would rise to celestial functions.

This was a heavenly arrangement, although it was happening on crude earth—pretty cool, definitely an improvement over the old lump. Let us just call it day and night. Makes sense to me. You?

Creator was inspired, and so, kept going with it, stirring the flowing waters, gathering them together and thus separating the water from a new thing that was emerging—dry land.

Formless

Thus did we have earth and seas. Once again. . . pretty cool, and btw, cooling; by this stage, progressive processes had definitely been set into motion to produce something worthy of a good narrative.

RockStory

But Creator didn’t stop there. Next thing you know, from out of this developing earth—this interplay between light and dark, active and passive, wet and dry—here comes a new kind of stuff having the coding wherewithal to sprout new stuff never before seen or heard of. Long story short—plant life that could and would regenerate itself on a regular purpose so that Creator could go on to bigger and better things. Awesome!

Jungle1

Through the veggies and their seeds, it was obvious that things were getting better on earth, through the continuing interplay of this very predictable, dependable alternating cycle between light and dark, day and night, active and passive, living and dying.

All in all, not bad for a day’s work, as we say out here in flyover country.

But, hey, that was just the beginning. . .

SSetBrite

Glass half-Full

Bridge across Time

July 9, 2019

Setting old stones with new methods lays a solid foundation for future pathways of our life together.

Here’s a Blue Ridge Parkway bridge, near my home, built when I was a kid long ago, in the 1960’s.

BRPHollowa

It’s a well-built public-works project.

Incredible strength was laid into the bridge’s inner structure when concrete was poured around a steel rebar framework. Unseen in the finished structure, the silent steel still contributes to ongoing structural integrity and function. Internal strength assured the bridge’s longevity, allowing the structure to bear up under the heavy demands of continuous motored traffic for many and many a year.

This solid piece of work has been sustaining motored traffic for most of my 68 years.

Use of reinforcing steel roads, tied together with wire like cages, then buried forever with gravel aggregate in solid ‘crete mud, is a relatively new architectural practice in construction history. The internal rebar method was devised by constructors over time, to assure deep integrity and resilience in vast concrete structures.

Such built-in reinforcement has enabled folks to progressively build bigger buildings, longer roads and bridges, as civilization marches on.

BluRiOvPas

This strong, continuous, time-tested concrete underbelly enables motorists to drive without stopping, on a road that crosses o’er a  road that passes beneath it. In this photo, you can see the structure’s rock-hard underbelly, which bears the surface imprints of wooden planks that were used in forming the main arch  when the concrete was cast, back in the mid-1960’s.

Certainly our attention is drawn to the large veneer stones on the outside face of the construction. These chiseled rocks, having been skillfully cut with calculated angles, lend a classic appearance to the roadway, which would have otherwise been a dull utilitarian construct.

Thus did the bridge become something far more than an elevated roadway; it stands as an artistic statement of architectural continuity, in agreement with its older, 1930’s-era bridge “ancestors.”

The stone masons who erected similar Blue Ridge bridges back in the earlier days were ancestors–whether by profession or by blood– of the rock masons who set these stones three decades later.

Such chisel-sculpted work  becomes a masonary tip-of-the-trowel to time-honored traditions of stone masons who lived and worked on this same 469-mile parkway back in the day, and then eventually crossed that great celestial bridge to eternity.

Having stood the tests of time and traffic, this good work stands as a long-lasting homage to both structural integrity and graceful design.

About six miles up the road from the bridge pictured above, there’s an S-curved structure that I tied steel on, back in the early 1980’s– the Linn Cove Viaduct on Grandfather Mountain. It’s a very special construct, being the final missing-link in the middle of a 469-mile, 50-year Blue Ridge Parkway project. But this one was special–not for the classic stonework–but for the cutting-edge technology of building the thing from the top down, instead of the bottom up!

BRPLinConst2

Here’s solid evidence that in this life it’s a good idea to do things right. Build it to last, whatever it is you’re working on in your time here.  Our children’s children will notice the quality and be inspired to do great works in their own time.

Search for Blue

The Parkway Cometh

June 22, 2019

In 1937, the following scene probably happened somewhere near where we live in the Blue Ridge, North Carolina:

“What does it say?”

Jake handed the letter to his father. “There’s a lot of gobble-dy-gook there, Pa, but it says the land stopped bein’ ours when they posted it down at the courthouse.”

“Posted what?”

“The map of all the land they need to take.”

Jeremiah turned around slightly. Casting an eye on his nearby rocker, he carefully took aim and seated himself. Looking up again at his boy, “Well they ain’t paid us for it yit.”

“That needs to be decided yet, Pa.” Jake shook his head slowly. “It’s lookin’ like this is gonna drag on fer awhile.”

“We told that inspector fella we’d take forty.”

“It ain’t that simple, Pa. Them lawyers down in Raleigh gonna pay us whatever they say it’s worth.”

“Damn, son! What is this? Damn communists!”

Jake set the letter down on the side-cabinet. He had managed to glance through it and get the gist. “Shit, pa, it ain’t that bad. They’re just tryin’ to build that road real nice and scenic so’s people’ll come drivin’ up here and spend their money.”

“Well I guess that’s all well ‘n good, son. But I ain’t been down to the courthouse to see what they posted. Don’t seem right that we ain’t got payment, and we don’t even know how much we’re gonna git!”

“It’ll all work out, Pa. At least they’re only takin’ one side of our land. Watsons and Purlears got their places split up. And from what I’ve heard from Miller up in Ashe, them that got their land split up won’t be able to even drive from one side t’other. So be thankful for what you got. Ain’t  that what the Book says?” Jake looked his father in the eye. “Be thankful we’ll still be able to drive the tractor from one side all the way across the field to the other side.”

“Yeah, what’s left of it,” Jeremiah mumbled as he commenced to rocking. He looked out the window, through the porch at the front yard. “Hell, I don’t know what this world’s coming to.

Jake was reading another letter, silently. His attention riveted there, he said nothing, just nodded his head, looking down at the script on a letter from his aunt Polly in Foscoe.

“New Deal, I guess,” his father continued while Jake folded Polly’s letter and picked up another piece of mail.

“Yeah, Pa, I reckon it’s the New Deal. Did Sally say what time they’d be back?

“’bout four, I think she said.”

Pa had been pondering. “Son, did you know they posted that map at the courthouse?

Jake sighed. “Yeah, Pa, I knew about it. I went and looked at it on Friday when I was in town. Roby Watson told me about it while I was in Goodnight’s pickin’ up feed.”

“I guess you didn’t wanna tell me, huh?”

“Nah, pa, I just forgot about it.” Jake sat down in his easy chair. Now he was reading something else.

“You forgot about it.”

“Yeah, Pa.” Jake nodded his head slowly, preoccupied with his bank statement.

Jeremiah was rocking steadily now, as if he were relaxed and maybe resigning himself to whatever it was that was about to happen that would change the shape of the 67 acres he had inherited from his father back in 1910. “Seems a little strange to me, boy, you could forget about something as important as losing a quarter of our land.” No judgement in his voice. Just sayin’. Pa had calmed down from his earlier rant.

“I mean,” Jake looked up at his father again, smiling slightly. “I mean, I didn’t forget about it; I just forgot to tell you about it.”

“Uh huh.”

Jake’s expression morphed slowly  from concentration in his letter-reading, to a mild amusement. “Shootfire, Pa, there’s somethin’ else I forgot to tell you.

“Oh yeah?” His father allowed a mild chuckle. Mr. Roosevelt gonna bring us a hog or two as a consolation prize?

“Actually, it is kinda like that . . . maybe a peace offering. Uncle Skip told Roby he’d give me a job running one of them road graders.”

“On the new road?” Jeremiah’s voice acquired an even more amused tone.

“Yep.”

Jake’s father laughed. “Well, ain’t that a cat’s whisker! I seen it all now. The Parkway giveth and the Parkway taketh away,” he declared, playing upon some ancient proverb. Now he set the rocker into a steady pace. “And when’s that gonna start?”

“Coupla weeks, or something like that,” Jake replied. “They gotta finish that little bit of blasting over there near the highway. Then, Skip says, they’ll pretty much be ready to grade from Deep Gap all the way to Aho.”

“Well, I guess that’s good news for Uncle Sam, but it’ll blast the hell out of our peace and quiet around here with all that machinery and whatnot takin’ over this country.”

“Not takin’ over, Pa, just makin’ it easy for folks to come up here and spend money, after they lay the asphalt to it.”

“I reckon it will be easier for them rich folks down the mountain to come up here and ride around in their Cadillacs, like over in Blowin’ Rock.”

BlueRdgView

Yep. Coulda happened. . . maybe, maybe not. Long time ago . . . but we haven’t  yet totally obliterated our consciousness of the past with our contemporary obsession in social media and and political side-show antics. Not yet.

Blue 

Search for Blue

June 5, 2019

The Traveler’s main burden is a restless soul. He has carried it dutifully for a long time.

Traveler’s roots were deep, but not necessarily set into a specific place on this earth. Having  traversed many a mile of land and sea, this sojourner had been driven westward, in search of some destination that could not yet be clearly identified. So it might be said his roots stretched deep into life itself, rather than a place.

   At least for now.

   From a continental origin he had sailed o’er channel, into stillness and storm, outside of the norm, through  unknown , and out the other side of somewhere . . .  arriving for a season upon an ancient isle. But finding very little solace there, traveler had redirected  weary legs to ascend yet another gangplank, so that he might be transported to that great land he had heard tales of, beyond the blue.

   The seaport where he disembarked was, as it happened, a frontier for foreigners not unlike himself. They had uncovered motivations to—for whatever reason—not remain where they had begun. And so, having hung their hopes upon such vague restlessness, they undertook yet another phase of the great journey to somewhere yet to be determined.

    By ‘n by, the traveler eventually found himself ascending a long piedmont hill, and so it seemed when he had reached the top of it, the extended journey was now delivering him to a wide westward-looking vista.

    Pausing to catch breath, Travis trained his eyes on a string of  faraway ridges. Obviously high, yet . . . it seemed . . . gently-sloping. . . forested they were, and having no cragginess that he could see from here. That string of mountains  stretched like great slumbering beached whales across the entirety  of his new horizon. From  north  to south . . . blue, and blue to blue on blue, and more . . . blue.

He had never seen such a thing.

BlueRidg

So  this must be the  beginning of Search for Blue . . .