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Posts Tagged ‘existence’

More About Fim Fish From Beyond

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 28, 2017

A little while back I wrote about Renaissance man Jim Fish, who died a few days after his 68th birthday, while hiking back down a mountain he had just climbed in the New Mexico wilderness. He was a poet, among other things.

Recently on the grounds of the winery he started, I met several other people, two of whom had a nice long truck, and a trenching machine known around here as a ditch witch. It was handy. We had to tear down a solidly built shed, one that had been built to last. I took a few swings at it with a sledge hammer, and only removed a few wooden shelf braces and some upper storage shelving. To take this thing down would have taken all of us working hard all day, and we still had to load it all on the truck. But, the ditch witch made much shorter work of that shed.

You see, after Jim’s death, we had to clean up around there. This shed had held many of Jim’s personal items: old papers, maps, camping gear, antlers, pieces of wood for carving, etc. and etc. Unfortunately, our local desert rats, or pack rats, had moved in. They pissed and shit everywhere. The mixture has the consistency of hardened epoxy. Really. You have to chip it away. It was all over everything, along with all the bits and pieces they drag into their nests. One idea was to just torch the building, but we decided it was better, and more in keeping with local fire ordinances, to just tear it down. It still took roughly 6 hours of hard work, but we got it down, and hauled away.

During the process, I found some old cards Jim had printed up, and sent out to friends many years ago. He was already into the poetry, so each had a poem, and a photo of Jim’s of New Mexico, where he lived. I had read several of Jim’s poetry books, but not all of them, so I’d never seen these poems, and I don’t even know if they were published in book form.  I scanned and cleaned the four cards up a bit digitally, and I’m posting them here, because they are good, and to give others an idea of what he was like. Those are his horses in the second photo image; they are off in the high New Mexico countryside now, just grazing and keeping an eye out for cougars. Jim took a lot of photos of bears over the years, but, as you can see, not this particular one (fourth photo image). He probably made a card each year, but the only ones I found were from 1982, 1983, 1987, and 1988.

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Posted in friends, hiking, Life, photography, poetry, Uncategorized, wine | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Monster

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on August 16, 2017

I watched a movie last night. It is titled: A Monster CallsA_Monster_Calls It is an adaptation of a children’s tale. It is also very intense and far too real to be just a tale. A boy’s mother is dying of cancer. He wants to believe she will recover, but knows she will not. The movie is pretty much about him, those expectations, and how he deals with them. The story has elements of fantasy, and some beautiful animation of the brilliant watercolor illustrations I expect are from the book. I enjoyed it, and, yes my eyes teared, my throat constricted and tears did indeed run down my cheek. Highly recommend, for all ages.

It got me thinking about many things, death among them, and the love I have for my stepdaughter Maya. Her struggle with cancer made me realize that I loved her, and that I didn’t want her to die. Is that selfish? I imagined it would be impossible to live without her. I imagined I would die if she died. Unlike the aforementioned movie, however, my hopes were realized and she did not die. It was the most wonderful thing I ever experienced. I felt real joy, for the first time ever. As time went on, I realized I loved her fiercely, more than anyone I’ve ever known. At first, I wondered if I felt that way chiefly because she almost died. But, I came to understand that it was the possibility that she might die that opened my eyes to my love for her. I believe I really love her, because I want the best for her. I want her to be happy. I want her to live a full life, for her, not for me. I want her to live many, many years after I’m gone. I think that is really what love is, when you care about someone you love, and wish for their happiness, regardless of your relationship, or if you live together, or even if you never see them again.

She was still quite young when I met her. I dated her mom Linda for four years, then married Linda and lived with her, and Maya, and her brother Noah. I was part of a family. It was the second time for me, and I wanted to make sure it worked out better than the first time I had tried that. I never became close with Noah, but I liked him a lot. Maya and I seemed to become friends. We only ever had one argument as I recall. It was my fault and mostly a misunderstanding, and we talked about it right away, and resolved it and I apologized for what she thought was anger on my part. When she started college, which was the same place I worked, we often met for lunch.

After both of Linda’s children, Maya and Noah, had moved out, Linda and I had the place to ourselves. She had big plans for the house, including an addition, a new roof, and many other things. I accomplished most of it before I had to leave. Fortunately, Maya and I remained on good terms after that divorce. We work together at times, bottling and labeling or selling wines. We’ve been to many wine festivals, and have helped keep a unique winery running. It is always a joy for me to see Maya, and work together, or go to dinner for holidays and birthdays. It makes me happy too, when she travels or has good times with her friends. I love her very much.

Maya’s death would have crushed me entirely. The interesting thing, to me, is that a lot of people died when I was young, and I felt no loss. There were some great-aunts that I didn’t know, so that was understandable. In second grade a classmate died, choked on a glass of water. I was shocked to hear of it, but I didn’t know him personally. A cousin died very young after that, and I felt sad for my aunt and uncle, but my cousin’s death did not touch me. One by one, my grandfathers died. I was an altar boy at both of their funerals. I never knew my paternal grandfather well. I believe I only ever had one conversation with him, one that I remember well, but I felt no grief. My mother’s father came to live with us for a short time before he died. I enjoyed having him there, but again, I don’t recall any grief when he died. I remember thinking how odd it was that he had spent so much time in a veterans’ hospital, which is often where my parents would go to visit him when I was very young. Then he seemed so healthy when he stayed with us that I was quite surprised when he died. I did not feel grief; was I a monster?

The one person I missed greatly, and had loved was my father. My parents had divorced while still raising the four youngest. As an adult, his death left me confused. I didn’t know what to feel when I got the phone call. We had not stayed in touch after I left home. Our relationship had gone downhill before I left. I had gone to see him before he’d died, but we did not speak of anything substantial, and that seemed bittersweet in retrospect, because there is much I’d have liked to talk with him about. I wasn’t going to attend his funeral, because I had just been to see him, and I felt that was better than seeing him dead. And, as well, I really couldn’t afford to fly that far again. However, when I sat down to write a letter to my brothers and sisters, explaining why I wasn’t coming, I broke into tears, and sobbed. I felt awful. I was overcome with grief, and decided to travel anyway, just to be with family. I missed the funeral itself, but arrived in time for the wake, and I felt much better among my relatives, even laughed with cousins I had not seen in decades.

Then my godfather Fred, a close cousin of my mother, died. The two of them had grown up together. Fred, aka Fritz, would visit us three nights a week after he left the bar he worked at. He usually brought us kids a treat, chocolate, or even packets of clay, leftovers from when he was a typesetter. Loved playing with the clay. Loved the chocolate. Fred helped my mother out, painting, lending her money for groceries, or especially putting up the Christmas garden, with the trains and houses, and the paper mountains tacked up on the wall around the raised wooden platform that held the little village. As a GI, he had fought in Germany against the Nazis, and brought back a toy-soldier marching band from the basement of a burned-out house in Germany.  It always marched across our village, despite the swastikas on the band’s uniforms and flag, and the little guy in front with the small mustache and raised arm salute. I remember thinking, despite Fred’s racial prejudices and those other eccentricities, that the world had lost a good man. I did not feel grief, but he had been and is still on my mind quite often.

Then again, I was reminded of my father’s death when the heart and soul of our winery, Jim Fish, died suddenly. I did feel that same grief again. He was like a father in some ways, and a mentor, and a friend. I learned a lot from him, and worked with him making wine for seven years. His death was a great painful loss to me. I loved him.

What has always kept me going is that I still have my three sisters and three brothers. We’re getting old, but still hanging in there. Even my mother, at 86, is still alive and kicking. I’ve always felt I loved my brothers and sisters more than anyone in the world, but I have to add Maya to that mix now. She is family, and more than that to me.

My love for her is unlike that I’ve felt for anyone ever in my life. To keep her alive I would gladly give my last ounce of blood. It’s seems strange sometimes, to realize that I care about someone so much. I thought I had loved others before, but never have I had this depth of feeling for someone. I admire her too. I admire her strength in coping with brain cancer. I admire her intelligence, and her continuing efforts to learn and advance herself in the world. I admire the way she cares about her friends. I admire the way she cuts off and donates her hair every year to Locks of Love. She wore a wig herself after losing her hair twice to chemotherapy and radiation treatments, so she continues to give back. I admire her for starting an organization to help people get back into school after having had to drop out due to cancer or other medical reasons. I admire her independence and fighting spirit. But mostly, I think, I just love her.

Sometimes, imperfect as I am, I think perhaps I’m not as bad a monster as I thought I was.

Posted in family, Life, love, My Life, relationships | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Racism, White Privilege, Han Privilege, British Royal Privilege, and Trump

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on October 22, 2016

white
I think the word racism is used far too often. If the photo at top is real, then, yes, in the classic definition of the word, they are racist: (the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.) People should probably be more specific about the behavior they wish to condemn. In many Western countries, we see power concentrated in white male hands, with white females slowly becoming part of that elite, so people talk about “white privilege”. In China, racism is expressed as “Han privilege”, in that members of the Han race are the dominant group among the races that they assimilated.
 
Many people have strong prejudices, both positive and negative about other people, and tend to associate with only certain people. It is difficult to condemn people for doing that, as it is common around the world. People also condemn others for being redneck, rich, dumb, intellectual, lazy, workaholics, etc, and we all do this to some extent. What is that behavior? and how is it different if the people are of a different race? Racism and/or prejudice only become important when used by those in power, to keep themselves in power, by virtue of their superior race. Once upon a time, royalty did the same thing to maintain their power, basing that power solely on their “divine nature” as if their blood-lines were superior. That was not racism per se, although it didn’t stop the British from using racism to dominate the countries they took over, such as India, Ireland, Scotland, and all but 22 countries in the world.
 
Prejudices have always existed, but the origins of racism appear to be rooted in power. Those who have the power can use racism to maintain their power. Average working people rarely have the power to isolate and take advantage of an entire race of people, but we can be used to help do so. Trump is a good example of someone with power using people’s ethnicity as a way to inflame hatred and achive greater power by uniting people of the dominant power structure, and convincing them that he is on their side, so giving him more power will also be of great benefit to them. He lies.

Posted in current events, madness, opinion, politics, race, rants | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

raison d’etre – 1:11:11

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on October 26, 2008

Time to ramble again.  I have a glass of wine in hand, a white wine from the New Mexican winery San Felipe, that they call Moscato.  Sweet, but not as much as a muscat. I sound like such a wine snob.  Ha!  I just shared my life with a wino for 14 years.  After a hundred wine tastings, visits to California wine country, and traveling to every winery in New Mexico, I absorbed some of the lore.

Tonight I’ve been watching the 1979 movie, Being There, with Peters Sellers and Shirley MacLaine, and really enjoying it.  I paused the movie to write this.  The readout is 1:11:11.  As with most movies, I only enjoy them if I put myself into the movie, and, much like a medical or psychology student studying disease, I imagine what I watch to apply to myself.  The child-like gardener that Peter Sellers plays is easy to empathize with. He only knows how to do one thing, but somehow people imagine that he knows much more.  Because of the way he’s dressed, and misinterpretations of his description of his life, he is taken to be more educated and intelligent than he really is. That’s where my imagination comes in.  I am him, and imagine that I’ve always been this way.  As far as imitating what I’ve read and watched and people I’ve known, I am.  I also question if I am who people think I am.  I say I work with DNA, which seems to impress people, but I backed into the position, working my way from lab work on rats and mice, to a research position extracting immunoglobulins from the glands of mice and purifying them, to working with proteins.  I learned how to operate simple machines that can uncover the amino acid sequence of proteins, or take amino acids and assemble then into a protein.  The machines simply take known science, and using valves and solenoids, deliver reagents in standard formulas with standard protocols.  From there I learned to do almost the exact same thing with DNA, using very similar machines. At first I was not paid very well, but these days I make about half of what some of the better-paid professors make.  I always live in dread that people will find me out – realize that I don’t really understand much of what I’m doing.

I’ve always wanted to be a scientist, but never could get through all the classes.  I understood basic chemistry, physics, and math in high school, but college was another story.  Laboratories were always fun, but genetics lectures, calculus, and physical chemistry bewildered me.  Oh, I understood the lectures well enough, but I could never remember all the formulas, equations and pathways, and did miserably on tests.  I persevered for a long time, finally passing several classes in calculus, basic genetics, basic physics, organic chemistry, and basic biochemistry, but even though I understood the purpose and usefulness of integrals and derivatives, and stoichiometry, the biology of cells, and vector analyses well enough, I can’t remember how to use them anymore.   I can balance simple chemical equations, and my high school algebra never leaves me, but my understanding of the science of DNA is so rudimentary.

Just like the gardener, I stumble through life, getting credit for knowing far more than I know.  What’s worse, it’s all falling away from me now as I age.  I can barely type anymore, as I invert so many letters and words, even adding extra words, or leaving some out.  Without editing, I hardly make sense.  Without computers, I’d have failed to get through many of my final classes, and it’s much worse now.  I just make too many mistakes, and don’t control my fingers all that well. The brain feels tired now.  I have been playing chess, and doing OK, but only against a novice player.   I don’t know how much longer I can continue to pretend that I have a clue what’s going on, or can concentrate long enough to do a job.  I’d like to retire from life now.  It’s been fun, but, really, it’s all a bit too much for me.  People, and money, and relationships and reading and writing.  I want to withdraw.  I don’t want to be here anymore.  But I stay.  I work every day.  I talk to people.  I go to political rallies.  I play chess.  I still exist.  Existence is not a sufficient raison d’etre.  But, then again, why should I care about the reason for my continued being? Why does it matter to me?  I think we all need a plan, something to shoot for.  What is left me at this stage of life?  Yes, yes, whatever I want.  But, I seem to want less and less.  To be a child again.  That would be nice. To play, to move from one thing to the next, to have no place to be, nothing I must do. Being here.

Surely, we all can’t be simply dragging ourselves along this way, simply to drag ourselves along?

Posted in Life, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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