It seems that travel--spiritual and physical--has been a recurring theme in my journal entries. I think it stems from an ongoing existential crisis for me. I keep searching for meaning. Maybe that's at the root of why people walk the Santiago de Compostela Camino. I'd like to walk it myself one day. Pilgrims on the Camino are encouraged with the exhortation: "Ultreya"-- move forward with courage!

The way of the Camino is marked from antiquity with yellow arrows engraven on stones. Being mindful of the guidestones is an important task for the pilgrim to keep them on track. And they must remember that enemies will change the arrows and plant false ones. Moving forward requires a careful discernment.

In the coming week, my wife and I will be making another step forward in our life's pilgrimage.

I've made two significant attempts in the past at leaving my hometown with my family and settling elsewhere. They were not successful attempts in that, we returned. There were simply strong fetters of obligation, family ties, and (when I admit it) fears that brought us back. Why make such a move in the first place? Yann Martel stated the "why of it" very well in his book, Life of Pi. I referred to his observation and my identification with it in my journal entry Moving vs Traveling. In that essay, I concluded that distance traveled is best measured within. By that standard, our previous moves covered more mental distance than physical, but we still hit barriers, or boundaries, that we could not cross.

Now, older at least, we are on the cusp of trying again. Spurred by the relaxation of old ties, and an encouraging new job for Donna, we have made the commitment to another move. We'll begin this journey by driving to Columbia, SC next week so Donna can start her job the following Monday. I'll stay that week for moral support and to get her setup in an extended stay hotel. Then I'll return home to tie up some loose ends before joining her.

We're both excited and anxious about this move. It is a big change with risks and lots of logistics to work out. Donna is taking on a challenging job and I'm basically retiring (from IT anyway). Though I won't rule out taking another 8-to-5 job if need be, I'm more than fine with being a house-husband and otherwise working from home. You see, there are at least three novels I want to put out as quickly as I can. They are:

* My first Dentville novel (Power of the Ancients) of a trilogy about humanity's future living in a new ice age and where civilization has collapsed to a neolithic level.

* My activist novel about the ongoing horror of Stratospheric Aerosol Geoengineering (SAG). The working title is Prospero.

* Madam President. This will be a novelization of the short story by the same name that I have on Smashwords. It will be about dealing with the evil that has such a grip on our world.

There'll be supporting work for these novels that will involve revamping my author's website and creating a Publishing website. Maybe some scattered short stories as well.

That's where we want to go and the first step is to go out-of-doors and drive to Columbia.

I think it fitting that my first journal entry for 2014 was inspired by Ben Stiller's Walter Mitty movie. Like Mitty, we're challenging our comfort zones and leaving our safe places in an attempt to live in a wider world. And I'm hoping to find, like Tennyson's Ulysses:

...something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done...

I'll try, and keep you posted on my progress.

I look up to di sky
Can you tell me why?

I sit in my 14th floor office on a Monday morning and look out over my cityscape vista. The sun is shining but the day is not clear. Long SAG (Stratospheric Aerosol Geoengineering) trails fill the sky over a glary "smog" that obscures the view of the trees and buildings stretching out to the northwest. The air is filled with a metallic taste. The day started cold with temps in the 40's, but now it's near 80, and the sun is unusually hot for a mid-October day.

On such days, maintaining a positive outlook is difficult.

I wrote a number of journal entries last year (2013; and some this year) that I consider inspirational. That is, they deal with themes that have inspired me and apparently found some favor with readers. They pretty much began with one I called, "Timbuktu!" and went through "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". They were popular posts that still get a lot of hits and they represented an "optimism in the midst of despair" phase for me. That is, I continued to find hope for a better future when life was offering difficulties and drudgery. I even wrote a short story based on this theme that was published in a local magazine, and I made a restart on the novel I've had in mind for so long. I was hopeful.

Mi look up inna di sky me can't see clear
Blue skys a gone and white lines appear

Then our rulers (oligarchs and their government agents; i.e., "they") kicked their SAG efforts into high gear. The spraying of aerosols by high-altitude aircraft that I've been observing for years was ramped up to a level I never dreamed of. The spraying is continuous and at times produces some very ugly skies. Horizon-to-horizon trails cross and connect, and persist for hours, until they spread into a haze that "whites out" the sky into a silvery-milky hue. This "mist" settles to the earth and blankets my city and the surrounding country in a white "smog." Even "clear" days are hazy with only pale blue skies. Such spraying produces effects that I listed in a recent journal entry.

The problem with this spraying, and why it is depressing to watch, is that it is toxic. It consists of nano-sized metal (mostly aluminum and barium) particulates, chemicals, and even some biological components (see here and here). In other words, they are spraying us with a toxic soup. Why?

Dem seh it's natural
Mi naw believe dem!

Weather control seems to be the main motivation and the geoengineers are very advanced at that. They can create and dispel hurricanes, withhold rain in some areas and deluge others, create snowstorms, manipulate the jet stream, and suppress an el nino. In the face of generally rising global temperatures, they can make some areas quite cold.

Would our government really do such a thing? And if they are, isn't geoengineering an effort to try to save us from climate change?

...who can we trust? Our own governments, about who we know nothing for certain except they lie and pursue their own ends, sexing up and dumbing down, arming then attacking, fair-weather friends but perennial weapons suppliers? (Russell Brand)

Consider the well-documented Operation Northwoods. None of these weather-control capabilities are benign.

Filling the atmosphere, daily, with millions of tons of particulates shreds the earth's ozone layer (so that harmful UV rays reach the earth), kills plant and animal life, destroys soil fertility, spreads cancers, diminishes our cognitive abilities, depletes human bodies of nutrients (like potassium), promotes autism and dementia (see here). It also increases the earth's greenhouse effect and so exacerbates global warming which will lead to earth being devoid of life in short order.

Something strange is going on
Feel it in my heart, sensing something strong

And this is being done deliberately? Yes. It is astounding and hard to believe, but if you follow the links I've provided and do your own research, you'll find yourself overwhelmed with the evidence (the best of which is that of your own eyes if you'll just "watch the skies"). We live in a hierarchical, dominator, taker culture that promotes psychopaths to the highest levels of political power, and this they begin to do (Gen 11:6).

Our demise is being facilitated over our heads every day. It is the most horrific crime against humanity ever committed.

Gotta save the future (put the rumors to rest)
Gotta help the children (Gotta) give it our best

The one thing I'm certain of is that life won't go on as it has. Anyone who lives much longer will see huge and sweeping changes in the world at the political and environmental levels that will force them to live differently--more locally and interdependently (for as long as they can). This will happen, when it happens, very quickly. Our great Western Civilization is collapsing, and nothing will stop it.

In the face of these cruel realities, it is tempting to retreat into a nest of favorite things: reading, writing, watching movies, tasting wines. And I often do so, until the horror overhead reminds me.

I have worked these past years to build an Internet-based platform from which I can express my creative side and eventually sell books. I will continue that effort but I can't do it and ignore what's going on around me. Geoengineering is the tip of an iceberg that must exposed in all its immensity, and fought. As Ernest Hemingway said in For Whom the Bell Tolls:

...you fought...for all the poor in the world, against all tyranny, for all the things that you believed and for the the new world you had been educated into.

Things have not changed since the Spanish Civil War. We fight the same evil, but now it has better weapons.

Can't stand around and be blind to the facts
Can't tek no more, how can we relax

In this journal entry I've been quoting from the song, Cry Die, written by Morgan Carey (Mariah Carey's brother) and performed by the artist who calls himself, Skull. I would not have thought a reggae tune could capture the horrible dynamics of the SAG issue, but this one does. Check out the video here on the Global Skywatch website.

There are two seminal documentaries that are excellent primers on this subject. They are What  in the world are they Spraying? and Why in the World are they Spraying? by Michael Murphy. Each is about 90 minutes in length and you can find links to them on the Global Skywatch website here.

Awareness is our greatest weapon right now. This is simply getting enough people to be convinced by the evidence of their own eyes to reach a "critical mass" of numbers who know they are being deliberately poisoned and who won't be quiet about it.

Reaching a critical mass of awareness will undoubtedly result in some kind of backlash, probably violent, from our rulers. But if humankind is to reach the other side of this calamity, then such is the passage we must transit.

I discovered Plato's Allegory of the Cave many years ago through an animated film depiction of it that was narrated by Orson Welles. It impressed me greatly, as it has so many people over the centuries, because it struck me as such an apt description, via metaphor, of the human condition. It shows the sad hollowness of living in delusion and the consequences, good and bad, of discovering reality. The timeless power of this allegory is its applicability to so many situations in human life and culture.

The Allegory of the Cave is found in Book VII of Plato's famous work, The Republic. In it, Plato (using the voice of Socrates) paints his metaphor as a word picture. He shows us a cave where men have been bound since birth in such a way that they can't move and can only look in one direction, which is to the back of the cave. A wall stretches across the cave behind them and beyond that is a great fire that lights the back of the cave. At the wall, between the fire and the prisoners, are...

...men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.

So the prisoners see only the shadows of these objects and, because they have no other experience of the world, believe them to be reality. This delusion is the totality of their world.

To them...truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.

Then one of the prisoners is removed from his bonds and forced from the cave to the outside world. He is shocked by the reality that is thrust upon him and he can only enlarge his comprehension from shadows to real objects by degrees.

He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see  the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars...Last of all he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is.

Finally, the freed prisoner is returned to his fetters in the cave. He is truly miserable now because he knows this world is delusion. He has seen reality and so the shadows no longer satisfy. The honors and esteems of those believers-in-shadows that surround him are meaningless and contemptible to him.

And if they were in the habit of conferring honors among themselves on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after, and which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for such honors and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer, Better to be the poor servant of a poor master, and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their manner?

That passage has always had the greatest impact on me. How many of the common occupations and pursuits that go on around us are just "observing passing shadows?" How much of a long life has been engaged in nothing more? Such contemplations lead me to the point where I just can't take it anymore.

The disorientation of the returned prisoner caused by his movement from dark cave to the bright outside and back is regarded as lunacy by the unenlightened prisoners. They believe leaving the cave to be an evil that should be punished.
And so you see why this is a classic philosophical work. In a brief, clear dialogue, it presents powerful images that depict the resistance to enlightenment among the most of humanity. And it shows the bitterness that mars the joy of those that have loosed their bonds long enough to see the sun, but then returned to the shadows.

I think the Allegory of the Cave shines its light on our present situation in many respects; especially in the US where the popular culture believes itself exceptional, better than all others and deserving of domination; where seeing the way the world really works is condemned with vitriol and even violence.

Consider the subject of geoengineering. This is weather control that has been going on for decades and is evidenced by the blatant spraying in the sky by high-altitude aircraft and by the high content of metals in soil, water, and air, and by the consequences of increased instances of autism, Alzheimer's, and by bizarre weather, by government documents, and on-and-on. Yet we watch our shadows and ignore the lines overhead that are poisoning us and killing the earth.

Facing reality is risky, often frightening, and can be dangerous. Living in delusion is usually much happier and often feels safe, but it can end just as dangerously. Even so, I believe there is a part of most humans that wants to know the truth, however hard it may be.

The short film version of Allegory of the Cave that inspired me is on YouTube and you can find it here. You can find the full text of the work as written by Plato here. And if you want to begin your quest to see the sun by exploring the world as it is, here is a good place to start.

Soon, my wife and I will be making a life-change that I see as another foray out of the cave. Does seeing it that way make me smarter than those around me who don't? No. It's just that I've been outside.

I recently attended a booksigning at the Lemuria bookstore in Jackson, Mississippi. The signing author was John Floyd, my old friend and writing teacher. He had just released another book of short stories called Fifty Mysteries so I dropped by after work to see him and pick up a signed, first edition.

I love booksignings, actually, as I've said before, especially when they're held in a locally-owned bookstore (not a "big box" chain). A shop filled with books is a congenial place for me. There is an atmosphere full of the promise of knowledge to be revealed in bound pages, along with chilling suspense, sheer thrills, chronicled explorations of earth, space, and spirit, and the stimulation of simple intellectual contemplation. It's so much the better with the addition of an author promoting her or his literary contribution, and even better when they are someone I know. It's such an engaging place that I modeled a scene after it in my little novella, A Single Step.

So on a Wednesday after work, I stopped by the building-on-the-hill, that contains the Lemuria bookstore.  I entered and passed through a upper floor courtyard of bistro tables where I noticed people had been sipping wine. The drained wine glasses whispered of enjoying a moment in a happy atmosphere. I do understand that and wondered who served the wine. From there I entered Lemuria itself and embraced the welcoming ambiance of book browsers and low conversations. People were milling about and already forming a line to the booksigning. I found John's book in a stack at the counter, bought it, and took my place in line.

I could see the local mystery lovers were out in force, and they are a sizable force in Jackson. My wife worked for a time at a public library and quickly discovered that the mystery genre was the local favorite far-and-away. James Patterson is very popular and, of course, John Grisham. Police procedure and crime mysteries seem to dominate more than say, gothic mysteries and even romances. John Floyd built his career on writing short stories in this genre, so he has a solid following here, built on years of publishing his short stories in national magazines and several book compilations.

The line to the signing passed by the History and Spiritual section so I perused titles like William Faulkner and Southern History and Mostly Ghosts. A man came up behind me and started talking to the man in front of me. I tried to be unobtrusive but the narrow space, and my desire to stay in line, made me a forced audience. They didn't seem to mind and the guy in front launched into a telling about the wealth of King Solomon in tons of gold and its discovery or hiding or some such. The guy behind me seemed to understand and make affirmation. I was uncomfortable about listening and so only half did so, and I really couldn't tell whether the conversation was Biblical or archaelogical. The books around me made me think of the latter, and I decided a response, if I was called upon to make one, would be something like:

I think Solomon's gold was stored in a mine in Africa and found by a dude named, Quatermain.

As it was, the line moved forward and I didn't have to say anything, but I did let the guy behind me go ahead so they could talk unobstructed. I figured the wait wouldn't be long, anyway. While his friend talked to John, the guy noticed the cap I was wearing, which had Block Island, Rhode Island, printed on it, since that's where it came from. He asked about it and I told him the island was a resort area I had visited a few years ago. He wondered if that was where all the rich people lived up there. He knew there was some town in Rhode Island where they all lived. I guess he was thinking of Newport but I couldn't come up with that at the time.

When it was finally my turn, I entered the little "lounge" area where Lemuria lets authors hold their signings. I had a nice little "catch up" talk with John as he signed my book. The short of it was that he's still teaching his classes and writing tons of short stories that will come out in future compilations, and I'm still working on my first novel.

I said goodbye, so others could take their turn, and headed for the exit, holding up my book and receipt as I passed the employees at the counter who seemed to note that I didn't have a bag (well, they didn't give me one).

So that's the way it went. It was a nice diversion from my normal routine and a moment of literary inspiration. It was great to see John again and I look forward to reading his book (yes, I'll do a review). Seeing him living the author's life and producing books, charges me to renew my own efforts. I intend to do all I can to see my first Dentville novel finished and released in 2015. I'll follow that quickly with a novel (or novella) about geoengineering that I mean to be my contribution to the fight to stop it. I'll keep up this journal (weekly; I know I've been tardy of late), and I'll have a major redo on my website to facilitate the distribution of my books and make it easy for people to follow me.

I will strive to keep my website and social sites active, and keep you up on the progress of my literary offerings. Meanwhile, I recommend you check out Fifty Mysteries, especially if you are a fan of crime mysteries and clever plotting.

I expect, after the first of the year, to be freed for a time from the tyranny of the 8-to-5 and go full speed ahead on a number of writing projects. I hope you'll come along for the ride and, who knows, maybe I'll have my own booksigning one day.

I recently finished reading Yann Martel's book, Life of Pi. I had heard of it, because of the movie version released last year, but I didn't see the movie and really wasn't sure what it was about. From the movie previews I thought it was something about a young man lost at sea on a lifeboat with a tiger. That's an interesting twist on the basic ocean survival theme, but it never struck me as compelling enough to see the movie or investigate the book. I did gather that the book was doing well internationally and the movie was so-so, and I left it at that.

Then, recently, my wife read the book and was enthralled with it. So I read it upon her recommendation and became enthralled myself. Yes, the story action is mostly of a teenaged Indian boy who survives a ship sinking only to end up on a lifeboat with an adult Bengal tiger. Just that aspect of the book is engrossing and makes it a page-turner. But overall, the story is about religion. It is an involved parable that speaks to how our religions are stories that we embrace to help us through life. That's all I'll say about that here. I get into it much more in my review of the book that I've posted on Goodreads.

For this journal entry, and maybe for some more to come, I want to reflect on some of the themes and points Mr. Martel makes in his book. Life of Pi was one of those works that spoke to me on many different levels as I read it. There was much that I related to and "amened" as I read, and I discovered even more as I wrote my review. For example, he makes a really good point about moving.

I've made a number of moves with my family. I mean physical moves--packing up our stuff and moving to another city or part of the same city. A number of them involved house purchases. Why did we do this? If asked that question at those times I would have replied something about going to a better job opportunity, school district, compatible environment or some such. But Mr. Martel stated my reasons very accurately:

People move because of the wear and tear of anxiety. Because of the gnawing feeling that no matter how hard they work their efforts will yield nothing, that what they build up in one year will be torn down in one day by others. Because of the impression that the future is blocked up, that they might do all right but not their children. Because of the feeling that nothing will change, that happiness and prosperity are possible only somewhere else.

Yes, that's exactly why we moved when we moved. And there was good and bad with each move. In none of them did we find that place that was "just right" for us. We ended up coming back to our home city, but then moved around a lot within it. I think we have lived in its every major section and found, once again, that there is good and bad aspects to all of them. All-in-all, we did manage to provide decent places for our kids to grow up and we are currently in a place and a house where we're comfortable.

But we never found that the move was the answer. The "wear and tear of anxiety" always caught up with us. We found that happiness and prosperity were conditions we had to create for ourselves, wherever we happen to be (though "prosperity" is a matter of definition). I think we've stopped looking for that in a place. If we move again, it will be with different motivations.

Now I must make a distinction between moving and traveling. Moving from one residence to another has been, for me, an act of trying to find something, as Mr. Martel stated so well. Traveling, has been an act of trying to experience something. In the little of it I've done, it has always been a seeking for what Joseph Campbell says is that "rapture of being alive." I have made the seeking of that rapture my quest, whether actually doing it or just dreaming about it.

Travel, as an idea and experience, is a classic metaphor and symbol for life lived fully. It is used that way in the recent Walter Mitty movie, and it was what moved me so much when a celebrity visited my city who was known for his travels.

And yet, though travel is widely conceived as a means to "broaden the mind," that broadening can also occur when much spiritual or emotional distance is covered rather than physical miles. Such inner traveling can take us to a new perspective. Indeed, it can be so new that treading our worn paths is like breaking new ground. We see, for the first time, what has always been there but overlooked. This occurred for Mr. Martel's hero, Pi, when taking a familiar way home after a time of spiritual inspiration on a visit:

...I suddenly felt I was in heaven. The spot was in fact no different from when I had passed it not long before, but my way of seeing it had changed. The feeling, a paradoxical mix of pulsing energy and profound peace, was intense and blissful...I knelt a mortal; I rose an immortal. I felt like the centre of a small circle coinciding with the centre of a much larger one.

I think our being becomes lighter at such times. We live then at a higher frequency and concentration. These are the only times in our lives that we remember with clarity, and so we are motivated to strive for them. This is the quest of the holy and the wise, each approaching from their preferred direction.

Moving might be necessary and even a positive, but traveling is usually better, especially if it's done out of a desire for experience. In either case, the distance covered is best measured on the inside.

I have been working hard on my first Dentville  novel (Dentville: The Power of the Ancients) and have made much progress. At this point, I'm hoping for a publication date of around April of 2015. Meanwhile, I thought I would release a little polished back-story to whet people's appetite. So what follows is a scene that is a prelude to the background situation in Dentville: The Power of the Ancients.

I released this scene before as part of a newsletter I was doing about a year ago. It only went out to subscribers who were few. I've since scrapped that newsletter, though I hope to start another one at some point. I entitled this scene, Target Practice. I've edited it a good bit for this release though the essential story remains the same. It is an introduction to the world of Dentville.

This scene is set in the year 2327 when world civilization has collapsed and the earth has entered another ice age. It is a dialogue between a major character (Nia) and an offstage character (Tristan) who are brother and sister. They are children of the Dentville Military Elder and Tristan is about to leave on an important scouting mission for his father. Nia, a fighter herself, doesn't like being left behind to assume the dubious role of helper to her father.

* * * Target Practice * * *

Nia sighted down the arrow's shaft to the chiseled stone practice point, placing it slightly above her small round target to allow for the drop of distance. The plastic disk was barely visible sticking up in a fallen tree trunk. She felt it more that saw it. She held her breath to stop her respiratory tremors that would deviate the arrow's flight, and felt the extension of her aim from her fingers on the drawn bowstring, through the arrow and to the target beyond.

In this barest instance, there was nothing in her world but her aim, the arrow, and the target. Her doubts disappeared, melding into this single shot. All else was forgotten, including the group of warriors that watched from across the field, as she released the bowstring. The arrow shot through empty air, tracing a shallow arc, until it reached its target which shattered into a satisfying spray of brittle shards.

Grunts and chuckles came from the warriors' camp at another disk's destruction. They might have been admiring, but Nia considered them condescending and she didn't favor their gap-toothed grins with even a glance. They shouldn't be there anyway, intruding on her home and her practice time. Watching her. Invited or not, and her father must surely have invited them, they weren't her guests. But  she wouldn't defer to them. She would go about her business, including her daily target practice, and ignore them. Or if she couldn't ignore them, she would show them what it meant to be the daughter of Kent Bellengrath and, even at sixteen, their superior in martial skills.

The smell of roasting venison from the warriors' campfire reached her across the snow-covered field as she strung another arrow. She felt a slight gnawing in her stomach; it had been a long time since breakfast. Her brother had challenged her to an archery competition that morning, but said he had some business to attend to first. He didn't say what it was. He just rode off, telling her they would talk when he came back. So she set up the targets and waited. When  he didn't return, she began shooting on her own. The warriors watched from afar as they prepared the deer they had poached for their midday meal. They snickered when she missed, so she concentrated and stopped missing, and they grew silent.

They would probably have cheered her if she gave any notice of them. Not so much for her skills, though, but to win the favor of her father by flattering her. They were feeling privileged just being there and it irked her. Her mother wouldn't have stood for it.

She heard a horse whinny as she took aim again, and the warriors were calling to someone who had just ridden up. She let her bow down and turned to see that her brother had finally returned. He was on his big, bay stallion, Thunder, looking like a young version of Pa, with his long black hair and thick form leaning from the saddle to accept a slice of venison.

Hangers. Pa wasn't there so they butt-kissed the eldest son.

Nia returned to her shooting. A high shot zipped between two disks as her brother approached.

"Miss," Tristan said, still chewing deer meat. "You got to do better than that to beat me."

Tristan glanced back at the warriors, who were watching them both.

"Looks like you got admirers," he said.

"Morons and poachers," Nia said. "I don't know why they be here."

She strung another arrow and let loose a shot that smacked solid into the tree trunk beneath a target.

"Warriors. My warriors," Tristan said. "I need them. That be a miss."

"Close enough to kill. Need them for what?"

Tristan dismounted and walked up to Nia, eying the targets with a critical air.

"That be what I want to talk to ya about," he said, still looking at the disks. "What be we shooting at, anyway?"

"The plastic things the Ancients' made music with," Nia said. "I found a bunch at an old homesite. So what ya been planning with Pa? Why ya been talking with him late at night without me? And why y'all let these hangers drag in from all over Dentville and camp on our land, killing our deer and eating our crops?"

"I picked them men for a mission," Tristan said. "One that Pa been planning for a while. Let me have the bow."

"Planning without me," Nia said. "And where was ya this morning? I thought we was going to target practice."

"I be here, ain't I?" Tristan said. He strung an arrow and aimed it. "I went to see Branch this morning. At his hut. Zane Landstrom was there."

Tristan released the arrow and it stuck in the tree trunk beside Nia's.

"What you want from the sage?" Nia said. "Why all the secrets you cannot tell me?"

"Pa got his reasons," Tristan said.

He strung another arrow and took careful aim. He let it fly and it shattered a target. He lowered the bow. Nia was staring at him.

"It be important," he said. "Pa believes the Corban be marching, and they will eventually reach us. We got to be ready."

"Folks been running here over a year," Nia said, "saying the Corban be coming, but we seen no sign."

"They be marching slow," Tristan said. "They can afford to. Their army be so big, nobody been able to stand against them. That be what Pa thinks. It be why he been building the army. He thinks it be just a matter of time before they get here. We got to be ready. We need information."

"What kind o' information?"

"Where they be exactly. The size o' their army. How fast they moving. Their fighting tactics. We got to know all that to beat them. I be going to find out what we need to know."

"You be going to scout the Corban?"

"Ya, with these warriors." Tristan indicated the warriors' camp across the field. "Balen be going too."

"Well, at least ya got one good man," Nia said.

"We be going east until we find the Corban. We will judge their strength and what we need to do to stop them. But we got to keep it quiet. That be why the warriors be camping on our land. Pa be not wanting to scare everybody in Dentville. Not yet."

"So what be you wanting from Branch?" Nia said.

"Pa says he knows the Corban. Lived close to them once. Pa thought he might even go with me, but he refused when I asked. Thinks he got too much work here, but I think it be something else. But who knows about Branch. Zane be willing to go, though.

"He be too young," Nia said.

"He be older than you," Tristan said. "Got some fire for a sage apprentice, though. Surprised me. He wants to fight. Asked for fighting training from me. I told him I would find someone to help him since I be leaving soon. Guess he be his Pa's son."

"I be the one that needs to go with you," Nia said. "I know how to fight. I can help. Why Pa didn't include me?"

"Nia," Tristan said. "Look. Pa needs you here. You be all he got left, if I don't..."

"If you don't what? Come back? How dangerous be this? It just be a scouting mission, right?"

"Ya. But Pa wanted the spirits' blessing, even if Branch be not going along. So I got Branch to ask the spirits. He went into a trance and flew among them. When he come back, he said they showed him my expedition. He saw us marching, and finding the Corban. He saw smoke and fire. He did not explain that, but he said the expedition would come back. He just could not see me coming back with them.

"You think you be going to die on this trip?" Nia said. "Because of a sage's word from the spirits? You be getting religious."

"There be a danger, Nia. They might have guns..."

"I don't think Branch believes the spirits. Why should you?"

"Look, I intend to come back, little sis, whatever Branch or the spirits say. But we got to be ready for anything. While I be gone, you be the eldest. You be all that Pa got. So you got to run things and help Pa. Keep up the house and the farm. Help Pa in the council and with the army. When I come back, I will do those things again. But if I don't, well, you be the next in line."

"I be the only one in line. So why don't Pa say anything to me? If I be supposed to be the eldest while you be gone..."

"You know Pa," Tristan said. "He will not say anything. He will just expect you to do the job. So I be telling you."

"When you leaving?"

"In a couple of days."

"How long you be gone?"

"Weeks. Months. Whatever it takes. I will send runners with word on where I be and what we find. But it all be secret."

"I know," Nia said. "I will keep quiet so the people of Dentville be not panicking. What about Merrydith? She know about this?"

"I be going to tell her next. She been patient and not asked questions, like a good wife."

"Phaw," Nia said. "She got a right to know her husband be going off on a danger. What if something do happen to you? You want to leave your baby boy without a Pa?"

"Course I don't want to leave my family. But I be doing this for them most of all. I want them safe from the Corban. I want Marc to have a home to grow up in. Sides, they got plenty o' family to take care o' them while I be gone. You will look after them too, won't you?"

"I will help," Nia said. "If I be not too busy being 'eldest'."

"Well, you will be busy all right. Taking care o' things for Pa. Taking care of Pa." Tristan handed the bow back to Nia. "You could even teach young Landstrom how to fight."

"He be better off being a sage," Nia said. She strung another arrow and shot it into a plastic target.

Tristan mounted Thunder.

"You quitting already?" Nia asked.

"Got a lot to do before I leave. I told ya what I wanted to. We will talk more before I leave." He kicked Thunder to a walk.

"And with Pa," Tristan called over his shoulder.

Nia watched her brother leave. He did look like Pa from the back. Riding away, looking for trouble before it reached them all.

I loved nature in my youth. Nature was ubiquitous, exerting her beauty, rhythms, and sometimes fright, as a backdrop to my journey to adulthood. As a child, I watched the vividly azure sky and the humongous, billowing cumulus clouds that were bright white and sharply defined even as they lumbered their way over the horizon.

In the summer, the air was humid but filled with smells of flowers and pine trees that I associated with a child's adventures of bicycling through the neighborhood, tromping through the woods, running under a water hose, and grilling out with adults. The nights were full of stars, brilliant and splattered across the sky, held up by the backbone of the Milky Way. The stars were rivaled by the fireflies, or lightning bugs, that filled the air beneath the pines. Cicadas chirped and grunted day and night, and left discarded shells enough to fill a wheelbarrow.

In the fall, Halloween nights were cool and overseen by a harvest moon that lighted our tricks in search of treats, and the air was filled with the smell of candles inside of carved pumpkins. In the winter, snow was rare but pristine when it came. The air was cold, and it stayed cold until the spring.

Rainy days came with the spring, and it rained solid for days at a time, sometimes with dark and powerful storms. But then the sun broke through and, once again, the smell of flowers and pines lent promise to the temperate air beneath deep blue skies.

A beautiful day with unlimited visibility could inspire your soul and make you dare to believe that life was good, and that the future held promise.

I reached midlife taking the natural world for granted as an unchanging inspiration. But now, something has changed indeed. Something is different, and awfully wrong.

For some two decades, the local climate has been getting noticeably warmer, with more and stronger storms and such. But beginning around October or November of 2013, we've gone beyond just warmer to bizarre and, if you haven't been paying attention, baffling.

For those old enough to well remember the weather and look of the skies before about the mid 1990s, the sky and weather are just nothing like they were. Here is my list of 10 things that I see every day as being unnatural about the weather and nature. This is not an exhaustive list, just obvious things I believe anyone will see if they watch the skies:

1. Constant, silvery white mist, like smog, that cuts visibility and makes what sunshine that gets through, very glaring. It varies in intensity, but never clears.

2. Mostly thin "clouds" that break up into clumps but retain long, parallel line formations across the sky.

3. Thick cumulus clouds are much more rarely seen on a "clear" day, and when you do, they don't reach as high into the atmosphere as they used to.

4. Clouds generally have a flat appearance. They are clumpy on a "fair" day, and ragged and "wild" on rainy days.

5. Most storm systems are spotty and very local. Even when it's raining, a third or more of the sky is "clear" bluish.

6. Lightning shimmers like a Stephenie Meyer vampire.

7. Greatly reduced insect populations--mosquitoes, honey bees, bumble bees, butterflies.

8. Trees dying--yellowed leaves, dropping foliage, brown tops, paler greens.

9. Vegetables and flowers are harder to grow, even in soil that looks good.

10. Behind the white "smog," in the early mornings and late evenings, high-flying aircraft are seen trailing long, thick plumes--sometimes visually persistent, sometimes not--flying parallel or irregular patterns.

I have come to believe, through observation and research, that these aberrations of weather and deleterious effects on nature are the results of steadily increasing climate warming from a planetary greenhouse condition.

This warming is greatly compounded by geoengineering efforts  facilitated by the spraying of aerosols from aircraft, and the manipulation of the ionosphere and jet stream by high-intensity beams of electromagnetic radiation.

Ongoing geoengineering is the single greatest threat to all life on earth.

I have set my Dentville novels in a future decimated by the Taker culture. In my vision, nature (Gaia) has responded to humankind's assault with a release of energy that ends in an ice age (one possible scenario). People struggle to survive at a neolithic level, even as forces rise to return to a society of technology and domination. Even if geoengineering is stopped, I believe this to be an optimistic scenario.

I want to see blue skies again, with the beauty of majestic, white cumulus clouds drifting through them. I want to see storms that arise naturally and drop their load of unadulterated moisture on a grateful earth. I want to be able to take inspiration from nature again.

I want there to be a future for humanity. It there is to be, then we must fight for it. I believe in the power of the accumulation of small efforts. If all of us do even a small part, even just accepting the testimony of our own eyes, it can become an overwhelming flood for the good.

You can begin by educating yourself. Here is a good place to start.

When my sons went to work for a local Wine & Spirits store earlier this year, they found something more than just a job. The store owner put them through a program of wine education and they discovered in that, an unforeseen passion. It started with a "head knowledge" of how wines were created--growing the grapes, fermenting them, storing the wine, etc. Then knowledge was coupled with experience in appreciating the complexity of the wines themselves.

For, as a symphony is a deliberate, balanced blend of instrumented sounds to produce rich music that speaks to our souls, so a really good wine is a blend of grapes, fruits, spices, and oak deliberately blended to produce a rich drink that enhances our moments.

I had never understood before what was meant by the complexity of wine until my sons pointed it out to me and showed me examples. What I discovered was how a good wine was indeed a symphony of tastes and smells that changed as you drank it. The aroma can speak of the earth, or tart fruits, or exotic spices. A fine red will use its aroma while chilled to hint at the tastes it contains, and then reveal them more and more as it warms in your glass. The flavor does the same, with fruits and spices coming through as it warms and ending with a vanilla-oak fragrance that makes smelling a nearly empty glass nearly as stimulating as tasting the drink.

Such richness in aroma and taste can compliment various foods and when a wine is "paired" with a food so that each brings out the best in the other, the result is magical. Making such pairings is the specialty of sommeliers (wine experts). But even beyond food pairings is, I believe, the pairing of a wine with an occasion. In the company of friends and family, especially at a meaningful time, a rich wine can lend its symphonic complexity to a time and place and fellowship, and elevate it from good to memorable. Such a pairing can make you sentimental about a particular wine.

My sons have thrown themselves into wines with more passion than I've seen from them for anything since practicing Kung Fu and learning Mandarin. Dillon has already earned his first level Sommelier pin and Thomas is working on his. They have begun offering their services to officiate wine tastings (where they help people choose wines to share with friends as they "sip-and-learn"). They can also recommend and serve wines at weddings, parties, and any occasion people want to enhance with a good wine.

Thomas and Dillon have a Facebook page here. They've also started a blog where they'll write about wines and tell about their experiences with them, and make recommendations. Their first entry is about an Argentinian wine called Ca De Calle that I also recall as being a very good one that demonstrates what is meant by a "complex wine." You can read about it here.

Yes, I understand the wine passion. It's far more than just drinking.

Another dreamer...He doesn't have enough money to travel.

This is how Santiago, the protagonist of Paulo Coelho's little book: The Alchemist, is written off by a ticket agent when he inquires about passage to Africa but doesn't follow through with a purchase. This bit of the story is significant to me in a couple of aspects. First, it equates travel with the idea of being free and living fully. Escape through travel is a common dream for people and the ticket agent recognizes that. He sees it all the time in the eyes of his customers, and in regards to Santiago, he is right. The boy is seeking a treasure by following his "Personal Legend" which is leading him to Africa, and he is hitting a wall in simply not having the money for a ticket.

That brings me to the second aspect, which is capitalistic crassness--that commercial precept that commodifies everything, including dreams of freedom. It says that desire and a brave heart are not enough to pursue your life goals. You have to have money so you can make somebody else rich in the process.

I have wrestled with this problem in my life. I've had the desire to travel but not the means, and often not the courage. At the heart of this desire are the ideas of freedom and of finding meaning in this physical life. Both ideas include a fair amount of subjectivity, I suppose, but I agree with Joseph Campbell who said that what the seeker is really seeking is "an experience of being alive."

...so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our innermost being and reality, so that we can actually feel the rapture of being alive.

Our desire for that rapturous experience is what creates our mid-life crises as we grow older and feel our diminution. We write our bucket lists and dream of breaking the chains that prevent their fulfillments. We sit in our cubicles and count a million widgets for the millionth time. A fear rises in us that we dare not voice, yet we must voice if we are to be true to ourselves. And if we can do so, we speak in agreement with Tolkien's character in The Return of the King, who, when asked what it is she fears, says:

"A cage," [Éowyn] said. "To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”

To lose the desire is the saddest part.

I believe we go on when we are done with this life, but that doesn't mitigate the disappointment of having wasted it. So we live with the aching need to give vent to a primal scream and run from our cubicles and out the corporate doors. Only then can we go to a distant land and stand on a mountain and gaze down on a sacred valley. There, in the cool morning air, we will feel the energy reaching out to us from the earth, from past lives and companion spirits. This is the point we want to reach; a beginning from which we would live the remainder of our life in earnest, squeezing from it every morsel of being and inspiration until we can see it plainly in front of us, and know it for what it is.

When we find our cage strong, and our bucket list goals unreachable, we often turn to stories--books and movies--to provide that inspiration we can't experience in the living. Some stories do a good job of describing our cage and portraying our escape. Ben Stiller really brought this out in his movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  In Stiller's version of Thurber's story, Mitty spends his life in a basement workspace where he has been "doing his job" for years, suppressing his impulse to experience life, and venting through lucid imaginings until he finally chooses to take a step into reality. That step leads him to some extensive traveling that allows him to experience the wider world, and so find the reality of his own being.

In Stiller's movie and in Coelho's book, travel is used as a symbol of living deliberately and fully in the moment. To achieve such living--the experience of being alive--is the reason for breaking free in the first place. In both stories, that breaking free is begun with a decision. Santiago decides to explore his Personal Legend, and Walter Mitty decides to search for the photojournalist himself rather than let someone else do it, or not do it at all. So the the step into the wider world begins with the simple decision to do so.

But there may be obstacles to overcome in carrying out that first step--maybe really big ones. For Santiago, it was simply that he had no money (i.e., the means), hence, the ticket seller's comment. Walter Mitty had to overcome his deep rut and his lack of belief in himself. Such obstacles are often the manifestations of practiced, internal inertia that we may hear as a voice inside.

Miley Cyrus' song, "The Climb," begins with the words:

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head saying
"You'll never reach it"

I hear that voice every day. It is the accuser, berating me for being so foolish as to think I have any hope of breaking out of my cage. It tells me the world is too small, and the evil in it is too great. It says I'm lucky to be surviving, that my Dentville novel will suck, and that I'm not even a good and faithful servant. It tells me I don't have the money to travel, and that even if I did, all I would see is a tourist's veneer in front of a wasted, dying world.

But I keep trying. Something won't let me give up. For some reason, I keep believing I will find a way to fly out of my cage. I think this is not courage so much as not being able (or willing) to do anything else. It may be a Don Quixote kind of courage, where I follow a dream in the face of a reality that pummels me, sometimes greatly. Such "courage" is often called naiveté or lunacy, and is usually ridiculed. Then it becomes a matter of sheer endurance.

So endure, my friend, and know that the pursuit of your passion, your Personal Legend, is enhanced many-fold when it includes helping others. Especially if your help contributes towards their finding their Personal Legends. I hope this helps you find yours.

As for me, I still want someday to stand on a mountain and view a sacred valley. I want to feel that rapture of being alive because I am NOT a good and faithful servant.

I'm just another dreamer.

The Books of this Literary Expedition are:

The Story of B by Daniel Quinn

The Chalice & The Blade (Our History, Our Future) by Riane Eisler

Adventures Beyond the Body by William Buhlman

The Eagle's Gift by Carlos Castaneda

Expeditions are often undertaken to find something. It might be something (or someone) that has been lost. Or something known only vaguely or that has only a suspected value that needs to be discovered. The expedition to find this thing is likely part of a larger journey.

In this particular expedition, we've discovered a compelling narrative of the origins of humanity's present condition. Based on anthropology, archeology, art, and history, it tells us that world culture was hijacked, millennia ago, by a very prolific, but destructive, ideology. It is one that is very materialistic and that rewards the brute. But there are contrasts to this ideology and the views it supplanted were not extinguished. People who are not among our wealthy rulers still believe that life is spiritual at its core and that it has value rather than profit. We have even found evidence for that higher level of life in the tales and techniques of out-of-body travel.

The last book in this literary expedition is The Eagle's Gift by Carlos Castaneda. It is essentially a tale about learning to live in the awareness of the greater spiritual dimension. Mr. Castaneda relates his experience of discovering that dimension and learning about it from Mexican Indian teachers. In my review of Mr. Castaneda's book, I talk about what he learned, and how it relates to what others have written about such spiritual matters. Let me give another summary here:

* People (and all living creatures, actually) are multidimensional beings that can be broadly considered to be a fusion of spiritual and physical natures. Another description of the same thing is that we are spiritual beings expressing themselves in this physical dimension through physical bodies. Reaching the spiritual part is accomplished through meditation and other techniques that are basically developing intense levels of concentration. It may be that sheer concentration is the most important key to self-development, especially of your spiritual aspects. Mr. Castaneda refers to a person's spiritual body as their luminous body.

* There are levels of spiritual development and consciousness, all the way from the physical to the numinous. Mr. Castaneda's teachers referred to these levels as the first attention, the second attention, and the third attention. They correspond roughly to normal consciousness, awareness of the luminous body (the spiritual), and a level of such heightened awareness (i.e, "vibration") that the person exits (or can exit) the physical world. This progression is famously illustrated in the Nine Insights of James Redfield's spiritually brilliant (and literarily dubious) book, The Celestine Prophecy. And G. I. Gurdjieff's idea about this progression was one of varying levels of being asleep.

* It is best not to attach too strongly to material things (designated as "shields" by Castaneda's teachers).

* There is far more to the world (i.e., universe) than normally perceived by people. Nonhuman entities are at large on the earth, in this physical plane.

* Stay positive, or at least, not negative.

* It is possible, even natural, for people (and likely, animals) to move through the numinous world outside of their bodies. This can occur spontaneously in sleep (remembered as lucid dreams) or deliberately induced. This state, and the control of it, is referred to by Castaneda's teachers as dreaming (though more is implied in their use of this term).

* Physical success and comfort in the world can impede spiritual development.

There's much food for thought here for the serious spiritual seeker. In these literary works I've mentioned (and many others), guidelines and practices can be gleaned to help us, but it takes an open-minded effort at discovering them. And then, it takes a great effort at absorbing the knowledge and putting the techniques (meditation, self-remembering, exercise, etc) into practice.

So we've used the books of this literary expedition to take us from prehistory, through myth and history, to the edge of the numinous to discover truths and clues that tell us where we have come from, why we have such problems, reveal some mitigating comforts, and suggest a strategy for living to help us through.

I think the most important part of this strategy is the idea of awareness or concentration that becomes evidenced in a person's level of consciousness. If we wish to transcend the Taker, Dominator culture that has all but doomed the earth and oppressed all life, then we need to shed our delusions and rise above the physical by recognizing and developing our spiritual sides. Greater awareness (of everything!) is the key.

Mr. Castaneda's teachers described the "power that governs the destiny of all living beings" as the Eagle. They said:

The Eagle is devouring the awareness of all the creatures that, alive on earth a moment before and now dead, have floated to the Eagle's beak, like a ceaseless swarm of fireflies, to meet their owner, their reason for having had life...awareness is the Eagle's food.

G.I. Gurdjieff painted a similar picture but his devouring image was "the Moon." It is the idea of people going through life never aware of any more than the physical, and so never developing that part of themselves that is the most real. What's left of them beyond death then is, not much. Hopefully, it's enough to reincarnate and take another shot at development, until they escape that wheel, which is the Eagle or the Moon--the devourer of awareness.

This should be a motivation to try to develop as much as we can in this life; to be the best that we can in all respects. It takes much work and courage. Losing delusions and seeing the world as it is, is not easy. But the effort can reward us with true personhood, aware of our connection to all other life. As Mr. Castaneda says:

To die and be eaten by the Eagle is no challenge. On the other hand, to sneak around the Eagle and be free is the ultimate audacity.