One Window Into 18th Century Has Just Closed

Landing on Pitcairn Island - Bounty Bay in 1970's

Landing on Pitcairn Island – Bounty Bay in 1970’s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am an inveterate reader of the reader of the New York Times.  Every day I manage to find some small moments to dig in and see what’s going on in the world, across the United States, or even just in New York.  Quite often I find a story that appeals to my many interests.  Today’s offering was a window into 18th century Colonial history as well as the adventure stories of my youth.  I remember when I was a kid being given a tattered cheap paperback copy of  the original 1932 novel The Mutiny On The Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall.  It joined other treasured adventure books.  Favorites included copies of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, and Mister Roberts by Thomas Heggen.  I pored through all of those books, drinking in the rich details of bygone eras.

Imagine my surprise today to see that the original mutineer on the HMS Bounty, Fletcher Christian, had a great-great-great-grandson who was well know enough to get almost a half page obituary in the New York Times.  Fletcher Christian’s descendent, Tom Christian, died over a month ago at the ripe old age of 77.  At the time of his death, he still lived on, and in fact was the most well-known voice of, Pitcairn Island, part of the Pitcairn archipelago, Britain’s last colonial possession in the South Pacific.  Pitcairn Island’s only real claim to fame, at least in the positive sense, is as the final resting place of the HMS Bounty.  It has, according to the Times, a “permanent population” of 51 people and survives on quarterly supply deliveries and sale of baskets, honey, stamps, and trinkets (carved from wood they harvest on one of the uninhabited islands of the Pitcairn archipelago).

If you didn’t have a chance to read this obit, it is well worth your time to catch a glimpse of a vastly removed time in history.  Indeed, the famed mutiny took place in 1789.  To read the article, go here.

Another Great Article on The Origins & Practice of Creativity

English: The New York Times building in New Yo...

English: The New York Times building in New York, NY across from the Port Authority. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s New York Times front page yielded a lot of really sad news, but nestled comfortably mid-page there was a really interesting, curiously uplifting article by one of the Times’s art critics on why he began to write in the first place.  Reading this piece, I saw a lot of familiar scenes.  I am sure that we are worlds, perhaps also generations, apart in many ways but the scene he paints early in the article, I could have torn from the pages of my childhood as well:

“Then there was reading, a lot.  Typical scene: Four people — my young father and mother, my sister and I — in different parts of the house, glued to the page late into the night.  Many books around, on shelves, on desks, on chairs, an environment I duplicate wherever I live.”

There are differences, of course.  There always are.  Holland Cotter had a sister, I had a brother.  His father was a medical doctor, mine has a PhD.  His parents allowed him to wander freely through museums because they used the museums as a sort of “surrogate nanny” (his words). Our family went to museums together, more as a family outing.  Still his description of being seized by the aesthetics and the obvious stories of the Pre-Modern art initially and then gradually beginning to read the descriptions because he needed to know more, until finally he took notes on what he saw, all of that seems very familiar.  I did a lot of that too and do still.  I also write a lot, though perhaps (not yet) as well, and certainly not for as well-known an outfit as the New York Times, but still, the similarities were startling.

At any rate, the entire piece is definitely worth a read if you have the time.  It’s today’s paper, page A1, “Finding Poetry on the Page and, Later, on the Canvas,” by Holland Cotter, for the Critic’s Notebook.

“How To Get It Done” (From A Master Project Juggler)

“How To Get It Done” (From A Master Project Juggler)

Among my most passionate fascinations is creativity and the drive to create.  This post originated with a piece I read on one of my favorite current blogs, Co. Create by Fast Company.  (I have linked the Fast Company Post above.)  Their mission statement says that they “explore  creativity in the converging worlds of branding, entertainment, and tech.”  Quite a lot of their articles focus on highly creative people giving suggestions about how to wring the best material out of every situation.

A formal personal bibliography of influential authors and thinkers is still a long ways from completion.  Distilling the origins of my own ideas and philosophies is, I think, pretty crucial for me to understand my truth, my passions, and whatever contributions I might ultimately have for writing and artistic expression.  At some point, I may put more energy into a comprehensive survey of influences, but for now this is just a small survey.

Cover of "Howl"

Cover of Howl

Somewhere, between my formal education and the present day, I managed to cram my brain  with the writings of many of Bohemian movements and free thinkers of the last century.  To a certain extent, I may have sought a way forward in my life and work because I have never really bonded with the conventional approach.  The “safe” or conventional approach still doesn’t really resonate with me; to this day, I would rather take creativity/productivity cues from someone whose work I respect or whom I count among my many influences, and for whatever reason, the conventional approach doesn’t usually interest me all that much.

I have found influences among many and varied thinkers, artists, writers, and activists of the last century.  Among my influences, I can count both well-known and obscure personalities and people.  From Allen Ginsberg, whose poem, “Howl” is among the greatest in American literature, certainly among the greatest of his own out-sized generation, I learned alliteration, the power of ellipsis, how to live my truth and mine my life experience for my art/craft.  Howl’s first two lines reverberate even now: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked/dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix.”  I have found greater value in the methods of confirmed free-thinker and Nobel laureate (of chemistry), Kary Mullis than in many scientists more well-known to the public.  (Mullis’s book, Dancing Naked In the Mind Field, blew my mind appropriately the first time I read it.)

A veteran internet marketer and self-proclaimed “world renown nutrition expert” named David Wolfe has been instrumental in helping me to form some of my own views on the subject of healthy nutrition.  He has made a career of traveling, speaking, cultivating a “high raw” foods lifestyle, and modeling the successful entrepreneur.  His best known book, The Sunfood Diet Success System, has radically informed my own nutritional theories.  Another health influence on me, whose work I first found straight out of college when I first walked into a health food store, was Christopher Hobbs.  The first book on herbs and health that I ever bought was Foundations of Health by Christopher Hobbs.  I have bought or read hundreds of other books on the subject since, but I would still argue that Hobbs’ book has been among the most influential on my own thoughts on the subject.

Terence McKenna is another influence, though more on the meme level than on the level of the writer’s craft.  Of his many books, I have read and benefited from a number: True Hallucinations, which Terence wrote about his first trip to the Amazon in the early 1970’s, and introduced us to him and his equally fascinating and erudite brother, Dennis McKenna, who is a research-oriented pharmacologist/botanist/chemist who is still active in his field.  (Incidentally, Dennis has just published a book detailing his life with Terence, called The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss.)  Other favorite Terence McKenna books include, The Archaic Revival and Food of the Gods.  The elder McKenna (Terence) also has countless articles, interviews, one CD, which involved him intoning his most radical ideas over an album-length trance track, and innumerable talks and sound bites available for download on the internet.

IDEA: What’s In A Name?

Downtown Smyrna, GA

Downtown Smyrna, GA (Photo credit: The Ken Cook)

17 Dec 1998 Thursday, ~8:40 pm

I’m stopped now beside the road within sight of Smyrna Boots on 70 South East in central Tennessee.

How is there a Smyrna in Tennessee and one in Georgia and yet another in New York and one in lower Delaware?

How are they connected by their common name?

Is any of them connected to the ancient Greek city of Smyrna?  In case you were wondering, this Smyrna, although Greek, was, according to Wikipedia, in what is now Izmir, Turkey.

View on the agora; in the back : columns along...

View on the agora; in the back : columns along the western stoa; Izmir, Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Someone, perhaps even me, should do a study of small towns, their names, and their origins.  One could pick any stretch of road in America — preferably one with some history to it — and devote a chapter to each small town and its name and history.  This could break down as a meditation on place.  We could get into the history, migratory patterns, local/regional character/color as well.

One could use one stretch of road and its small towns to extrapolate about the culture of small town America and the importance of a sense of place.  One could do this in any country, though America is the country of my birth, so I know it better than I would know any other.

A New Foraging Cookbook worth checking out

A New Foraging Cookbook worth checking out

Some friends of a friend in a community with which I am involved have a new cookbook and foragers guide out.  They have self-published and are offering the book, as well as beautiful botanical prints and note cards featuring illustrations from the book.  This book promises a wealth of recipes for gill-over-the-ground, nettles, chickweed, etc that a lot of us have growing in our yards if we just pay attention.  If you are looking for some great recipes in a gorgeous book, you should maybe check this out.

Inklings of Mortality Part One

Death

Death (Photo credit: tanakawho)

The last dream I had this morning, in the midst of my first alarms, was of a conversation with someone who casually mentioned that someone very close to me had died.  It was one of those awkward moments where the person speaking doesn’t know that what they are saying is news to the person to whom they are talking.

In dream interpretation, at least some streams of thought, one might suggest that this dream could be interpreted as foreshadowing.  I am, however, reminded of the last episode of the first season of “Sherlock” (called “The Great Game”), where James Moriarty, his arch nemesis, is talking about their game of cat-and-mouse.  Holmes interjects, “Lots of people have died,”  and Moriarty harshly retorts, “That’s what people do!”

People die.

So if it’s not foreshadowing, what might it be?

A read through?

A dress rehearsal?

A reminder?

Something.

In the dream, the speaker casually mentions that someone with whom I’m close is in the hospital and then that her husband, with whom I am also close, has died.

This is devastating news, and yet perplexing.  I have just (in waking life) spoken at length to this person in the last few days.  I have received no sudden phone calls.  This person is not (really) dead.

And yet, in the first moments of my waking reality, hearing this news cleaves me to the core.  I am mute with grief.

I hit the snooze buttons, lie back for a few moments more of what?

Rest?

I have just been told that someone has died.

Drifting in that twilight sleep, between the first and second alarms, I am sobbing, or perhaps because I am not yet really awake, I dreamed that I am sobbing.

In any case, it felt real to me.

I have no retort to this.

It was a kind of “dress rehearsal,”  because that’s what people do.

My morning yoga & meditation was interesting.  I couldn’t keep my mind off of the dream.

Death of a loved one is often devastating.  The last conversations had.  The things left unsaid.  The experiences you didn’t get the time to have together — and the ones that you did.

How will I respond when I really receive that phone call?  Sure, dying is what people do, but when it’s one’s own father, or mother, or brother, sister, lover, or friend, it’s different, right?

I’m not sure that it is different.  What’s different is the rawness of the emotion if one is close to the person who has died.

“People die, that’s what they do,” but when it’s my _____________ (fill-in-the-blank), it is, finally, real.