Pattison on Wheels

Saturday, April 12, 2008

4-12-08: Thanks For The Nice Day

There was a lot of shuffling and planning by me and my two sisters so we could go up to Asheville today. I almost completely emptied my car for the first time in over two months so I could leave it to get the rear speakers replaced. It was good to see the bottom of all the junk in there and to have hope of taking out all the stuff I never used and shipping it somewhere. We got rolling for real around noon and the weather did not look promising. Rain was falling as we left Greenville.

As we climbed the mountains it became more and more beautiful and more and more clear sky appeared. By the time we got to Asheville it was very nice and we found an excellent restaurant for lunch. Thence to the little town of Hot Springs North Carolina where we lounged in warm mineral water for a couple hours then took a nice little nature walk in the budding rhododendron forest.

By the time we got back to Asheville it was time to eat again which we did with gusto in a very nice vegetarian place. After dinner we took a walk around the town and looked at lots of art galleries. There is a ferment of beautiful glass work in this town. And much, much, more.

What a pleasure to spend such a lot of good time with siblings and have it be so enjoyable. We vow to do more. Some days are just magic and this was one such.

The sunset was magnificent as we set off again and we had a nice drive back. My car was ready and the stereo sounds good again. Listening to the gorgeous Concierto by Jim Hall was a moving pleasure again.

Friday, April 11, 2008

4-11-08: Family Matters

A laid back day. Shopped for camping gear and car speaker upgrade. Played with children who sold me real flowers for pretend money. Ate well. Chatted with sisters and niece. Admired the clouds. Took a few photos but didn't find them worthy so will include one from a few days ago. I'll try again tomorrow.

4-10-08: Civilization

Back in Greenville in an actual house with hot showers, Internet, cats, relatives, and all the amenities. I'm trying to catch up on work, taxes, email, newly arrived camera gadgets, et al. Not to mention planning my next adventure which likely will be in the form of a canoe trip. It's amazing how disrupting it feels to change the routine. I have all my gear systematized for car life. Canoe life requires a major rethinking . . . no computer. Eek!

Took a nice walk with my sisters, suffered "snot kisses" from my niece's daughter during an otherwise delicious mahi-mahi dinner. After doing the dishes I went to an excellent NA meeting. I stayed up a while talking with my two elder sisters and then slept for a long, long, time.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

4-9-08: How To Attract Birds

I said goodbye to Congaree by taking one more walk. I had lots of insights into the causes of my compulsive conceptual thinking. Most children are probably encouraged to shut off their non-conceptual ways and encouraged to pump up their more abstract symbolic thinking. It is ego. It is addiction. It is avoidance. In any case I had a nice morning drifting back and forth across the boundary between these polarities. I must say, if I could spend more time away from my ego and its endless self-justification I would be a lot happier.

I slowly walked part of the Weston Lake loop trail along Cedar Creek. I watched myself seeking approval via the camera—looking for something to show off. There were birds everywhere but I could not see them. I could hear their calls and even identify a few but try as I might, I could see none of them. I decided to not take any more photos today just to stop that part of the ego machine. Within a mile a little bird with a yellow throat presented itself within a few feet and flirted with me. Soon another kind came and landed right next to me in a small tree. Then farther down the trail another. Life colludes to teach.

I was really tired by the time I got back to the camp and packed it up. On the way to Greenville I had to stop at a rest stop to keep from getting too drowsy at the wheel. I did fine with the air conditioner and NPR on.

4-8-08: This

As I was reading last night, part of a sentence got into my thinking and the aftershocks are still coming. “When we mistake what we can know for all that there is to know . . .” Well, yeah. Unintended consequences. The author is speaking about soil fertility but it applies to humans, conceptual thinking, and civilization in general and in spades.

I got up early and was on the trail by 7:30. By 8 I was at Weston Lake again and trying my best to stop thinking. You couldn’t find a better place. The lake was calm and unruffled, the birds were telling the truth, there was lots of isness around for which there is no name, and there were no other people to confuse the issue with their characteristic symbolic verbalizations.

Being without thinking is nice. The trees. The wind. My breath. This. All I have to give up for this treat is the pretense of absolute knowledge.

But it is difficult for me. I keep drifting off again and then suddenly realize I have just told myself a story with no foundation in experience. And that trick of abstraction has its own magic as it was how these foolish monkeys got to the top of the food chain. It’s only wrong when you assume that’s all there is.

My reading of the wisdom traditions has told me this again and again. That same reading also told me that the power and importance, and even the existence of non-conceptual being is unteachable with words. I love the book title: “Zen: It’s Not What You Think.”

Eventually people came to my retreat at Weston Lake and eventually I started back up the trail. I noticed that I stopped a lot and was unusually content. No narrative. No implied conclusion. No mission. Nowhere to be. Nothing to tell. I enjoyed taking pictures but seemed equally pleased by trying settings and lenses and deleting the experiments.

I had a vague ambition of trying to capture the sense of the new leaves—their color, their hopefulness, and their tiny size and multiplicity combined to a kind of green mist into the distance. But I didn’t really need to succeed. It was just another path to take. Maybe it will lead somewhere interesting.

4-7-08: Look, A Turtle!

The plan was to just hang out in the tent and rest and read but I went to the visitor center instead and bought a bird book. This alerted me to the fact that there was a problem with my main credit card so I went to the nearest public library and between the Internet and a whole lot of cell phone time I got it straightened out.

So I went for another walk in the park and re-visited Wise Lake for another layer of pride to be removed. I walked some more and took some photos though it was drizzling rain and there wasn’t much visible wildlife. Or I’m not seeing it. Other people on the trail are taking pictures and pointing out warblers. My attention is on the big abstractions whirling around inside my mind. So I sat on the bench at Weston Lake and tried to pay attention. Nothing. Two tour bus drivers came down the walk. One looked down into the water and said: “Look, a turtle.”

The sun appeared around four as I went back to the campsite for lentil soup and pretzels. There were brilliant bluebirds and butterflies but I didn’t need to capture the joy of them and show it to you to prove I’m special. I’m not.

4-6-08: Congaree

Still in the motel I checked email, packed up, breakfasted at Denny’s—I finally got some grits after all these days in the south. A couple hours of driving mostly Interstates then into some farm country then Congaree National Park. It's the largest old growth flood plain forest in the east. Trees grow bigger here. There are few to no alligators because there is a complete canopy and the gators need sun. I’m glad Congaree is here. I’m glad the camping is free. Quite a change from the State Park RV sites that charge almost as much as nearby motels.

I took a long walk—over five miles. I saw a water snake, a couple turtles, and some pileated woodpeckers. The bald cypress and the tupelo trees standing in the still water are way charming. I spent some time sitting on a log on the bank of Wise Lake trying to soak up some wisdom somehow. Then back along Cedar Creek which is said to be and looks like good canoeing.

My daughter phoned while I was making dinner at my campsite but the connection was weak and I only heard a couple words. Afterwards I waited for a text message but none came. For some reason this made me sad and weepy. Maybe it symbolized all the weak connections with loved ones through the years.