Arms’ Length

Let’s not stop killing. Let’s just do it from a distance.

Sometimes I wonder about the first hominid who intentionally killed another hominid. (And I’d bet my life it was a man.) Was he horrified at what he had done? Or did he look at it the same way he looked at hunting animals for food?

Here’s where it gets weird for me. If he was horrified, shouldn’t the natural instinct have been to say, “Right. That was scary and gross. Let’s try not to do that ever again.”              

Instead (and I find this very telling), Man went in a completely different direction as a result of that horror. What they actually seem to have thought was, “Right. That was scary and gross. Let’s try to come up with some way that we can do that without having to actually watch the light go out of their eyes as we get spattered with gore.”

In other words, let’s not stop killing. Let’s just do it from a greater distance.

And then, as everyone jumped on that bandwagon, the main goal was to come up with weapons that had a longer range than the other guys’, so you could win. And on it went, throughout history, to the point where today some kid in a uniform in a trailer in Nevada can take out a caravan of Afghani women and children without even having to break a sweat. And the guilt factor from that remove must be akin to knocking out your best friend’s Pokemon. Yay us.

The first murder was probably done with a stone or a tree branch. You could feel the vibration of the impact go down your arm. You could smell the copper in their blood. That was still the case when we progressed to swords and axes and maces. Now you just look at a computer screen, and go, “Oops. Well, they looked like bad guys…”

Children today don’t have to worry about sticks and stones breaking their bones. They have to worry about some nutjob with an AK-47 semi-automatic that can fire 40 rounds per minute as far as 380 yards. They’re not taught how to play musical chairs anymore. They’re taught to duck and cover. And, for what it’s worth, anyone who thinks this is the cross we all should bear so that they can maintain their 2nd Amendment rights is f***ed up beyond recognition.

Think about this. A blowpipe had a range of 60 feet. An atlatl could throw a spear 60-300 feet, but its accuracy rapidly diminished. An English Longbow could send a heavy arrow 819 feet, and light arrow as far as 1077 feet. Interestingly enough, a Brown Bess Musket, such as those that would have been used in the Revolutionary War, had an effective firing range of 900 feet. So our founding fathers hadn’t progressed much beyond the longbow, and probably assumed our progress would continue to be that slow. Such was the world when the second amendment was written.

Now, a light machine gun can go 3000 feet. A heavy one can go twice as far, which means, if you’re keeping track, that at this point we could kill each other from more than a mile away. And if you get ahold of an anti-tank missile, your range is 12,303 feet. Whereas an MLRS rocket artillery system has a range of 137,280 feet. That means you can kill someone 26 miles away, sit down to Sunday dinner, and say grace without even having to allow yourself a hint of irony. Can I get an Amen?

And we Americans invented the predator drones, which you can fire via a satellite uplink from the other side of the world. These drones are longer than a 3 story building is tall, and they can cruise around up there, like sharks searching for wounded fish, for 24 hours or more. One could be flying over you this very minute, and you’d never know. Nothing scary or gross about that, right?

Make no mistake: Humans are the most terrifying animals of all.

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We Are the Intruders

And we’ve forgotten how to be gracious guests.

I just read a very sad article entitled, “Grizzly bear kills guide just outside Yellowstone National Park”. Carl Mock was a seasoned outdoorsman who happened to get too close to a male bear that was protecting his fresh moose kill. From there, nature took its course.

It was a tragedy, no doubt about it. He wasn’t purposely bothering this bear. He was out there fishing. (And I’m sure that fish don’t enjoy being hunted, either.) He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The 420 pound bear was also killed in the course of the subsequent investigation. That, too, is a tragedy.

Of course, there was the usual pushback. We should allow bear hunting to keep these monsters in check! These nature types shouldn’t be allowing predators to kill humans!

For Pete’s sake.

We tend to forget that we are the intruders upon nature, not the other way around. Wolves killing your cattle? You chose to live in wolf country. Gator took out your poodle? The gator was there first.

Nature can be harsh. If you choose to get out there in it, and I highly recommend that you do, then you have to play by its rules and accept natural consequences. I suspect that Mr. Mock understood this. May he rest in peace.

We seem to think we humans float high above the great web of life. We think we should be accorded certain special privileges. We’ve forgotten how to be gracious guests. It’s all very sad.

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The Wisconsin Wolf Cull

What could possibly go wrong?

It is estimated that there are 1,000 wolves roaming the state of Wisconsin. Or there were, until the Department of Natural Resources allowed the annual wolf cull in February and it got way out of hand. In January, the Trump administration removed federal wolf protections. Coincidence? 

According to an article entitled, “’Reckless slaughter’ is what animal conservation director calls Wisconsin wolf cull”, the cull was to last a week as it has every year for decades, and this time authorities were allowing the slaughter of 119 wolves, statewide. Hunters had a mandate to hunt at night and use dogs, which is something that isn’t even condoned during deer hunting season. What could possibly go wrong?

After the first few days, the cull had to be called off, because 178 wolves had been killed, instead of 119. Many hunters, deep in the woods, claimed they didn’t get the “stop the hunt” order before they bagged their limit. Yeah, because these guys believe in wolf conservation in the first place. I’m sure they planned to be compliant.

I understand that farmers and rural ranchers take issue with wolves. They say they kill their livestock and pets. But you’re living in nature. You need to allow for these things. And there is mounting evidence that apex predators keep the environment healthy for all the other animals and plants. You don’t get to style nature as if it’s a haircut. Or, at least you shouldn’t be allowed to.

Wolves are highly intelligent pack animals that are interdependent. One death impacts the entire pack. The wolf population, nationwide, is too small for this type of slaughter. Ignorance abounds.

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Bigfoot Hunting Licenses? Seriously?

Bigfoot does not exist, you muppet!!!

Yep. Seriously. According to an article entitled, “Oklahoma May Soon Have an Official Bigfoot Hunting Season – and a $25K Prize for Catching It”, there is actually an Oklahoma Representative named Justin Humphrey who has authored a bill in the state legislature to make this happen.

He’s a Republican. ‘Nuff said.

His motives appear to be pure, albeit misguided. He claims he simply wants to attract more tourism to Oklahoma. It would also create revenue for the state. He claims that people are already calling him for these licenses so they can frame them on their wall.

The bill specifies that these licenses would only allow hunters to trap Bigfoot, not kill him, but it would come with a $25,000 bounty for anyone who succeeds. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, where to begin.

Picture this. You get a bunch of overexcited hunters wandering about in the Oklahoma woods, setting up traps to catch large man-shaped creatures. They’re foolish enough to believe Bigfoot actually exists, so it’s not a big stretch of the imagination that they might get trigger happy and accidentally shoot a large man-shaped creature. This bill could backfire on Rep. Humphrey, because any large man would be well advised to avoid the Oklahoma woods if the bill passes.

And, just playing devil’s advocate here, let’s say Bigfoot exists. (Bigfoot DOES NOT exist, you muppet!!!!) If he does, clearly he’s an endangered species, or we’d be seeing him everywhere. Do you really think it is cool to trap the hairy guy and take him away from his mate, only to have him wind up in a circus sideshow or a zoo or lying on an autopsy table somewhere?

Poor Bigfoot. He just wants to be left alone.

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Ancient Teamwork

Cavemen did more than just grunt.

I just stumbled upon a CNN article entitled “Mammoth traps containing remains of 14 of the giant creatures discovered in Mexico”. It went on to say that anthropologists found a man-made trench in Tultepec, Mexico that was 5½ feet deep and 82 feet long. In it were mammoth bones, one even arranged symbolically, as well as the remains of camels and a horse. This trap is said to be 15,000 years old.

Creating something like that took a lot of planning and digging. It required vision. It required trust. It took imagination and teamwork and delayed gratification.

And then once the thing was built, they had to strategize and work together in the hunt. They had to drive these animals toward the trap, most likely with torches. Everyone would have had to have been on the same page.

Afterward, there was a lot of meat to share out. The article states that the tongue of a mammoth alone could weigh more than 26 pounds. And they also used the bones for tools. People would have had to communicate and agree to various work roles and outcomes.

And yet, when we think of “cavemen”, we still tend to imagine them grunting, and living nasty, dirty, brutish lives. Lest we forget, if it weren’t for their survival skills, none of us would be here today. And anthropologists have found art, musical instruments, tools, and ritual burials that attest to their sophistication as well.

These people did more than just grunt. Now there’s a trench in Mexico to prove it.

Photo by HO_INAH_AFP via Getty Images
Photo by HO_INAH_AFP via Getty Images

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Coyotes Killing Cats

Keep your cat inside and coyotes won’t be an issue.

I know what it’s like to lose a pet. It’s heartbreaking. They are a part of your family, and the loss is felt keenly.

But.

Pets are also your responsibility. If your Pitt Bull is running around loose and bites a someone, that’s on you. If your boa constrictor gets loose and swallows the neighbor’s poodle, that’s on you. If your cat is allowed to roam free and gets killed by a coyote, that’s also on you. That coyote is only doing what coyotes do. (And your cat was probably killing songbirds anyway. It’s a cat.) Keep your cat inside and coyotes won’t be an issue.

I get so frustrated when people complain about coyotes. “Coyotes Killing Cats” is a frequent topic on my local Nextdoor.com page. It’s the coyotes’ territory as much as it is ours. They have every bit as much right to survive as we do. It would be great if they could live far away from people and feed on things that we are not emotionally attached to, but we’ve made it all but impossible for them to do that.

When people’s pets start disappearing, there’s always a call to kill the coyotes. It makes me sick. If you allow your pets to roam free, you need to be willing to live with the consequences.

I can hear the coyotes howling in the park behind my house on many nights. I think it’s a lovely sound. And I never let my dachshund outside from dusk to dawn without supervision, even if our yard is fenced, and I’ve never seen a coyote inside that fence. Because that’s what a responsible pet owner should do.

Coyote

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Another Disappearing Drawbridge

Rest in peace, Drawbridge. Rest in peace.

As a bridgetender, I tend to take it personally when a drawbridge disappears. And it happens all too often. Lower drawbridges get replaced by much taller, fixed spans. People lose their livelihood. And the neighborhood loses a great deal of its character. Folks blast on past without even slowing down anymore. They don’t take in the view. It’s tragic.

So when I saw this article entitled How drawbridge is drowning, I had that first, visceral reaction. Oh no. Not another one. Then I discovered that this story isn’t about a drawbridge. (Well, actually, it is, and it isn’t. You’ll see.)

Drawbridge, California started off with a population of one. George Mundersheitz’s cabin was built there in 1876, so that he could operate the two railroad swing bridges in the area. They were about a half mile apart, and George would walk to each one and hand crank them as needed to let vessels through. That must have been a real pain in inclement weather. And it must have been a very lonely existence.

But it seems that George was an enterprising man, because by 1880, that part of San Francisco Bay had become a duck hunting mecca of sorts, now that there was railroad access, and George started charging people 50 cents a night to stay in his cabin.

Eventually the unincorporated town was named by the railroad, as was often the case, and this place became known as Drawbridge. At its height in 1928, it had 90 cabins and 2 hotels, and hundreds of ducks were shot in the area every single day.

The town never had a city council or a school or law enforcement of any kind. And even with that small population, there were divisions. On the south side of town, people were Catholic. The Protestants dominated the north side. The two groups rarely mixed.

Unfortunately, Drawbridge was not sustainable. The duck population predictably declined, and the marshland began to sink as area metropolises undermined the watershed. The navigable waters began to silt up, and there was no longer a need for a drawbridge. The tides did not clear away the sewage like they used to, and the place began to stink. Needless to say, swimming and fishing drastically declined. And people got tired of having to raise their cabins as their foundations sank with the marsh. Trains no longer stopped in Drawbridge by 1955.

As residency declined, looters came in with annoying frequency. The last resident, Charles Luce, became known for driving people away with a shotgun. He left in 1979 when he was bought out by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Now no one goes to Drawbridge. It’s surrounded by salt lakes, and most of the buildings have been burned by looters or have rotted into the ground. As the waters rise due to climate change, the island itself will disappear entirely, and only those of us who are fascinated by history will even know that there was once a thriving community in this unforgiving place.

Rest in peace, Drawbridge. Rest in peace.

The ghost town of Drawbridge
Drawbridge, California’s first building: The bridgetender’s cabin.

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Hunting for Unicorns

I have always wanted a man who would actually listen to me when I talked. One who treated me with respect. Someone I could be proud of, due to his integrity, decency, honesty, kindness, and intelligence. A mentally healthy, confident, age appropriate, dog loving, nonsmoking, liberal guy. (Bonus points for being child-free and taller than me.)

Pfft. What are the odds of that? I mean, come on. Just the “listening” part excludes most of the world’s population. And finding someone who met all those criteria and then, on top of that, was also attracted to me — inherently flawed, overweight me… I may as well be wishing for a unicorn.

So, my whole life I set the bar lower. And sure enough, I always wound up with less than what I wanted or needed. Funny how that works.

But the older and lonelier I got, the more I started to think, what the hell, I may as well hold out for the unicorn. And if the unicorn never materializes, well, then, I’ll just do me. (I strongly suspected I’d be doing me for the rest of my life.)

But let’s just say, for a moment, that unicorns really do exist. Yes, they’d be rare. But what if they’re really out there? How would you find one?

Well, first of all, you have to be able to describe what one looks like, to you, at least. Done. See above.

Next, you have to feel that you’re deserving of a unicorn’s company. No self-respecting unicorn is going to hook up with just anyone. You have to be special. It took me a long time (I’m talking decades), to feel that I was unicorn-worthy.

Once you’ve achieved that level of self-respect, you need to start spending time in places where unicorns might hang out. Surround yourself with good, decent, loving people. Do not waste your time with fools. Don’t hang out in bars or places where you aren’t forming strong, long-lasting bonds.

And it’s important to be ever-vigilant. That unicorn might be right in front of you, and you just haven’t noticed. (Hard to believe, I know, but be open to the possibility.)

Once you’ve spotted a unicorn, it’s important to be patient. These things can’t be forced or rushed. They’re too important. Calmly state your intentions, and then, if the unicorn wants to come to you, he will. If he doesn’t, the horn is probably fake, anyway.

So did I find my unicorn? I believe I finally have. And may I never forget how magical it is to be by his side.

unicorn

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The Trump Presidential Library

No matter how this train wreck that is our current presidency plays out, there will one day be a Trump Presidential Library. I mean, Nixon had one. Trump will not be left out. Andrew Carnegie is probably spinning in his grave.

What would this library look like? I mean, Trump is the poster child for everything libraries are against. Misinformation. Lies. Disdain for science. Inequality. Prejudice in its many forms. Closed-mindedness. Ignorance. Illiteracy. Avoidance of research. Elitism. Suppression of information. Not doing your damned homework.

What could this man possibly contribute to a library?

I’m sure there would be vast sections of porn. He objectifies women. And there would be comic books, too, because he has the attention span of a squirrel. There would be stacks devoted to nothing but copies of everything that had been ghost written in his name, as well as every interview he had ever done, and every photograph that was ever taken of him. There would be vast archives devoted to nothing but his tweets. Oddly, even the insulting and embarrassing things would be included, because it doesn’t matter as far as he’s concerned, as long as it’s about him.

There would be no section on religion, and nobody would seem to notice.

The whole place would be gilded, and over-the-top baroque architecture would be the order of the day. So much so, in fact, that it would take the focus away from the books, because really, who needs to read in this day and age, right?

There would be an Ivanka Trump shoe display, with ability to order them on line, and stuffed and mounted evidence of the many things his sons have shot. And a life sized statue of Trump, sitting on a throne, so you could take your picture whilst sitting on his lap.

Storytelling classes would be held regularly, with an emphasis on fictional narratives told with confidence and a complete lack of remorse.

And on every shelf, whether it belonged there or not, there would be at least one Russian book. “We have no idea how it got there, but…”

There would be an outrageous admission fee to enter the Trump Presidential Library, and you’d have to be a white male. And where would Trump choose to build this edifice to ignorance? On the grounds of Mar-a-Lago, where else?

That’s the only bright spot. Because then when non-existent global warming truly kicks in, we’ll all have the pleasure of watching this monument to pomposity sink into the sea, much like his ill-fated presidency. Good riddance.

Trump

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The Importance of Love Letters

 

When trying to buy a house, I cannot overstress the importance of standing out from the crowd. Even though there were multiple bidders on the house I’m about to buy, and my bid wasn’t the highest, I was the only one who wrote them a “love letter”, and that strongly influenced their decision.

So, without further ado, what follows is a conglomeration of several of the love letters I sent out during this home buying process. Feel free to adapt it to your needs if you are house hunting yourself. Just make sure you substitute personal details about you and the house in question, so they won’t feel like it’s a form letter. Good luck!

________________________________

To the owners of

xxxxxxxxxx

Hello!

In addition to making an offer on your lovely house, I wanted to tell you a little bit about myself.

I am a 52 year old woman who is searching for a place to call home. 3 years ago, I thought I had all that. I lived in Florida with Chuck, the love of my life, and we had wonderful plans for the future. And then I got a call from the sheriff’s department saying that they had found his body, still clutching his asthma inhaler, in his truck in the pharmacy parking lot two blocks from home. My whole world came crashing down around me in that instant.

For a few months I walked through life, completely numb, trying to live the life I had before, but it wasn’t working. For one thing, I had to pass that pharmacy parking lot every day on the way to work. So when a friend told me about a bridgetending job in Seattle, I thought, “What have I got to lose that I haven’t already lost?” So I applied. To my shock, I got the job. I had never been to Washington in my whole life. I didn’t know anyone here. But I was in need of a do-over. So I packed up all my stuff, said good-bye to friends and family, and drove across country.

Since then, I’ve been renting a house just North of Seattle, but I fear that with annual rent increases, I will soon be living well beyond my means. So it’s time to become a homeowner.

When I saw your place, it looked like home to me. I want an oasis. I want somewhere I can call “Tranquility Base.” Your home definitely has that kind of Feng Shui about it, as I’m sure you know. I love the garden, and can already imagine my heirloom tomatoes and squash and carrots there. I also want to plant things that will attract bees and butterflies and hummingbirds. I can see myself practically living in the back yard. And the sound of the koi pond as I approached gave me this incredible feeling of calm before I even opened the door. You’ve really done an amazing job making that house a home.

I also wanted to say that I love your style. I wouldn’t even want or need to change a single wall color! And anyone who owns a digeridoo has got to be cool. I almost wish you weren’t leaving because you guys would make great friends. I can feel it from your spirituality.

Anyway, you may get higher offers. In fact, I’m kind of sure you will. But please know that if you accept mine, I will make this house a home again, and will give it all the respect and love that it deserves. I hope it will be the last address I ever have.

That, and you’ll be helping me begin to live again.

Thank you in advance for your kind consideration.

Sincerely,

Welcome_mat_2

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