Friday, July 31, 2020

Lair of Mishipishu -- the underwater panther

You are standing atop Sugarloaf Mountain in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, looking toward Little Presque Isle in the distance. When I lived there, I often had the island and a mile of sandy beach to myself. It is where I saw the two wolves "on patrol" that I have written about here. The "prize" eluded me, however. That would have been to catch sight of Mishipishu, the "underwater panther." The spelling of "his" name varies. Pictographs of Mishipishu can be found around the Great Lakes. One is at Agawa Bay in northern Ontario. The Midewiwin Society claimed in 1850 that this pictograph was painted by an Anishinabe shaman and was part of a story about a four-day crossing of Lake Superior by a war party in five canoes. It is possible I will write more about this "legend" another day, but for now you can do your own research. The island and adjoining land form a county park today, which is both good and bad: Good, in that many people will be able to enjoy it; bad, in that no one will ever have experiences like I had there -- being awakened alone by the sun on my face dug down into the warm sand of the glistening beach with billowy clouds floating in a pure blue sky and the sound of lapping waves caressing the shore.
A lake is a lake is a lake .... except
The "Old Greeks" combined the prefix para- ("beyond" or "outside of") with the verb dokein ("to think"), forming paradoxos, an adjective meaning "contrary to expectation." Latin speakers took the word and used it to create the noun paradoxum, which English speakers borrowed during the 1500s to create paradox.
I "liberated" many of those words from the Wikipedia. "Liberated," for the uninitiated, is a polite way of saying "stole" and frequently used in military circles.
Progress is a paradox. On one side of the coin, it extends the life and leisure of humankind; on the opposite side of the coin, it usually comes at the price of disrupting and destroying the natural world.
I once lived along the shores of Lac Supérieur or, in the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Gitche Gumee, the shining Big-Sea-Water.
California Kelly, who has been thinking about moving, noted in a recent comment: "Today I went out to Malibu and the ocean was the bluest I've seen in ages. It was magnificent! The clear blue skies and ocean and green, green mountains is one positive for this time ... Today I thought to myself, hmmm, it may be tough to leave California."
To which, I replied: "In terms of Nature, I am sure it will be next to impossible to leave California -- with its forests and mountains and waters and deserts. I felt that way when I left Michigan and Lake Superior, but I left expecting to be back eventually. Now, the years slip away and I am no closer to a return than I am to winning a multi-million lottery."
As if some invisible entity traveling the time loop continuum was reading over my shoulder when I wrote those words and passed them along, I received a marvelous photograph from a friend who was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and still calls the place home. Behold, Little Presque Isle as seen from atop Sugarloaf Mountain.
Agape means love in Greek today, but returning to the "Old Greeks," whose language was more precise than are the words of today, in ancient times it referred to a pure love without sexual connotations. Back then, passionate love of physical desire was called Eros. Aristotle used the word Philia to mean dispassionate, virtuous and unselfish love, while Philautia is known to be self love. There are other words/forms of love, of course, but enough for now.
If I ever have encountered a specific "Old Greek" word or word in any language meaning a love of and for Nature, I cannot recall it. As it is, I sort of define my religion as a blend of deism and pantheism, with Nature at the core of it. In a sentence, I love Nature ....
It takes only a flicker of imagination after a few moments of gazing at this photograph to see the waters shifting and moving and to feel myself once again in a canoe -- at times skirting the shoreline, at times paddling from point of land to point of land -- on the cold, crystal-clear waters of The Lake.
For now, I will recall the times I stood atop Sugarloaf seeing Little Presque Isle in the distance and staring out onto the waters of Lake Superior – on sunny days / on rainy days / on snowy days -- sometimes on indescribably beautiful days with "perfect" weather; sometimes in the midst of a raging gale or a blizzard. No matter what the weather, they were wondrous times experiencing the beauty and the power of Nature .... moments in which I understood what it truly means to be alive and thankful beyond words to be alive.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Who is that masked man?

I have been throwing this post together rather hurriedly and grabbed one of the first "coronavirus mask" photographs I found on the internet. It was posted by the Denverite -- "a member-supported news organization for the curious and concerned in our ever-changing city" (Denver). If you look closely, I believe it is the same individual who is "modeling" all of the masks. Anyway, for a musical offering this time around are, "Love Hurts," sung by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, and sort of another "love song," ГРАЙ -- В объятиях Мары, which translates into a band named Gray performing a song named, "In the Arms of Mary" .... or Mara, as you prefer ....

The time of the mask

I was born a bit of a maverick by nature which, in some ways, made me a good Marine and, in other ways, a not so good Marine. I once told a Navy lieutenant commander to go ?!?! himself. It cost me a night in the brig at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, California, but also made me one among the sort of band of "folk heroes" in my outfit. Someday, I might write about what led to this encounter, but for now I will only briefly mention what turned out to be both a fun and an interesting interlude.

This all began during an afternoon and I was in the brig by around 1900. I promptly fell asleep and awakened about 0200 to see my cell door open and a pair of feet propped up against it. The feet belonged to another member of my company, who had been assigned the task of keeping an eye on me throughout the night. I woke him up and we talked for a while. He was sleepy, where I was fresh from a six- or seven-hour "nap." He went to sleep in my cell, and I set out to explore the brig.

I found no one awake and a few "guards" and prisoners soundly sleeping. I found food and ate. I snooped in the desks in the main office, including a drawer which contained about a dozen wallets. I watched television a while and "read" a couple of Playboy magazines. At 0500, I awakened my buddy, who still was asleep in my cell, and the No. 1 man in charge of the brig. I told the "brig master" I was departing with my buddy and my wallet. He mumbled something unintelligible, and the two of us left to return to our outfit. I never heard an "official" word about the incident, but, had it been a Marine Corps officer I became mouthy with, I probably would have been strung up by my thumbs.

This has been a prelude to noting that last week I put on a mask for the first time during this coronavirus business. The occasion was the first of two visits to a clinic, that visit for lab work. Two days later, I returned for my "annual wellness examination." Actually, it had been about a year and one-half since I last called on my doctor and before she became insistent that I make a personal appearance. I am glad to report that apparently I am alive and all is well. I could have told her that without undergoing an examination, and saved us both some time and me some money.

Well, my maskless days are ending. Today is the first day when all Minnesotans are being ordered to wear masks while in any public access buildings or outdoor areas where "social distancing" is not feasible. I have neither a good nor a logical reason to explain why I have chosen not to wear a mask before now. I tend to think it comes from the "maverick" element within me, and probably defines me as dumb and stubborn in some ways, to say the least. I am sure there is at least one Navy lieutenant commander who would agree with that assessment.

I will point out that 31 of the 50 states now have some variation of "masks required rules." It will be most fascinating to see how the world is doing a year from now .... will it not?

Friday, July 10, 2020

Blame it on the air in Dakota ....

"Dignity of Earth & Sky" is a sculpture on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River near Chamberlain, South Dakota. It is a 50-foot high, stainless steel statue created by Dakota artist laureate Dale Claude Lamphere and depicts a Native American woman in Plains-style dress receiving a star quilt. Do not ask who the two individuals also shown in the photograph are .... their names slip my mind.
Battles of yesterday / sculptures of today
Allow me to begin with a disclosure statement .... not full disclosure, mind you, but sort of an admission. I do own property in South Dakota and I do have a son who lives there. I once lived there myself. Beyond those things, I have no affiliation with the state other than a few good memories. I periodically go there for odds and ends reasons, and did so recently, primary to see my son and for the two of us to pop off a few hundred rounds of ammunition in assorted calibers through a variety of rifles and handguns.
Once the ammo was dispensed (.... or should that be dispersed?), we decided to take sort of a sight-seeing jaunt. We both have been to Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, but decided to drive out there and take a look one more time. This we did on roads well to the south of the interstate. I have a habit of driving scenic routes whenever possible. This means I go on old highways and even country roads when time is not of essence, rather than travel on interstates. Doing this in regions like Dakota takes you to some interesting and beautiful places -- to state the obvious. We crossed the Missouri River on the Platte-Winner Bridge and went through the Rosebud Indian Reservation -- swinging down to Mission and St. Francis -- and then on to the Pine Ridge.
I will not mention the engagement that took place at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890, other than to say some of the participants on both sides had met at least once before -- at the Little Bighorn River in Montana Territory on June 25-26, 1876. That was when George Armstrong Custer and a few hundred troopers, scouts and civilian employees of the Seventh U.S. Calvary were unceremoniously dispatched to the "not-so-happy-hunting-grounds." There also was an occupation and stand-off at Wounded Knee during much of 1973, for history buffs to check out -- if there are any reading this whose curiosity requires a look see.
We stayed at and around Wounded Knee longer than we should have and swung north to catch the interstate for the return trip. We re-crossed the Missouri River near Chamberlain, where we stopped at the Akta Lakota Museum and at the site of this statue –- named Dignity -- which has become sort of a permanent resident. Well, that pretty much is it. From there it was "drop the kid off" and head back to Minnnneeesnota for me.
 A couple of side notes:
 "The Mammoth Book of Time Travel SF," edited by Michael Raymond Donald Ashley -- I ordered a copy and have received it. It probably should be embarrassing to admit that of the 25 stories in it I recognized the names of only three writers. Embarrassing because I have belonged to the Science Fiction Book Club in times past and have been a subscriber to at least three SF magazines, but it is not embarrassing because I readily admit I can jam only so much into my memory banks before they begin to push "old stuff" out to make room for recent acquisitions. That is another frustration of life. Perhaps, a melding of robotics with humans is not a bad idea. I think I would vote for it ....
"Learning to Speak God from Scratch," by Jonathan Merritt -- I began reading that book on page 106 with the segment on "Pain," and read through to the end. I have not returned to it, but I will (really/seriously/for sure) and almost certainly have more to say about it at that time.
Blame it on my Dakota excursion (I am), but I opened two books I have read in the past upon my homecoming -- "Indian Fights and Fighters," by Cyrus Townsend Brady, and, "My Story," by Anson Mills -- and have become bogged down in them.
Brady's book, originally published in 1904, begins with the Powder River Expedition in 1865-66 and goes through the 1870s. Mills, who published his autobiography in 1918, began his military career in the Civil War and took part in the Powder River scrap, on March 17, 1876, which initiated the Great Sioux War of 1876. He commanded cavalry troops at the 1876 Battle of Prairie Dog Creek, the Battle of Rosebud and the Battle of Slim Buttes, all in Montana Territory. Mills also fought Apache and Cheyenne in Arizona and Kansas, and rose through the ranks to become a brigadier general.
Books -- like those of Brady and Mills -- are second-best to actually having been there .... I think you get my drift ....

Saturday, July 4, 2020

"Spirit, that made those heroes dare to die"

Silversmith and printmaker Amos Doolittle and his company of New Haven,, Connecticut, volunteers were 10 days late for the battles at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts, but he sought out eyewitnesses and participants to describe the encounters and had his friend, itinerant artist Ralph Earl, make sketches based on data from those interviews. Doolittle then created the only contemporary engravings of the battles from the drawings. Here are three variations of the same print of the engagement at Lexington.
Qui audet adipiscitur
I have to admit when I think of our Declaration of Independence, I envision men like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock and John Adams approving the document in various forms and on various dates during a session of the Second Continental Congress at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia way back in 1776.
When I really think about it, I am more inclined to think of men like Paul Revere and William Dawes and Samuel Prescott riding to warn "revolutionaries" in Lexington and Concord about the impending arrival of British troops a year earlier, in 1775.
But, when I really/really/really think about it, my thoughts go to those daring individuals who picked up their weapons and went out to meet the British. About 700 British troops arrived at Lexington around dawn on April 19, 1775, and were met by 77 "militiamen." When the scrap ended, eight colonists were dead and nine wounded, while only a single Englishman was hurt.  I assume the names of those individuals are recorded somewhere, but for me and most others, they remain lost to the passage of time.
The British troops marched on to Concord and other nearby towns, along the way being met and harassed by ever-increasing numbers of "minutemen." It was a day filled with skirmishes and bloodshed and dead on both sides.
From that point forward, as some say, the rest is history. More importantly for many of us, it is our history and we all should feel an obligation to remember it and to live up to the standards and the ideals of those individuals who led the way to our freedom and independence. We would not be here now had they not done what they did way back then .... semper fidelis ....

Saturday, June 13, 2020

An ordinary pistol becomes a commemorative

Whether you realize it or not, this is a commemorative pistol. It is an old one which I obtained in two primary pieces a year apart from each other and put together to create a Model 1911 in .45 caliber. The slide is a Colt, which came with a Colt barrel and other internal parts. It dates to the 1960s and I obtained it in 2013. The frame is an Auto Ordnance. It came with who knows what for internal parts. It also dates to the 1960s and I obtained it in 2014. I swapped out the parts from the frame for some I prefer and think are of better quality. The beauty of the Model 1911 is that most parts are interchangeable, even those from one manufacturer to another.
The grips are the giveaway. I had Hogue rubber grips on it for shooting, but with the photographically documented appearance of a mountain lion at the "old homestead" back in February, I decided to buy this set of Altamont grips sporting the head of such a critter. The new grips most likely will not be as good for shooting, but they give it a great appearance. Since my son now is the primary resident of the "estate," the used handgun with its new grips will be his -- along with the old Hogue grips for trigger time. This matter serves a second purpose, as well. It provides an excellent opportunity to pass along another of my firearms to my son.
Two videos are here to usher in the creation of the commemorative pistol. While they do not offer something for everyone, they do present an opportunity to gain an appreciation and an understanding of differing musical styles.
One is old music. "Somewhere" is a song from the 1957 Broadway show West Side Story that was made into a film in 1961. The music was composed by Leonard Bernstein, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and (from Wikipedia) "takes a phrase from the slow movement of Beethoven's 'Emperor' Piano Concerto, which forms the start of the melody and also a longer phrase from the main theme of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake." (Hmmmm .... sounds fine to me.) This performance comes from Broadway diva Cynthia Erivo, accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra.
One is new music. Babymetal is a Japanese band created in 2010 with Yui Mizuno, Moa Kikuchi and Suzuka Nakamoto. The young ladies were between ages 10 and 11 at the time, and two of the original girls continue to perform to this day. The band was formed with the concept of fashioning a fusion of the heavy metal and Japanese idol genres. Kami Band provides the backing music for Babymetal. This is a compilation of the band's performances of "Catch Me if You Can."

Something special ....