Monday, December 25, 2006

Goodbye mom

Ten years ago on December 14, 1996

my mom passed from this earthly realm.

Here she is holding me when I was just a few weeks old.

and dad holding me at a slightly older age.

Dad died suddenly when I was just 25

Here we all are on the front steps a few years later.

Goodbye mom.

I wish I could hug you one more time,

and tell you I love you.

Wildlife on our deck

The other night I got these pix of this little guy on our deck.

What are these weird-looking creatures?

It is a Virginia opossum, North America's only marsupial (female has a pouch). The female carries and nurses her young in her marsupium until they are about 2 to 3 months old; then they are carried on her back another 1 to 2 months whenever they are away from the den. They are solitary and nocturnal: usually slow moving; when frightened and unable to flee may fall into an involuntary shock-like state, "playing 'possum."

When threatened or harmed, they will "play possum", mimicking the appearance and smell of a sick or dead animal. The lips are drawn back, teeth are bared, saliva foams around the mouth, and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from the anal glands. The physiological response is involuntary, rather than a conscious act. Their stiff, curled form can be prodded, turned over, and even carried away. Many injured opossums have been killed by well-meaning people who find a catatonic animal and assume the worst. The best thing to do upon finding an injured or apparently dead opossum is to leave it in a quiet place with a clear exit path. In minutes or hours, the animal will regain consciousness and escape quietly on its own.

Its tail is prehensile. A prehensile tail is adapted for grasping and wrapping around things like tree limbs. The opossum can hang from its tail for a short time. Some people think opossums hang from their tails and sleep. They don't. Their tails aren't strong enough to hold them for that long!

Opossums probably diverged from the basic South American marsupials in the late Cretaceous or early Paleocene. A sister group is the Paucituberculata, or shrew opossums. They are commonly also called "possums", though that term is more correctly applied to Australian fauna of the suborder Phalangeriformes.

It lived during the age of dinosaurs: fossil remains have been found from 70 million years ago.

The Paleocene, "early dawn of the recent", is a geologic epoch that lasted from 65.5 ± 0.3 Ma to 55.8 ± 0.2 Ma (million years ago). The Paleocene epoch immediately followed the mass extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous, known as the K-T boundary (Cretaceous - Tertiary), which marks the demise of the dinosaurs. The die-off of the dinosaurs left unfilled ecological niches worldwide, and the name "Paleocene" comes from Greek and refers to the "old(er) (paleo) – new (ceno)" fauna that arose during the epoch, prior to the emergence of modern mammalian orders in the Eocene.

In other words, these awkward-looking critters are extremely good survivors, despite the fact that they are slow-moving, easy prey for predators and frequent victims of roadkill. Their unspecialized biology, flexible diet and reproductive strategy make them successful colonizers and survivors in unsettled times.

The first description of the opossum in the English language comes from explorer John Smith, who wrote in Map of Virginia, with a Description of the Countrey, the Commodities, People, Government and Religion in 1608 that "An Opassom hath an head like a Swine, and a taile like a Rat, and is of the bignes of a Cat. Under her belly she hath a bagge, wherein she lodgeth, carrieth, and sucketh her young."

Opossums have a remarkably robust immune system, and show partial or total immunity to the venom of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and other pit vipers. Thanks to their lower blood temperature, rabies is almost unknown in opossums.

Monday, December 11, 2006

House party gig

Last Saturday I filled in as keyboard player for a classic rock band at a house party.

Here are the songs we played along with my performance notes:

We played "Sympathy for the Devil" from our "back pocket" list.

The party was lots of fun. It was held in a house in which a performance hall, complete with stage and PA system, had been built into the top floor. There were maybe 100 people, all of whom danced and cheered loudly as we played their favorite tunes.

I hadn't played in months, so it felt good to stretch out.
Although it was a last-minute call, and I had never played many of songs, I enjoy a challenge like this. It stretches me to perform my very best.

It didn't hurt that I came home with a cool $100 in my wallet!

I have made a New Years resolution that in 2007 I will play a lot more music.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A personal dialogue on the future

A dialogue like this goes on inside my head as I contemplate my future:

Age: 60
Health: Excellent
Marital status: Married (VERY happily)
Recent events: Two much-loved men in my family died in the past 2 months; one was 91;

the other 80.

My father died at age 57 (heart disease).

Employment status: Happily & securely employed but just making ends meet.
Retirement savings: Good-sized nest egg from smart savings in previous corporate career. Finance guy says I need to work 6 more years.

The Dreamer: I want to retire earlier than age 66.
The Protector: There’s not enough money.
The Dreamer: There’s not enough time.
The Protector: How can I afford to?
The Dreamer: How can I afford NOT to?

I want to fulfill so many dreams:
spend more time with my wife,
spend more time with friends,
and finally become a part of my grandchildren’s lives.

Create new things:
complete my genealogy,
play music,
write music,
record my own music in a home studio,
scan & document my old pictures,
digitize hundreds of reel-to-reel, cassette tapes, LPs and 45s,
index and convert hundreds of hours of video to digital format,
turn some of them into DVDs complete with voice-over, subtitles, etc.
catalogue family treasures for my grandchildren,
try out living in an intentional community,
discover new places and people
and walk in the woods.
I want to indulge photography,
landscape gardening,
and many more passions.

The Questioner: Aren’t you in good health?
The Dreamer: Yes, but every time Death visits, it reminds me that life is finite even with the best of health.
The Protector: You have to survive.
The Dreamer: Aren’t you confusing means with ends?

The Philosopher:
And so what is the purpose of life anyway?
Is it enough to simply work to pay the bills?
Or is there a larger purpose for my existence beyond mere survival?

The Protector: Most of the world’s people struggle for survival; you should be satisfied with a comfortable life. You should be very conservative in your spending plans, because your comfortable living could vanish in a moment by any number of unforeseen circumstances.

The Dreamer:
That’s just the point. Life is short, and therefore I should make the most of it.
There are no guarantees in life; you must live one day at a time.
I have all these dreams.
Visions of words, music, understanding and communicating.
Communicating to my children, grandchildren and others who love me.

The Questioner: Why is writing so important to you?

The Voice of Experience:
I grasped the meaning of immortality when cleaning out my mother’s attic after her death.
I discovered an old typewritten transcription of the autobiography of my great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Reuben Philips (1795-1877). He was a circuit riding preacher, school teacher and teacher of singing schools in the mountains of western North Carolina in the early 1800s. Because he set down so much of his life in writing, I realized that he had become immortal. He spoke directly to me from the time of Napoleon because he took the time to put his life down in writing.

Through experiences like these I have come to realize that the only thing that makes me unique is the substance of my thoughts. All of the elements that constitute my physical body will eventually return to the earth from which they were borrowed. Because thoughts precede actions, any accomplishments are the result of thoughts.

I always knew I was different from everyone else. In childhood I thought I might be crazy. My sister was retarded, and the thought often crossed my mind that there might be something seriously wrong with me. I was depressed a good bit of the time. I tried my best to hide my differentness by pretending to be like everyone else but often not quite getting away with it. I was not an unhappy child, but life has progressively improved with age.

I got pretty good at fulfilling other people's expectations,
But staying out of trouble is just not good enough anymore.

Each year I learn to respect myself a bit more,
to give ear to that still small voice.
To appreciate my own wisdom.
To expand my capacity to love,
and to be loved.

Each year allows me to become more truly myself.

A close acquaintance with death has taught me to appreciate life.
A great marriage,

the love and respect of my son,
great friends,
good health,
living in Music City (college town, music central)

enjoying being a new Unitarian Universalist,

becoming more politically active,
working on causes in which I believe,
paying my bills
and enjoying continuous learning.

Now that I re-read the dialogue above,
I realize that I tend to slip into first person when using the Dreamer voice
and third person when speaking with the Protector voice.

My True Self must be the Dreamer;
I should follow her call.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Goodbye Uncle Fred

This morning wifie's favorite uncle, Fred passed away at his home in DeFuniak Springs, FL. He was 80.
Here he was petting his cat with wifie when we visited him last February.
He was wifie's favorite uncle and will be dearly missed by all who knew and loved him.