Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fort and the Three-Leaf Clover

Book III in the series ...

In the land of Ar, on the eve of day of the Festival of the Indecisive Moon of Indeterminate Phase, Fort Maker of Fine Hardwood Didgeridoos hastened into the village, breathless with excitement.

“A three-leaf clover!” he shouted exultantly. “I found a lucky three-leaf clover!”

The villagers, although evincing postures of apostolic confusion, smiled knowingly. The wise Fort, Sage of Ar, was up to his old tricks. Festival-goers from afar, however, unfamiliar with the ways of Fort, only saw a raving old fool.

“A lucky three-leaf clover, petunia feathers!” declared Arigoth of Bor, employing the term of utmost disdain of his land. 

“Indeed,” responded Fort in apparent agreement.

“Everyone knows that it is the four-leaf clover that is lucky,” Arigoth persisted, extending his arms in a great clatter of jewelry.

“Hmm,” responded Fort, scratching a sore on his flesh through a hole in his garment. A crowd now gathered about the two men.

“Is that all you have to say for yourself?” mocked Arigoth, with a great rustling of silk.

“I beg your indulgence,” Fort responded with utmost deference. “You are a man of high import. Alas, I am a man of little account.”

“For once, you speak with great veracity,” Arigoth replied, feeling very proud.

“If only my words could serve me as admirably all the time,” allowed Fort. “Perhaps you can take pity upon this babbling old fool, and we can settle this matter amicably and expeditiously.”

By now, a considerable crowd had gathered.

“Proceed,” said Arigoth, feigning great magnanimity.

“If you would be so kind,” said Fort, holding up his three-leaf clover, “as to show me your four-leaf clover?” 


The wise man knows when to quit while he is behind. So said Fort on many occasions, and the crowd, knowing this, turned expectantly to the man from Bor. But Arigoth, hailing from afar and thus unfamiliar with the Sage of Ar, pressed his case: “What four-leaf clover?” the man expectorated with great contempt. “Everyone knows that four-leaf clovers scarcely exist.”

“Yes, yes,” Fort readily agreed. “Why then, do we pin our hopes on that which scarcely exists?”

The crowd politely roared with approval. The man from Bor, however, set his face in a grim countenance, demanding an explanation. The Sage of Ar was happy to oblige. “Behold the three-leaf clover,” he exclaimed, holding it aloft, “abundant and available. Behold my luck.”

This was too much for the man from Bor. “Lucky?” he erupted, unable to contain himself. “You, lucky?”

The crowd turned expectantly to Fort.

“Perhaps,” Fort acknowledged in a quiet voice, “I have not used my three-leaf clover wisely.” He plucked an abundant and available three-leaf clover from the ground and offered it to the man. “If you would be so kind as to show me how to make proper use of this?”

The man expressed puzzlement. “You mean make a wish?” he asked, accepting the clover.

“Yes,” said Fort. “Make a wish.”

“That’s easy,” said Arigoth, twirling his clover. “I wish for a twelve-fold increase in my wealth.”

“And your wisdom?” asked Fort.

“If you persist, and my wisdom,” said Arigoth.

“And a larger - ahem - personal endowment?” asked Fort.

The man made a gesture to strike down this impudent fool, but then, assaying the sentiment of the crowd, decided otherwise. “The size of my personal endowment is fine,” he responded with a great lack of authority.

“Indeed,” demurred Fort with great sincerity. “I have no reason to question either your endowment or your credibility. Please, allow me to continue.”

“Granted,” said Arigoth, with a great rattling of jewelry.

“Perhaps you can clear my confusion. Even in men of substantial personal endowment, is it not natural to wish for - a little bit more?”

“A little bit more,” the man conceded. “That is a perfectly natural wish.”

The crowd nodded in sympathy. Yes, they agreed. A little bit more was a perfectly natural wish.

“Let me see if I got this right,” said Fort. “You are wishing upon your three-leaf clover for a twelve-fold increase in your wealth, a proportionate increase in your wisdom, and - a little bit more?”

“That is correct,” said Arigoth.

Fort affected to ponder the matter. “That is asking a lot of a clover with but three leaves. You already appear to be a man of substantial wealth and wisdom. Perhaps you would choose to limit yourself to one wish?”

“So be it,” said the man impatiently.

“A little bit more?” prompted Fort with great delicacy.

“A little bit more,” the man acknowledged.

“Ah” said Fort. “A wish very worthy of a person of your stature. Woe is me, for I fear I wish most unwisely.”

“Judging by your appearance, I have no reason to dispute you,” the man responded. “Do, pray tell, satisfy my curiosity,” he continued in a mocking voice. “What would be your wish?”

Fort did not hesitate. “A crust,” he responded with great enthusiasm, holding up his clover. “A crust from the loaf in your sack. Would you be so kind as to indulge an old fool his wish?”

“What kind of a stupid wish is that?” replied the man, flinging him a crust.

Fort nibbled on his crust, head down, affecting deep thought. Then he stopped nibbling, and looked up, eyes staring straight into the seat of the man’s endowment. “My wish has been granted,” he said in a voice that carried into the far reaches of the crowd. “Do pray tell, satisfy my curiosity. How did your wish turn out?”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Didgeridoo Festival!

I recently returned from three weeks off the grid. Four days of it was spent sharing a tent with my special someone at a didgeridoo festival deep in the Oregon woods.

In the film business, they call this an establishing shot.

We woke up to the sounds of this babbling brook running past our tent - and to didgeridoos and drums. We fell asleep to same.

Another establishing shot.

Chad Butler, cool didge guy, who has been organizing this event since 1996.

Will Thoren, another cool didge guy, pioneer of the drop octave/multi-drone technique.

Beneath the didge tree, merrily honking away on my didge.

More cool didge guys, trying out sticks. On the second-to-last day of the festival, I went on record as resolving not to buy a new stick.

Famous last words. The next day I buy this new stick.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Scenes From the Pacific Northwest

Above, McMan Central, off the grid. Below, surrounding evergreens, near Mt Shasta.
Below, water close-up, near Mt Shasta.
Below, two of Mt Shasta.
Below, two of the Oregon Coast

Below, four of the giant redwoods.

Below, tree close-up, Mt Lassen.
Below, waterfall, northern CA.

Back on the Grid

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. – John Muir

I'm back from three weeks of being off the grid in the Pacific Northwest. Here I am, in the vicinity of Mt Shasta, playing my didgeridoo in the mountain stream I camped out by for five days. Then up the coast to Oregon and inland into the forest primeval for four days of a didgeridoo festival, then down to northern CA for some redwoods.

One of the most profound experiences of the trip was my first night in the woods, 8,000 feet up in the Sierras, listening to pure silence. No wind, nothing. Not even the footfall of an insect.

Nature does not change us so much as help restore us to our true essence, uncorrupted by the craziness we mistake for reality. The challenge in stepping back into the craziness is to keep intact at least a piece of what we know is real.

Maybe, then, we can deal with the craziness.

My first priority coming back from nature was to change the subtitle of this blog. "Musings in Mental Health," it used to read when I started Knowledge is Necessity at the end of 2008. In the context of what I was writing about back then, the subtitle reflected a shift from my much narrower focus on mood disorders.

But really it was all about "From God to Neurons." Last year, I incorporated the phrase as part of a long subtitle. Now it's a solo act.

Knowledge is Necessity has always been about ruthless self-inquiry. Mental Health is only part of the picture. God to neurons is the true scope. As I wrote in the second piece I posted here:

Life is about first impressions - a voice, a sight, an aroma - and how we filter and ultimately link them. Often, we fail to see how the dots connect. Life is like that. Life, basically, is a first draft.

Over time, we acquire wisdom and insight. We become better people. We learn to find a measure of joy and peace of mind. But we also know that nothing is permanent. That life has a way of reducing us to nothing.

Next thing, we're groping frantically, looking for new dot to connect ...

Here I am, out of the woods, still connecting dots. 


Many thanks to all of you who have shared my journey over the years. We're all in this together. Let's keep exploring ...