Heaven is the Dust Beneath My Shoes

Bear with me, this post rambles. Literally and figuratively . . .

Marcia and I arrived in Arizona to begin our retirement era (we’re still in the go-go phase) just over four months ago. Since that time, we have generally hiked at least five miles every day, beneficiaries of both a benevolent climate and a more-than-ample local trail system. Our daily walks are, for me, personal highlights: we amble, we ramble, we walk, we talk, and we share a deep appreciation for the history of the region we’ve chosen as our current home, loving both its geological and human-historical scaled facets.

On a geological front, we routinely see from our home and hike through a region that’s about 320 million years old, formed deep in the heart of the Carboniferous Era, when much of the modern world’s climate-altering coal and oil beds were laid down. It looks like this, and it’s all around us:

The most marvelous thing about this region, though, is somewhat defined by the fact that you can travel a very short distance (in modern, human scales) and move from ancient landscapes to ones that are in their geological infancy. Case in point: the Sunset Crater region, about a 90-minute drive from our house, and where the youngest prominent landscape features are less than 1,000 years old. That area looks like this:

As interesting as the geological aspects of our new home turf may be, the human-scaled history of our home region is equally fascinating. Near the aforementioned Sunset Crater region, one can visit the Wupatki National Monument, where the ruins of Native American civilizations may be walked and considered, close to the homelands of the modern Navajo and Hopi people. Wupatki is an extraordinary site, featuring vistas like these:

The first photo above shows what was once a three-story urban edifice. The second shows a ceremonial ball court, something of an historical anomaly hereabouts, as such sites are generally associated with Central American or Hohokam sites well south of Wupatki. These particular human relics date from around 1,000 AD, and the local civilizations of that era came and went as the neighboring volcanic eruptions allowed, blessed in some ways by cinders that held moisture in the arid soil, and cursed in other ways by the sulfurous vapors that would have shrouded the area in its most tumultuous geological eras.

The net effect of being regularly, easily confronted with such examples of geological and human history is that we routinely find ourselves discussing time and its scales. I considered some facets of the ways in which we small humans exist and thrive (or not) within the vast time sphere of the world and universe surrounding us when I wrote my Credidero series in 2019, most especially in my articles about Eternity and Mortality. Being confronted daily with deep geological history, and with evidence of the transient nature of human history, often leads to small conversations about big topics, oftentimes while we are out walking the trails and paths that present such evidence of pasts short and long to our senses and our minds. It creates an interesting blend of physical activity (e.g. we have to climb this 1,000-foot face to get a great view of some ancient rocks) and mental activity (e.g. considering why those particular rocks are still standing all these millennia on, when those around them have long since washed away), and that holistic sense of full, deep experience greatly adds to the joys associated with walking and talking around our current home.

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article called Red Is The Color, where I posted the following photo, of my green hiking shoes:

Those green shoes are coated with our region’s signature red dust. The big local rocks decay into red powder over time, and that hard evidence of deep time and deep history sticks to us as we trek through it, on our boots, on our skin, in our hair, in our house. In that prior article, I made reference to a favorite song called “Red” by a favorite artist named Jarboe, though it has occurred to me since that post that I probably could have even better captured the spirit of what I wanted to communicate through another of her songs, called “Panasonic in Red Dirt,” which sounds like this:

I love the red dirt around us. On one plane, it reminds me of the red clay of my father’s native Piedmont region in North Carolina, evoking many fond childhood memories. On another plane, it’s both humbling and heroic to walk through visible dust relics of the magnificent ancient rocks around us, making new memories today. There are many things that I adore about our new home, but I have to say that our daily walks may be the best of the best things hereabouts, for reasons obvious and intangible, good for the body, good for the mind, good for the soul.

I recently spun another favorite song by another favorite band called NoMeansNo, and the lyrics of its final chorus perfectly expressed the way I feel about our daily rambles hereabouts, why they make me feel so very, very good, and how they fit within the belief structure I explored and elucidated in my Credidero series. Here are the most relevant lyrics:

Heaven’s not a kingdom
Not a land on which to roam
Heaven’s not a palace
Where God sits upon a throne
Heaven has no treasure
There is nothing there to lose
Heaven has no choices
There is nothing there to choose
Heaven’s not in heaven
Heaven’s in the dust beneath my shoes

 

Yes, that. Exactly. Getting dusty while walking makes me feel good, in just about every way that I am programmed for pleasure. If that’s not heaven, then I don’t know what might be. With that, I’m off to ramble here (literally, not figuratively), but I leave a copy of that brilliant NoMeansNo song for you to spin below, and I thank them for giving me the title of this particular post, and for so brilliantly laying out the sentiments I wished to express here today, and to live and experience in the days that remain before me:

10,000 Words In A Cardboard Box (Sedona #4)

(Note: Click on any image for full-size view)

PRIOR ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

10,000 Words (Bless The Lord) (Sedona #3)

Brighter Than 10,000 Words (Sedona #2)

10,000 Words (Sedona #1)

Storm Force 10,000 Words (Chicago #10)

Ship Arriving Too Late To Save 10,000 Words (Chicago #9)

Beyond the Valley of 10,000 Words (Chicago #8)

Return to the Planet of 10,000 Words (Chicago #7)

Revenge of the Son of 10,000 Words (Chicago #6)

Son of Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #5)

Yet Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #4)

Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #3)

10,000 More Words (Chicago #2)

10,000 Words (Chicago)

10,000 Words (Bless the Lord) (Sedona #3)

Prior Articles in this Series:

Brighter Than 10,000 Words (Sedona #2)

10,000 Words (Sedona #1)

Storm Force 10,000 Words (Chicago #10)

Ship Arriving Too Late To Save 10,000 Words (Chicago #9)

Beyond the Valley of 10,000 Words (Chicago #8)

Return to the Planet of 10,000 Words (Chicago #7)

Revenge of the Son of 10,000 Words (Chicago #6)

Son of Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #5)

Yet Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #4)

Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #3)

10,000 More Words (Chicago #2)

10,000 Words (Chicago)

Brighter Than 10,000 Words (Sedona #2)

Prior Articles in this Series:

10,000 Words (Sedona #1)

Storm Force 10,000 Words (Chicago #10)

Ship Arriving Too Late To Save 10,000 Words (Chicago #9)

Beyond the Valley of 10,000 Words (Chicago #8)

Return to the Planet of 10,000 Words (Chicago #7)

Revenge of the Son of 10,000 Words (Chicago #6)

Son of Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #5)

Yet Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #4)

Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #3)

10,000 More Words (Chicago #2)

10,000 Words (Chicago)

10,000 Words (Sedona #1)

Introductory Note: It has been exactly three months today since we left Iowa. The time has gone quickly in some ways, though in other ways, it seems like ages ago when we stopped at the Missouri-Iowa State Line for a final relieved photo under glowering skies, with a sunbeam lighting our path onward. We’re thrilled to have been able to find, buy, and move into a dream home in the Village of Oak Creek as quickly as we did, and we’ve been deeply enjoying living in a climate that allows us to hike almost every day, pleasantly. I would estimate that we’ve covered at least 600 miles on foot since we got here, and that’s a conservative reckoning. As I am wont to do, I take lots of photos while we’re out and about. Sometimes I have posted photos from our rambles here with explanatory narrative, but other times, the imagery just sort of speaks for itself, I think. When we were in Chicago from 2015 to 2019, I found that great city to be incredibly photogenic, so I created a series here at the website called 10,000 Words. Riffing on the “A picture is worth a thousand words” paradigm, I just posted ten images of things I’d seen and experienced around and about town, without explanation. As we get more deeply settled here and work to establish new routines, I figure a similar approach is warranted to sharing imagery of the places we’ve been and things we’ve seen, and so I post this piece today as an introduction to a new photo series. I hope it pleases from an audience end. It certainly does from a photographer’s end. (Click on any image to see the full-sized version, if you’d like).

21 Wishes for ’21

Pete Townsend’s song “1921” from The Who’s epic Tommy album opens with the line “I’ve got a feeling ’21 is going to be a good year.” I’m a little surprised that I haven’t heard or seen many music media folks mention or riff on that fact, given how awful ’20 has been, and given humanity’s generally hopeful nature. Of course, given that the rest of the song details a murder witnessed by a child who is rendered deaf, dumb and blind by that emotional trauma, maybe it’s not the best anthem for our Second Anno Virum. Though I suppose there are likely some accurate metaphors in that narrative for what 2021 may bring, if it doesn’t turn out to be as good as we might feel and wish it may be.

I tend to function within a worldview built on pessimism, because pessimists are never disappointed. But while I expect things to be rotten much of the time on a macro basis, I do believe in the importance of acting optimistically and positively on a personal front, making changes for the better within the circles of my own influence, limited as they may be. I also believe in the importance of hope, seeing a future within which big things and little things align and fall into place in pleasing fashions, for me, for those close to me, for those less fortunate than me, and for those in positions of power with the ability to legislate, litigate, create, govern, mediate and manage actions and activities that create social and civic good for the greatest number of people.

So on the cusp of that conflicted personal dialectic, there are some big picture things I’d like to see happen in the twelve months before us, and some specific things that would give me particular pleasure, should they come to pass. I’m not generally much of a prognosticator and futurist, but as a first post here on the blog in the new year, I’m moved to offer the following 21 wishes for ’21. That may be a greedy number, but hey, we all likely under-performed on our wish lists for ’20, so I think we’re entitled to swing big at the plate this time around. I’ll circle back in December and we’ll see how I did. And I’ll welcome your own wish lists, if you choose to share them. That’s what the comment section is for, yo.

1. The obvious one first: that everyone near and dear to me remains happy, healthy, and hearty, hopefully as we’re able to come out of our COVID shells and gather again to mark important events, little victories, and whatever other excuses we can muster for hugs, love and laughs.

2. That the Democratic Party candidates win the two special Senate elections in Georgia, giving our new President the opportunity to govern effectively, even if just for two years. That will be such a refreshing change of pace.

3. That any and all of the traitorous creeps who vote to overturn the results of the Electoral College this week, facilitating and/or placating an authoritarian clown in the process, are somehow held accountable for their malfeasance. This year would be fine for that, but if it takes longer in this case, that’s okay too. Patience is a virtue when it comes to grudges and vindication.

4. That the new administration is able to quickly deploy skilled professionals in non-political ways to address the virus, quickly, thoroughly, with scientific rigor and military precision on the logistics front of vaccinations and protective measures. Let’s have the grownups handle this for a year, and get the partisan amateurs out of the way. Please.

5. That having a smart career public servant in the White House, instead of a dim-bulb reality television celebrity, will reduce the volume of “news as entertainment” noise that has made the words we read and the air we breathe (metaphorically speaking) so very noxious for the past four years. I’m ready to be bored by my elected leaders again. Seriously. When I worked at Naval Reactors, we used to say that our public relations policy was “Put the sum’bitches in and don’t talk about it.” I’d like that approach to governance. Do the jobs you were elected or appointed to do. Do them well. And don’t freakin’ tweet about them all the goddamn time.

6. That Butthole Surfers release a new album this year. My long-time favorite band were reportedly back in the studio in 2018 for the first time in decades, but since then, it’s been radio silence. Let’s get that new rekkid out, Gibby, Paul, King and Jeffrey. We need it. Pass me some of that dumbass over there, yeah buddy!

7. That First Cow, Da Five Bloods, I’m Thinking of Ending Things and Soul win all the major Oscars for 2020, whenever the Academy gets around to awarding them.

8. That the overdue new films from Wes Anderson (The French Dispatch) and Taika Waititi (Next Goal Wins) are as good as those they made before them, becoming early clear contenders for the next year’s Oscars.

9. That film studios and distributors recognize that the quick streaming markets that emerged from necessity during COVID time are a perfectly fine new normal, as I’ve been happier watching films at home as I ever have been going to theaters to see them. I’ve also watched more movies this year than I normally do, in large part because they were readily available, and the cost was lower. There’s a good supply-demand lesson in there somewhere, greedheads.

10. That I get to see at least one live music event in 2021. Ideally featuring King Crimson, Napalm Death, or The Who. (The last show we saw pre-COVID was the Crim, and we had tickets for Napalm and The Who in hand in 2020, only to see the shows cancelled).

11. That the Super Bowl is played between Tampa Bay and Baltimore, as we made preseason bets in Las Vegas on those two teams. It’s nice to know you’re a winner, no matter which team wins. Absent that impetus, I’m down for the Chiefs to take it all again. Otherwise, mostly meh.

12. That the NCAA learns from the COVID year that academics are more important than athletics in the grand scheme of things, perhaps shortening seasons on a permanent basis and otherwise allowing unpaid student athletes to supplement their educations with sports, and not the other way around.

13. That international travel becomes safe again. As much as I love our new home in Arizona, I’d gladly welcome 2022 in Europe.

14. That our local internet provider delivers promised system upgrades in the months ahead, as this small town rural network was not built for students and workers doing all-day video calls from home. Slooooooooooowwwwwww . . . .

15. That my Naval Academy class is able to mark our 35th reunion in person this year. Whether I’m there or not, it’s an important part of our collective culture. Our 15th was largely undone as it fell immediately after 9/11. It’d be nice to not lose another major one two decades later.

16. That the charitable sector bounces back in 2021; it’s bothersome to see corporate stock levels (and related IRA’s and 401k’s and such) maintaining robust balances through the plague, while giving to nonprofits evaporated.

17. That Facebook, Twitter and their ilk are disemboweled and disempowered, removing a vast source of malefic and ugly social evil from our ever-more-connected world. Oh, what the heck, let’s try to get rid of FOX News this year too, while we’re at it. Imagine an information spectrum where truth and facts prevailed, neutrally. Glory be! Such larks! (Yeah, I know, this one’s probably the biggest fantasia on the list).

18. That we’re able to do some sort of endurance physical event this year, like a hike/camp trip into the Grand Canyon, or a multi-day walkabout pilgrimage, or a long bike trek. It’s good physically, mentally, and spiritually to have days on end dedicated to exerting the body, without constant connection to the world beyond one’s next foot-fall.

19. That Thoughts on the Dead keeps on keeping on, despite his formidable recent health challenges. He makes the world a brighter, smarter, and much funnier place. Every day he posts is a little better than every day when he doesn’t.

20. That I’m able to hike every formally marked trail within 20 miles of our house (that’s a lot of trails), and that I’m able to find and explore every unmarked “social trail” that’s hidden between the official bits. Some of the best things I’ve found here have been on paths known only to the locals. I’m doing my part to be one of them on that front.

21. That we’re able to occasionally dine out, indoors. I’ve gotten used to picnics and carryout and masked patio food, but I’d be okay with celebrating some important event or another over white linen and good china in 2021, and there’s loads of interesting places hereabouts that we’ve not felt comfortable entering. Yet. But we will. Hopefully this year. Hopefully hopefully hopefully . . .

Mysterious abandoned dam on a “social trail” less than half a mile from our house. What other coolness awaits on the unmarked and unheralded spaces between the spaces here? We’ll soon find out, hopefully . . .