Friday, August 30, 2013

Workin' and Walkin'

I think I will hire a goat.  Or a llama.  They have some over on Highway 20... love to come out to the fence during rush hour and be seen, watching the cars go by.  And it's my fault really, for letting the plants grow so. Why once, after a particularly long roller coaster of a vacation, we came back to Polk Trees in our backyard, ones that had grown so large their trunks had become wooden... much higher than me (well, me at that time, anyway).  And the briars and the brambles and the bushes (where the rabbits couldn't go), they climb all over the backyard.  Just today I tried the pair of loppers to get rid of the small trees that the weedwhacker couldn't touch, all of which the mower couldn't get to because of the steep inclines everywhere.  Sigh.... my backyard is usually a disaster area, and it takes all summer to wrestle it into submission, and sometimes not even then.  And Georgia does not always guarantee that a cold snap will kill everything.  I've tried bleach, I've tried plant-b-gone.  I'd try lighting the whole place ablaze, except I enjoy living in my house, and I'm sure my neighbors like their houses.

But I've found out over the past couple of years that it's not that bad, really.  In fact, I enjoy going outside and doing some manual labor.  I'm the only one that will climb upon my roof and clean out the gutters (much to the dismay of the many bugs that call those gutters home).  And my wonderfully reliable $20 lawn mower that was bought refurbished from Lowes, I think, runs over anything, and when it hits something, you start it up and go again.  Unlike most of the $200 new ones that break within the first summer.

I think it has something to do with my walking.  I've realized that there's something vital in the doing of menial chores outside.  As if it were part of a primordial gene program, that the methods of survival go well beyond sitting in front of a computer all day.  What function does using our brain 24/7 while our bodies go to waste serve, other than to dramatically shorten our lives, while enhancing our intelligence?  We would be simply giant brains, and nothing else.  I guess that's one of the reasons why I hate Big Bang Theory, for the evolution of mankind should certainly not come to those idiots.  Rather, let us praise those who can use their hands, can plow the fields and strip the metal and take apart a motor and put it back together again, and hear the vibrations come like a B-flat hum of function and beauty.  For what would we be without people who kept the whole of this world running, repairing that which is broken, and creating that which the brains have developed.

Take, for instance, the trails upon which I walk, the power lines that stretch to the unending horizon, beautiful latticework of poles and wires, all pulsing with electricity, to power every bit of our lives. Take the bridges that span the South River, the one they just finished on Lower Alexander Lake, the wood and steel, all to bring natural beauty to the people of Rockdale County. Imagine the sweat and toil and splinters that went into those structures.  I said something similar when I talked about the Gazebo that Keith Asher made at the South Rockdale Comm. Park for his Eagle Scout project.  That's manual labor, and it's the highest accomplishment for a Boy Scout.  Not beating the latest Call Of Duty game, but making something from the resources of this Earth into something beautiful.

I realize I can't do all that... but I have been able to work outside this summer.  I took our ladder and propped it up against the tree in the front yard and used a hand saw to cut off a dead branch.  And then there's walking... purely to walk.  Miles of trail to be covered.  And it's a joy to walk in the summer heat, humid air all around me, sun shining down.  It's actually a good thing to sweat, and to feel the cool breezes coming through the forests.  It such a pleasurable sensation.  It makes me happy. Of course, the physical benefits of walking, the exercise, the Vitamin D production, the regulation of Serotonin and Dopamine levels. One of the best things to do for depression is to exercise, to walk. This makes total sense if you look at studies coming out recently which show that depression has risen dramatically recently.  Aside from all the economic, political, and other bad news, I can't help but think that depression is also caused by people being stuck in their chairs in front of computers and televisions all day.  So what if you don't have a job... don't sleep, don't just sit in front of the computer looking at the useless job searching sites.  Walk around the mall and find one, or, if that's not possible, just walk. Down the street, or if there are parks in the area, walk through the trails.  If you're in the city, and it's too dangerous, take one day a week and drive out to someplace where it's possible to walk safely.  I think even once a week would help so much.  It has for me.  I don't even mind the pain I get the next day in my ankles and feet from walking on them for miles and miles. There's bad pain and good pain.  I'd rather have pain from working than pain from not working.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A New Point of View

How wonderful it is to fly... and I know that sounds strange, for one that won't even get on the cable car that goes to the top of Stone Mountain. I have to keep my feet on the ground, except for when they're not.  I've flown in planes many times, seeing the gridded land, the winding rivers, the fields of whatever it is people put in their fields, wheat or corn, or grass for the cows.  Just looking out that one window of the plane. And dreaming of flying, as I've said many times, is the best dream in the world, especially the flights where I'm zipping over lakes and forests and everything without a care.  As potent as Prozac, that is.

So it is no wonder that I'm quite addicted to Google Earth.  The globe appears and ascends toward you, or you descending toward it, until you are right over wherever you want to start.  If ever I would want to travel, it would be after wasting away an hour flying over some foreign land.  I found once, while flying over the capital of Nuuk, Greenland, a picture of a bookstore, the oldest and largest in Greenland, according to its website. Now that would be a trip, to go up to Greenland and find a bookstore (it's right next to the Cultural center and Library, which is a work of magnificent architecture in itself.

The most fascinating thing is finding places lodged inside my memory, and searching for them from the air.  Merging memory and maps, and seeing what's there now.  Take a cold night in 1986, when my grandmother insisted that we get up at 3am and drive out to the northeast corner of Oklahoma City and, at the ampitheatre across from the zoo, view Halley's Comet as it passed by Earth.  Nevermind that we had seen it quite clearly from our own front yard.  I remembered the place clearly, but had no idea where it was in OKC.  So I took to Google Earth, and rummaged around the Oklahoma City Zoo (which is much smaller from the air than it is to a kid in the 1980's) until I found the green semicircle which was no longer used as such.  It is currently the entrance to the Library owned by the Zoo.

Then there's food... my family always knows that my memories are connected to the food that I've eaten in any one spot.  But instead of showing you the locations of all the Braum's in Oklahoma, I remember this one place in Yukon, OK, called Tim's, that had a Donkey Kong video game machine, the old 1981 original made by Nintendo.  And they served the most wonderful fried cheese sticks (more like balls, they were round).  Not mozzarella, but American cheese, gooey and fall apart the instant you bit into it.  SO GOOD!!!   Anyway, it was a hole in the wall place near the Yukon Flour Plant, but I had no idea where it was, so off to Google Earth, and with my mom's help, we found it.  As soon as I hit Street View and looked at the building, I recognized it. It's now called the Fat Elvis Diner, and next time I'm in Oklahoma City, I'll stop by there.

What I really wanted to talk about was the view of the land from so far up in the heavens.  It's funny how the tallest of houses turn into mere squares and rectangles.  Cars disappear into nothing, pools become simple circles of water.  Look at the subdivisions from higher up, and everything looks like the seeds on a strawberry, just little bumps on a curvy line.  Everything we work so hard for, houses with open floor plans, or an added sun room, and when you fly near the clouds, as in a plane, or from the images of a satellite, it's all the same.  And you can hide your mansion back in the deepest forest, down a long driveway far from the road, and when looking from space, as God would, you can see it plain as day.  I can tell where each driveway goes, each trail back to the most glamorous of houses.  Privacy becomes nothing, as the crow flies.

I include this video at the end, because it's where I got the idea for the blog. Jon Mohr (of the Gaither Vocal Band) wrote the lyrics in the 1980's, prior to the advent of Google Maps.  It takes so little work to have a totally new point of view now.  I wonder how few people now actually see it.  How many kids, riding the plane for the first time, would marvel at the sights they've seen so easily on a computer screen, or if they are even looking in the first place.  Perhaps they are too busy looking at the latest Tweets to see the world becoming smaller and smaller, and the clouds floating around them.