Little Rivers – Henry Van Dyke [Book Review]

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I saw an old red leather bound book in the .25 section of a local Book sellers’ rack. The published date was 1907, and the title: Little Rivers by Henry Van Dyke. It was in rough shape, the edges were torn, the cover was held on with a rubber band.

It was a small book, once bound in red leather, with gold gilt lettering. I thumbed the cover open, and found this inscription: “Essays on profitable idleness” That cinched it for me, and since $0.25 is not much to gamble on a good book; I bought it (along with a Latin reader, and one of Fredrick Nietzsche’s works.)

Henry van Dyke (1852-1933) was an American clergyman, (Presbyterian) Ambassador and Author. Though much of his writings are related to his work, this little gem is not. It tells of his fishing trips in Europe and in New-England, and Canada. With a few pieces of outdoor poetry thrown in for good measure. I made the point of reading outdoors, it reminded me of my childhood, and it inspired in me a lust of the wild.The english is a bit dated, but that is due to it’s age. But that can be a shining point. Van Dyke uses the language to bring the reader down to the stream where he is casting his rod. But this is not just a book about fishing; no, there are many tid-bits of wisdom woven though the narrative. I particularly like this one:

There is such a thing as taking ourselves too seriously, or at any rate, too anxiously. Half the secular unrest and dismal, profane sadness of modern society comes from the vain idea that every man is bound to be a critic of life, and to let no day pass without finding some fault with the general order of things, or projecting some plan for it’s improvement.

I have a thing for old books, something about the idea that this book went though 100 years of history is intriguing to me. I wonder who held it, how many people read it, what influence it had on the lives of it’s owner..

I would recomend it for the outdoors person, it is worth the read.

-Ezra Hilyer

Graffiti To The Gods

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Immortality.

That is the cause that drives all of us; we meat-puppets, bio-piles, self-motivated obsessed carbon life forms that we are. The reason we do everything that we do is because we die. The meaning of life is that it ends.

The scrawled hearts on the park bench, the scratched names under your desk are cries from the past; reaching yearning, calling from that abyss where all things must go. We build cities and businesses, and lives because they are graffiti to the gods, and we want them to be hard to scrub off the walls.

Think about laborers under the beating sun dragging blocks for the great pyramids, think about the lives that were spent to turn great blocks of stone into a massive tomb for the ruler of a sand patch at the end of a muddy river. Thousands and thousands of hours of back breaking work, of lives spent like devalued currency, and for what? So one man could have a glorious tomb and take his riches into the after-life? Yet ten thousand, thousand men and women and children were buried in shallow graves in the sand. No embalming for them, no hope for an afterlife for them.

You think we are any different today? We work and sweat and labor to build high-rises that will be used, and then neglected, and then dilapidated, and then razed. Gone. Cities rise, cities fall, ruins fill the landscape and the flesh-toned tide of humanity rises and falls, ebbs and recoils, fades and though it is always dying, always being born, it is a continuous thread that stretches back into history, one meager life at a time.

Do you really think you are going to make your mark on the world?

Time is death, death is time. Eventually I will be gone, you will be gone, and perhaps if we are fortunate, we may be remembered by our descendants, or if we have done something famous or infamous we may be remembered long into the future, though that future does not really matter much to those still trapped like a fly in amber locked in the past.

I look at those scratchings on a park bench, and wonder at our own mortality, the great mystery that is death. What deep scratches are you trying to leave behind?

-EJH

1987 Vulcan 88 Classic.

1987 Vulcan 88 Classic 1500

This is my 1987 Vulcan 88 Classic. It is big, it is old, but it is mine, and it brought me safely through a 1300 mile journey, so I feel a bit of gratitude towards the old lump of steel and weather-checked rubber.. I figure I owe it at-least a chance to live on in semi-retirement here in Florida. It spent most of its life in the cold and blustery north, so I imagine it likes it down here, as do I.

I bought this bike last year for the princely sum of $600, and have put about 7,500 miles on it so far. I love having a bike again, and florida is the best place for a motorcycle. I should spend even more time riding it than I do.

I rode this motorcycle from Northwestern PA, to the middle of Florida over 3 days, and loved every minute of the crazy adventure, I left directly after my last day of work ended, and then rode about 70 miles to stay that night at a friends house, and in the morning I left, and rode all day long, finally ending up in South-Carolina for the night. then the next morning I finished the ride.
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Ants On A Rock, Halfway Between The Atoms And The Stars.

Florida From the ISS, Where We Live

I love looking down into a valley where I can see the curve of a river, or the shape of a town, and then compare that mental image to a map of the state or country to get an idea of my size relative to the earth, or the natural formations around me.

This image was taken by an astronaut on the ISS, and shows Florida at night. I can see the shape of Cape Canaveral, and even the tiny tiny little tip of light (just below the tip of the arrow) where the bridge from Titusville to Cape Canaveral is, and where I often go to sit and watch the yachts on the Indian River. I see formations of light that I recognize as towns and areas where I have driven and walked, and ridden my bike. I can imagine how it must feel to be up in the ISS looking down and seeing familiar places, and think about the memories shared on those small specks of light. It must be an amazing feeling to be high above the earth, but close enough to recognize land-forms and visualize your place on the little blue jewel that is the earth.

I will probably never go to space, commercial space-flight is far enough out that I probably will be too old to go, but I love looking at images like this, and thinking of myself and others like little specks on a small ball of rock spinning through the cold depths of space. We are in a peculiar place, half way between the atoms and the stars, small enough to be insignificant, and yet large enough to comprehend the laws governing the heavens.

EJH

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
-Henry David Thoreau

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Utility > Obligation

My 1995 Jeep Wrangler YJ

When your obligation to an item outweighs its utility, it is time to cut the connection to that item.

I have fallen into the trap of saving something because I might need it someday, and so I have carried things half-way across a continent in the imagining that I will have a use for it again, and so I shouldn’t get rid of it. That almost never ends up being true for me, and I end up collecting all this junk that piles up and never seems to diminish. I go thorough periods where I will purge stuff, but that usually only leaves room to collect more.

Just this week I finally got rid of a set of flush-mount LED tail lights that I originally bought to put in my 93 Jeep Wrangler, (way back in like 2002) I ended up going with another style of light, and so I kept these lights (4 round tail lights, and 2 side-marker lights) in the thought that one day I would need them again, after all, they were BRAND-NEW!! why waste them?

Time went by, I sold my first Jeep, and moved, and moved again, then after a few more years I bought another Jeep YJ, so yay! I am going to use these lights!!

Nope…. The Frame-off restoration project I had in mind never happened, and 2 years later I sold that Jeep. I still had those lights.

I moved to Florida….And brought those lights with me.

I moved stuff around, in and out of storage… I still had those lights.

Last week I sold them on Ebay, and shipped them out to someone who hopefully will use them as I originally intended. Funny thing is that I could have done that at any time since I originally went with a different style and no longer needed them, and if I had ever wanted them again, I could have just gone on Ebay and bought more. It’s not like they are particularly rare or hard to find, in-fact I would have been better off if I had sold them right away, because they are about 1/5th the price now that they were when I bought them over 10 years ago, so I wasted that money, I wasted the opportunity cost of having to carry the things everywhere with me. I wasted the space they took up; I wasted the mental energy that I spent thinking about my obligation to do that project someday. In-fact each time I saw a jeep sitting for-sale somewhere, I would think: “I miss my jeep, I want another one, and then I can use those lights”

Now they are gone, my mind is at rest at-least as far as jeep-lights are concerned.

-EJH

Creativity Is A Resource More Than A Muscle.

Creativity Is A Resource

I have lived with the idea that creativity is a muscle that increases in strength the more you use it. I imagined that it was something that I could improve with time, as I kept making more art and refining my technique, perhaps creative ideas would flow liberally and this would be an upward spiral feeding on itself.

I was working a full time job that while I did enjoy it, it wasn’t a creative position, I was working according to a formula. I was solving problems, but they weren’t really creativity problems, and so my ‘creativity muscle’ wasn’t being used very much. I assumed that once I broke out of that routine, and was able to use my creativity more (in starting new ventures, creating new things, making new things, writing, editing, and designing) that I would flow into that routine and have creativity bursting at the seams…

Now that I am in the middle of that new paradigm shift, and creativity is required in all moments of my life, I find that I see it much more as a precious resource that can be wasted, and exhausted if spent poorly. I have been allowing my creativity to spill out of every crack and crevice in my life, I have been persuing every little idea and speculative thought that creeps into my head, and after a few months of this, I realize how draining this can be, and I am trying to reign in my wild abandon at getting into new things.

I am disappointed that I have run into this wall, but it only makes sense that creative work will become exhausting just the same as physical work exhausts bodily resources and must be conserved carefully.

I pondered that idea over the weekend, as I ran completely out of ideas last week because I was spending too much of my time making things and brainstorming, but this week is the start of a new phase, I will be more careful not to waste my creative energies on unimportant things.

Time to get cracking!

-Ezra

Inspiration To Travel

Twenty Eight Feet: life on a little wooden boat from kevinAfraser on Vimeo.

 

I read the book: ‘Dove’ by Robin Lee Graham, and somewhere stashed away, I have the original National Geographic Magazine articles about his travels, and this video makes me re-live reading those books. Here is a young man also on a small yacht sailing away for adventure.

I moved to Florida partially to someday experience this lifestyle, I ride past the yachts every morning, many of them have names of faraway places painted on their bows, I have seen Australia, Greece, England, Mexico, and the Bahamas to name a few. I imagine what it would be like to embark on an adventure like that. To set sail and not return for months or years, who knows where the wind will take me..

 

-Ezra

Walking With Éowyn This Morning.

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Éowyn and I walked talking Scarlette to school this morning, Scarlette goes to Oak Park Elementary which is just a mile or so up the street, so we walk most mornings. Unless it is raining or we got up late, we are walking to school so Scarlette can get there around 7:15am or so. I took this picture as we were coming back, Éowyn likes to spin around in her stroller and say baby-gibberish to me.

Lucidity

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‘Lucidity’ is an absolute clarity and understanding. As if all the shadows have been cleared away, and all that remains are hard truths. In average existence, our minds are busy with the details and routines of everyday life; we often exist almost as machines. As if the conscious mind stays just behind the present, and reacts on delay.

I used to work cutting tires for a disposal service; the job was repetitive in the extreme. Pick up a tire, throw it on the table, pull the lever for the ram, reverse the ram, rotate the tire 1/3rd turn, and repeat, throw the cut piece and then rotate again, cut and throw. Then repeat the same process once again. In the mornings I would see my huge pile of tires to cut and it would seem an impossible task because my mind was too aware of time and of my own existence. But after the first 10 minutes I would begin to lose the present and become more detached from what I was doing. Time would then begin to move much more quickly and aside from interludes of clarity (or lucidity) I was just as unthinking as the machine I worked with.

Much as sleep is an existence where the conscious mind loses it’s grip and in effect dies to time for a while, only to be re-joined again upon waking, so it was for me in working that repetitive job. All those hours were lost never to come again. And what did I gain for them? Nothing but a few dollars spent on bills and items long lost to memory.

So I ask you, how many of your waking hours do you spend in lucidity? How much of your life have you really lived, not just existed?

Think back on your life, what are the moments that stand out? The seconds or hours that have defined your life?

Live in Lucidity

Imagination VS. Knowledge -Albert Einstein [Quote]

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‘IMAGINATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN KNOWLEDGE’ – ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879-1955)

At first, this quote sounds a little quaint and assuming; as though a vivid imagination is all that is necessary to succeed. Were this true, it would be welcome relief for all the worried parents of starry eyed oblivious school children. Imagination is valueless without some knowledge; this is self-evident: How can any fancy begin without a place to start, and experienced life to base an idea upon.

Those who have wild imaginations more often than not are also those who ‘know’ many things. Knowledge in it’s base form is simply what you can regurgitate from a book, however couple that with some imagination, and one can cease to walk only the path that has been pre-prescribed for him, and can instead wander at will in the fields of the mind. I would counter that imagination with little knowledge is more valuable than much book learning with no creativity. To couple a wide array of interests with no limitation to where your mind can take you is the true goal.

It was said that there were only two people in the world who could understand ‘General Relativity’ – Einstein….and God.

The Damps Of Autumn – W.S. Landor [Quote]

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The damps of autumn sink into the leaves and prepare them for the necessity of their fall; and thus insensibly are we, as years close around us, detached from our tenacity of life by the gentle pressure of recorded sorrow. W.S. Landor (1775 – 1864)

I read that quote, once, twice; ten times. I wonder what unspoken grief pressed his hand to the parchment to pen those lines? How often he must have felt the ‘damps of autumn’ seeping into his soul, and felt a heaviness of step, and weary bones?

Face-to-face with his own mortality; the author bleeds ink to his page. Now nearly 150 years after his death, I read those lines, and think I know what was going on in his soul: Are we ‘detached from our tenacity of life’ merely by age, or as Landor wrote: ‘by the gentle pressure of recorded sorrow’ ?

I sense a deep rift between life, and the prospect of death, as though he is weighing the cost, and the benefits of continuing despite the toil and pain. When we are young, we have that sharp ‘tenacity’ to hold on. The very concept of youth is wrapped up in a veracity to live, and a feeling of immortality.

The older we are; the less death seems a specter to be fought, and more it seems an old friend to be embraced.

Ripples In The High Water

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Sad soft ripples forget the hills upon which the snows fell. They run down the valleys into southerly forgetfulness.
When these drops exit the lonely land via the great Mississippi; the journey begins again.
-Ezra

Graffiti To The Gods

Graffiti To The Gods

Immortality. That is the cause that drives all of us; we meat-puppets, bio-piles, self-motivated obsessed carbon life forms that we are. The reason we do everything that we do is because we die. The meaning of life is that it ends. The scrawled hearts on the park...

1987 Vulcan 88 Classic.

1987 Vulcan 88 Classic.

This is my 1987 Vulcan 88 Classic. It is big, it is old, but it is mine, and it brought me safely through a 1300 mile journey, so I feel a bit of gratitude towards the old lump of steel and weather-checked rubber.. I figure I owe it at-least a chance to live on in...

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
-Henry David Thoreau

Read more
Utility > Obligation

Utility > Obligation

When your obligation to an item outweighs its utility, it is time to cut the connection to that item. I have fallen into the trap of saving something because I might need it someday, and so I have carried things half-way across a continent in the imagining that I will...

Creativity Is A Resource More Than A Muscle.

Creativity Is A Resource More Than A Muscle.

I have lived with the idea that creativity is a muscle that increases in strength the more you use it. I imagined that it was something that I could improve with time, as I kept making more art and refining my technique, perhaps creative ideas would flow liberally and...

Inspiration To Travel

Inspiration To Travel

Twenty Eight Feet: life on a little wooden boat from kevinAfraser on Vimeo.   I read the book: 'Dove' by Robin Lee Graham, and somewhere stashed away, I have the original National Geographic Magazine articles about his travels, and this video makes me re-live...

Walking With Éowyn This Morning.

Walking With Éowyn This Morning.

Éowyn and I walked talking Scarlette to school this morning, Scarlette goes to Oak Park Elementary which is just a mile or so up the street, so we walk most mornings. Unless it is raining or we got up late, we are walking to school so Scarlette can get there around...

Molars Of Time

Molars Of Time

The morning sun low on the horizon, riding my bike early in the spring; while the northern leaves are still un-budded, and the grip of an icy winter is still fresh in the mind. I used to ride my bike to the local "Tim Hortons" bake shop and Coffee shop when I had the...