Monthly Archives: September 2014

A walk on the wild side

Published / by rmaddy / 1 Comment on A walk on the wild side



Crisp fall nights with their earlier sunsets and short twilights are tailor-made for astrophotography.  I love to shoot this time of year, when the weather is warm enough that I can sit out all night without having to run inside to recover the heat in my bones.  Monday night was so pleasant, in fact, that I decided to take a walk while the telescope ticked off an hour long sequence of images.

There isn’t any rule that one can’t go for a walk in the country at 3:00 AM, yet one cannot do so without experiencing the nagging sensation of violating a cosmic principle.  I had time to spare and yet I found it impossible to walk slowly.  My footfalls were louder than I have ever heard them as I strode down the centerline of the highway with my flashlight off, except for those few times when I could tell that I was getting too close for comfort with a skunk.  Then, I would swing the flashlight around the roadside like a broadsword, until danger past and the night sky faded from my constricting pupils, luring me once again to embrace the dark.

What would I do if a car came by?  Would a friendly wave be appropriate or just creepy?  And what if a barking dog brought me to the attention of a nervous homeowner?  If a policeman happened by would he accept that I had not been drinking as, if not quite a fact, at least not an egregious lie, and agree that the night air was truly my own business to mind?

I turned back toward home.  Now fully accommodated to the light, and brightened by increased circulation, my eyes locked on to the majestic form of Orion laying on his back in the east, seemingly launching his arrow into the depths of space.  I passed the skunks in their familiar locations, this time with the flashlight off.  I walked, if not slowly, at least with less urgency down the center of the road.  I listened to the wisdom of owls who insist on being heard while refusing to be seen.  I arrived home and strolled under the familiar shadow of trees I had planted, whereupon a rabbit and I scared the mutual bejeezus out of each other.

Why is night cast as a metaphor for death?  It quickens the senses, exhilarates the psyche and opens the eyes.  Half of what lives and breathes calls it home.  Count me among them.


Back to school

Published / by rmaddy / 2 Comments on Back to school



When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school

It’s a wonder I can think at all

                                        –Paul Simon, “Kodachrome”

There’s crap, and then there’s crap.  Christian brought home this smoldering turd from his social studies (now “Growth of America”) teacher this week:

“Some day your generation will have to pick up the mantle of battle just like the generation before you, and just like the generations before them.”

Apparently it no longer suffices for those who don’t know history to be doomed to repeat it (Edmund Burke).  Here we find a history teacher simply skipping the first clause altogether and proceeding directly to prognostications of eternal warfare.

It is quite true that we have not yet broken our war addiction.  The US has been in a perpetual state of war for 13 of Christian’s nearly 16 years.  The Middle East is demonstrably more fucked up now than when we started, and instead of cutting bait, we are recommitting troops to Iraq.  Still–can’t we hope and instill hope that the next generation would refuse to perpetuate the cycle?  Einstein famously quipped that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing again and again, expecting different results.

I hope the teacher was simply making a provocative statement to kindle a dialogue, secretly hoping that one student would have the guts to say “bullshit”.  Whatever the thinking, Christian was clearly disturbed by the statement, having taken it as a flash of nationalistic bravado.

I suggest that we teach our children about the war–the hundreds of thousands killed, the dismal track record of “nation building”, the trillions of dollars spent with no end in sight.  Then, we should ask them the question that our generation has failed to address:  “Is it worth it?”