Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Social distancing, North Idaho style

A couple weeks ago, Older Daughter and I decided to take Mr. Darcy on a nice long walk to stretch our legs. We chose to explore a nearby bike trail which runs along the lake shore. This trail used to be an old railroad line, and when the railroad was decommissioned, one of the best things the state ever did was convert it for bike use (and pedestrian use, of course).

So we loaded up Mr. Darcy, and off we went.

It was a cloudy, cool day, perfect walking weather. The trail was also deserted. In three miles of walking, we passed only three people.

Near the spot where the parking lot meets the bike trail, the rangers had trimmed a fallen tree and left it for, I dunno, décor or something. It was of impressive size.

And evidently children enjoyed crawling into a small hole at its base, which I presume was deliberately trimmed for that purpose. Forget décor; this was a jungle gym for kids. How cool is that?

The trail incorporates an old bridge, so bikers (and walkers) can cross this shallow portion of the lake.

Making sure we were sufficiently armed with poop bags -- Mr. Darcy gets a little excited on these excursions -- off we went.

First stop, the bridge.

This venerable structure was built in 1921.

On the far side, Older Daughter noticed something on a rock at the water's edge.

Some clever wit had made a modern-day pictograph.

A solitary loon looked like it was swimming through a symphony.

On the far side of the bridge, the lake shore curls around for a view of the structure from the other side.

The views on the path were lovely.

We walked 1.5 miles in one direction, then turned around to complete a three-mile loop. Afterward, we let Mr. Darcy splash in the water...which, of course, was our whole purpose for this jaunt, right?

We enjoyed ourselves so much that we made another excursion a few days later. This time the day was sunny and warmer, and my goodness the parking lot was packed. Lots and lots of families with young kids and bicycles. It was nice to see everyone enjoying the weather.

We took a different direction this time, and saw an osprey nest.

Because the day was warmer, we made sure to incorporate a lake stop for Darcy.

This dog lives for the chance to fetch sticks in the water.

Despite how full the parking lot was, there was plenty of room for people to spread out and enjoy the sunshine.

We've been hitting this trail about twice a week now, and Mr. Darcy really, really enjoys social distancing, North Idaho style.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Were stoics onto something?

After a lifetime of hearing virtually nothing about the philosophy of stoicism, suddenly I'm seeing articles about it everywhere.

Stoicism, as you may know, is a school of philosophy founded in ancient Greece in the 3rd century B.C. by Zeno of Citium. Famous adherents include Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius.

According to the Daily Stoic, "The philosophy asserts that virtue (such as wisdom) is happiness, and judgment should be based on behavior rather than words. That we don’t control and cannot rely on external events, only ourselves and our responses. ... Stoicism doesn’t concern itself with complicated theories about the world, but with helping us overcome destructive emotions and act on what can be acted upon. It’s built for action, not endless debate." (This website also offers nine exercises for developing stoicism.)

The philosophy is a lot more complicated than that, but you get the gist.

So why, after a lifetime of barely hearing a peep about this philosophy, am I seeing stoicism get so much coverage? I'm sure the timing -- coming as the globe shuts down over the coronavirus pandemic -- is no coincidence. Now that life has suddenly become very complicated, I suppose stoicism may offer ways to handle those complications.

The concept of "It's not how you feel, it's how you behave" is a new and possibly difficult philosophy for many people to abide by. Our modern society teaches us emotions and feeeeelings are paramount. Every little perceived microaggression must be treated as earth shattering and personal. We are literally enshrining emotions (hurt feeeeeelings) into law.

But with so much now out of our control, maybe the stoics are onto something.

This article, for example, recommends stoicism for anger management: "Seneca thought that anger is a temporary madness, and that even when justified, we should never act on the basis of it because, though 'other vices affect our judgment, anger affects our sanity: others come in mild attacks and grow unnoticed, but men's minds plunge abruptly into anger. … Its intensity is in no way regulated by its origin: for it rises to the greatest heights from the most trivial beginnings.'"

Or, as Marcus Aurelius put it, "Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been." (In other words, anger is a choice.)

The author recommends behaving like a rock when insulted. "Stand by a rock and insult it, and what have you accomplished? If someone responds to insult like a rock, what has the abuser gained with his invective?" This way, the insulter can be "livid with rage" while the insultee can retain his serenity. (This author also offers tips on how to keep from getting angry.)

In another article, the writer points out two foundational principles of stoicism: "The first is that some things are within our control and some are not, and that much of our unhappiness is caused by thinking that we can control things that, in fact, we can’t. What can we control? Epictetus argues that we actually control very little. We don’t control what happens to us, we can’t control what the people around us say or do, and we can’t even fully control our own bodies, which get damaged and sick and ultimately die without regard for our preferences. The only thing that we really control is how we think about things, the judgements we make about things."

The second principle is: "It’s not things that upset us, but how we think about things. Stuff happens. We then make judgements about what happens. If we judge that something really bad has happened, then we might get upset, sad, or angry, depending on what it is. If we judge that something bad is likely to happen then we might get scared or fearful. All these emotions are the product of the judgements we make. Things in themselves are value neutral, for what might seem terrible to us might be a matter of indifference to someone else, or even welcomed by others. It’s the judgements we make that introduce value into the picture, and it’s those value judgements that generate our emotional responses. ... Another Stoic strategy is to remind ourselves of our relative unimportance. The world does not revolve around us."

Yet another article points out how Marcus Aurelius passed the last 14 year of his life enduring a far more virulent plague that we face (which killed him), yet was able to pen his famous "Meditations" on how stoicism allowed him to cope. Very similar to the Serenity Prayer, stoicism allowed Marcus Aurelius to "distinguish between what’s 'up to us' and what isn’t." The author points out how this principle is "basic premise of modern cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the leading evidence-based form of psychotherapy. ... Stoics reflect on character strengths such as wisdom, patience and self-discipline, which potentially make them more resilient in the face of adversity. They try to exemplify these virtues and bring them to bear on the challenges they face in daily life, during a crisis like the pandemic. They learn from how other people cope."

Interesting, the author of this last article writes, "With all of this in mind, it’s easier to understand another common slogan of Stoicism: fear does us more harm than the things of which we’re afraid. This applies to unhealthy emotions in general, which the Stoics term 'passions' – from pathos, the source of our word 'pathological.' It’s true, first of all, in a superficial sense. Even if you have a 99% chance, or more, of surviving the pandemic, worry and anxiety may be ruining your life and driving you crazy. ... We live in denial of the self-evident fact that we all die eventually. The Stoics believed that when we’re confronted with our own mortality, and grasp its implications, that can change our perspective on life quite dramatically. Any one of us could die at any moment. Life doesn’t go on forever."

Interesting stuff here, folks. There is nothing new under the sun.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A flaw in bug-out plans

As you've probably noticed, there's a lot more chatter out there about bugging out to rural areas to escape crowded cities ravaged by the coronavirus.

Most people bug out to modest set-ups. People are staying with distant family members, or renting cabins, or finding Air BnB's, or otherwise doing what they can to keep their distance.

But one group of people who went through the time, effort, and expense of pre-establishing a rural bug-out are having a difficult time. I refer to the Super Rich.

As many know, the Super Rich are known for paying fabulous sums of money for extravagant bunkers in perceived safe locations (such as New Zealand). But for all their elaborate planning, it seems many of the Super Rich didn't factor in one obvious flaw: an inability to get to their bug-outs in the first place due to border closures or pilot shortages.

In one article entitled "Super rich stranded as private jet operators say no to travel," the article notes:
"Private jet operators are turning away wealthy clients as coronavirus-related travel bans restrict their ability to operate, despite a surge in requests from people willing to shell out as much as US$150,000 to secure a spot on their planes. Inquiries for international flights on private jets have shot up ninefold, said Kanika Tekriwal, founder of New Delhi-based JetSetGo, as individuals with vast financial means try to escape virus hot spots.

One of her clients, an Indian tycoon, tried to book a jet to fly with his family to New Delhi from London last weekend, but he remains stranded in the U.K. after a sudden travel suspension in a stopover country came in just half an hour before they were due to depart."
In another article titled "Rich Americans Activate Pandemic Escape Plans," the focus is also on New Zealand:
"Some Silicon Valley denizens have already made the move to New Zealand as the pandemic has escalated. On March 12, Mihai Dinulescu decided to pull the plug on the cryptocurrency startup he was launching to flee to the remote country. "My fear was it was now or never as I thought they might start closing borders," said Dinulescu, 34. "I had this very gripping feeling that we needed to go."

Dinulescu packed his bags and left his furniture, television, paintings and other belongings with friends. He bought the earliest plane ticket available and within 12 hours the Harvard University alum and his wife were on a 7 a.m. flight bound for Auckland. In San Francisco, "the entire international section of the airport was empty—except for one flight to New Zealand," Dinulescu said. "In a time when pretty much all planes were running on a third occupancy, this thing was booked solid. ... Four days later, New Zealand closed its borders to foreign travelers, which could thwart some refugee travel plans. ... After the shutdown was announced, however, local press reported a slight increase in private plane landings in the country."
I dunno, it just strikes me as odd that this most obvious weak spot was overlooked by people who presumably were smart enough to get rich in the first place. For a bug-out to be effective, you have to be able to get there. Go figure.

Personally I think it's a lot wiser to be among like-minded neighbors who are enthusiastic gardeners.

On the other hand, I've always wanted to visit New Zealand. I hear it's beautiful.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Prayer request

Reader "Prepared Grammy" left a comment as follows:

I'm hoping a lot of you see this. I am in desperate need of people to pray.

Please pray for Baby L. She was born yesterday. Half of her heart is not working correctly. She was flown to St. Louis where the specialists have done everything they can. They are letting the parents hold her and are waiting for her to pass. Please join me in asking for a miraculous healing of Baby L's heart.

I am good friends with both sets of grandparents and taught Baby L's mom in kindergarten. L's mom and grandparents came here for Sunday dinner every week after church for years. We camped together and have shared the highs and lows of our lives with each other. I go to church with Baby L's other grandparents. Their 22 year old daughter was killed in a tornado several years ago. L is named after their daughter. I can't imagine what this family is going through.


Folks, let's get together and pray for Baby L.

UPDATE: Prepared Grammy informs me the baby passed away. Please continue to pray for the family.

Monday, April 20, 2020

North Idaho spring

Here in North Idaho, we're still waiting for bushes and shrubs to leaf out.

Every bush and shrub is loaded with buds, but very few have put out their leaves.

Instead, what we have are a lot of early wildflowers. Most notable at the moment are avalanche lilies, which love shaded forest floors and brushy understories.

Oregon grape by the roadside.

The dramatically beautiful wake-robin.


Yellowbells. I could. Not. Get. The. Camera. To. Focus.

Shooting stars.

At first I thought these were also shooting stars (I photographed them from a distance), but now I'm not so sure. Cusick's speedwell? It doesn't seem to match. Does anyone know? (Update: Reader "Unknown" correctly identified this as grass widow. Thank you!)

Soon -- a week or 10 days at most -- these bushes will be a wall of green.

But not yet. Right now it's time for early wildflowers.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Finding seeds during scarcity

I've been asked to write an article idea on the subject of finding garden seeds during times of scarcity.

Everyone's been hearing about how seed companies are stretched to the limits or even sold out as desperate gardeners, both novice and experienced alike, descend on them in a panic. Many companies have stopped answering the phones and are putting up online pleas for understanding as they try to handle back orders with limited capacity and inventory.

What I'd like to examine is alternate sources for seeds or seedlings. Obvious examples are getting seed from gardening friends and neighbors, but I'd like to delve deeper.

Since I can think of no finer source of information than you, the reader, let me pick your collective brain. What are some sources where people might find seeds if the usual sources (such as online companies or big box stores) are out of the loop?

Your ideas will help everyone.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Urgent! (from the Department of Homeland Security)

Here's an email I got from the (cough) Department of Homeland Security, copied exactly as received:

Good day,This is the Department of Homeland S e c u r i t y we have vital mission,to secure the nation from the many threats we face as well as internet Fraud.Thisrequires the dedication of more than 230,000 employees in jobs that
range from aviation and border security to emergency response,from cyber security analyst to chemical facility inspector.Our dutiesare wide-ranging,but our goal is clear - keeping America safe.
We are happy to inform you that your f u n d s valued atUS$10,700,000.00(Ten million Seven Hundred Thousand United StatesDollars) have been approved by the Treasury Department of the United
States.Kindly get back to us for further directives.Reconfirm to us this information below,FULL NAME,ADDRESS,CELL PHONE #,OCCUPATION
Note:Do not reply to any e-mail that comes from the FBI Director James Comey Jr, Andrew G. McCabe,also the claimed new FBI DIRECTOR Christopher A. Wray,does not e-mail people,they will come straight to
your door step to pass any vital information they have for you.Do not fall a victim of scam again,a word is enough for the wise. Thank you and have a good day.
Mrs. Elaine Duke
Director,United States Secret Service
U.S. Department of Homeland
Security Washington, DC 20528,USA


Well, I believe it. Don't you?

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The face of a jealous dog

A couple weeks ago, Older Daughter decided to have tuna for lunch. But -- the horror -- rather than pour off the tuna juice into Mr. Darcy's bowl, she decided to give it to the barn cat.

The cat crouched right outside the door, lapping up that tuna juice like it was ambrosia. And Mr. Darcy watched every. Single. Drop. Disappear.

This, folks, is the face of a frustrated and jealous dog. "That was supposed to be MY tuna juice!"

(Don't worry, Older Daughter relented on her next meal of tuna and gave the juice to Mr. Darcy.)