Every day is a journey
and the journey itself
Matsuo Basho, 1600’s
Every day is a journey
and the journey itself
Matsuo Basho, 1600’s
Drifting down a sun splashed brook
I bumped then landed on a rock
Stepping out to stretch my mind
I met a smile that mirrored mine
Tio Stib, May 2014
The most endangered mammal on Planet Earth, the animal most threatened with extinction at this moment is the world’s smallest porpoise, the vaquita, whose habitat is limited to the northern reaches of the Gulf of California, the finger of ocean lying between Baja and mainland Mexico.
I came across this endangered creature doing research for my next book, a novel I’d decided would be a kids’ book with a universal theme based on contemporary events. It occurred to me that having animal characters would make the story more interesting and then thought perhaps using a species threatened with extinction would tie the story to contemporary life challenges. Sadly, I found there are far too many endangered species situations.
An internet search turned up dozens of rapidly disappearing creatures, most often the result of some sort of human interference with their lives. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but since it’s going to be a kids’ book, it seemed the critter might best be at least a bit cute. I immediately passed over the giant panda as too much in the public spotlight, I wanted something more exotic. There’s the amur leopard, a rare big cat living in Siberia, perhaps only forty left in the wild. Close but not quite the geography I was looking for. Then there is the axototl salamander, a rare species known for its unique ability to regrow removed limbs. Magical powers, yes, but lacking in the “cute” department. Then there was the blue gooty spider, a large fuzzy tarantula that inhabits a small sanctuary in India. Again, not quite the cuddly creature I was looking for.
Eventually, I came across the vaquita porpoise, the smallest of all porpoises with a distinctive black mask around its eyes, sort of a swimming “Zorro.s” This rare sea creature, only about one hundred vauita are thought to currently exist, felt perfect for several reasons.
First, I’ve spent lots of my life with water. Water worlds attract me and I’m familiar with them. Next, the vaquita exists in a unique part of the Gulf of California in Mexico and I feel a closeness to the Mexican culture. Yes, my wife and many family are Mexican and my Spanish is passable in brief bar encounters. Lastly, the plight of the vaquita is a familiar one. It is disappearing because of overfishing, in this case for another endangered species, the totaba, a fish prized for its swim bladder by Chinese. The vaquita is too often caught in the same gill nets used to catch the prized, although illegal, totoaba.
Feels like a solid start. I can write about a world I’m familiar with. My main character is a creature that will be easy for kids to relate to, and the storyline will deal with a conflict that is universal. Now it’s up to me to create a tale that tells how humans can adapt to build a world in which people and porpoises can live in sustainable harmony.
I’ve already launched into the first draft. Stay tuned for “The Perils of Payeto.”
Interested in how to save the vaquita porpoise? Check out this link:
Find out more about other endangered species by slicking this link:
13 endangered species
Yours to count on,
The danger of dreams is that they can kill me. Not just my body, but my soul. I can pour myself so completely into dreams that in the anguished heartbeat of final failure I cease to exist. A void. A vacuum of emptiness.
I’ve fallen and failed. I’ve thrown all I was into the fight to win a higher place in life and lost. In those times, I took solace in knowing I’d played my best, my loss was not from lack of effort. This gave me strength to look beyond and search for a higher goal, a bigger purpose to strive for.
Blindness was a bat to the back of the head; A surprise. that left me fear frozen on the slopes of my dreams. Unseen crevasses of doubt bewildered my mind, despair turned my breathing into gasps of high altitude anxiety. I have never felt so lost and alone.
I remembered the valley below, the cozy houses, the comforts of middle class complacency. the daily marching masses to meaningless work, forever treading water in the sea of status quo. I felt the gravity of blindness pulling me down to the coffin of conformity.
Then, in the stillness of my new blind solitude, came the murmur of memories, ghost voices of fallen angels, heroes whose lives inspired me. Mandela. Gandhi. King. And countless quiet souls who lived their truth with silent fierceness. The night wind rose. They urged me on.
What is the real danger? To die on a mountain of my own making, far from the solace of kindred souls, yet deep in the pure snow of my dreams, my last breath complete with knowing I’ve lived fully? Or do I stare up through the open window of life at summits unseen and fail to step out and climb again?
The real danger of dreams is not living them.
Yours to count on.
Recently, a friend called me out. “Tio,” he taunted, “Your hiding behind your blindness. You’re using blindness as a crutch, an excuse to run away from life.”
I said nothing, but a small stirring inside told me there was truth in his words.
With the aid of time and a long walk along the waterfront, I can now admit my friend’s observation was dead on.
Having survived months of despair and suicidal thoughts, I’ve now swung over to the other extreme. Okay, I’m blind, that’s the way it is, now I simply survive the best I can and stay out of everyone else’s way. No need to be heroic. A blind man has already climbed Mt. Everest. At my point in life, no need to prove anything to anybody.
That worked for a while. I’ve enough money in the bank to live a modest, comfortable life. My wife and I don’t drive now which limits our daily distance traveled to a range of blocks instead of miles. Fortunately, most everything we want or need is available in minutes by foot. All well and good for my physical existence, but what about my spiritual self?
This is where I’ve sold myself short, chosen to hide behind blindness as an excuse to stop living my dreams. My friend, who knows that I’m not content to sit long on the river bank as others paddle by in the center of the stream challenging their dreams, threw water in my face.
It’s true. It’s easy to be blind and get special attention, to let others do things for me that I just don’t want to bother doing. It’s easy to let my wife do all the cooking because I don’t want to relearn cooking as a blind person. It’s easy to stop exercising because I don’t believe I’ll be climbing any more mountains. I’ve become complacent, overly comfortable with a small life that demands little from me. Sometimes I think I’m just waiting to die.
I sold myself a lie. I told myself that being blind now keeps me from living the my dream, building inspired teams creating better world dreams.
A blind man’s bluff.
The bigger truth is that my blindness makes me even more powerful and capable of doing such things. Why? Because blindness has forced me to do the one thing I’ve always shortchanged.
Sight free, I’m now forced to listen.
Blindness has opened my heart to hear the infinite harmonies of love. With this keen awareness I can better build the relationships to launch world changing dreams.
I’m back on the River of Life thanks to a little truth from my friend.
Yours to count on,
I’m blind, and the pleasure I get from books is listening to them. The words I hear fire my imagination and in this place I can see. Well written books fill my mind with vivid pictures of fascinating characters acting out suspenseful plots often with surprising twists. This is a world I often disappear into, a place where I am not sightless but limitless.
My Guide to Excellent Audio Books is based on my own listening experiences. I get my audio books mostly from either B.A.R.D., the National Library Service for the Blind, or audible.com. I have a few criterion for what I deem excellent which I note as follows:
First, well written stories. The plot is logical and at the same time absorbing. Characters don’t do stupid things. Coincidental occurrences don’t disturb the story’s believability.
Next, there are interesting characters. Personalities that reflect the myriad possibilities of human behavior. There are relationships that shed light on human dilemmas. Characters who are challenged and respond in the highest and lowest manners.
Finally, there is an underlying message, perhaps a theme about values. Ideally, a story that offers a solution to one of the many life challenges people face. Of course, I also appreciate the narration, how the story is told.
That’s about it. My definition of “excellence” is constantly changing and as it evolves I’ll let you know more. Hopefully, you will share your thoughts on this subject and we can grow together.
Here’s the link to my GoodReads Group with my bookshelf of excellent audio books. Sign up for GoodReads and then you can comment on the discussion threads.
The morning air is frosty clear my breath pushes clouds from my face. The neighbor’s wood smoke floods my mind with memories of mountainsides shimmering in seas of golden aspen leaves. It is Fall. It’s time for a road trip.
Man has a long history and fascination with road trips. The yearning for road adventures is universal and often epic. Imagine the early morning, eons ago, in the Siberian cave, when Og shook wife Iz awake and grunted, “We go!” And off they went, traversing Siberia, the Aleutian Islands, Alaska and down the coast to sunny California, when Iz finally stop nagging Og to settle down.
Then there was Marco Polo, the wander lusting Venetian who told his mom he was going out for tea. Marco came back 24 years and 15,000 miles later. To his credit, he brought back not only tea but a nice silk smock for mom.
America has had it’s share of epic road trips. In 1804, Lewis and Clark set out in search of the Northwest Passage. It took them three years to find the Pacific Ocean and finally straggle home. In 1969, Americans went on the ultimate road trip when we sent the first men to the moon. Me, I don’t consider any of my road trips epics, nothing like the journeys of Ulysses, However I’ve had my thrills.
My first boyhood ramble was with a pack of young rascals across town and into the woods to find a pond filled with tadpoles. There we were thrashing the water, trying to convince frantic little frogs into canning jars when my brother stepped on broken glass. Suddenly, our expedition became an emergency. We wrapped his bleeding foot in a t-shirt and dragged him painfully home. My brother survived but still swims with shoes on, even in pools.
The scope of my road trips exploded when I bought my first Volkswagen van. Was there ever a more perfect road trip vehicle? My ’63 bus was called “Borgo,” a name that erupted from a beer induced belch. Borgo was the essence of simplicity, the dashboard had a mere two knobs, wipers and lights. If either worked, it was a good day. The speedometer dial had only two indicator lights. bright green gasped no oil. bright red screamed no battery. These lights only came on after dark in the middle of nowhere. Did I mention that VW vans were notoriously heatless. I remember the snowy night in Spokane when the shivering station attendant asked if he could scrape the windows.
“Sure,” I said.
Imagine his surprise discovering the ice was on the inside.
What makes road trips magic? It’s the surprises.
Of course, there have been the unpleasant ones. The tire bursting as we bounced down the boulder sized gravel road in the Bitterroot Mountains. It took three guys jumping a sweaty hour on the tire iron to finally free the frozen lug nuts. I still swear at mindless tire mechanics with overzealous air wrenches.
Still, most of my road surprises have been happy ones. Discovering the ultimate sour dough pancakes in a tiny cafe on the Klamath River, and the mouth-watering meringue pie at the road stop in southern Utah. And the smiling faces, the small town waitress with the steaming coffee who beamed “Howdy, how are you this fine morning?” and she really meant it.
Then there were the cold stares from the old-timers, suspicious of outsiders, the guys whose tongues only loosened after a few free beers when they finally admitted “Yes, Denio Hot Springs really does exist just thirteen miles out of town.”
Some surprises were sublime. Parading crimson clouds floating over hazy hills against an endless sunset. The morning mist melting into visions of snow shrouded mountains. A midnight ride across the Sonora Desert windows wide open, cool night air pulsing with cosmic clarity as towering saguaro cacti sped by silently saluting the frozen moon.
There have even been miracles.
It was the pause before sunrise, a hint of gold over distant peaks. In front of us, The road stretched forever straight. Crammed three abreast across the van’s bench seat, we stared in sleepy silence as the Cat Stevens tape started over for the fourth time. Outside, the ghosts of cardboard cattle floated past in rising fog. Far ahead, a speck, appeared, soon becoming a vehicle. Charging onward into morning, the vehicle became a pickup truck. Converging at 100 miles per hour, the pickup’s passengers became a man driving with a woman beside him. Suddenly the truck was in our lane. Gasping, we faced death. In that eternity a hand grabbed the wheel, the truck swerved back and careened by, an angelic guided missile, lost in a swirl of dust.
The sun broke above the mountains, wrapping us in golden grace.
I believe road trips are in our blood, a need to challenge the unknown, a hunger to satisfy human curiosity.
Borgo now rolls down Heaven’s highways. My own wanderings have become more mental than physical. Yet the steely sharp edge of autumn air still stirs my soul. and when my feet playfully shuffle through fallen leaves, I am called away.
It’s time for a road trip!