The Wolfku Garden - 7

One bark, many chirps
The fog is dense this morning
Voices carry well


Each morning, after first limbering up a little, then some exercise, then my morning meditation, and then after half a grapefruit and some reading and contemplation while sipping my green tea, I head out for my daily morning walk.

I live in a (perfect) cabin a short walk from the Pacific Ocean, and I count myself very lucky to be able to walk along its amazing shore twice a day, an opportunity I seldom fail to avail myself of (you know, some people drive half a continent just to see this water).

As a rule, I take a longer (3.7 miles) walk in the morning and a shorter (1.3 miles) walk in the afternoon, which usually includes sitting down for a while to take in the curving space of all this Pacific water—for a total of 5 miles a day.

I like the number five.

I also like the number eight, which is how many kilometers (which, of course, I also like, being Swedish and all) I walk daily.

I like kilometers, too, but they’re not of much use here, only inside my head and to make up the number eight.

Be that, though, as it may, the morning that saw this Wolfku bop to the surface was very foggy, and as I walked I noticed (or thought I noticed) how well sounds carry in the fog.

Yes, so I thought, until I some time later Googled it only to find out that voices do not carry better in fog, quite the opposite—the tiny water particles that make up the fog actually interfere with the propagation of the sound waves, and diffuses and weakens the sound.

Well, cut off my legs and call me Shorty.

And now I had to ask myself, how come I thought sounds—like the seals barking, like the birds chirping—actually sounded louder and clearer in this dense fog? I can only think of two things:

There were fewer cars out and about that morning, so less disturbance auto-wise, and what cars there were would have been, to some extent, trusting Google to tell the truth, muffled. Not, to share another rather amazing thing about this place, that there are ever many cars out and about when I walk. Some days I can count the number I meet (or that overtake me) on my fingers—and that’s for an hour’s walk.

And the other thing I can think of is the phenomenon where one sense sharpens when another is dulled: I could see a lot less with all that fog, perhaps my ears picked up the slack and simply heard better.

Because, really, it felt like I was walking through a mist of sounds. The grove immediately to my right, perhaps twenty feet way, though hidden in the mist, seemed to teem with birds, chattering away at full voice; and the seals out on Castle Rock (which I could not see either, of course) seemed like, well, it seemed like the whole rock was a lot closer than I know it is.

And so, the logical conclusion as I turned and headed back home again, was that sound must travel better and clearer in fog; after all, a Wolfku surfaced just to prove it.

And who am I to argue with that.

Sound does travel better, and farther under water, though. Counter-intuitive though it might be, Google agrees.

The Wolfku Garden - 6

If life is motion
Breathing: the atom and quark
Then everything lives


Here is a theme I alight upon now and then, both in and out of meditation, and often during my morning walks by the Pacific: If it moves, it must be alive.

Or, of course, from another perspective, what moves that which moves is most certainly alive.

And that would include atoms and quarks—they very much move.

At that, however, comes common sense scrambling to his feet with a handful of cents worth of both-his-feet-on-the-ground opinion: We know, we have known ever since childhood, since first grade, since ever, that stones and water and air are not alive, not in the least. The proof is in the very stillness of anything inanimate—which of course is the word for stones and water and air and which word, of course, with its whole being and its roots means that very thing: not life or soul.

But here’s the thing: I read somewhere that if the nucleus of an atom were the size of a grain of sand, and you placed it in the center of the field of an enclosed football stadium, then the circling electrons would be as far away as the ceiling of that structure—mainly space then, these atoms. And the electrons, whatever else they are or do, they move, I mean they really, really move. There is nothing in-animate about them at all.

Yet, yet, yet, no one has ever seen an electron.

Why is this? one wonders. And the helpful scientist answers: Seeing an electron is not possible for they are incredibly tiny and have extremely low mass; and, besides, they move extremely fast—some estimate that they travel 2,200 kilometers per second, which in enclosed and tiny space like their, is not bad—and due to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, lovingly acronymed as HUP, their exact position at any one time is precisely 100% unknowable. We can only approximate their position to within a certain Uncertainty. And, of course, being unable to acquire an exact position of any one electron makes it impossible to view if for no other reason that you don’t know where it is.

And that aside, their mass is so low that even the smallest interaction with them (involving, say, a photon or two bouncing off of them to then hit our retinas in order to make them visible) will send them flying off so that we now have an even worse understanding of their exact location.

So, bottom line, due to the HUP and their size and speed, there is no way to actually see electrons and that is why scientists use the electron cloud model of the atom these days—because we only know where electrons are likely to be, and never where they actually are. The electron cloud is really just a probability field.

In summary then, an electron is something we’ve never seen moving at fantastic speed we don’t know where.

Perhaps, methinks, an electron is simply a very secretive life form which thinks its whereabouts and appearance is none of our business.

I remember from physics class that the parallel was drawn between the macro-universe: planets, suns, and the micro-universe: protons, electrons.

Doesn’t it all boil down to relative size?

Were we the size of the entire universe, the Sun would more than likely be unobservably small to our gigantic eyes, and the circulating earth—which moves around the sun at not exactly 2,200 km per second, but at the still respectable 30 km per second—less observable still. I don’t think that giant eye would stand a chance of seeing Earth, much less its cities and citizens.

So, what if we were one billionth the size of an electron? What cities and citizens would be see on its surface? Could we live there? Maybe every single electron in the universe is populated. Who’s to say no? No one’s ever seen one.

Perhaps there are people on this electron’s Akron, Ohio that look up at and wonder about canal-like formations on a nearby (though still very distant) reddish neighbor electron.

Life can be, I’m sure, incredibly large, size-of-the-universe large, and by the same token can be, I’m equally sure, incredibly small, say electron small, or a billion times smaller.

An extra-universe giant might mistake the entire universe for a pebble in the road and kick it, same as we might kick a pebble that houses untold trillions of electron worlds, upon one of which, this very moment, sits some guy wondering about the size of his universe and his electrons.

It’s all relative.

Just saying.

So, are stones and water and wind alive? For me, the jury has definitely not come back into the room yet.

The Wolfku Garden - 5

I saw Chris Squire’s bass
It looked like Jacob’s ladder
Cautioning the sky


When you walk or drive out to Point Saint George—a couple of miles to the west of Crescent City, California—you’ll see, if you pay attention, a rather tall (now inactive) radio tower. This tower, however, is rarely seen from any distance—except under odd light conditions.

Well, this morning—the very morning I had found out that Chris Squire (of Yes fame) had died—sported some amazing light conditions. There was a fog out on the Point, but a strong sun from the south-east nonetheless caught the radio tower head on and lit it up like a luminous, tall ladder reaching for the sky. I’m not sure what color it really is, to be honest, but this morning it was brilliantly and luminously white.

When this caught my eye, I was still walking north on Pebble Beach Drive, ruminating about Chris Squire and what an amazing bass player he had been (and how he considered Paul McCartney his inspiration). And yes, I have always liked (even loved at times) Yes, and have many of their albums.

And then, suddenly, as the sun broke through, out of the fog sprung this huge, white bass guitar neck which surely must belong to Chris Squire, and which he would soon swoop down to collect, since he’d need it in heaven.

And then the thought of Jacob’s ladder just arrived (out of who-knows-where—my mind is like that, nothing if not creatively imaginative) rising like a cautioning finger out of the fog, pointing to the sky and whoever needed cautioning up there.

The interesting thing is that at this point I had no idea what I was looking at. I had never seen the tower from that distance before and it was so white and so bright that I never put the two together. As far as I was concerned, this was Chris Squire’s bass guitar neck, soon to metamorphose into Jacob’s, tall, heaven-bound, cautioning ladder. Yes, altogether surreal.

So, I asked someone (also out and about this morning), “What is that thing?” pointing. “What thing?” “That tall white thing.” Out came binoculars, “Ah, must be the radio tower.”

Oh, shucks. Some mysteries should remain mysterious.

The Wolfku Garden - 4

After the light rain
Released by
  a grateful Earth

My nose so happy


 I think it was Diane Ackerman who enlightened me on this point—when in her A Natural History of the Senses she pointed out two, for me, very nice things.

The first was that the sky reaches all the way to the ground. We walk through sky all the time, we breathe sky. The sky is not something we have to tilt our heads back to observe, we’re in it. Can’t help but. First thing.

The second thing has to do with barometer readings and air pressure. The higher the barometer reading the more the air presses down upon the earth. Clear skies and sunshine are usually the telltale signs of high pressure. Low pressure, on the other hand (think gray, overcast, rain) does not push down as hard upon the earth.

Fragrances—as so much else—are particles, too, and as such are affected by how hard the air pushes down on them. So, after the rain, when the air pressure is still relatively low, fragrances find it easier to rise, and as a result, a forest will be more aromatic during or after rain (low pressure) than during those clear, sunny high-pressure days.

Out walking after a light morning rain, I was delighted to find the air very fragrant, which (as it always does) brought Ackerman to mind. My nose was very happy.

The Wolfku Garden - 3

An edge, a leaning
Trunk and roots:
  a fierce grasping
Wishing he could fall


 Can a tree really be afraid?

Can a tree really feel anything? Who knows? I don’t. Not for sure, anyway. But surely, with so much life—for how much life does it not take to grow an oak from an acorn—there must be feeling as well, some sort of treey feeling. Perhaps completely beyond our human ken, but very familiar to the oak and the bristlecone pine and the birch and the cedar.

As an aside, if there is anything trees would fear, it would be fire. That would be my guess, my gut-sense. Another gut-sense is that there are a lot of scared trees in California right now, what with so many fires raging.

I ponder the trees (and their feelings) now and then, lining the street as I stride for the ocean up ahead. Many have grown Chinese style pointy beards (all gray) and those trees surely feel both ancient and important. You can tell. The younger, beard-less ones feel deference, I think so—they look like they do.

This particular tree, the one who spawned this Wolfku, grows at the very, very edge of a bluff facing the Pacific, so close as to, really, almost crossing the edge—some roots even grasping air—and leaning towards that massive water below and perhaps wishing he could taste it.

I don’t think this tree fears his precarious situation. It knows there is no climbing back onto safer ground from here and it knows that eventually, during a heavy and long, waterlogged storm perhaps, the land, his anchor, will give way and he will slip, tumble, and finally find salty water.

Until then, the view is great, the waiting is exciting, the ocean spans a half-circle worth of horizon, its bravery manifest (as is his foolhardiness), and this tree feels pretty good about all this.

I can tell.

The Wolfku Garden - 2

A song ends too soon
An ear catching up

What was that color?


 My childhood is filled with radios.

The big brown Luxor in the kitchen, always on—sometimes by the kitchen table, sometimes perched atop a cabinet, but always on. Mom loved music and would listen to just about anything (not that there was much to choose from—Swedish radio, at that time, sported two channels P1 and P2 (Program 1 and Program 2). P1 was the serious channel: news, discussions, radio theater, book readings, classical music and such; P2 the more entertaining one, quite often music, both light classical and popular, though no rock and roll as yet—that was to come later, in the early 1960s.

She’d always be up when I came down from what we called the children’s chamber to, literally, see what’s cooking—Mom was a great cook. “Good morning,” I’d say. And she’d reply with her stock response, “That should have been this morning.”

And there would be the music wafting out of that big, brown well of, yes, I guess you’d call it comfort. The kitchen window was open just a little but enough to say the morning outside was breezy with sweet air that promised that all was well with the world.

Mom asked me to sit, and then served up some oat meal porridge, not my favorite, but it was palatable if you poured enough sugar on top and if the milk didn’t have too many flakes of cream floating about like ice floes around the snow-covered porridge iceberg. I hated cream floating about but there was no getting around it: this milk came straight from the farmer, no homogenizing here. Let it sit overnight and the top inch or two will be thick, slightly off-white cream—wonderful as whipped, poison as floes.

The brown Luxor provided my childhood morning soundtrack.

Another radio: The black portable Centrum with FM (yes, I forgot to mention that the Luxor only had AM bands) and a built-in jack for your car antenna—clever, if you ask me. It was on this radio, lying in a summer field one Saturday afternoon (listening to the Swedish top-ten program) that I, for the very first time, heard the Beatles: “Please Please Me.” I don’t remember where it placed on the list that week, but I do remember that I liked Brian Hyland’s “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” just as much, and would often, in the near future, confuse the two songs in my mind—I’d picture night stars when I listened to “Please Please Me.”

This radio followed us around a lot. On short drives, on long drives, on boat rides, and when resting it would sit somewhere in the kitchen as well, perhaps by the Luxor showing off is FM band.

Another radio: This was a crystal radio, a kit that I believe I put together myself, or (perhaps) with a little (or a lot of) help from Dad. It wasn’t much larger than a big (kitchen size) matchbox and it was blue. Only AM here, but late at night, if the weather conditions were conducive, I’d manage to tune in Radio Luxemburg from down on the continent (whose signal, I later found out, would actually bounce off the atmosphere and down into my blue little radio) and through star-like static listen to that far-away, wondrous world of my (Pop/Rock and Roll) music.

And the song ended with my mind still tossing about. Something had slipped me by, a word, a glimpse, a color. I had missed it, my ear trying to catch up, but it too late, now there was only starlight.