Weird story start #3

Greg flicked a lintball off the arm of his sweater and watched it follow a perfect arc into his coffee cup where it floated, serenely mocking him. “Piece of shit,” he said.

Helen quietly pulled his cup towards her and pushed her own, lint-free cup in front of him. She touched the lint ball and it stuck to the tip of her finger. She peered at it and said, “You know, this may be the perfect lint-ball!”

“Sorry to get it wet,” Greg said, taking a sip from his new cup. “You must be getting close to having a complete collection.”

“You mean, for the gallery showing?” Helen asked. “I think this one will do it. It’s exactly what I needed! Once it dries, of course.”

Hiking Solo

I’ve hiked for years, but always it has been with at least one other person. A couple of years ago, I found myself between hiking buddies, yet still with the urge to get into the mountains. So, why not just go alone?

(The worrier-me has reasons:  What if I fall and hurt myself? What if I startle a bear and the probability of his horribly maiming me is 100% instead of the 50% or less I’d have if I was hiking with someone else? What if Mount Baker chooses that moment to erupt and I’m buried under hundreds of feet of ash?)

One thing helped sway me in favor of going in spite of all of these dangers — my new(ish) Nikon D50 digital SLR.

One of the first solo hikes I went on was to Lake Ann. The trail is one of my favorites, passing through meadows and finally switchbacking up a rocky slope before coming up to Lake Ann and, more importantly, a stunning view of the backside of Mount Shuksan.

View of Mount Shuksan

Mount Shuksan, and my boots

The day was one of those perfect Northwest days of sun and cloudless blue skies. Being alone on the hike made it feel like an adventure.

Later that same year, I took the Heliotrope Ridge trail, another popular trail in the North Cascades. However, this was in September and the clouds meant I was almost completely alone on the trail — especially when I veered off the main trail to follow a climber’s route.

This branch was not as well-traveled for two reasons. One, it diverted from the most common destination for hikers on the trail — Coleman Glacier. Two, it was very steep. When I left the main trail, it was raining lightly, but it didn’t take long to gain enough elevation that the rain turned to wet snow.

Heliotrope Ridge trail

Light snowfall on Heliotrope Ridge

Climbing up a trail through falling snow surrounded by misty fog hiding the spectacular view of Mount Baker that would normally be there, I was completely alone. The only sounds were the flakes (well, drops really) of snow hitting the ground and my Gore-tex coat, my boots hitting the ground as I walked, and my breath when I stopped — often — to rest and wonder what the hell I was doing out there alone.

The truth is, though, that I kind of liked being in a place where, at least at that moment, no one else had chosen to be. If only I had a hiking buddy to share the experience of being there alone. Oh, wait…

Why apples are better than oranges

People often say, “That’s like comparing apples and oranges.” I guess they’re implying that the two things are so different, comparing them doesn’t make sense. But, is that really true?

  1. The apple has much more variety. It’s red (or green, or yellow) on the outside, white(ish) on the inside and has brown seeds, but the orange is orange all over. Boring.
  2. The apple has a shape that holds its place on a flat surface. An orange can roll all over the place!
  3. The apple has an easy mechanism to let you know that you’re waiting too long to finish it — it starts turning brown. With an orange, you never know!
  4. An apple is less confusing. If you say “orange” do you mean a fruit or a color?
  5. The apple’s skin is edible. Okay, maybe the orange’s skin won’t actually kill you, but… yuck.
  6. The apple has no chewy (gross) internal section skins like the orange.
  7. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. What does an orange a day do? Nothing. Except maybe turn you orange. (But, not into an orange. See? This just illustrated my point from #4 above.)
Apples

Winner

Orange

Loser

If I could put time in a bottle

It’s been many years since I last heard Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce. As so often happens after a long time, my memory mangles things and the lyrics that should be “If I could save time in a bottle…” became “If I could put time in a bottle…” Meh. Save, put? Are they really so different?

As for the rest of the lyrics… Forget about it! What, in my mind, was “If I could put time in a bottle, da dada da dada da daaaaa…” eventually was replaced with “If I could put time in a bottle, if I could make memories come true…” WTF?

Bottle of sand

Time in a bottle?

But, setting aside the purely invented second line, I’ve often thought about the significance of the first line. Out of respect for Mr. Croce, I’ll happily go with the correct lyrics, “If I could save time in a bottle.” Any way you slice it, putting time into a container would be a neat trick. It suggests that time could be treated as a substance, having mass and form. Or, perhaps the idea is that saving “time” in a bottle is metaphor for somehow altering the physics that are affected by time, or at least altering a person’s perception of time.

But, settings aside the mechanics of actually capturing and holding time in a container, I wonder other things. Like, where did the time originally come from that is in the bottle? Is it “my” time? If it is, what is the advantage of having that time put away (presumably for use at a later… time)? I mean, if I had to sacrifice some of my time to go into the bottle, only to be taken out later, what is the benefit? Unless, of course, the time that is in the bottle is altered in some way. If I put money into a savings account, it accrues interest so, at a later date, I can get back more than the original amount I set aside. Could the same thing happen with time?

But, that suggests that the extra time added must come from somewhere. Is there some kind of universal time bank that pays interest on the time stored away? And, what’s the payoff for this universal bank? Is the time I put into the bottle then put to use, perhaps by someone else who borrows the time and has to pay back interest on the loan? (Sounds a little like making a deal with the devil.)

Alright, perhaps I’m getting a little far-fetched here. Maybe the idea of saving time in a bottle is more about capturing a moment or two and having those moments available for eternity (or the rest of my life, whichever comes first, unless the time saved could be transferred upon my death to another person, in which case, it might be for eternity or until the end of time, if there is such a thing) because they’re moments that I really liked.

In that case, I guess I’d be taking time that has already happened and saving it as opposed to taking time that hasn’t happened yet… Hmm, this could get confusing.

Another question that comes to mind is, how would I access the time that is saved. Does just opening the bottle release it? And how do I know that the time goes to me rather than just floats off into the air, possibly to be ripped off by some passerby? Or, do I have to get into the bottle with the time? And, how the hell do I do that?

Then there’s the question as to what the time would look like. The genius of the song is that the time is being put into a bottle. I immediately think of a clear, glass bottle, not some opaque plastic shampoo bottle. I mean, it just seems like it would have to be glass, doesn’t it? My first thought is that time would be clear, like air. But, that probably comes from an inability to let go of thinking of time as a concept or as a physical property and not as a substance. Maybe it’s actually foggy or smoky. Or, maybe it’s more liquid-y. Or, maybe it somehow displays the contents of the time, like a little movie playing the events that took place in that time over and over.

I think what’s clear here is that I lack the physics background necessary to fully understand the genius of Croce’s lyrics. Maybe I’ll do more research. In the meantime… If I could put time in a bottle, would I? And, why?

What, me worry?

I’m a worrier. My mom is a worrier, and frankly, I blame her for my worrierness. (Thanks, Mom.) I remember one night when I was maybe five, Mom saw what was probably just some kids smoking cigarettes behind a neighbor’s house. She was all freaked out because she saw them lighting matches, and all I really remember was cowering by Mom as I imagined the whole neighborhood being set on fire.

Match being lit

Fire -- it doesn't have to be scary

As an adult, I’ve noticed a sad sort of creativity to my worries. When I took voice lessons for a short time, my teacher had her students perform at an open mic. At a rehearsal we had the week before the performance, all us nervous newbies were taking turns singing our songs. One of my fellows tried to put things in perspective and said, “What’s the worse that could happen?” I said, “We could be so nervous that we lock our knees (a no-no I remember being harped on in high school marching band), pass out and fall forward, impaling ourselves on the microphone stand.”

Once I was early for an appointment and I sat in my car, reading as I waited. My shoes were uncomfortable, so I untied the shoelaces to loosen them up. Then it dawned on my how dangerous that was because, if there was an earthquake, and I had to jump out of the car to run for cover, I might trip on the shoelaces, knock myself unconscious on the blacktop, and be squashed beneath a lightpole knocked over during the quake.

Heartburn becomes a heart attack; a headache becomes a tumor.

It could become a sort of game. I’m writing this post now, and what’s the worst that could happen?

I spill my coffee on the keyboard (a tragedy in itself because, y’know, it’s a waste of coffee) and jump up to quickly get a towel before it ruins my expensive gaming keyboard… I trip over a cat and fall on the floor, hard. The downstairs neighbor gets pissed, comes upstairs and pounds at my door. I’m a little groggy from the fall, so I answer the door and the neighbor punches me in the face. The cats attack him, claw out his eyes and hideously disfigure him. Not wanting the cats to be taken away and put down, I am left with no choice but to kill the neighbor, cut him up and discard his remains, living with the guilt for the rest of my life.

Or… I spill coffee on the keyboard and, by a one in a bazillion fluke, it sends a perfect sequence of electrical signals to my computer, writing the ultimate virus and somehow sending it to every email address that has ever existed — past, present and future — thus disseminating an accidental piece of code that ends up bringing all the world’s computer systems to their knees. Chaos ensues.

Or…

My butterfly friend

I often feel absurdly pleased when an animal “likes” me — especially if it’s an animal that doesn’t typically like people. You know, like the dog that comes over with her tail wagging and the owner says, “Oh, Abby doesn’t usually *like* men.”

But how many people have had a butterfly befriend them? (Okay, so maybe it’s more common that I’d like to believe, but I don’t want to know if that’s true.)

We were having lunch at Hannegan Pass in the beautiful Cascade Mountains, and I saw this cool little blue butterfly. It did that random fluttery thing butterflies do and fluttered its way to where I stood admiring the view. As it flew close to me, I held out my left hand. I guess I just did it out of a futile hope that the butterfly would land there, but I was still surprised when it ended up settling on my index finger.

Blue butterfly

My butterfly friend, Oscar

He (Hey, how the heck am I supposed to know if it was male or female? [flips coin] Male.) just stayed there and did whatever it is that butterflies do when they’re not fluttering or eating sugar. At first I tried to be so careful not to move too much because I *wanted* him to hang out on my finger. But, after minutes passed and he just stayed there, I began to move around, walking in the little meadow in which we found ourselves.

The whole time he stayed, clinging with his six little white legs, enjoying (I hope) the ride, and I took pictures, showed him to my hiking buddy, and was amazed at how long this tiny little creature seemed content to hang with me.

So, why was I so tickled by this? I mean, is it really such a significant thing to have a bug land on me? But, it was a butterfly, a beautiful thing. It was also more rare than, say, the flies that had no problem paying us all too much attention at times during our hike. And, its attentions were more gentle, more sublime (at least, so I felt in my fuzzy little brain).

It’s as if I was being honored by the little fella. Here was a living being, much smaller than me, who trusted me enough to rest on my finger. And, maybe there was some weird background idea that animals (even butterflies!) are somehow able to sense the innate goodness (or badness) in a person, so this funny blue critter hanging out on my finger was almost a sort of stamp of approval, like, “Hey, this guy’s alright.”

And maybe with our pets, or with the animals we encounter in nature, we can imagine some spark of consciousness that is not bogged down with all the crazy human crap that fills our minds. “I like you.” “You scare me.” Simple, straightforward.

Or, maybe I just want to be one of the few, the proud, the liked-by-butterflies…