REMEMBERING WARREN MILLER

Warren Miller, who died on January 24 at the age of 93, needs no introduction. His influence on the post WWII explosive growth of American skiing and his legacy on younger generations of skiers are unmatched. Every American skier of a certain age grew up with Warren’s personally narrated films as a highlight of the year and nutrition for the spirit and mind seeking in mountains for what he once described as, “It’s our search for freedom. It’s what it’s all about -man’s instinctive search for freedom.”
In his autobiography he writes, “People remember their first day on skis because it comes as such a mental rush. When you come down the mountain from your first time on skis, you are a different person. I had just now experienced that feeling, if only for half a minute; it was step one in the direction I would follow the rest of my life.” He was following that direction when WWII interfered and enrolled in the officer’s training program with the Navy.
When the war ended Warren returned to America, bought an 8 mm Bell and Howell camera and spent the next few winters with his friend Ward Baker living a quintessential dirt bag ski bum life out of a tiny trailer in the parking lots of Sun Valley, Alta. Jackson, Aspen, Mammoth and Yosemite. He learned how to make ski films, as he put it, “…by blundering along.” Several ski clubs turned down his first film because they determined he needed a ‘professional’ narrator. Finally, the Ski Club Alpine of southern California agreed to a showing at which he later recalled, “The audience laughed at my stories, not just polite laughs, but amazingly loud belly-laughs. The film really worked, even though I had no script other than the one that was lodged in my brain.”
That brain changed the world of American skiing and ski films. When I was a boy in the early ‘50s in Reno, Nevada the annual Warren Miller ski film was a milestone of the year and, like everyone, I loved it. As I became a young adult ski racer and, later, ski instructor/coach/writer Warren and I became friends and I grew to love him as a person and more deeply appreciate his influence on American skiing and skiers and on my own life.
In the fall of 1972 I was adrift, skiing but not working in the ski world as I had been doing and more counter to the dominant culture than ever. A letter from Warren, who I had not seen in a couple of years, caught up to me asking if I’d like to join him and a crew on a several week trip to Europe to ski for his camera. The trip included money, expenses, good company and, of course, the best powder snow in the Alps. I replied that I would love to go but that there might be a problem. I hadn’t shaved or cut my hair in awhile and had a beard to the middle of my chest and hair below my shoulders and intended to keep it that way. I knew that Warren, to put it mildly, did not approve of what that represented in the early 1970s, and when he didn’t immediately reply I assumed the invitation was off. A few weeks later a letter arrived saying, “Let’s go.”
And we did.
We did some really good skiing for Warren’s camera at the finest ski resorts in Switzerland and France for more than a month, including some of the most memorable powder of my life. Warren used that footage in at least two films and it was well received and is still fun to watch. The trip remains in memory as some of my best time with Warren and crew and some of the best skiing of my life. But what I remember best of all was included in the delayed “let’s go” letter in which he wrote, “I’ve always maintained that what’s in a man’s head is more important than whatever is on it.”
That is, Warren Miller believed in people even when he disagreed with them, and, if they were honest, he supported them. He helped me understand that there is as much social/cultural/ideological freedom for the person who holds that belief as there is a different kind of freedom in the mountains and snowfields of the world.
Thanks, Warren.

TIBET, THE ENVIRONMENT, THE (AMERICAN) WEST

Every native of western America to visit Tibet is struck by the geographic, environmental and ‘Big Sky’ scenic similarities between the two different locales of our earth. To be sure, Tibet is higher above sea level, having the loftiest, most spectacular and loveliest mountains in the world, but except for the thin oxygen of the earth’s highest and largest plateau the western traveler to Tibet can easily imagine Nevada, Idaho, parts of Washington, Wyoming and Montana, Arizona, Utah, California, Colorado and New Mexico in the fragile Himalayan landscape.
Tibet is like western America in other ways as well. People are much the same everywhere in the world, and though many appear to not recognize it we all live from the same interlocking ecology. Tibet is Asia’s principal watershed the source of Asia’s great rivers, as the west is the source of many of America’s great rivers. Before the invasion/occupation/colonization of Tibet by Communist China in 1949 the waters leaving Tibet to become the Yellow River, the Brahmaputra, Yangtze and Indus were among the purest of any on the planet. These waters irrigate land where 47 percent of the earth’s human population lives, and today those waters are among the most heavily silted, polluted and prone to flood rivers in the world. What happens to the environment and people of Tibet does not stop at the Tibetan border.
Even more than the indigenous peoples of western America, the indigenous people of Tibet traditionally evolved successful and sustainable environmental practices into their cultural and political value systems as part of their Buddhist teachings. The Buddhist precept of Right Livelihood stresses contentment and discourages over-consumption and over-exploitation of natural resources because they harm other living beings and destroy habitat. In 1642 the Fifth Dalai Lama issued a Decree for the Protection of Animals and the Environment, and each succeeding Dalai Lama has annually issued a similar decree.
But the thirteenth Dalai Lama and the Government of Tibet in Exile do not determine what happens to the environment of today’s Tibet. China does. The most succinct description of China’s effect on the environment of Tibet is “ecocide.” (As the most succinct description of China’s effect on the people of Tibet is “genocide,” but that is another and equally ignored by most of the world matter.)
Ecocide is an ugly word. It indicates a far reaching and even uglier reality. Grasslands dominate the Tibetan landscape and formed the backbone of its traditional animal husbandry, agrarian economy. The staple agricultural crop was barley with other cereals and legumes, but China’s need to feed its ever expanding military and civil personnel and the enormous numbers of Chinese settlers seeking lebensraum in Tibet have devastated vast areas of once productive land. It has also extended farming onto marginal and steep terrain, and, as has happened throughout America, hybrid seeds, pesticides and chemical fertilizers have been indiscriminately spread upon the land and washed into the rivers and to wherever those rivers flow. The on-going degradation and desertification of the Tibetan Plateau during the past 50 years has very likely affected the atmospheric circulation and jet stream wind patterns over Asia, and may be one element of the destabilization of weather patterns in the northern hemisphere. The world is one environment with one interconnected ecological system, and the dynamics and problems of one part of that system and another, say Tibet and western America, are not all that different and each part affects the whole.
In 1949 the ancient forest of Tibet covered 221,800 square kilometers. Less than half that remains today. The rest is a casualty to China’s deforestation of huge areas of Tibet through clear cutting, much of it on steep slopes. Tibet is not alone in this. In 1998, after centuries of turning its own forests into denuded deserts through heedless logging, China banned logging within its borders. As a result, not only Tibet but Burma and other Southeast Asian nations and parts of Africa and Siberia are being clear cut to feed China’s demand for wood.
There are an estimated 90 nuclear warheads stationed in Tibet by China, and, as in Nevada, Idaho and Washington, the respective Communist and capitalist agencies responsible for public and environmental safety have performed their duties with equally cavalier and reckless deception. One report on nuclear waste in Tibet reads: “Waste disposal methods were reported to be casual in the extreme. Initially, waste was put in shallow, unlined landfills…disposed of in a roughshod and haphazard manner…Nuclear waste would have taken a variety of forms—liquid slurry, as well as solid and gaseous waste. Liquid or solid waste would have been in adjacent land or water sites.” Eerily similar descriptions have been written of the nuclear waste management practices at the nuclear facilities at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in Idaho and Hanford in Washington. (An aside worth noting: INL was once INEEL—Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory and before that something else, and before that something else, but a nuclear environmental laboratory is the punch line from one of Frankenstein’s favorite jokes about putting an apple laced with Plutonium-238 in the Garden of Eden to see what might happen. INL is more politically correct if not environmentally sensitive.)
As mentioned, Tibet and western America have many more similarities than differences and have much to teach and learn from each other.

ANOTHER WINTER

Another winter within the mountains and upon the mountain is upon us, and not a day too soon, thanks Ullr. The mountain of winter’s choice depends on the person, but for those of us whose lives in one way or another revolve around the practice of skiing in the small though growing mountain towns of western America November is the beginning of the best time of the year. Snow and cold temperatures and white upon those peaks gladdens the heart and quickens the pulse of those who ski and snowboard and snowshoe and skate and, truth be told, the even larger numbers of those who in some actively uninvolved way have an economic or sentimental interest in how glad are those hearts, how quick those pulses.
Not for us are the frigid, unaffectionate words of Victor Hugo: “Winter changes into stone the water of heaven and the heart of man.” One imagines poor old Victor, hunched like a glowering gargoyle over some small desk in a dank, chill Left Bank apartment with one tiny window looking out upon Notre Dame, contemplating his own considerable tragedies and the general sufferings of mankind, completely missing that air temperature is not responsible for turning the heart to stone and that when water is transformed to ice you are not required to cower upon the river’s bank waiting for spring to unthaw your heart of stone. Instead, you can put on a warm layer of clothes and get outside and breathe some cold, clean, invigorating air and learn the joys of sliding upon frozen water. In Hugo’s case, it would have been French, 19th century winter’s version of putting into action the pop wisdom adage, “If you are given a lemon, make lemonade.” Victor would have been better off getting out of the city with its famous, Gothic, man-made cathedral and taking a trip to Chamonix to cast his eyes upon nature’s own cathedrals, the Aiguille du Midi and Mont Blanc, among others, and walking up to Argentiere and checking out the Mer De Glace, the sight of which will thaw the stoniest heart. His spirits would surely have been raised if he had consulted Ullr instead of the deformed and definitely downer if good hearted Quasimodo and taken a walk in the Alps and breathed some clean, fresh, frigid air rather than holing up in Paris contemplating the dour, gargoylesque spirits spouting water off the flying buttresses of Notre Dame.
No, Victor Hugo’s dark view of winter is not for us who live in mountain town western America not by accident but by choice. We are more in tune with and the spirit of one of the most extraordinary skiers in the history of snow, Fridtjof Nansen. Indeed, Nansen, explorer, skier, scientist, statesman and humanitarian, was among the most amazing humans in the history of man, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 for his part in saving the lives of some 400,000 prisoners of war after World War I. Nansen exemplified the spirit of what Dick Munn, an adult skiing friend of my childhood who loved to ski and who had seen war and wanted nothing more to do with it, once said to me: “If everyone in the world skied, there would be no more wars.” Whether he was right or not in his idealism, I have always remembered it and the fact that Munn was inspired to think of it by the activity and place and season of skiing. Like Nansen, Dick Munn was warmed and made contemplative by skiing, the mountains and winter. A man for all seasons, Nansen wrote with a skier’s heart of skiing in the Arctic, “Tuesday, November 13. Thermometer –38 degrees C. (-36.4 degrees F)…..A delightful snowshoe (ski) run in the light of the full moon. Is life a vale of tears? Is it such a deplorable fate to dash off like the wind….through a night like this, in the fresh, crackling frost, while the snowshoes glide over the smooth surface, so that you scarcely know you are touching the earth, and the stars hang high in the blue vault above? This is more, indeed, than one has any right to expect of life; it is a fairy tale from another world, from a life to come.”
Yea, Fridtjof.
Yea, winter is here with its short days and long nights and brisk air that waken the body at first inhalation, putting it on full alert that this is the time to give complete attention to the smallest details of survival. It is a time to take note of those patches of ice on the sidewalk, the road, the ski hill and in the thoughts and hearts and intentions of those whose actions and decisions might make a difference in your life—the driver with cell phone at the ear coming around a glazed corner with an equally glazed look in the eye, the chattering of skis or snowboard coming up behind you with the sound of imperfect control, or someone who spins the truth with such icy determination that believing them could, indeed, turn the water of heaven and the heart of man into stone.

THE COURAGE OF THE CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR

Tom was never a close friend and I had not seen him in many years when he died 15 years ago, but he was a friend I admired and enjoyed. Tom lived a long and rich life of his own choosing. I mean, he was his own man, the first conscientious objector I ever knew. Actually, he was the first CO or “conscie” I ever knew of. Before him I had not heard the term or realized that one could honorably oppose the majority’s viewpoint of the day or maintain personal integrity by standing one’s ground against the sycophantic if passionate flow of social conformity.
Tom and his personal integrity are worth remembering in this time of Don and his incompleteness.
Tom had been a CO during World War II, a time and war when that status was accorded little merit or social respectability. During World War II more than 5000 people went to prison for their CO beliefs, though Tom served in a non-combative role. I first met him when I was a high school student in Reno, Nevada in the mid 1950s, a time of Eisenhower blandness, McCarthyism, atomic bombs being detonated in the Nevada desert, uniformity, conformity, consumerism and a national fear of communism not unlike the current fear of terrorism. It was a time, like now, when questioning authority was unlikely to result in rational discourse. Tom was older, an artist by nature, an English teacher in my high school by trade, and a fellow skier. He never talked with me about being a CO, but we all knew he had served in a non-combative role during WWII, and we knew he wasn’t afraid of authority, unpopularity, non-conformity or the dictates of his own conscience, which, it always seemed to me, was both clean and courageous.
Since the time of the Colonies, before there was a Constitution, the conscientious objector has had rights in this country. Subsequent U.S. law does not “require any person to be subject to combatant training and service in the armed forces of the U.S. who, by reason of religious training and belief, is conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form.” However, the law states that “the term ‘religious training and belief’ does not include essentially political, sociological or philosophical views, or a merely personal moral code.” But in 1965 and in 1970 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the words “religious training and belief” must now be interpreted to include personal moral and ethical beliefs that have the same force in people’s lives as traditional religious beliefs. That is, sincere personal moral and ethical beliefs in opposition to personal participation in war has the same legal standing as does believing in the authority and teachings of an organized and established religion. The operative word in the last sentence is ‘sincere,’ and for a CO to establish such sincerity is not an easy task.
During the Vietnam War the two best known of thousands of American conscientious objectors were Muhammad Ali, the boxer, and David Harris, the political and environmental activist and writer. Harris, who was married to Joan Baez at the time, went to jail for his beliefs. Ali, who was stripped of his world heavyweight boxing title because of his beliefs, fought in the courts for five years until he won in the U.S. Supreme Court. After this victory, Ali returned to the ring and won back his heavyweight title. His 1966 explanation for refusing to be drafted into the U.S. military has been much quoted and said it all: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.” He also said, “No Viet Cong ever called me ‘nigger.’” While Harris and Ali were well known and received a great deal of publicity in the mainstream media (most of it negative), the courage they exhibited and the price they paid for living according to their beliefs was no greater (and certainly no less) than that of many others. No one who ever saw him fight (much less those who got in the ring with him) could justify questioning Ali’s courage or calling him a coward, the usual knee-jerk reaction to the conscience in action of a conscientious objector.
Some believe they should and would fight in a war for a just cause, but insist that they be allowed to refuse to fight wars they think are wrong. These people are called “selective conscientious objectors,” but under U.S. law one cannot pick and choose between the “just” and “unjust” war. The current statute states that CO claimants must object to “participation in war in any form.” How to differentiate or define a “just” and an “unjust” war is an interesting if probably unanswerable problem, but some selective COs believe that the conditions for a “just war” cannot be met in modern times.
A CO need not believe in the principle of nonviolence or to be opposed to all forms of violence, the use of force, police powers or even the taking of human life. The law requires only that a person be conscientiously opposed to the planned and organized killing of combatant and non-combatant alike that takes place in warfare. One can be a CO and still be willing to use violence against another individual in order to protect self or others.
People don’t like to talk about the CO. The topic raises a myriad of uncomfortable issues, most notably for Christians the fifth commandment, but also such tangential issues as whether the state exists for the sake of the people or the people for the sake of the state (or whether they both exist for the sake of the corporation), the influence of the military-industrial-complex on American economic and foreign policy and individual responsibility for personal conscience.
He was hardly the first, but Tom was the first person I knew who confronted these issues, stood against the impetus to war, and had the courage to abide by his conscience and his conviction that there has to be a better way.

THE WISDOM OF A TEN YEAR OLD

My wonderful grandson Japhy Carpenter-Dorworth was 10 years old in 2006 when he wrote the following essay for a school assignment. It is filled with wisdom, compassion, care, insight, kindness and the responsible acknowledgement that all things are connected. Current world events and the actions and words of some of its leaders inspires me to put Japhy’s words here as reminder to those leaders and each of us to listen to the clarity of our children. Thanks, Japhy.

IF I COULD CHANGE ANYTHING I WOULD CHANGE THE WAR IN IRAQ

If I could change anything I would change the war in Iraq. I would change it because all the war has caused us is death and destruction. Sometimes in war teenagers are forced to go in the war and die. Animals die from bombs and starvation. Women and children die from bombs hitting them.
Uranium bombs destroy and pollute cites for hundreds of years. They also poison the people who live in the cities. Everything around the war zones is destroyed, like forests, schools and hospitals.
This war makes most Americans look like bad people, because they think all Americans are like the government. I don’t think this war makes us safer because more people want to kill us now. Also the leaders of countries lie about war being safe and having a war as a good thing.
I could change it by getting all the kids around to protest against the war.
My plan would be to get all the kids to stop school and not do any work to attract attention. Then I would try to get enough attention to get an interviewer to get me on television and ask every kid from other schools to help me. After that I would tell all the kids to get any friends or siblings to help.
Finally I would try to get on TV again. Then tell everybody we will not do work until we stop the war. Finally they would stop and all the surviving soldiers would come home. Then give some supplies and pay for all the damage we made. Then Bush should apologize to the Iraqi president and get fired.

COMPASSION IN ACTION

William Mawhinney is a fine northwest poet. One of his poems touches on the practice of Zen monks going into the streets each morning on their begging rounds, holding their begging bowls. The poem includes these lines about their return to the monastery:
“Monks return through the gate
Nourished by the compassionate, attached to no harvest.”
Nourished by the compassionate, attached to no harvest. Buddhism in action.
‘Compassion’ is defined as a word used to describe one person’s “…deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.” That, at any rate, is as good a definition as I’ve found….a deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.
A deep awareness of anything is hard enough, but if we put some effort into it we can gain some degree of awareness and appreciation of another’s suffering. To be aware is a first step and it is not in the beginning all that difficult because everyone is suffering. Everyone. In this room. In this town. In this world. Just look around. Just look inside. The First Noble Truth is everywhere, and it seems to me that human nature is such that the deeper our awareness of suffering, the stronger will be our wish to relieve it.
The most common definition of ‘wish’ is ‘desire’ and The Second Noble Truth is that desire is the cause of suffering. That is, the wish, the desire to relieve suffering causes suffering. Every human being inherently has some level of compassion. Animals have compassion, at least for their own offspring. But humans have the capacity to cultivate and expand their own compassion beyond self-interest to include all of life. One Tibetan Buddhist teaching reads: “When a dog sees her puppies in pain she develops the wish to protect them and free them from pain, and this compassionate wish is her Buddha seed. Unfortunately, however, animals have no ability to train in compassion, and so their Buddha seed cannot ripen. Human beings, though, have a great opportunity to develop their Buddha nature. Through meditation we can extend and deepen our compassion until it transforms into the mind of great compassion – the wish to protect all living beings without exception from their suffering. Through improving this mind of great, or universal, compassion it will eventually transform into the compassion of a Buddha, which actually has the power to protect all living beings. Therefore the way to become a Buddha is to awaken our compassionate Buddha nature and complete the training in universal compassion. Only human beings can do this.”
Compassion, then, is the effort in the present moment to be aware of the world as it is, to accept responsibility for it and to do whatever is within one’s power to alleviate its suffering without attachment to the outcome. Compassion is not warm and fuzzy as some might think and like to feel. Compassion is first of all awareness of suffering. Each individual response to one’s awareness of that suffering in the world is a step in the cultivation and expansion of compassion. The less attachment the bigger the step. This Zen story from Japan is one of my favorites and illustrates compassionate Buddha nature:
A beautiful girl in the village was pregnant. Her angry parents demanded to know who was the father. At first resistant to confess, the anxious and embarrassed girl finally pointed to Hakuin, the Zen master whom everyone previously revered for living such a pure life. When the outraged parents confronted Hakuin with their daughter’s accusation, he simply replied, “Is that so?”
When the child was born, the parents brought it to Hakuin, who now was viewed as a pariah by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility. “Is that so?” Hakuin said calmly as he accepted the child.
For many months he took very good care of the child until the daughter could no longer withstand the lie she had told. She confessed that the real father was a young man in the village whom she had tried to protect. The parents immediately went to Hakuin to see if he would return the baby. With profuse apologies they explained what had happened. “Is that so?” Hakuin said as he handed them the child.
That’s compassion in action.
Hakuin’s was not the reaction of denial, the avoidance of an unwanted responsibility or the blaming of others for an injustice, a dishonesty and more suffering. Just the question, “Is that so?” and taking care of that which needed care (the baby) while compassionate Buddha nature began to awaken in the beautiful girl and her parents and, we can hope, the young man in the village.
Hakuin, by turning the situation around with three words used as a mirror, “Is that so?” helped the girl, her parents, the young man and the entire village transform small mind into the large mind of universal compassion.
In closing, I want to include this funny little aside that just won’t go away whenever I think about compassion:
Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes.
That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.

COYOTE/coyote: TRICKSTER, TEACHER, SURVIVOR, FOOL

It is always good to remember coyote and Old Man Coyote.
Trickster, teacher, survivor and fool, coyote has inhabited this land we call America much longer than the later arriving humans from Asia, who have only been here about 10,000 years. European refugees started arriving around 500 years ago. Their descendants have forgotten their refugee ancestry, act as if they own the place and do not pay as much attention to Coyote as do their indigenous predecessors. The small prairie wolf known as coyote mostly attracts their interest in a long standing, unsuccessful effort at extermination; but this creature with a perpetual bounty on its hide resembling a medium-size dog with a narrow face, tawny fur and a bushy tail, is only one aspect of what native American peoples have called Coyote, Coyote Man and Old Man Coyote.
In some Native American traditions, Coyote impersonates the Creator, making humans out of mud and bringing into being the buffalo, elk, deer, antelope and bear. In these myths, Coyote-Creator is never mentioned as an animal, though he can and does meet his animal counterpart, coyote. They walk and talk together, addressing the other as “elder brother” and “younger brother.” In these traditions the spiritual and corporeal are brothers who always walk and talk together.
While coyotes (the animal) are certainly responsible for destroying some domestic livestock, they are important to the larger environment as scavengers and destroyers of rodents. Omnivorous feeders, they prey on small animals, eat plant matter, carrion and garbage, and sometimes though not regularly team up to hunt larger animals. They are an invaluable part of a healthy ecology and environment, which sustains all life, including that of domestic livestock. That the livestock industry has waged a brutal and environmentally irresponsible slaughter (most of it at taxpayers, not industry, expense) of coyote for more than 100 years is shameful, scandalous, unsuccessful, unnecessary and expensive. That coyote has persisted, prospered and expanded in both numbers and range since the livestock industry put a price on his head is an indication of why Old Man Coyote continues to live in the mythology and dreams of native Americans and in the literature and imagination of its more recent arrivals. Coyote Man is the primordial trickster/teacher of American lore.
The creature coyote has managed to survive and thrive in the same (murderous) American West environment that drove wolf to the edge of extinction. The coyote learned quickly not to eat the strychnine-laced cow carcasses that ranchers put out to kill predators, but the wolf did not learn. The wolf, despite its recent re-introduction in small populations and limited areas, is mostly gone from the vast territory over which it roamed 200 years ago. The coyote, equally persecuted and slaughtered in that same time period, has expanded its territory from the plains of central and western America. Coyote now lives as far north as Alaska, as far south as central America, and from the Pacific Coast to New England, including New York City’s Central Park and Los Angeles’ metropolitan area. Coyote/coyote is ubiquitous.
There are many stories of Old Man Coyote—trickster, teacher, survivor and fool: he is a hero, always traveling, stupid and awful, outrageous and cunning, foolish and wise, mischievous and often doing well, despite himself.
In many ways, Old Man Coyote as well as the flesh and blood coyote act remarkably like human beings. American cultures, both native and European derived, have created mythologies and literature, murdered, admired, learned from and made of Coyote/coyote a villain and a fool, just as humans tend to do with each other.
There are many stories told by humans of Old Man Coyote’s sheer foolishness, all of them anthropocentric projections when one thinks about them. For instance, once Coyote Man was struck by the beauty of the gold colored cottonwood leaves as they floated to the ground. Instead of appreciating them for what they are, Coyote Man wanted to be beautiful like them. “Now, how do you do that?” he asked the leaves. “That’s so pretty the way you come down.”
“That’s easy,” the leaves replied, “all you have to do is get up in a tree and fall off.” Coyote Man climbed up the nearest tree and jumped off, filled with the vain and impossible desire to be as lovely as a falling cottonwood leaf. Of course he isn’t a cottonwood leaf. Coyote Man is killed, crashing to the ground just like a coyote falling out of a tree. The sight is neither beautiful nor inspiring. It is grotesque and really, really foolish.
In myth and lore, Coyote Man never dies; he just gets back up and comes to life again. In real present time life coyote still dies in traps, from poison and being run over and shot by humans, but coyote continues to flourish. Sometimes you can hear the song of coyote howling in the night. The sound of this song is as lovely and full of lessons about the world and how to live in it as the sight of cottonwood leaves falling to the ground.
Only a fool would jump out of a tree hoping to look like a cottonwood leaf.
Coyote Man/coyote and man have a lot in common. It is a mystery how they continue to survive and thrive.

WITNESS

Earth bears witness to Buddha
Buddha bears witness to Dharma
Dharma bears witness to Sangha
Of all sentient beings
Awakening
Bearing witness
Sleeping
Awakening
Sleeping
Awakening
To Earth
Over and over and over
Sentient beings
Sleeping
Awakening
Eye ear nose tongue body mind
To the subtle/siren alarm
Of Earth
Awakening
Sight sound smell taste touch and consciousness
With each breath
Witnessing
Earth
Suffering

TIME

“We say that time is money, meaning both are valuable. Both are a form of power. Usually, there is a reciprocal relationship between them; that is, abundance of money seems to go along with a shortage of time, and abundance of time with shortage of money. Money is the wealth of the materialist, and works miracles in the realm of the physical. Time is the wealth of the pilgrim, and works miracles in all realms.”
Ed Buryn

In weekday morning traffic anywhere in America it is possible to observe and be wary of drivers talking and texting on their cell phones, tailgating those observing speed limits and passing at every available space in the bumper to bumper traffic as if the 30 seconds sooner they will reach their destinations are the most important moments in the history of time.
As if time has a history.
Or a future.
From one perspective such timeless observations of our fellow traffic-bound humans are hilarious, from another alarming. From any perspective they are worthy of contemplation and self-reflection. As a practical matter, clocks and calendars regulate the everyday life of most of mankind around the sequence of events we call time; but practicality and essential reality are not always on the same schedule, as the old adage “Timing is everything” points out. Time is a concept, not a fixed reality, as relativity theory describes. Time is conceived by many as a commodity to be bartered and traded and consumed like pork bellies, or a storehouse to be filled to the rafters with the toys of experience or the juicy fruits of labor. I prefer the perspective of Henry David Thoreau who said both, “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in,” and “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
There are natural regulators called ‘biological clocks’ that govern aging and the rhythms of behavior, circadian cycles governing daily temperature and metabolism, and electrical rhythms in the human brain including the most prominent known as ‘alpha rhythms. But scientific efforts to locate a specific area of the brain that controls man’s sense of time have been unsuccessful. The concept of measured time is, thus, a human construct, a nifty piece of conceptual engineering.
The work of Einstein and others show that time is relative to the observer, causing the view of time as an independent entity to give way to the concept that space and time are intertwined and inseparable. Ultimately, it seems to me, the human concept of time is a mystery like life itself, best and most nutritiously experienced by slowing down and appreciating the moment rather than missing it in a race to reach a future destination 30 seconds sooner.
Eckhart Tolle perhaps expressed it best: “Most people treat the present moment as if it were an obstacle that they need to overcome. Since the present moment is life itself, it is an insane way to live.”

CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS IN SKIING

The following appeared as a letter to the editor in Powder Magazine last spring, in support of an article Porter Fox wrote in the online Powder Magazine at http://www.powder.com/stories/news/campaign-donations-link-ski-industry-leaders-climate-change-deniers

November 15, 2016
Bozeman, Montana

To the editor:

Re: Those who support deniers of human caused climate change.

The world of skiing is a microcosm of the larger world. I am one of those fortunate enough to have spent my life in this privileged, tiny, dependent on snow sphere. My gratitude for a life in skiing includes some awareness that all things are connected, no matter how large or small one’s world of experience and attention, and that each of us are responsible for how the world is faring. That is, our actions and thoughts matter.

Snow is the literal foundation of skiing and, as reservoir for the waters of spring and summer, the foundation of much larger spheres of life than are found in the corporate properties and offices of Vail Resorts, Jackson Hole, Mammoth Mountain, Squaw Valley, Sugarloaf and others. Human caused climate change is and has been and will continue to decimate the world’s environment and ecology, including the foundation of the world of skiing. It is a crisis of unprecedented danger to all life on Earth, and its menace will be immeasurably compounded for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Skiers and other human beings who attempt to deny human caused climate change are absurd and shameful, and their futile attempts to deny reality are based on stupidity, ignorance or purposeful ignorance. Stupidity can sometimes be alleviated by experience. Ignorance can be cured by well-intentioned and thorough education. Purposeful ignorance—which afflicts those who are neither stupid nor ignorant but whose compassion, personal ethics and morality have been stunted and deformed into deception by greed, ideology, laziness or the illusion of disconnection from all things not serving their self-interest—can be coaxed into reality by honest, courageous journalism.

Thank you, Porter Fox and Powder Magazine, for being the first major skiing writer and publication to address this issue and shine some light on the dark deniers. Don’t stop now.

Sincerely,

Dick Dorworth