Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Fiction & Essays’ Category

C&R 2004Back in 2004, illustrator Angela Fox and I self-published a children’s book entitled “Comet & the Rainbow”. The fairy tale was produced as a PowerPoint plug-and-play CD for the PC, complete with narration by yours truly.

The quality of the narration was terrible and the PowerPoint delivery mechanism failed miserably: the release of Comet & the Rainbow was considerably less than stellar. In fact, it was a virtual implosion whose event horizon was attained rather swiftly with the arrival of a particular minister’s email condemning me to burn forever in the eternal fires of Hell.

Why is that, you might ask?

Comet & the Rainbow — promoted as an “eco-planetary tale” that helps children better understand why it is a good idea to leave the ecology of Mother Earth intact — is a mixture of both science and religion. Apparently, it’s okay to be either pro-evolution or pro-creationism, but — heaven forbid! — not both. Page 1 Narration

Page 1 iBooks Screen Capture

Have I learned anything from the smell of brimstone or my attempt at melding science with religion and letting children enjoy a fairy tale for the sake of the story without having to dissect issues that don’t interest them anyhow?

Hell, no! Instead, what I did was crouch like a beast sitting in the shadows and waited a decade for technology to catch up.

Comet & the Rainbow

Rah! Good News:

Page 5 Narration

Page 5 iBooks Screen Capture

Last week, Comet & the Rainbow went live as a children’s book/fairy tale on the Apple iTunes Store, available in 60 some-odd countries. The narration audio and text resolution has been exponentially improved. Like the Namuh and the Little Green Planet, C&R has evolved. It is, truly, the best that I can make it.

Bad news for some:

To date, Apple’s iTunes’ “iBook” format is the only game in town when it comes to embedding audio files (i.e. narration) directly into an image-only page such as C&R. To my knowledge, Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and other ePub associated publishing platforms (as opposed to Apple’s iBooks) do not yet allow such embedding. However, with that said, I am working on an Amazon version of Comet & the Rainbow that will not contain narration. Rest assured that I will once again crouch like a beast sitting in the shadows and wait for technology to catch up to the ePub arena.

Until that happens, to view this book, you must have an Apple iPad with iBooks 3 or later (free software) and iOS 5.1 or later, or any Mac (using Mavericks OS X 10.9 or greater) and iBooks 1.0 or later (free software).

Meanwhile:

Page 28 Narration

Page 28 iBooks Screen Capture

Can the Namuh avoid destroying everything worth saving on the Little Green Planet before it’s too late? Kids, parents and grandparents are encouraged to download the free iTunes Sample Book.

Even if you are not Apple equipped, maybe someone you know is. Please visit my web site and read what Comet & the Rainbow is all about. Click on the site’s “Available on iTunes” button, browse the sample pages (seen here) , read the description and learn more. Even better — if you are an Apple user — download the free iTunes Sample Book and let me know what you think.

Angela and I have spent years working on this project. Now, you’re a part of it. And if you happen to purchase Comet & the Rainbow, consider leaving a kindly review on the iTunes Store and promoting the book whenever you can. Page 45 Narration

Read Full Post »

Tim says: I have always been interested in science  and, to a point, following current events as best I can. Unlike science, current events tend to change day to day; it usually takes science a few days to catch up.

Black holes* have always fascinated me. What are they? Where do they come from? Where do they go? How can massive objects — whose gravity is so strong even light and possibly time cannot escape, and which are now believed to be the center of every one of the billions of galaxies scattered throughout the known universe — even exist?

Aquacious monuments.

And what is all this hoopla about global warming? Is it? Isn’t it? Do we know for sure?

“By golly, Tim,” you might now be asking yourself, “what the hell do black holes and global warming have in common, and where are you heading with this?”

Well, you see … more than a decade ago I wrote this really weird poem…

+ + + + +

One Hundred Feet Below Sea Level

Our houses will be reefs someday,
When the poles shift,
Or the ozone fails,
The ice caps melt,
Aquacious monuments,
One hundred feet below sea level.

The continents are old
And ancient movement
Is measured in inches.
What once was here
Will soon once be there.
Snorkeled tourists will float,
Peering downward,
Or sink, bubbles rising,
For closer observation.
Rooftop skylights,
Intimately outlined in coral,
Too far below to own,
But delicately enticing.
Scuba divers
Find riding lawn mowers
Silently locked inside of sheds,
Patios and stone walls
Awash with shadow and distortions.
Ornamental trees, once leafed,
Now skeletal.
Surface tension
Sucks seashores
To the skirts of the mountains,
Where whales sing liquid songs,
Connecting the canyons,
And sightseers once shot
White water on rubber rafts.

The Earth is old
And ancient movement
Is measured in miles per second.
What once was here
Will soon once be there,
Twirling around our sun,
Like continents in motion,
In concert with the system,
Itself minuscule.
Planets within galaxies,
Seas within oceans,
Expanding from a central horizon,
Measured in light years
And tidal action.
Mass and densities
Manipulated by gravitational forces,
Dancing in balance.
Holes within black holes,
Floes within currents,
Light bending so tightly,
That what lies ahead
Is seen from behind,
Until there is nothing,
No seas and no oceans.

Our houses will be reefs someday,
When the poles shift,
Or the ozone fails,
The ice caps melt.
Aquacious monuments,
One hundred feet below sea level.

+ + + + +

* If you have read the “black hole” link in today’s Simply Tim, you have once again used the incredible services of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a non-profit organization who can use your help. If you by-passed Wikipedia’s “Please Read” section during your previous visit, I urge you to check it out now.

Read Full Post »

Tim says: take your pick and let me know which you prefer by voting in the poll to the right.

 

“Skipping Stones”
A (very) Short Story by Simply Tim

 

Jimmy Rose picked up a shiny stone from the bank of his father’s pond and skipped it across the surface. His little sister, Sally, clapped her hands and gleefully jumped up and down. Jimmy loved his sister, but she always followed him everywhere. He searched the bank for another flat stone, found one, and flicked it across the pond. Somewhere in-between the third and fourth skip, Sally made her special laugh and the stone disappeared in a puff of smoke.

“Cut that out, Sally,” shouted Jimmy. He spun around, caught Sally giggling in the bushes. “I hate it when you do that.”

Sally frowned.

“Where do things go when you poof them out like that, anyhow?” Jimmy placed his hands on his hips.

“It went to… Rock Heaven,” said Sally. “That’s where rocks go to live happily ever after, for ever and ever.” Sally was big on fairy tales because — no matter what — happily ever after was always the way they ended.

“There is no ‘happily ever after’, Sally,” scolded Jimmie. “‘Happily ever after’ is a big, fat, lie adults tell to keep us kids in line — just like Santa Claus. No one is happy for ever and ever!”

“That’s not true!” screamed Sally. “There is too a Santa Claus, and there is, too a happily ever after… you’re just making all of that up!” She began to cry.

Jimmy glanced down and picked up the most perfectly-shaped stone he’d ever seen. He threw it as hard as he could, but somewhere in-between the sixth and seventh bounce, Sally stopped crying and made her special laugh. Jimmy disappeared in a puff of smoke and Sally skipped happily ever after into the sunset.

 

ENDING 1 END

 

ENDING 2

Jimmy glanced down and picked up the most perfectly-shaped stone he’d ever seen. He threw it as hard as he could. Somewhere in-between the sixth and seventh bounce, Sally stopped crying and made her special laugh. Then, she disappeared in cloud of smoke.

 

“Skipping Stones” Copyrighted© 2011 by Simply Tim’s Blog Spot.
All rights reserved worldwide.

Read Full Post »

(Click here for Part 2)

The Tuneup (Part 3 )

CONCLUSION

This time, soft passage through an evergreen bluff. The bottom is found frozen quiet, and like a fat snowman split open, my life-processes are suddenly lost dead center where I was thinking. “Start the purge!” I shout, mimicking the Engineer’s voice so perfectly it sounds like an echo.

The mechanic is momentarily confused.

“Not bad,” says the Engineer. “Mechanic! First thing in the morning I want to begin recombinational programming. You hear that, Genie-THING?”

“When was the last time you brushed your teeth?”

“Sweet dreams,” whispers the Mechanic so softly only I can hear.

They turn the lights off and go to their own private climates, leaving me draped in my chair at an inhuman angle. My cells are alive, but at a low level — left open to their own suicidal devices.

Mechanics aren’t known to have feelings.

From somewhere I can remember a vague set of variables. I open a line on a closed file. Through the years my genetics have become mashed tightly together, compressed in a random spiral: memories without logical origins — where do they come from? I know my Companion has died, but through her I somehow remain protected. This bare room is uncomfortably familiar — the feeling is like the sound of metal against metal, but empty of nuance, pitched to frequencies only half of me hears.

Which half?

The gyroscope swings loudly on its incredible workings: no audio, but a screaming inside my brain stem: no — further down. I’m slapped senseless and the bricklayer wonders why the wall crumbles. I am naked, my toes anchored to the cold concrete as if I were growing roots in some stark, green meadow.

“God, help me,” I manage, afraid.

Speech functions: ON LINE.

I can see her features sleeping even in this dark; I see a young face grow old and wrinkle in the wink of an eye. She was my lifetime Companion. It happened — it seems now — a very long time ago, like trying to grab hold of a waking dream. By some osmotic trickling, my thoughts wrestle downward and inwards, reduced in intensity, but still enough to latch hold of loose nerve endings. I think we made love. At this juncture my skin heats up briefly before those sensitivities are erased completely.

“I loved you.”

In their tight suits, the avalanche team had once covered their eyes with the likeness of mirrors, so they could see inside themselves the way I do at this moment, without benefit of daylight.

Time passes.

How long have I sat like this? My genetic portions delve down past the whole. I can perceive the components of my biological selves decaying. Minutes slide by so s-l-o-w-l-y I am withdrawn completely. Images flash by in their spontaneous births so quickly they’re almost stroboscopic — a perfect ordained sum of infinitesimal parts: emotions running rampant.

A synapse sparkles. I imagine I was once an ignorant prophet, or perhaps an ambitious student. I am pleased that humor has not abandoned me. Perhaps I was a sailor once on some young woman’s schooner?

“Aye, aye!”

Speech functions: ON LINE.

And I remember how I could feel sea-breezes, and move my arms in the water while swimming — human halves working in complete dysfunction; and holding her close, feeling her warm breath trailing across my facial receptors — sandpaper shards now. No — oh, please — the doors are ruthlessly closing.

Again the room comes into focus. I have been here before, only it seemed their work had been accomplished on schedule; no time span like this, then — no dark lonely hours like these, steeping in dwindling DNA consciousness.

It is time, and I know this. Peripherally, the door opens and the pink-faced man returns to my side. He’s grinning and drinking a morning cup of coffee.

“Hey, how about that!” he exclaims, shaking his head slowly from side to side.

A whirling sound, an attempt at vocalization, failed.

Speech functions: OFF LINE.

“Haw — no comment, Poet? What’s the matter — cat got your tongue?” he jeers happily.

“A. . .E. . .I. . .O. . .U?”

Phoneme subsystem: ON LINE.

“Still a bit arrogant, eh?” The Engineer swallows some more coffee and licks his lips. “All Genies say that, haw!” The Engineer is in a good mood. The Mechanic rolls in and opens the cabinet. He reaches for something that is not in my field of vision. “You know,” chats the Engineer as the Mechanic works. “Less genetics and more meat and potatoes makes for a better android. That’s what I always say.”

“Affirmative,” chirps the Mechanic.

List protected files:
(LIST) (KILL) (PASSWORD)

“Strange,” exclaims the Mechanic.

“What’s strange?” asks the Engineer.

“This unit has managed to protect several system files from the sweep purge. That is not possible.”

The Engineer sounds irritated. “Can’t we just kill the files and get on with it?”

The Mechanic thinks for several moments. “I can enter a direct KILL command — yes,” answers the Mechanic, hesitantly. “But I think it would be wise to begin another sweep and monitor the process. Illegal programming is evident.”

“HACKERS?”

“Yes,” responds the Mechanic.

List password: PASSWORD = KILL

The Engineer finishes his coffee. “To hell with another sweep. We’ve wasted enough time. Hackers or NO hackers — Kill the damn files, NOW!”

“Affirmative.” The Mechanic makes a connection. “A kill command has been issued.”

I slump off the chair and clatter to the floor. Wisps of acrid smoke — reeking of charred circuit boards and burned plasma — spew into the air.

“Destruct mechanisms have been implemented.” The Mechanic speaks softly. “Someone has tampered with this unit.” A series of fire alarms are tripped. Sounds of confusion are everywhere.

“0?” I exhale for the last time. My breath is sucked out of me. No pain. Just numbness and great joy and a pure white avalanche rushing over me . . .

The Mechanic catches the full force of the detonation; as it is ripped apart by the explosion, bits and large pieces of its metal structure tear through the pink-faced man’s stomach. The Engineer screams once and falls to his knees, clutching his belly. His coffee cup rattles across the floor without breaking. It comes to rest in a bright patch of sunshine that bursts through a new hole in the wall that looks remarkably like a torn sail.

+ + +

(copyright© 1990-2010 by Tim Lee & Simply Tim. All rights reserved worldwide.)

Read Full Post »

(Click here for Part 1)

The Tuneup (Part 2)

Stand on my head — upside down — and I pivot smoothly. Up is up, and down is down again. Transitional periods of counter-balancing make up the real world, infinitely precise and delicately oiled. Gyrate at an awkward angle: become an observer for life. From somewhere, past images in a high school yearbook well up, then filter away. Material things only look good pinned to a wall. There is no art, just quick-dried effort, capped and kept in clean glass jars, displayed like a freak in some cosmic sideshow. My biological self shouts out, a frantic First Mate who has scuttled the Captain’s last command.

My memory is ancient and confused, but the avalanche team has done their handiwork; their devices still sing the song of fresh bearings. Sweet sounds vibrate through the ship, harmonically loosening screw-heads and seams where welders took leave of their work for a lunch-box meal — later resuming on full conscious bellies. The glittering sun sends them home, squinting all the way back to their dark barrooms. After hour breezes travel from the bilges to the top decks, and through these relaxing seams fresh air pushes where the avalanche will soon follow.

I loved her. “Under sail!” I say aloud, not knowing why.

The Engineer turns around. “What’s that?” he asks, not having been part of my subconscious wandering. “You say something, Genie?”

“I said this ship was built by men, and man is a devious creature.”

“Shut up,” he commands. “You know, I really HATE Genies.”

“This unit’s mnemonics have fused to the point of near dementia,” chimes the Mechanic drone.

“And dumb-ass Mechanics aren’t much better!”

The Engineer thinks that was funny.

In my daydream the sailors soon become sick. The sea rolls over them so completely they don’t even feel faint — merely cold. The captain slides his eyes sideways and the ship shudders: the Mechanic had been quite accurate in its observation. “I am going to die,” I say too loudly.

The Engineer breaks out in a deep easy laughter. “Mechanic — you hear THAT? It thinks it’s gonna DIE and it ain’t even been ALIVE. Breaks your heart, don’t it?”

The Mechanic remains silent.

“You don’t understand,” I say cheerfully in a voice that sounds very far away.

“I — don’t?” goads the Engineer.

“Death is better than life without memories. Memories add JOY to living — without memories there is only survival. I doubt someone like you can understand that.”

“A philosopher now are we?” The Engineer laughs. “Know what I think?”

“Mechanic, this human THINKS?”

“I think we should cut you apart real slow — with a dull laser! — and sell your hard parts as scrap.” He pauses, possibly wondering if there can be such a thing as a dull laser . “Your soft parts I’d use for zoo-bait — HAW!”

“The truth is,” I point out, “we both know my soft parts are worth more than ten lifetimes of your paychecks.”

The Engineer curses and cracks my faceplate with the butt of a torque driver. He glances quickly around the room to make sure a supervisor hasn’t wandered in.

“Too bad.” I chuckle. “A year’s worth of salary gone in a moment of anger.” My chuckle becomes laughter, because I know the Engineer hates the sound of my laughter.

“Laugh while you can, Genie. You’re dead meat. After you’re reprogrammed you won’t even remember what a memory is. Haw!”

“This Droid is an exceptional model,” cautions the Mechanic, flatly. “Reprogramming has historically proven difficult.”

The Engineer drops his cigarette on the floor and crushes it out with the heel of a boot. “You really think we’re going to have trouble with this Genie?”

“Affirmative,” responds the Mechanic. “Genetic encroachment has always resulted in serious sweep-purge setbacks, and — as this unit has already pointed out — the Droid is sixty-three years overdue. According to related casework . . .”

“Shut up,” snapped the Engineer. “Get on with it.”

Pure white ice slips in without the faintest damaging sound, freezing the scene like a cold holograph. I had been warned there would be some remembrance: past lives inadequately erased in previous sweep purge sessions; that ice floats and the tip emerges — but always the main mass remembers; that an etched chip spits its program all over the sea’s bottom until all power ultimately fails, and even then, it will come alive at the merest presence of force or vestige of an energy unit.

The Mechanic had moved in closer and is staring coldly into the space behind my faceplate. “Do you have pain?” it asks, apparently for a second time.

“Yes. My love sweeps through at unusual moments, made more perfect by chance, coaxed like a burp from a suckling baby.”

Speech functions: ON LINE.

“Well, what do you know,” exclaims the Engineer. “A Genie POET!”

“Aye-aye, Captain. ‘My love is like a red, red rose.’”

The Engineer makes a face and turns toward the Mechanic. “How much shop time is this unit gonna require?”

The Mechanic hums and clicks. “If everything goes well, a minimum sixteen hour sweep purge.” The Mechanic opens a cabinet and withdraws several gleaming probes. “Then another eight to ten hours of recombinational programming.”

“Hardly seems worth it.” The Engineer spits out a fleck of tobacco.

Particles settle, their centers held together by gravitational provisions — laws that ordain such orbital matters. The avalanche team has passed over this spectacle, planting explosives for safe skiing. The timer is ticking.

“Have you ever gone skiing?” I ask.

The Engineer looks first at the Mechanic — who had managed to gain access into only a few fringes — and then at me. “Can’t we shut this bastard up?”

“Negative,” replies the Mechanic. “Not until the main sweep is completed.”

“Trees are, by nature, quite hard and unyielding. In fact, they’re much more than just cosmetically appealing.” The new crack in my faceplate makes the human appear double. Earphones blot out the real sounds; I tear through the landscape like a ghost. The past is shut out, shot from the edges on a downhill slide. Moments whip past my notions of skiing. “Just one more ride?”

The human stares into my head and attempts an adjustment.

“Race me to the bottom?” I laugh.

Speech functions: ON LINE.

+ + +

(copyright© 1990-2010 by Tim Lee & Simply Tim. All rights reserved worldwide.)

Read Full Post »

Tim says: the following Sci-Fi story was published by Starshore Magazine in its premiere edition in 1990. Our friend, Rich was Starshore magazine’s Editor-in-Chief.  Starshore was a slick, high-quality quarterly magazine published by McAlpine Publishing, a division of London Bridge Publishing. The Tuneup was my first serious attempt at science fiction. When I read it now I get a chuckle. After all, it was written 20 years ago and lots of things have changed since then. Back in 1980 I was somewhat of a computer geek, which is evident in the story, particularly to me now when I read back over it and recall that era in my life. About 6 years ago The Tuneup was published again in the Recipe du Jour newsletter.

At any rate,  I will be presenting it here as a weekly 3-part serialization.  Hope you get as much of a kick out of it as I still do.

The Tuneup (Part 1)

I watch the square patch of sunlight that streams through the hospital window; first, the flowers on the dressing table, then the mosaic tiles on the antiseptic floor, then the folds of the sheets at the foot of her bed: they had all taken turns in the yellow light patterns which now outline our hands as they lay loosely intertwined.

“We had such a fine time,” she says, moving my hand out of the daylight and closer to her face.

“Yes,” I agree in a whisper. By her gesture I know she understands more than my lack of movement. She presses my hand tightly against her cheek. I can feel the warm hum of her life, caught up in a great passing of some vacuum, circulating at my fingertips. Even this close to death she remains wildly alive.

I recall in an instant her silhouette and how it formed harsh angles, back-lit against the schooner’s taut mainsail. Years ago that seem like minutes. Now, the wrinkles in her face form those same dancing shadows, not at all harsh or unbecoming.

“Are you afraid?” she asks, and smiles. At the sound of her voice, the sunlight blinks out and is gone.

“We have shared many fine memories.” I try to return the same slight pressure as she squeezes my hand, but am unable to respond with any meaningful motion. “I am sad, not afraid.”

“The Avalanche Team,” she comforts, “. . . don’t forget the Avalanche Team.”

Long ago we had watched the sleek Swiss figures carving a path with their skis, plummeting down the mountainside. Even from this distance I can see their white suits and red crosses plainly. They were planting explosives to insure safe skiing, rushing ahead of the avalanche that was  soon to follow. “Look at them,” I remembered her saying, “All that fresh snow and they’re the first to disturb it.

Her hand slips from mine and I know she has moved to a very dark place. A tear trickles down from somewhere underneath my faceplate. I manage a low moaning sound.

The hospital room doors fly open; I hear the whine of two security drones as they glide across the smooth floor. Mechanical arms grab me roughly, without effort, and from voice synthesizers comes an excited chuckling modulation. The drones move into my field of vision.

“I am ready,” I say simply. The drones’ twittering instantly stops, my human syntax confusing their primitive receptors. Gently this time — because they have recognized the importance of their cargo — they load me into a vehicle that whisks off towards a sunburst horizon.

I am arranged carefully for this shipment, neatly propped up and lashed to a padded seat. A huge children’s gyroscope whirls inside my head, inaccessible, powered by some external source. I follow a balancing wheel that teeters by degrees, and am nurtured by the constant breeze of calm security. My circuits have been sabotaged by the Avalanche Team, who tinkered long ago, making last minute adjustments: this is the way we  both had wanted it.

They take me to a room and I am here for a long time.

Time passes.

“Take a look at this one!” It is a pink-faced human who speaks as he motions to the space I occupy. He wears the green braid of an Engineer, Second Class. A drab mechanic drone spins around nervously at his feet. “Damn, a real live Genie – – I don’t believe it!” The human is pleased.

The mechanic whines over and scans my identification code. “G-Droid, Bio-genetic — extremely early model,” it reads in a monotone.

“I can see that, idiot,” snaps the Engineer. He kicks the mechanic. “Can it SPEAK?”

“Last maintenance performed by this office in August of twenty ninety-four,” I respond. “Precisely sixty three years downstream. Mechanic — can it subtract?”

Speech functions: ON LINE.

The mechanic makes a clicking sound.

“When was your last tune-up, Droid?” snarls the Engineer, moving closer. Obviously, the Engineer cannot subtract.

“No data is available on this unit,” offers the mechanic.

“None?”

“Affirmative. No data is available.”

“Tuneups were against my Companion’s religion.” I try to smile, but fail. The sadness returns.

The Engineer lights a cigarette. “That’s impossible.” A cloud of blue smoke is forced out between his teeth. “Maintenance every ten years is the LAW!” he hisses.

“And a law we can certainly live with.” I laugh this time, because I know my laughter is unsettling to humans.

The Engineer narrows his eyes and approaches to within millimeters of my faceplate. He raps a knuckle sharply on the side of my head. “I want you to know I’m going to enjoy reprogramming you,” he says slowly. “Yeah, I’m gonna REALLY enjoy sucking your memories right out of your head.”

I attempt to unlock my eyes from their frozen position to meet his gaze defiantly, but genetics have long since overcome my mechanical natures.

“Look at you,” snickers the Engineer, flicking his cigarette. “Can’t even wipe ashes off your own forehead. What’s the matter – – your GENES ooze out all over your ball bearings?” The Engineer snorts loudly. “Haw, I bet you can’t even wipe your–”

“Affirmative,” chimes the drone. “Advanced mechanical dysfunction is indicative of Genetic Encroachment.”

“Hey, Droid!” The Engineer taps my faceplate with a torque driver. “Ever wonder why they stopped making scumbag Genies like you? Because you can’t play God with genetics. THAT’S why!”

Time passes.

+ + +

(copyright© 1990-2010 by Tim Lee & Simply Tim. All rights reserved worldwide.)

Read Full Post »

Tim says: a number of years ago I entered an essay contest sponsored by Shell Oil. The theme was something or another about how we interact with the environment and vice versa. Since the prize money was good, I thought and thought and thought, and came up empty.  And then one day I was sitting on my dock, watching a pair of ospreys fishing for dinner. I was fishing for mine, too. Something clicked, and as we spent some time fishing together, my mind began to wander. I decided to go with a series of short vignettes, loosely tied together. A typical Simply Tim unorthodox approach. Maybe that’s why I never heard a peep out of Shell Oil.

EARTHRISE AND RUNNING SHOES

(an Essay of Sorts)


When mankind’s first interplanetary travelers stood on the Moon and gazed back at Earth, they were startled to see only a fragile blue sphere surrounded by a minuscule membrane of atmosphere. As the water planet rose delicately above the stark lunar moonscape, the astronauts snapped a few pictures to remind us that we are all captive passengers on an environmental star-ship of sorts, one whose resources are not limitless after all, but terribly finite. Fittingly, the now famous sequence of photographs became known as the “Earthrise” series.

* * *

In the gray North Carolina morning, a dappled osprey tucks its wings tightly and dives into the mirror surface of North Shore Cove.  Powerful wings raise the predator sluggishly from the water, a wriggling bass clutched in its talons.  Rivulets, the color of sunrise, are cast off with each measured down stroke.  Struggling in the cool air, the osprey circles in search of rising thermals, the startled bass gaping, open-mouthed, as the lake’s surface dances just out of focus, a new perspective for the fish, both curious and terrifying.

If not for a lone fisherman sitting at the end of a nearby dock, the osprey’s plunge and subsequent seizure of a meal would have gone unobserved.  Instead, the fisherman tightens a catfish line and watches the osprey circle the cove’s perimeter while the frightened bass dangles precariously from a single clenched claw.  After a while, the osprey’s outstretched wings visibly snap taut, catching the warm rise of a thermal updraft.  Now soaring without effort, the osprey relaxes and circles, climbing until it is but a black speck against the white pillow of a single, towering cumulus cloud.  The last thing the bass glimpses is a vertiginous green slash of a bluish lake very, very far below.

* * *

Five hundred miles to the north, a lonely old woman tosses a handful of sunflower seeds to a scattering of Central Park pigeons.  Sleepy joggers, wrapped in Speedo spandex and crowned with Walkman headphones, are oblivious to the landscape that surrounds them.  To them, the park remains timeless and unchanging except for the seasons that come and retreat, made homogeneous by the steady slap of  running shoes.

Away from the squat brownstones and tall concrete and glass infrastructures of New York City, the woman sips a cappuccino from a paper cup and reaches into a crumbled, recycled brown bag.  The sunflower seeds feel oddly cool to the touch.  Central Park, like a green womb, hugs the bench on which she sits.  Pigeons cluck and coo at her feet, some hopping up on her lap or nestling on her shoulders.  But she plays no favorites and scatters a fistful of seeds on the sidewalk.  A jogger plods by.  Some of the seeds flip into the runner’s Nikes.  The jogger curses, stops and shouts at the old woman while the pigeons jostle for position.  The jogger slips off his shoe and shakes it against a thigh, all of this while hopping in place and listening to digital rap music.  Tying a shoe to a rap beat is an art and not easy.  Especially when squirrels are watching.

* * *

Elsewhere, a rubber raft filled with tourists plunges through Colorado River whitewater.  Screams of joy and surprise are swallowed up by the rush of the river, whose sounds tremble like thunder and earthquake, echoing off the chiseled, mile-high red stone walls of the Grand Canyon.  Embraced within the racing whitewater’s roar, the Grand Canyon’s basin is stiflingly hot and still — not at all what the rafters expected.

Earlier, the rafting guides had fried fresh-caught fish and omelets, handed out cups of coffee and suntan lotion to the group of overnight tourists as they emerged from their tents, while the Colorado River churned around them through cut sandstone walls and rocky riverbeds.  Far above, huddled safely on Lookout Point, more tourists wearing dark glasses reflecting twin sunrises, peer downward, clicking photographs through telephoto lenses at the rafters below.  Higher up still, a gathering wake of buzzards circle, patiently waiting for the rafting guides to bury the leftover remains of breakfast and move on.

* * *

In the arid Baja, below southern California, a trio of Yamaha four-wheelers streaks across the watercolor-splashed landscape.  Sagebrush, cactus, and sand patterns that ripple like ocean bottom flicker by so quickly they all appear as a single brown smudge.  Stretching as far as the eye can see and then some, tire-wide trails scatter and conjoin like zippers opening and closing.  Split by crisscrossing seams that weave beneath clouds of yellow dust, the face of the Baja swallows up the free wheeling enthusiasts who are absorbed by the countryside entirely, perfectly content at being in it, and of it, completely.  Coyotes scamper away and lay down with the shade wherever they find it, only slinking out in the cover of night to howl at the pale moon, which looks down upon the wash of halogen headlights, campfires, and laughter.

* * *

Yellowstone National Park campers awaken to a distant clatter of tin cans as hungry bears discover carelessly discarded dinner items from the night before.  A mother grizzly bear stands up and sniffs the air expectantly.  From the cover of young blue spruce and towering ponderosa pine, two cautious cubs mimic the Mother Bear’s actions perfectly.  Their noses twitch in unison, picking up the same moist scent of burned candied yams, wood ash, and Bush’s Home Style Baked Beans.  Although bear-safe trash receptacles have been provided by Yellowstone Park services, some visitors grow careless late at night when campfires die down and shadows take on disquieting shapes.  The campers pull back from the flimsy mesh flaps of their Sierra tents and watch the bear family’s every move.  Danger looms so close the tent’s occupants are afraid the bears will hear their hammering heartbeats; which the bears do, but choose to ignore.  For the moment at least, the bears are much more interested in candied yams and baked beans than fear-tainted fresh meat.

* * *

Floating above a Virgin Island lagoon, snorkelers dip below the blue and silver surface, confounded by the flash of bubbles and barracuda.  Viewed from below — back-lit by splashes of sunshine — barracuda look like sleek, silver needles; from the side and head-on, they are nearly invisible, perfectly camouflaged predators only mildly interested in the hoard of tourists who relentlessly visit the Caribbean reefs morning, noon, and night.  For hours on end sunburned swimmers frolic near the surface, trailing coconut oil slicks.  Even though occasional grouper and pods of spotted porpoise keep their distance, the landlocked visitors feel a peculiar kinship with the myriad sea life that share, for a brief moment, the same warm amniotic broth.  Awash in riotous color, the filigreed outcroppings of coral shimmer and flush within patterns of sunlight.  Instinctively, reef lobsters scurry for cover while conchs duck deeply into their spiral shells.

* * *

Hidden high up in the umbrella of a Brazilian mahogany tree, an as-yet-undiscovered insect peers from beneath a moldy leaf and blows saliva bubbles that are carried away on a tropical breeze.  Goggle-eyed, the bug with no name samples the steamy Amazonian wind with a pair of orange antennae as soft as spider silk.  From its lofty perch atop the giant tree, surrounded by miles and miles of similar hardwood rainforest canopy, the bug ventures from the safety of an overhanging leaf.  It produces a soft and diminutive screeing sound by rubbing its sandpaper mandibles together, lubricating them with a thin film of saliva that acts just like the rosin rubbed onto a violin bow.  The sound is as delicate as two ice cubes tinkling together in a crystal glass, and carries only for a few meters.  Patiently, the insect waits for more tinkling sounds—an answer to its mating offer.  But similar bugs are nowhere close by.

Undaunted, the bug screes again, releasing a larger foamy bubble of saliva that lightly floats away.  The bug with no name is not aware the bubble may very well contain a cure for all forms of cancer.  Instead, it wonders why a mate can’t hear its fragile mating sound over the strange new song of distant chainsaws.

* * *

The old fisherman carefully cleans a Lake Gaston catfish, making sure not to waste even the tiniest piece of fillet. A tireless osprey deposits a small bass in a far away nest, shredding the flesh in bite-sized pieces before dropping them into yellow-rimmed beaks. A bag woman with arthritic fingers and without a single friend feeds a flock of pigeons in a greening Central Park, ignoring an angry jogger and chuckling squirrel. Buzzards scatter the remains of a breakfast omelet among themselves while rubber rafts full of whitewater tourists plunge noisily around a bend. The tallow moon shines down on a Baja dessert now fallen silent, except for an occasional coyote’s cry or fireside conversation. Newlyweds turned naturalists, show their neighbors a honeymoon video of grizzly bears ransacking their campsite. Sunburned swimmers — as red as their broiled reef lobsters — sip conch chowder while examining tan-lines. A lonely bug with no name flits desperately from treetop to treetop in search of a mate…

* * *

Like it or not, we are — all of us — passengers hitching a ride on a statistically overcrowded ark, hurdling through space, protected by a bubble of air. In such tight quarters it might be wise to appreciate the space of our neighbors, large and small, for we may be in for a wild ride. The ark is adrift, the doors have been sealed, the tide has us in its pull. Dry land is so very far behind.

“copyright© 2010 by Tim Lee & SimplyTim.net”

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: