Doug Bruns

Archive for 2012|Yearly archive page

No Boxed Thinking.

In Adventure, Life, Nature on September 2, 2012 at 6:00 am

Blue Lobster, photo by Mike Billings, Portland Press Herald, 8/31/2012

The morning paper carried the story of a blue lobster caught by a blue lobster boat on the evening of a blue moon. The lobster–transported in the photo above by sternman Mike Billings–will presumably live, a curiosity ensconced in a saltwater aquarium in Bangor.

Blue moon is the term for a second monthly full moon. (The full explanation is more complicated, but we will settle for simplicity.) No one seems certain why it’s called a blue moon. It does not appear blue. There is a blue moon every two and half to three years–more than once in a blue moon, it seems.

I observed the almost-full soon-to-be-blue moon rise from camp this week. I was sitting at the fire, pondering the tendrils of sparks launched into the gloaming, and it rose from the northeast, over my shoulder, and illuminated our campsite. It rose simply and singularly for us alone and we where selfishly delighted. I watched Virgo rise from the west and knew that libra was waiting patiently below the horizon. I don’t know much about the night sky and remain in a state of ignorant awe when enjoying it.

We camped on a bluff about twenty feet above the Cupsuptic River in Rangeley. It’s a small river at this spot, easy to wade across, and produces a soothing melody by which to fall asleep, or to be enchanted. The name “Cupsuptic” derives from the Abenaki language (the Abenakis where a tribe of original Mainers), meaning “a closed-up stream.”

Next week I journey west to hike a stretch of the Colorado Trail with son Tim. The CT stretches five hundred miles from Denver to Durango. I’m going to bite off just a small portion and will chew throughly.

A Facebook posting recently caught my attention. It was a photograph of a tent glowing from an inner light, against an indigo backdrop of  water and rock and mountain. The text read: Think Outside. No box required. I like that. It would make for a good tattoo.

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Have a good week, friends. Thanks for reading.

A Peripatetic Theory of Knowledge (redux)

In Adventure, Life, Philosophy, The Examined Life on August 29, 2012 at 6:00 am

North of the “Pine Curtain”.

As noted previously, I’m into the woods. (What is the draw to pine and moving water?–that is a contemplation for another time.) Out and gone, as it were. So, I leave here thoughts from eleven months ago. I present, A Peripatetic Theory of Knowledge:

There is a quote in the new Alpinist magazine (#56) that caught my eye. Mountaineer Joe Fitschen comments, “Wittgenstein talked about getting to know a region, whether on the ground or in the mind, by just wandering around, eschewing maps and other guides, coming at the territory from different angles until you feel at home. I call it the peripatetic theory of knowledge.” I like this notion. I’ve considered the value of walking around, sauntering as it used to be called, elsewhere. (You can find my essay on the topic, Metaphor: On Walking, at The Nervous Breakdown.) It, walking around, is a balm for the soul, good for what ails you.

But Fitschen’s observation is more than that. I’ve spent a great deal of time in my head over the years, though largely with the guides (books) Wittgenstein recommends eschewing. Now at this place in life, I am beginning to question the value of all that quiet time, all that contemplation. If you’ve been following this blog the past year or two you might have noticed a shift from–with a nod to Guy Davenport–”The Geography of the Imagination,” to “The Geography Under My Feet, My Sleeping Bag, My Canoe.” Fitchen, citing Wittgenstein, gives weight to replacing the cerebral with the physical. I’m reminded of another mountain climber, Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Everest (1963). “I don’t reflect much,” said Whittaker. “I just do it.” (Nike, by the way, rolled out their “Just Do It” campaign in 1988.) A life of action versus a life of the mind, interior monologue, exterior dialogue–a classic lineup.

I’ve never been one to sit around. There is enough ADD in my temperament to keep me in motion. That has always been the case, but it seems to be picking up momentum and along with it the need to practice the peripatetic theory of knowledge. I think a sense of place has a great deal to do with it. Maine, if one is inclined, invites one to get lost, literally and figuratively. It is a place that will draw on the physical, if one is naturally inclined in that direction. The more I explore this place, the more I am dismayed over my abysmal knowledge of my surroundings. For instance, I plucked a small twig from a tree this morning. There are five or six alternating simple leaves attached. But I cannot identify the tree from this sample, despite my library of guide books. It is a glaring omission in my accumulated knowledge, this simple business of not knowing my surroundings. To quote E.O. Wilson, “The first step to wisdom, as the Chinese say, is getting things by their right names.” I can talk with a modicum of intelligence, say, about the life and thought of Nietzsche but I cannot tell you anything about a tree at the dog park. This is deeply troubling to me and I am setting out to rectify it.

Acoustic Living

In Life, Nature, Technology on August 27, 2012 at 6:00 am

Cupsuptic River, Rangeley, Maine

We are camping next week in Rangeley. In a state with an abundance of outdoor venues, Maine makes my head spin. Rangeley, one of the state’s most popular regions, is nestled to the northwest, in the corrugated topography of the Appalachian plateau. I don’t know Rangeley very well, having only passed through a few times. So, in an effort to expand my experience (a discipline I recommend, expanding one’s experience), Rangeley it is.

I contacted a campground on Cupsuptic Lake and made arrangements for a site. Unlike many of the western states, Maine does not have vast regions of public land. One can go Ninja camping–find a spot and pitch a tent–but most likely you will be poaching on someone’s property–land owned by a lumber company or a public trust. I Ninja camp occasionally, particularly if I’m just knocking around the woods; but usually I stay in a campground.

This campground maintains about three dozen sites on the lake, assembled cheek by jowl, one abutting the next. That’s not my style. Instead, I reserved one of the “remote” sites a few miles to the north. Two of the sites are hike-in only, one site is accessible only via four-wheel vehicle, and two or three can be driven to. I went to the map store at Delorme in Freeport and purchased the topographical Kennebago Quadrangle of the area. (Proudly, I am a map nerd.) The remote campsites follow the Cupsuptic River north, dotting the water at intervals of about two miles. One site, called Moocher’s Home, looks particularly inviting. It sits at a twist in the river, about a mile before it spills into the lake.

I find it curious that the campground’s web page claims that “all remote sites have full cell phone service.” They perceive this to be a selling point. Perhaps it is. But not for me. There is an article in today’s Times called, Turn Off the Phone (And the Tension) that speaks to modifying the thirst for the technological. (Admittedly, a personal challenge both desired and illusory, a classic tension.) I’ve written before (read here, or go to my category “technology”) of my longing for a life less digital and more analogue, a life blend I don’t seem capable of achieving. The article quotes an academic of behavioral science who recommends “setting up a kind of screen diet, building in a period each day to go screenless, either by going for a run and leaving your phone at home, or by stashing it in a drawer during dinner or while hanging out with friends.” This sounds like an addict treating his problem by tucking his stash away in a sock drawer, but I guess one has to start somewhere.

Regardless, I am going into the woods untethered–by choice. It will be just a few days. Too, it will provide a warmup for a longer off-line period I’ve scheduled late in October. I’ve blocked off two weeks for what I am calling a “writing retreat.” I’ve rented a cabin Downeast and will go it unplugged, experiencing, if you will, the acoustic version of life. Two weeks is a long time for an addict to go without. It should afford me a clear measure of my problem. My name is Doug and I seek balance.