Please Note: This journal contains a wide variety of stuff — complete stories, bits and pieces, commentary, and who-knows-what else. As is always the case these days, the material is protected by copyright. On the other hand, I publish it here to be shared. Feel free to pass it on. Just give me credit. Fair enough?

Pack Creek Ranch – San Juan County, Utah
The beginning of January in 2018
Cold, clear, still – but no snow

Instead of writing one essay or story I decided to share what caught my mind’s eye or stirred my imagination each day for the past week. I don’t make any New Year’s resolutions for changes – just try to keep putting into practice what I already know how to do: Pay attention. And I did that.
Here’s the result:

THE FIRST SEVEN DAYS OF A NEW YEAR

Day 1.
At a New Year’s Eve party a lady told me she could see my aura.
She’s a kind, thoughtful, intelligent, and sensitive person.
And I’m an open-minded and curious person.
I asked her to tell me more.
She said an aura is a magnetic energy field – an emanation reflecting the essence of an individual. It reflects one’s personality and state of being. She went on to say that auras come in colors, and mine was a warm red, extending about three feet out from my body.
Really? I was at a loss for words.
“A red aura is a strong, good sign,” she said.
“Can I see my own aura?” I asked. “If I looked in a mirror?”
“Probably not, but if you concentrate, you might feel the energy you give off.”

Not a bad way to begin a new year, knowing that, to some very sensitive people,
I give off a warm red glow. I think I can feel it now as I write.
Feels good.

Day 2.
Because the winter atmosphere where I live in the mountains is dry and clear – with no light scatter from cities or street lights, there is an exquisite view of the night sky – the stars, the planets, and the moon. More than 4,000 individual stars are apparent. The constellations are easily discerned – and the Andromeda Galaxy can be seen with the naked eye – 2.5 million light years from Earth.
So there’s a lot to see when I look up and out – which I often do.
One night when the cold drove me indoors, I took a look at the many images on the web of Earth taken from the Space Station, the moon, Mars, and by the Voyager I Space Probe, which is now 11.7 billion miles out into the Universe.
An exercise in looking back and down at us from out there.
There we all are on the blue marble.
How beautiful – how amazing.
Two hours later, by the time I got to the tiny blue speck of Earth way out in infinite space, I was moved to tears. I can’t find the words to say just why.
But I recommend the exercise to you. Go to Google images.
Look and see for yourself.

Day 3.
This morning I woke up feeling a bit goofy, after having been somewhat psychotic during the night. I saw and experienced things that were not really there.
I was, by definition, hallucinating.
I had believed things that were not true – which is delusional.
I had been disoriented – confused about time and place.
And had experienced wide erratic swings in my emotional states.
Moreover, I could not remember most of what I had experienced when I woke up. Really. Why?

I had been asleep in bed for seven hours. Dreaming. Wildly dreaming. And I could not explain what had occurred. But if I had these experiences while I was awake I would need psychiatric care or drug therapy or even risk being institutionalized.

I’ve just paraphrased a description of the normal sleep experience most of us have – a description given by Dr. Matthew Walker, a famous and respected neuroscientist and psychologist – in his recent book, Why We Sleep.

His answer is, in sum: We still don’t know.

I read his book well into the night. I had a hard time sleeping after that.

Day 4.
As a Christmas present to myself, I bought a huge picture book about prehistoric life on Earth. The book has been on my kitchen table for several days, open to an illustration of Opabinia Regalis – (that’s what’s posted on my Facebook page.)
We know it from fossils from the Cambrian Period, which ended about 540 million years ago, having lasted about 55 million years. It had a segmented body, a fan-shaped tail, five eyes, and a hollow proboscis sticking way out in front, with teeth in it. A science-fiction creature, weird beyond belief.
It lived here – on Earth.

The fossil record in the Burgess Shale is full of such alien forms of life – not from outer space. But from here. I regretted spending so much time looking at it and reading about it. Because it showed up in my dreams. An alien. Not from another planet – but from here and now roaming around inside my brain.

Day 5.
“Would you mind scratching my back? I have an itch.”
“Where?”
“Right in the middle – where I can’t reach – half way down between my neck and my waist, and half way across between my shoulders.”
“Sure – how’s this?”
“A little higher and to the left.”
“How about now?”
“Yes, yes, that’s it – Ahhh . . . thanks.”
Sound familiar?
By itch I mean one of those tiny pinpricks of superficial skin irritation that spontaneously occur – and can only be resolved by scratching.
They pop up unexpectedly on your ear or nose or head or shoulder – and almost unconsciously you scratch them and experience the pleasure of relief.
It’s a universal condition – common to every one of us.

There’s a peculiar aspect to itching – just talking about it or reading about it may provoke an itch. Maybe it’s already happened to you by now as you’ve read along.
Nobody knows why this happens.
I read that these little itches can be socially provoked – like yawning or coughing in public. If you notice someone else scratching a mini-itch, you may develop an itch just from the visual stimulus.

As an experiment, the next time you’re in a meeting, scratch your head – and in short order, other people will scratch theirs.
It’s true. I tried it today while eating lunch at the Moab Diner.
Got four people scratching in nearby booths.

Day 6.
When I was a kid I loved going to small-scale carnivals, where for a nickel I could reach into a grab-bag of wrapped objects and select a surprise. More often than not, what I got was crap – useless, worthless, and disappointing – and I threw it away. But I never accepted disappointment.
I would keep spending nickels until I got something I liked and wanted to keep.
I think the pleasure lay in the freedom to keep reaching into the grab-bag – and in the willingness to persevere and pay the price.

The year to come is an existential grab bag – a great game of chance – and I still have the optimism that I am free to choose to keep reaching in – to pay the price –
until I get what’s worth keeping.

Day 7.
In the account of Creation in the Book of Genesis, the Bible says:
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
That’s an amazing theological concept.
In no other creation myth is there any account like it.
Think about it –
After 6 days of creating the World, God took a day off.
He rested.
Where was He? What was He doing?
That the Lord and Creator of the Universe should take a time out and be idle boggles my mind.
But it’s a fine idea – a worthy concept to follow.
I grant myself a day each week of exception to the every-day-ness of being connected to the world. I observe the Sabbath – which means disconnecting from all the usual incoming – the news, the computer, the phone, anything that is “work.”
I follow a different routine – in what I do and what I pay attention to.
Even in what I wear. Poetry, music, walking out into the nearby world are my path.
I don’t always manage to do this – and sometimes get interrupted by visitors.
And it’s not always on a Sunday – my Sabbath day is variable.
But observing the Sabbath is of primary importance to my sanity.
It’s like going to church, I suppose – seeking spiritual solace by reframing my daily life – one day a week.
And if it was good enough for God, it’s good enough for me.

Happy New Year.

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