Looking and Seeing – Thoreau








What you see, not what you look at, is what you get. Or is it?

Is something there you don’t see? Is what you see there because you put it there?

The relation between subject and object is an ancient philosophical question that’s not about to go away.

When I saw the Thoreau poster, I saw the darkness behind the words. Then it drew me to the light – the sunrise or sunset. But, which is it: a sunset preceding darkness, or sunrise bringing the light? Or are we seeing cars, pavement, poles, and signs? What would Thoreau see?




I want to be an Egret

image1In the estuary 100 yards from our deck, 18+ Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and Wood Storks have gathered in mid-day prayer at low tide.

They’re facing the same direction like worshipers in a mosque, or a church, or a choir facing a Maestro before the downbeat that opens the symphony. They stand perfectly still. Their heads are raised, looking up, focused on the sun as it moves the day from sunrise to mid-day to sundown to the night that will be broken again, as always, with daybreak.

The estuary is part of a tidal river that leaves the wide bay beyond our porch shallow and nearly empty at low tide. A feast of mud, oysters, clams, and small fish enough to satisfy them all. In the morning they turn their prayer mats to the East and give thanks for the new day. From noon to three, they look up, slowly turning their mats from East to South to West, unaware of the smell of smoke billowing up into the VRBO renters’ temporary shelter from the owners below, the cheap plastic chair that broke under me on the balcony, or the sceptic tank that overflowed onto the driveway after five inches of rain the other day.

Today I want to be an Egret or a Great Blue Heron. We came here to sit in the sun like the birds, to be more natural at thanksgiving, freer from the plastic, the smoke, the greed, the cold. I’ve decided to be a Great Blue Heron, an Egret, or maybe one of the forgiving, cooing mourning doves perched on the telephone wire between our place and the estuary bay.

Life is good! Life is for the birds!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Snowbird, Tampa, FL, January 20, 2016.







About Us: One Little Corner

I’ve always had a sense of living at the edge of the world. It’s not a bad thing. It’s not a good thing. It’s just the way it’s always been for me. But, as I watch and listen from my little corner of the world, something’s changed. I have a growing sense of blah, blah, blah, both others’ and my own.

Ours is an anxious time that cries out for a foothold. Speech is the primary way we establish a foothold in changing times.

“Threatened by nonbeing, by chaos, and meaninglessness, man looks for a foothold in the Imperishable,” wrote Dutch philosopher Willem Zuurdeeg years ago in Man Before Chaos: Philosophy Is Born in a Cry.

Influenced by Zuurdeeg’s work, I look and listen for the footholds – unspoken convictions that rarely get discussed – in the battlefield of ideas “where ignorant armies clash by night” (Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach“). Just below the words, or between them, lie the ideological, prejudicial, cultural, national, class, political, religious, and economic ideals and convictions (footholds) by which we secure our existence in the face of the threat of nonexistence.

My friend and colleague Steve Shoemaker adds his poetry and verse – unique voice that draws readers to Views from the Edge. Over the years, our number of posts have been about the same with Steve’s being the more popular by far.  The frequency of Steve’s contributions has decreased in the past few months following diagnosis and treatment for pancreatic cancer. His recent posts on death and dying continue the joyful sense of humor and play that draw people to his poetry and verse.

Whether Views from the Edge (VFTE) contributes to thoughtful social criticism and a deeper appreciation of life, or adds more to the blah, blah, blah, is for readers to decide. Like other writers, we just can’t help ourselves!

NOTE: This post About Us is part of an assignment for a three-week course with WordPress.com. I’m also re-doing the tagline and the platform. Thanks for your patience.




The Green Man

Every generation tends to think of itself as superior to its predecessors. Ours is no different. Sometimes we’re right. Often, we’re wrong. We ignore or don’t know history.

Take, for example, the consciousness of green and climate change – the discovery, or is it the re-discovery, of nature as the context of human life. We tend to think it’s a new consciousness that sets aside the longer consciousness by which the human race justified ravaging the earth.

The Green Man in Clermont-Ferrant, Photo by Dennis Aubrey, Via Lucis Photography

The Green Man in Clermont-Ferrant, Photo by Dennis Aubrey, Via Lucis Photography

But, then, along comes the forgotten Green Man of Romanesque churches build in the Medieval Period, one version of which is featured in Dennis Aubrey’s post “A Green Man in Clermont-Ferrand” on Via Lucis Photography of Religious Architecture.

I turn to Via Lucis whenever I feel the need to get out of my skin, to shed the ignorant arrogance of the 21st Century presumption of progress and superiority.

The whole human story is captured in the various Medieval renderings of The Green Man, the human race fatally mis-perceived as “man over nature” and properly conceived as “man within nature”. 

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 13, 2016

Grandpa’s letter to Ruby

Dear Ruby,

Barclay and I loved playing with you yesterday. I think you enjoyed it too!

You and Barclay aren’t old enough to understand all the things I know. Both of you are only two-and-a-half years old. But, from the looks of yesterday’s play time, you both enjoy life more than Grandpa. Watching you and Barclay do his tricks was such fun!  “Barclay, sit!” “Barclay, down.” “Leave it.” “Roll over.”

You were the alpha dog, the commander-in-chief, Chairwoman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. To this day, no woman has ever held any of those positions.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. You don’t know all that stuff. You don’t know what an alpha dog is, or a Commander-in-Chief, or Chairwoman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or President. You’ll learn all that stuff soon enough, and, if this were the world I would like for you, there wouldn’t be any Commanders-in-Chiefs, or Joint Chiefs of Staff. There would be grandchildren like you and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels like Barclay who play together with moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas without worrying about the reasons we have Commanders-in-Chief and Chairwomen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Watching the two of you yesterday made me think about how much of what I know I wish I could un-learn. My head and heart are crammed full of things that don’t belong there, like the time your Great Uncle Bob drank the Drano and had to be rushed to the hospital to have his stomach pumped.

Drano container - POISON

Drano container – POISON

Older people your Uncle Bob and me have drunk the poison of thinking we’re smarter and better than dogs and cats, and trees and birds and blue skies and clouds and rivers and ponds and oceans. We drank the poison. I hope you’ll grow up remembering your play time with Barclay whenever the can of Drano sits on the back of the toilet.

I go to the toilet a lot more these days. You’re still wearing diapers. If you’re lucky you’ll learn from Barclay what my generation never learned: never poop in your own kennel. The world, the planet, is your kennel, Ruby! This whole wide world. We need to take care of it. Enjoy it. Not be mean to it or hurt it.

As you get older, remember how you and Barclay looked right in each other’s eyes and smiled. Remember the love. If you do, the world will be a better place than the one I’m passing on to you. And, when I pass on, remember that our big wonderful kennel doesn’t go anywhere. It just keeps going long after we’ve been here. Be nice to it. Be nice to yourself. Keep playing, and, please, don’t swallow the Drano!

Love you,

Grandpa Stewart