Tuesday, January 16, 2024



Stormy Skies  over Ft Foster
CC Jean Stimmell: 2013

When I was young, I wasn’t religious. After I got back from Vietnam, God was dead. Enchantment was a foreign concept to me. A rare exception was when I found myself caught amid a raging storm. At that moment, I became awe-struck, shrunk to an insignificant speck in the eye of a force immeasurably larger than I was. 

Mircea Eliade called this transformation hierophany, which happens when the mundane transforms into the sacred. He pointed out that in indigenous cultures, hierophanies are everywhere, not just in big storms but in every aspect of nature, even a solitary flower blooming or a single bee buzzing.

The notion of becoming one with nature was too touchy-feely for me growing up in the 1950s, as it was for most folks. As a result, hierophanies became practically extinct, reduced to the ‘same flat reality”⁠1 by Western logic, reason, and science.

Now Katherine May has come along with her best-selling book, “Enchantment,” to help us rediscover the miracles of everyday existence. You could say she is attempting to bring hierophany back into our lives.

“ Imagine moving through a place where each landmark unpacks its own mythology, grand stories unfolding around you as you go about your daily business, transcendence happening in real time. Even in the day-to-day, you could not avoid reflecting on the big moral and ethical questions of life, because they would be present, unavoidable. Over a lifetime, you would approach these ideas in a million different ways. Our most familiar places would become maps of myth and wisdom.”⁠2

As I’ve grown older, I’ve incrementally become more spiritual under the influence of mentors like Carl Jung. I became immersed in Buddhism in my forties, establishing a regular meditation practice for many years. However, as Katherine May confessed, my life still felt flat. The gist of her book is about how she came to realize that her everyday life, rather than being mundane and boring, was throbbing with sacredness.

Looking back on my life as she did, it became apparent that I had become oblivious to the nuts and bolts reality of everyday life. In fact, I had taken my daily life experiences so much for granted that I no longer saw them at all. 

Reading her book has been another step in my spiritual odyssey, unlocking an enchanted world I could always sense but never get my hands around. Standard resumes, family trees, and social media bios never helped. Now I see my true identity is directly related to my sense of place, a one-of-a-kind creation that continues to coalesce from living 78 years at the intersection of Northwood and Pittsfield.

Intimations of this revelation have been blowing in the wind for some time, driven partly by the natural urge to reminisce in my old age. I’m noticing now that whenever I drive around in my neck of the woods, stories continually float up in my mind about what once happened at each point in my journey: the place I first kissed a girlfriend with bad breath, drank hard cider with an old farmer named Alf, or was bedazzled by drooping, jewel-encrusted birch trees after an ice storm.

Katherine May would say that by acknowledging the importance of my stories, I am validating my sense of place, making it sacred. In a fundamental sense, I’m dreaming my life into existence as I drive along, an experience that sounds nutty to us in NH but is how Aboriginal Bush people in Australia have always lived– as do indigenous people around the world.⁠3

Native people, from the beginning, have been able to survive and triumph by having deep knowledge of their environment and the ability to stay in cadence with its ever-fluctuating rhythms. The Aboriginals in Australia call this mode of living ‘Dreamtime’ because –to them – they are continually dreaming their lives into existence. Consequently, because they always live in the present, the past and the future don’t exist.

That sounds strange to our modern ears, but science and quantum physics have now confirmed, beyond a doubt, that is how the universe works. Indigenous people live that truth, understanding that knowledge isn’t a thing but a continuing unveiling as reality is created anew in each moment.

Looked at in this way, our lives are enchanted just as Katherine May suggests – if we could only get out of our heads and become one with the moment.



1 May, Katherine. Enchantment (p. 31). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

2 Ibid

3 https://www.aboriginal-art-australia.com/aboriginal-art-library/understanding-aboriginal-dreaming-and-the-dreamtime/#:~:text=Dreamtime%20or%20Dreaming%20for%20Australian,all%20people%20and%20all%20things.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Guns: From an Agrarian Tool to a Clint Eastwood Western

My father duck hunting with his prize dog Inky

Here's a little-known historical fact: Northwood had turkey shoots in the hardscrabble 1950s before the flat-landers flocked here, when farming was dying, houses could be bought for back taxes, and land could be had for one hundred dollars an acre. Here's what I remember through the fog of time:

Because my father was an avid hunter with superb aim, he was drawn like a bear to honey to these local get-togethers. Boys competed against each other for prizes, firing .22 caliber rifles at paper targets. Meanwhile, the men took turns shooting at clay pigeons (round disks flung at high speed from a mechanical launcher).

At the end of each round, the hunter who downed the most birds won a prize – but it wasn't a turkey but a scruffy, live chicken past its prime. My father was so successful we usually took home a bunch of chickens, so many we had to clean out the old chicken coop to give them a temporary home until, one at a time, we chopped off their heads for dinner. 

Back in the day, before the modern era of mass shootings, there was no movement to regulate guns. High-capacity, rapid-fire assault rifles were not yet available for civilians, and machine guns were outlawed. Everything was low-key and benign. My father was a lifelong member of the NRA, which, at the time, was not political but dedicated to target practice and safe hunting.

Things weren't so polarized then.

There was still tension between city slickers and rural folks, but it was mostly amicable banter – in the spirit of who's better, the Red Sox or the Yankees. Americans were mostly on the same page, getting similar news each night from one of the only three available network channels.

To my memory, our nation started becoming more polarized after President Ronald Reagan was elected; that's when both parties started looking for wedge issues to exploit. As crime rose and mass shootings increased, Democrats pushed for gun restrictions. Republicans, on the other hand, appealing to rural voters, claimed that guns were not the problem but the solution.

But, more than that, Republicans tried to scare us – and still are – warning us not to count on protection by community solidarity and the better angels of our humanity. 

They reflect the pessimistic outlook of Thomas Hobbes, the English philosopher, who wrote that society is 'a condition of war of everyone against everyone.'⁠1 The Republican refrain is that danger lurks everywhere, and the only way you can defend yourself is to be armed at all times – not with any gun but an assault rifle.

From the beginning, NH gun laws had traditionally been among the weakest in the nation,⁠2 not because of ideology but because we were a rural state with a low crime rate. Nevertheless, what few gun regulations we had soon came under assault by increasingly conservative Republicans in cahoots with libertarians and Free Stater imports. 

In 2011, we passed a 'stand your ground' law⁠3 like the one instituted in Florida that killed Trayvon Martin. Before that, an individual could only shoot a person who was actually invading their home, but now the shooter can shoot a person wherever they are if they feel their life is in danger – even if the shooter has the option of safely retreating.

Then, in 2017, NH repealed one of the few gun safety laws still on the books, voting to allow folks to carry hidden, loaded guns wherever they went without a permit. Since then, various gun safety bills have passed the legislature but have subsequently been shot down by Governor Sununu.

And it continues on to the present: this year, house Republicans defeated multiple Democratic gun bills,⁠4 including legislation placing additional restrictions on school zones, a red flag bill, and a bill to expand background checks.

What can I say? 

We have transformed from a state that considered guns to be an everyday tool like a chain saw and families attended chicken shoots as a family affair to a shoot-'em-up script from a Clint Eastwood movie.

The trouble is, now the blood is real.




1 https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/10122.Thomas_Hobbes

2 https://everytownresearch.org/rankings/state/new-hampshire/#:~:text=The%20Granite%20State%27s%20weak%20laws,is%20protected%20by%20its%20neighbors.

3 https://giffords.org/lawcenter/state-laws/stand-your-ground-in-new-hampshire/

4 https://www.wmur.com/article/nh-gun-bills-defeated-red-flag-law-background-checks-323/43265601#