Swimming in Avalanches

Click on any photo to ENLARGE it.

Lightning Storms are common in the Mountains. Photo from a free wallpaper/stock photo set.

Lightning struck the mountain as the heavens cracked with thunder. Snow and ice burst loose like boiling water, and I was swept down the couloir, a steep gulley plunging down the flank of the mountain. It was a hell of a way to spend a summer vacation.

It was mid-July 1986, and I was in the Wyoming Wind River Range toward the end of a 30-day Wind River Mountaineering Course with NOLS, the world-famous National Outdoor Leadership School. Headquartered on the edge of the range in the cowboy town of Lander, Wyoming, NOLS was the premier outdoor adventure school of my time.

Back then I was considering a career in outdoor adventure and sought concentrated training in hard skills such as alpine rock climbing and glacier travel and in soft skills such as teamwork and leadership under pressure. Along with those skills NOLS also taught natural history, science in the field, environmental responsibility, wilderness navigation, and backcountry first aid, all knowledge I desired.  I had one semester left in grad school, too, back east in Richmond, Virginia. And, to be sure, what I most wanted as an ol’ farmboy from Virginia was an immersion adventure in the Wild American West. And I got it.

A veteran NOLS instructor, Michael “Mike” Collins, a decorated ex-Marine with long blonde hair from New Hampshire who found his soul in the Wyoming wilderness, led our expedition. He told us of sitting in a wheelchair all grogged out from painkillers being awarded a medal by then-President Ronald Reagan for being wounded in the combat in the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada. Mike thought the little war was stupid, but he gave it a gung-ho go-go-go and got shot up for it. The mountains called him West after he got out of the Marines. It’s where he healed himself out among horses, rocks, stars, sun, snow, and climbers. Mike was never rattled and always seemed calm, collected, and solid even if somewhat fatalistic.

A veteran NOLS instructor, Michael “Mike” Collins, a decorated ex-Marine with long blonde hair from New Hampshire who found his soul in the Wyoming wilderness, led our expedition. He told us of sitting in a wheelchair all grogged out from painkillers being awarded a medal by then-President Ronald Reagan for being wounded in the combat in the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada. Mike thought the little war was stupid, but he gave it a gung-ho go-go-go and got shot up for it. The mountains called him West after he got out of the Marines. It’s where he healed himself out among horses, rocks, stars, sun, snow, and climbers. Mike was never rattled and always seemed calm, collected, and solid even if somewhat fatalistic.

John Toll of Iowa served as Mike’s assistant and second-in-command. He was full of grit and gumption, as short as an ear of corn, and most intense. John thrived under pressure and seemed determined to throw off the gravity of being from the cornfield realms of Iowa. In turn, Fergus McCormick, who carried a guitar in a blue case lashed to his backpack, assisted them as an apprentice trip leader. I don’t remember where Fergus was from, maybe New York, other than he went to Reed College in Oregon.

Some of my favorite memories were of Fergus grinning after lugging his big guitar up and down across big mountains, unzipping his blue case, pulling out his guitar, and start playing. He’ll strum and sing way out there on the side of the mountains amid rocks and trees and wind. Intoxicated with music, we would feel like a million miles in the middle of nowhere but in the heart of everywhere.  All three young men were remarkable in their own way. To all us students they were Superheroes. God-like, even.

Called the Wind Rivers or the Winds for short, these mountains paralleled the Tetons to the West as part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. After surviving a hellish blizzard on the Fourth of July in subzero temperatures, we continued our off-trail traverse of the Wind River Mountains from the northeast to southwest.

After another fierce storm cleared the skies we successfully summitted Gannett Peak on the 12thof July. At 13,804 ft Gannett is the highest mountain in Wyoming, even taller than its more famous neighbor the Grand Teton.

John Toll of Iowa, Assistant NOLS Instructor, atop Gannet Peak, WY, 13,804 ft., July 12, 1986. He named & led our Iowa Peak climb 4 days later. Jenn H. is in front. Photo by William Bass.

By July 14 we arrived at Bull Lake Glacier atop a wide plateau. This glacier was connected to the large Fremont Glacier complex. There on the edge of Bull Lake Glacier at around 12,120 feet our NOLS group set up camp. Across from us to the west was Indian Pass, which looked steep and slick with a cloak of heavier than usual late-season snow and ice. To our right the northern gate was guarded by the shoulder hump of Jackson Peak, at 13,517 feet the eighth highest mountain in Wyoming. We actually had to descend off Bull Lake Glacier to the base before climbing it.

South to our left an unnamed tower of rock pierced the sky. Although at about 12,836 feet it wasn’t as tall, the unnamed mountain looked steeper and more challenging than more massive Jackson Peak. As tired as we felt, a group of us wanted to bag it. I wanted to bag it. Back then I kept lists of all the mountains I climbed and all the rivers paddled, states I’ve visited, and all the national parks and wilderness areas I’ve entered.

Our course broke into rotating small groups over the next couple days. It was a pleasant change of pace from the relentless marching. Feeling bony but strong, we engaged in day climbs with ice axes and had science classes in the fields. One day the mini-group I was in climbed and summitted Jackson Peak. We actually had to descend off Bull Lake Glacier to the base before climbing it.

The ascent was primarily a wickedly steep snow slog. One step at a time with each plunge of the ice ax shaft. At one point we had to chop steps out of the ice, which was a bit nerve wracking. It wasn’t a severe climb by any means, but the exposure was deadly. And it was a cool climb except that visibility was bad with rapid changes in weather. Another climb of nearby Fremont Peak, third highest in Wyoming at 13,745 feet, was aborted when another storm hit us partway up.

The Author, age 27, atop Jackson Peak, 13,517 ft., July 15, 1986. Photo by team mate for William Bass.

July 16, 1986 found my small group following John Toll down off the glacier to climb the unnamed peak. There were three of us students: Ray, Laura, and me. They were characters, too. Ray was a jovial older guy built like a bear who declared himself an avowed Marxist from New England.

Laura was from somewhere in the Northeast, too. With a thick head of orange-red hair, she was quiet, studious, and totally game to have at these mountains. Younger than me, Laura became famous on our expedition for going snow blind. She refused to wear her glacier goggles one day on a glacier crossing because she didn’t like the way she looked with those big goggles on and went blind. It was our fault, too, because no one including our NOLS instructors caught it until it was too late. Her eyes healed from placing cooled tea bags upon them. Took a day and a half. Today, though, she could see so well as to behold the storms. And laugh at her self, too.

Although I waggled my head and chuckled, I understood. Whenever I wore huge, slipover sunglasses over my big spectacles people point and shout, “Hey, look! A man in rilly HUGE, li’l ol’ lady GRANMA sunglasses!” For a few years after the movie of the same name came out in 1987, people would look again, laugh, and shout, “Hey, look! Robocop!”

Iowa John led us over to the base of the mesa-like rock tower just south of Indian Pass. We had to have a name for this nameless – at least on the map – mountain. As John hailed from the rolling flats of Iowa, he flippantly called out “Iowa Peak!” And the rest us of embraced the oxymoron with laughs and shouts. “Yeah!” we cried out in agreement, “Iowa Peak!”

Morning of July 16, 1986. Left (S) to right (N): "Iowa" Peak, Indian Pass, flank of Jackson Peak. Photo by William Bass.

The three of us students arrived with John at the base of Iowa. We were clearly not the first climbers. In fact we were a little shocked at the quantity of human feces clumped among the rocks. With a wry grin, John launched into a brief lecture on minimum impact ethics.

“Well, whaddaya do out here?” one of us asked. “You can’t dig a cat hole in all these rocks.”

“Pull up a rock, shit in the hole, then cover it up,” John said. “If you absolutely have to shit on top the ground, then cover it up with rocks. Even better, smear your own shit around first. Preferably with flat rocks.”

We nodded in agreement. All of us have been out in the field too long to say “Eww.”

After a debate on the best configuration for rope teams for the four of us, we decided to do the unusual and put all four on us on a single rope. We had a mix of skill levels and abilities, and decided the whole group would move faster this way. Off we went, clawing our way up a multi-pitch rock climb with helmets and backpacks with ice axes strapped on.

July 16 had dawned blue and clear. We were all excited, even eager, for climbing this tower represented a true unknown. Yet all four of us remained relatively calm and matter-of-fact. Being out in the field for so long had matured us with a certain wisdom. And, to be honest, we were all tired. And we were focused and upbeat.

It’s been almost 23 years now as I write. I can’t remember if we took turns swinging leads, or for the sake of speed we all stayed clipped into the rope in the same order we began. I can’t remember if I was the lead climber or the second. I know Laura was usually in the middle and John the Instructor stayed tied in at the end.

At the end of each pitch we would regroup briefly on little ledges. The views across the mountains and valleys were spectacular. But it was too scary to dig out my camera. My camera was an old Canon AE-1 and was deemed a bit heavy for this trip, but I carried it anyway.

We grunted over big rocks and shimmed up little handholds. We tiptoed and shoved, pulled and laughed, scraped our helmets against rock, and laughed and farted. We handled our rope systems as seasoned experts, belaying, placing pro, removing pro, and slinging gear.

Halfway up Iowa the storm hit. Within moments we were enveloped in swirling wet clouds. Visibility dropped away. Snow fell, first as soft flakes, but faster and harder as frozen white pellets. We had the beginnings of a whiteout. And it was our first whiteout while climbing. We laughed at our pathetic attempts to celebrate and John just shook his head at our silliness.

Into the Whiteout! Laura on the 4th Pitch of Iowa Peak. Photo by William Bass.

Our team came to a halt on a ledge to consider the situation. The rocks were getting wet and our hands were cold and getting colder. Climbing in soggy wool mittens over slick wet stone did not appeal to us. Should we start downclimbing and rappelling off? Hold up and wait it out hoping it’s just a brief, passing storm? John called the decision quickly.

“The fastest way down is climb up to the top and glissade down that couloir we saw on the other side of the peak,” he said. “Let’s go.”

Quietly with renewed focus we pushed ahead, helping each other as needed. At this point we didn’t care about climbing in good style such as not cheating with our knees as much as we cared about getting safely back to base camp. The snow fell harder. Distant thunder rumbled.

With a grim satisfaction I hauled myself up onto the summit of the mountain and stood up into the sky. Ray and Laura were soon at my side. We relished standing atop this 12,836 foot-high pile of rock, ice, and snow. Then John Toll popped up, short and elf-like in the storm and radiating confidence. He seemed to relish the challenge. Ray and I nodded. We knew it would make a good story. Laura just grinned and took a drink.

“Iowa Peak!” we all shouted. “Woohoo! We made it!”

“Not yet,” our NOLS Instructor replied drolly. “Once we’ve all returned to base camp then you can say that.”

The storm seemed to clear briefly as clouds swirled open. Snow scattered in the breeze. It was cold. And yet I felt strangely jubilant and just a bit anxious. Something didn’t feel right. Couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I brushed it aside as simply fear of the unknown. We took a quick break to eat and drink, add layers, and coil the ropes. And take summit pictures, of course.

Atop the summit of Iowa Peak, Wind River Mountains, in a break in the storm. Left to right (clockwise): The Author, John Toll (in yellow), Ray H. (standing), Laura B. Group Self-Portrait by William Bass.

“Time to go,” said John.

We got out our ice axes, slung on our backpacks, and then slid the rope coils over our head. To speed things up I took two ropes, coiled like circles in the classic mountaineer style, and threw them criss-cross over my trunk. I looked like a guerrilla chieftain with two rolls of bandoliers. My goodness, they were heavy. But I was strong and in great shape. Together we marched over the summit, had to downclimb over wet rocks a bit, and soon found ourselves standing at the head of a long skinny couloir filled with snow. We could see all the way to the bottom where it ran out into Indian Pass. I shivered with a mix of fear and pleasure as I felt the call of adventure and the challenge of the moment.

“Dudley,” John called out, using my middle name, which was what I went by back in those years. “You’re the second most experienced one here. I want you to stay back and take sweep.”

Ray and Laura were fine with that. They’ve had very little outdoor experience before taking this NOLS Mountaineering Course. But they knew how to self-arrest with their ice axes should they glissade out of control.

“We’re going to glissade all the way down. Glissade in control,” John said. “I’m going first. Then you, Laura. Next, you, Ray. Spread out a little so you don’t get on top of one another too fast. It’s a long ways down but not too bad. Faster than setting up pro and rappelling down wet rocks, that’s for sure. After Ray, it’s you, Dudley.”

“OK, let’s go,” Ray said.

“Any questions?” asked John.

“No,” Laura shook her head.

I nodded the all-OK. The snow was falling much harder now and the wind was gusting through the Pass between Iowa and Jackson Peaks.

John stepped off the rocks onto the snow at the top of the chute, sat down while gripping his ice axe to steer by, then scooted off. He masterfully shot on down the mountain and soon was at the bottom. He stood up, shouted, and waved. Laura went next. She scooted and stopped, shuddered and scuttered, and then away she went, zipping down the snow with a yell. Soon she was standing up next to John and wiping snow off her pants.

Ray, a big guy, jumped on with macho gusto, turned around and gave me a grin. We nodded at each other, the tired equivalent of thumbs up, and off he went. Ray glissaded down the ravine toward Laura and John. Sometimes he went too slowly, then too fast, bouncing a bit toward the end, skittering to a halt in a spray of snow. My turn.

The couloir didn’t seem all that long, or steep, but once I sat down atop the snow it felt very long and steep. For a moment I felt fear. Then I took a deep breath. This was what I lived for. Adventure! Adventure in the wilderness! Doing things few people ever get to do! Yeah!

The couloir went straight down then bent right to left like a dog’s leg before straightening out again. A thin rim of rocks that dropped steeply over cliffs marked the edge of the dogleg. More snow fell and the clouds grew darker and stormier. It was time to push off, and I did.

Lightening struck the mountain at that moment. Thunder boomed as if a giant pounded heavy war drums. Snow exploded around me and before I knew exactly what was happening I was being swept down the mountain.

Avalanche!

The snow seemed to boil up and liquefy. I was head up, feet down, and shooting straight toward the edge of the cliffs in the bend of the dogleg. I could see snow shooting up to spill over the cliffs. And I did not want to get blown over those rocks.

Quickly I turned over as I’ve been trained to do on a stable mountainside and self-arrested with my ice axe. Except this mountainside was moving. Bad idea. I just sank down into the snow. It continued to carry me down the mountain. After a second or third attempt I gave up in frustration and then had a brilliant insight.

An avalanche is essentially a river of snow washing down the mountain. I was also a whitewater kayaker. If a paddler ends up coming out of the boat, there was a specific way to swim whitewater rapids. You floated on your back, arms outstretched backpaddling to slow yourself down, head upstream to protect it from smashing into rocks, and your feet pointing downstream to avoid foot entrapment and to bounce off boulders. The lifejacket would protect your spine.

So I rolled over onto my back and began backpaddling with my arms, still gripping my ice axe in one hand. I rose back up and floated on top the moving snow as I got swept down the mountain.

All thought was crystal clear. No praying or screaming or looking back or second-guessing. Just instinct and intelligence working together in perfect pitch. Responding to what is.

Suddenly I came to a stop. The avalanche had carried me about 200 feet down the mountain. I did not go over the cliffs. Everything was quiet. Silent. I was buried up to my chest, but my feet were not far from the surface. Heavy boots weighed them down. For a moment I sat absolutely still, afraid to move, concerned that any movement would trigger another slide. Little trickles of snow began to roll and slide down the chute all around me.

“Get down here now!” John shouted up at me.

“Come on!” Ray shouted.

“Hurry!” Laura shouted.

“Now!” John ordered. “Quickly!”

Scared but with no time to be afraid, I wiggled loose and fought my way free. Fortunately, the snow was a mix of powder and clumps, so I got out quickly. In a blur of action I moved down and out of the main slide, a big pile of loose snow, and glissaded the rest of the way down. In no time at all I was at the bottom. I stood up, shaken but feeling a little bit like Superman with those two climbing ropes coiled across my chest.

“Are you alright?”

“Man, you don’t know how lucky you are?”

“Good thing lightening didn’t strike you!”

“Did you see that lightening bolt?”

“You realize you have a metal ice axe in your hand, right?”

The questions came fast and furious from Ray and Laura. Another rumble of thunder boomed through the Pass.

“Let’s get outa here!” John said.

We had to get out of the way of the couloir and back to camp. Halfway to camp the storm turned ugly. Thunder cracked every few minutes and the ground shook. Lightening struck all around us. I imagined rocks exploding. Flashes of light lit up the clouds.

Snow fell in wild, crazy flurries. Lightening flashed so much around us we could see the electricity crackling through the air. It reminded me of hot afternoon thunderstorms back in Virginia, but I felt as if we were in the midst of an artillery bombardment.

The storm raged after we got back to camp. Eventually it cleared, and we awoke to a beautiful, clear day. Our entire NOLS course was scheduled to cross over through Indian Pass to the other side of Titcomb Lakes this day. After we broke camp, packed up, and began a long trudge up to the top of Indian Pass, someone shouted out. Maybe it was John Toll.

“Hey, look over there,” I remember someone pointing out. “Over at the base of Iowa Peak.”

“What?” I asked as I squinted across the way, looking at where the avalanche occurred.

“You are so lucky. We are all so lucky. See, the entire couloir slid clean during the middle of the night.”

My eyes followed the pointed finger. Indeed, the couloir appeared swept half clean. A mound of snow stood piled up at the bottom against a ring of boulders. Apparently during the peak of the storm more thunder and lightening had triggered another and much bigger avalanche. Big enough to not only kill me but also bury my companions at the bottom. There would have been little hope in successfully digging people out under such remote and stormy conditions.

“My” avalanche was a relatively small and narrow one. Instead of an enormous shelf or slab cracking away from the flanks of some gargantuan mountain, it was basically a snow slide in a gully. Technically speaking in the vernacular of climbing I was in a “loose snow avalanche,” one that starts small at the top then grows bigger and wider as it descends the mountain like a growing waterfall. It was my first and only true avalanche.

I was lucky in a number of ways. For instance, the fact the snow was Rocky Mountain powder. Years later I got caught in a little snow slide on a winter climb on Red Mountain in the Washington Cascades. I was stuck up to my knees and hips in what local mountaineers dubbed “Cascade concrete,” wet, heavy snow that traps you and is difficult to escape from. According to my old Seattle Mountaineer climbing notes, most avalanches occur on 38 degree slopes, and 50% of all avalanche deaths are climbers (although they’re roughly the 5th cause of death among mountaineers, with simple falling being number one.).

All of us stared across the way at the avalanche chute on Iowa Peak as we slogged up Indian Pass. It was a solemn reminder that in the backcountry anything could happen. Anything. Such as later on that day I and two other guys unwittingly and unknowingly walked out onto a frozen lake covered in snow only to feel our weight drop with a muffled crack. That, however, is another story.

Iowa Peak by Indian Pass. July 16, 1986. Photo by William Bass.

Afterthoughts: All mountain peak elevation measurements listed above reflect the traditional measurements then in usage. Recent surveys since then have determined the entire Wind River Range to be on average five feet higher in elevation. During the time of our course we couldn’t discern the exact height of our unnamed peak from the tools at our disposal other than to know it was over 12,500 feet but shorter than the 13,000-footers.

Years later as I scanned newer maps, some listed the height as 12,836 feet, others at 12,838 feet. Perhaps the latter number stems from the reset of traditional measurements. We certainly weren’t the first to climb it, and we found out later we had unusual winter-like conditions that summer. I haven’t been able to find a designated name. To our group of climbers from that particular NOLS Course, however, it’ll always be Iowa Peak.

Global climate disruption is also affecting the Winds with more severe storms, less precipitation, and more droughts. As a result there has been increasingly rapid melting out of the glaciers. Many I experienced that unusually snowy summer of 1986 have shrunk drastically. Photos from the 1920s to the mid-1980s (when I was there) to the 2000s show the sad loss of all that snowy ice. With warming temperatures come unpredictable conditions, flash floods, and encroaching, invasive plants, animals, and especially insects from now-hotter climes.

This essay was composed from old, pencil-&-paper journal entries and photographs from my trips in the American West in the Summer of 1986. The camera system I used was a handheld Canon AE-1 with a 35 mm SLR lens and Kodak Kodacolor Print Film. Unfortunately, my old journals and photographs of that wonderful and pivotal Summer Adventure were destroyed in the house Fire of March 2010.

Life goes on, of course. And I will always remember my NOLS Wind River Mountaineering Course. It changed my life. I miss the Winds and wonder if I’ll ever return. I used to think I would, but so many other responsibilities and distractions exist. I miss my former coursemates, too. The magick of deep friendships forged between strangers in the wilderness got us through difficult moments and allowed us to appreciate the sacredness and the unique beauty of the Winds.

 

William Dudley Bass
May 15, 2009
Revised and Reposted February 17, 2012
(Almost 26 yrs after the climb)
Seattle, Washington

NOTE: This article was first published in my earlier autobiographical blog, Cultivate and Harvest, on May 15, 2009, at http://cultivateandharvest.blogspot.com/2009/05/swimming-in-avalanches_15.html with the photos published separately as “Photos for ‘Swimming in Avalanches’” at http://cultivateandharvest.blogspot.com/2009/05/swimming-in-avalanches.html. It was revised and re-published on my new website On Earth at the Brink  this February of 2012, and is also a modified chapter from a book in progress narrating epic outdoor adventures in wild and beautiful places. It is reposted here with my permission as the Author. Thank you.

 

Copyright © 2009, 2012 by William Dudley Bass.

What has this Writing Challenge done for you (so far)?

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How does writing every day (or intending to), affect your sense of your creative self, your communication skills, your sense of motivation?
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Wild Authentic Writing: a winner every time

It’s beginning to feel a bit like Christmas. Not “just”  because I actually got a tree this year or that it is decorated with wee ornaments and a golden ribbon for a tree topper or the two mystery gifts already underneath it that will drive Bronte nuts for the next few weeks.

The spirit of the season fills my creative heart as I look at the array of writing that adorns this site. Talk about a horn off plenty.

Writing for me is always therapeutic while it is also clearly my primary vehicle for creative self-expression. I enjoy crafting marketing copy as much as I do blogging which in fact supports  the development of personal branding and messaging. Our values will work their way into all of our writing if we practice writing authentically.

And, I’ll be the first to challenge myself where writing is concerned. The very practice of writing with regularity and intention will over time make you a writer more at ease with your message and professional storytelling.

We have a fine gathering of celebration and acknowledgment awaiting us Tuesday, December 6th occurs with light snacks being organized and the opportunity to read your favorite 300-500 words. I’m hoping every attendee comes prepared to share!

I’m tempted to go back through all the posts for the exact word count BUT I thought about how long that might take me tomorrow SO I am hoping that if you care to know your word count and share that with us you’ll take that on for yourself and your posts.

It is safe to say we penned over 50,000 words collectively for if all we all did was 100 words for each of the 241 posts in November there would be 24,100 alone. And what about all the writing done but not posted here?

Special acknowledgments await all who attend Tuesday who actively played in November. Please, please, please acknowledge yourself for what you took on, what you accomplished and set the benchmark from there if you intend to continue with December and beyond.

What is December about at its simplest? Stretching yourself, focusing and refining your writing and continuing to have fun as you share who you are. Confidence and competency can be cultivated. Ritual and writing belong together and regularity can boost your online presence even if you are writing about non-work themes. :

http://www.authenticwritingprovokes.com/inspiredwriting/2011/11/decembers-authentic-writing-challenging-co-created-brilliant/#more-2041

“Tuesday with Deborah” as a body of work impresses me and I am humbled and honored there was a desire to continue the Writing Challenge into December.

December 6th needs you there, reading your favorite post (or pick one under pressure!). Please attend if you can  and thank you to those able to RSVP in advance!

http://biznik.com/members/deborah-drake/events/a-writers-support-group-for-reticent-bloggers-aka-writers-74

Who would have thought that after nearly two years this weekly gathering would be going stronger than ever and birthing creative talent that comes from authentic support and community? I couldn’t have planned this state of being if I had even tried!

I applaud all who have ventured here to share and those as well who wrote and wrote and wrote….What you say matters, if you say so!

GREGOIRE AND OLYMPIA PROTESTORS

I have to make a comment in regards to the current protestors in Olympia at the Capitol Building supporting the tax increase because they don’t want to give up their health care insurance and money for school programs.

#1 Gregoire and her cabinet continue to lie to the public in regards to the revenue tax increase.  It seems that there are plenty of gripes from our state leaders that the tax revenues are down and we have to make cuts to education, yet it has been said they have more money than they expected?   I do believe that sales tax revenues are down since I am a business owner and gee, I am not taking on as much business as I use, hence, I am not collecting as much sales tax, duh!  I have to say my other bills (ie electric, gas, phone, etc) continue to rise, so do the taxes we pay on those bills, right?

I have heard this same argument for as long as I have been a registered voter, a long time and I have never heard that we had all this extra money to put into the schools.  I have always heard if we don’t raise taxes, education will suffer and the public buys into this crap. Raising taxes isn’t the answer, if it were, it would have been solved years ago. 

The truth is that our government at all levels spends more than they collect and they are the worst when it comes to managing the public’s tax money they collect.   They spend millions on introducing hundreds of new bills that serves nobody that I know.  I don’t think a bill ever gets removed.

I wish I could go to my customers and say gee, I have to charge you more and provide you less because I was such a poor manager of your money that I can only paint three sides of your house for the same price since I spent the rest of your money on my salary so I could spend more of your money on things I want.

What happened to every tax increase over the past couple of decades that were suppose to go to Education?   Thank goodness for citizens who recognize the importance of educating our youth. Because of them, voters approved 39.7 percent of property taxes through school levies and bonds. Other voter approved increases include levy lid lifts for fire districts and other junior taxing districts, and funding for emergency medical services.  This was up 1.1 percent from 38.6 percent of property taxes due in 2010.

Let’s take a look at where the revenues from property taxes goes :
• K-12 schools receive 54.9 percent of property taxes – $5.0 billion – through the state school levy and voter-approved local levies and bonds.

• Counties receive 16.2 percent or $1.5 billion of the total.
• Cities get 13.2 percent or $1.2 billion.

What has this special session cost us tax payers?  The results are suppose to be for budget cuts that should have been cut years ago when Gregoire promised in her 2004 campaign.  “Gregoire highlighted parts of her sweeping promises, saying she is the only candidate with comprehensive plans for health care, business growth and education. “I have a goal, I have a vision, and I have a track record of getting things done,” she said. Seattle PI

On education, she wasn’t able to offer any specific plan for ensuring funding to reduce school class sizes, although she supported spending increases already approved by voters. “Gregoire said she would vote against a measure on November’s ballot to boost the state sales tax to fund educational improvements and Gregoire’s comment in her 2004 campaign was that the sales tax puts its heaviest burden on the poor.  Seattle PI.

I might just get my sign and head down to Olympia myself since Gregorie’s promise in 2008 was again not to increase taxes, promised to reduce the state budget and increase jobs.   She lied to the public again to get re-elected.  The only saving grace in all of this is that Gregoire says she isn’t planning to run for a third term, (I hope it’s true) yet this could be just another lie.

Are We There Yet?

November, gratefully closing the Blogorama
Minds filled with awe
As words fill pages
Reticent writers coming forth
In courageous efforts
Overcome fear, doubt, procrastination and overwhelm
Discover anew
Nothing like learning how to
Share thoughts, show up, and speak up.
This “Thanks” is to Deborah for Making the Challenge
Encouraging the efforts
Acknowledging the strides
“Thanks” to those who read my blogs
“Thanks” to those who commented
“Thanks” to those who participated by writing
In whatever way they could.
Nothing like November and all its Thanksgivings
To give way to December and all its Bounty.
Now on to December 6th and the Blogorama Party!

What A Lovely Ride This Has Been, Thank You

As November comes to a close, I cruise our ragtag collection of stories and I can’t help but smile.  It has been like a wonderful Sunday ride in the car.  Warm sun, window down, radio on.  Carefree with no destination in mind – we let the road take us wherever.  We never knew where we would end up or what we would discover around the next bend.  Now, looking in the rear view mirror there are so many adventures begun, challenges overcome, hearts and minds connecting.

Together we drive on into December and beyond.

I just had to stop and say Thank You all for a lovely ride so far.

Balance in Forward Motion

 

Balance in Forward Motion! “Go faster, Daddy!” Bass Family Bike Ride, “Iron Horsie” Trail, WA. August 2006. Photo by Kristina Bass.

Balance is overrated. Balance achieved is motion frozen in time and space, all energy internalized to remain upright against gravity. Some speakers up on stage I’ve heard like to refer to achieving balance in your life as creating “homeostasis.” Which is supposed to be “healthy.” It’s a misuse of a cool word. Homeostasis is merely the biological process in which organisms regulates and maintains their physiological and chemical systems in a stable manner.

Homeostasis as a process can even be disturbed to exist and continue in a state of imbalance. It’s definitely not the same as balancing a stack of plates upon your head while standing atop a ball. It’s not turning the messy breakdowns and re-creations of daily living into a brightly colored pie chart called “Designing a Balanced Life.” Do you really want your “life balance” to feel as if you’re splitting down the middle like an amoeba about to reproduce?

Up in Canada once for a series of trainings I witnessed Bob Proctor in action. He’s a master trainer in the field of personal and professional growth and development and a highly successful entrepreneur. Well-dressed and about 70 years old, he popped out behind the curtains and raced across the stage leaping and shouting as if he was a superbly athletic actor in his 20s.

“Balance!” roared Bob. “Balance is waaay overrated! It’s boring! Boring! You cannot move forward standing still trying to stay balanced. I’m living my life OUT of balance!”

He stopped and spun around, stood perfectly still as a warrior poised to pounce, then jumped as high as he could with one arm pointing straight up into the air. And he laughed.

“And I’m not slowing down either! People say ‘Slow down, slow down! Take it easy.’ Not me! I live life out of balance. Full steam ahead! I’m a rocket to the moon, going full-tilt boogie!”

“Yes!” Bob Proctor declared as he stopped, squatted, then jumped again with both arms up in victory shouting “I’m a rocket! Charging into Outer Space! Going full-tilt boogie doing what I love! And so can you!”

Those images stuck in my memory for a long time. They’re still there, too. They continue to inspire me years later.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to slow down and relax, and I love full-tilt boogie. But I don’t want to be an exploding rocket, nor care to lounge around the pool for long. No tilting at windmills with Don Quixote for me. Bob flung back the curtains hiding the Ozzian Wizard of Balance and exposed champions of balance as misguided. The Emperor of Balance was left naked standing still upon cobblestone streets before his subjects as they began to move in revolt. Freedom seeks to expand! Freedom demands forward motion. No more expending my life energy seeking balance for me!

And I’ve learned to just stop. To stop and sit still, to arrive and be mindful. Presence. And after I slow down, stop, wake up into mindfulness, be present to what is as what is, then my choices and direction of forward motion becomes crystal clear. Without seeking I become balance itself, and in one way or another all or part of me is always in motion. I move it forward.

I don’t wanna be in balance going nowhere and especially going nowhere fast. I wanna go somewhere, and usually faster than slow.

When people start yabbering about balance, my craw breaks open. That’s not a pretty sight, especially if you know what a craw is. What I appreciate much better for health and productivity is a way of being best described as “ebb and flow” or “pace and space” to let things integrate.

My favorite image is a person riding a bicycle. It can be anyone riding any kind of bike in any condition. Riding a bicycle exemplifies balance in motion, specifically forward motion in balance or balance in forward motion.

You don’t learn to ride a bike by balancing it still while stopped. That takes more skill than the average cyclist. You learn to balance the bike by pedaling it forward. Quickly.

Walking has been described as a controlled fall with every step. Walking and running are other examples to move forward in motion once balance is achieved.

I’ve come to appreciate the balance, too, of meditating upon a cushion or in a chair. The most effective positions require balance to sit a certain way with my hips, back, legs, shoulders, belly, neck, and head all in relaxed alignment. It allows for mindfulness and presence to expand and move and for my sense of self to connect to my heart. So I get the best of both. Pace and space. Ebb and flow. Even meditation is a dynamic experience, not static.

The meditation, however, comes to an end, as life continues to unfold. Life moves forward even as individuals die. Life keeps going. Even if out of balance.

If we think about it, we really don’t want subatomic particles to stop moving, for atoms and molecules to come to a complete stop, for planets to stop rotating on their axes and to stop revolving around their suns, for galaxies to stop spinning, for our Universe to stop expanding, for electromagnetic forces to stop and vanish, for the toruses of everything to simple collapse and wink out. We want movement. Absolute stillness is beyond mere biological death. It would be complete obliteration of all existence.

Let’s get back on our bicycles, real or metaphorical, and move forward in balance. You don’t have to be Bob Proctor commanding the room with his particular expression of dynamic presence. Just don’t be static. You be you. Be present. Express yourself. Be balance in forward motion. Now.

 

William Dudley Bass

Seattle, Washington

November 30, 2011

(NOTE: Originally published in author’s blog Earth at the Brink @ http://williamdudleybass.com/MyBlog/balance-in-forward-motion/. Thank you.)

© Copyright 2011 by William Dudley Bass.

 

Can I Stop Now?

Can I stop writing NOW?

This is my 20th post during the month, and my 3rd one TONIGHT. I had some catching up to do. (I do like the scoreboard.)

Well, I have to thank, once again, the lovely, talent and omniscient hostess, Deborah Drake. I’m thinking about blogging more than I ever, ever have. I think a seed of a good habit and practice has been planted. I will need even more encouragement, to nurture, water and fertilize this belligerent seedling. I can’t wait until the end of this paragraph, where I will close a very creative chapter of my life.

Thank you, Weather Girl.

ciao, Pete

http://www.peterdisantis.com

 

Damn CATS!!!

Last December, we got kidney stones and kittens for Christmas. The kidney stones have passed, painlessly, THANK GOD ALMIGHTY! The kittens are adult. We are coming up to almost a year of being a 2 feline household. The antics they play are often hysterical.

Last week, I was using a headset on our home phone to make some business calls. I remember leaving the headset and phone at the eating counter off the kitchen. During the week, I put the phone back in its charger. But last night, I wanted to use the headset again to make calls. I went to the counter and I didn’t find it. I searched high and low, twice. I scratched my head three times. Where the hell . . . ?

I told my daughter, I thought the cats had stolen my headset. She laughed. What would the cats do with the telephone headset? I scratched my head again.

Two hours later, my daughter reports she has found the headset under her dresser in her bedroom.

Damn CATS!!!!

ciao, Pete

http://www.peterdisantis.com