Friday, April 17, 2015

Preserving a Body with Aloe and Peruvian Mint -- book excerpt

How we preserved Dolores' body when she died
Using Aloe vera and Peruvian mint

[An excerpt from Christopher Nyerges’ book, “Til Death Do Us Part?” which is available from Kindle or a pdf download from]

After 1 p.m. or so, I began to call people to tell them that Dolores had died.  I was still in shock and disbelief.  I informed Dolores’ mentor RW as well as Prudence, Fikret, and Marilyn.  My operations began to be somewhat auto-pilot, as if I was in this world of alternate reality that I didn’t quite yet believe, but I still had to keep my body moving as if it was all real.

I covered Dolores’ body with a blanket, and my mind raced to think what I should do next.  I knew I would do a moment by moment life-review with Dolores during the better part of the next three days.  But I was also acutely aware that Dolores wanted her body to be left alone for three days after death. 

By 3 p.m. or so, Julie, Prudence, Fikret, RW and I gathered up on the hill.  We sat close together in a small circle and poured coffee-elixir, including one cup for Dolores. We toasted by touching our cups, and holding our cups in that touched position while we thought of Dolores.  I strongly felt Dolores above us as we sat there on the back porch.  I couldn’t control myself and I put my face into my hands and sobbed uncontrollably.  Everyone was quiet.

Then, after a while, we spoke of many things in the following two hours, including, “What now?”  Can we fulfill Dolores’ wishes of leaving her body alone for 3 days.  And if so, how do we do that?  None of us were undertakers and we had never done anything like this. 

After a lengthy discussion, we agreed that we would do our best to keep Dolores’ body preserved for the next three days.  I would not call any authorities to inform them of Dolores’ death, since we felt pretty certain that the legal authorities would not respect Dolores’ wishes, but would simply demand to inspect the body and remove it to elsewhere to do whatever they do to dead bodies.  Julie and Prudence came over that evening to prepare Dolores’ body.  Prudence had collected a huge bag of Aloe and jade and Peruvian mint.  Our plan was to wash and then wrap Dolores’ body, and then to set it on some sort of upraised rack in the bathtub.  We thought this was a good plan because the bathroom was always very cool, and we thought that a dead body would leak fluids.  Frankly, we had no idea what to expect.

I carried Dolores to the bathroom and we carefully and thoughtfully washed her body with warm water and soap, and then I combed her hair.  Meanwhile, Prudence washed and pureed all the green plants in the food processor.  She added a little water, and we had a thick green material, which we then strained. The result was about a half-gallon of very thick gelatinous green material. 

We set three milk crates up in the tub as a rack, and laid a large flat rigid screen over the crates.  We folded a thick blanket and laid it onto this rack.

Then we lovingly covered Dolores’ entire body with the green solution, and Prudence placed crushed Peruvian mint leaves into all the body openings (eyes, mouth, ears, etc.). We then dressed her in one of her long cotton T-shirts, and wrapped her with muslin cloth.  We then further wrapped her entire body in two layers of thin blankets, and then placed about ten “blue ice” containers around her body to keep it cool.  We lit a little votive candle and placed roses on top of her body.

Lastly, we tied a little bronze bell to Dolores toe via a string, so that the bell hung over the edge of the tub. This was based on an old practice since sometimes the “dead person” wasn’t really dead and could ring the bell to alert people that they’d awaken from their death-like coma.  In some cases, a person would be in a coffin, with a string stretched to the outside attached to a bell.  We were quite certain that Dolores was not merely in a coma, and that her time had come, but we tied on the bell nevertheless.

We felt we’d done as well as we could, so we cleaned up and Prudence and Julie departed.

I spent a fitful night, half-crying, half trying to review the details of our life together.  I took some notes that night, and tried to look at our interactions month by month from when we met, what I did right, what I did wrong, what I could have done better. 

In that moment, with Dolores “gone,” I felt plunged into a deep psychic darkness and I felt that my life was naught but a wasted opportunity, and that it was all so much loss.  I felt remorse and regret that I had caused Dolores so much pain in a marriage that seemed so full of promise at the beginning.  Even the entire world seemed dark, gloomy, empty.

I slept lightly, off and on, and awoke Wednesday to a cold dreary day.  I don’t remember what I did all day.  I ate something, I checked on Dolores, I cried, I met with someone.

In the evening, Prudence came over and we checked Dolores’ body. Our plan was to rewash and to re-cover her body with new linen and herbs. But there was no bad odor and no dripping liquids.  We didn’t know what to expect but her body seemed well-preserved and even sweet-smelling.  So we uncovered the blankets, and over the muslin, we applied a thick layer of Aloe vera juice we had just made.  As we had done the night before, we pureed the fresh Aloe leaves, strained them, and then covered Dolores’ body in this green solution.  Her body seemed to quickly absorb the Aloe.  This was actually very fascinating to do, and to observe, something I’ll never forget.

Then we wrapped and covered her body again, put back the blue ice, the roses, the photos, and re-tied the bell to her toe.  Prudence departed and I spent another fitful night.

Prudence came back Thursday night to check on Dolores body, and when we examined her, we found that there was no foul odor, and no appearance of any sort of “decay.”  We simply rewrapped the body, re-tied the bell, and put back the blue ice and roses.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"The Winds Erase Your Footprints" -- a glimpse of Navajo life during the 30s.

A book by Shiyowin Miller

[Nyerges is the author of several books, and he conducts field trips in ethnobotany.  He can be contacted at]

One of the books that came out of my family was “The Winds Erase Your Footprints,” written by my wife Dolores’ mother, Shiyowin Miller.  Shiyowin, who was part Osage, was immersed in Native American culture. I remember visiting her home in Temple City, which seemed like an Indian museum with a full library, drums, pots, and artifacts from all over the country.  Shiyowin had been a music and dance teacher, and was a professional dancer. She knew Iron Eyes Cody, and worked with Luther Standing Bear, a Lakota Sioux who wrote “My People the Sioux” and other books. Luther Standing Bear adopted Shiyowin, and let Shiyowin act as his agent for his various books and other legal matters. It brought the past alive to me when I was able to see and feel the pipes, sandals, robe, and other materials that Standing Bear had given to Shiyowin.  (There is a special exhibit of Standing Bear’s robe and other items at the Crazy Horse Museum in South Dakota.)

Shiyowin also had many friends from the Navajo lands. In the 1930’s, Shiyowin’s best friend, Juanita, fell in love with a Navajo man, Luciano, who’d been working as an extra in Hollywood.  Juanita and Luciano got married, and moved back to Luciano’s Navajo lands in New Mexico.

Shiyowin kept in touch with Juanita, and wrote about the experiences that Luciano and Juanita underwent on the reservation, during the Depression when there was so little work.

Shiyowin edited and revised and rewrote her book many times over the next 30 years, and she died in 1983 before it was ever published.  I married Shiyowin’s daughter Dolores in 1986, and when I saw the box with hundreds of pages of manuscript, I asked Dolores if I could read it.  In fact, Shiyowin had hired Dolores to type many of the revisions over the years, and so Dolores was familiar with the content.

Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I was amazed at the quality and depth of the story, and could barely believe that it had never been published. Shiyowin had actually received an offer from a publisher some 20 years earlier, but since she kept rewriting and revising, it never got published.  To me, it was like reading a Tony Hillerman novel, except it was true!

Everyone said that the book accurately depicted life on the Rez during that time, mixed in with some accounts of Navajo witchcraft.  With some editing, Dolores and I got the book published in 2002 by Naturegraph Press, which features many Native American titles.  If you do an internet search with the book's title, you'll see some of the reviews that have been published about this book. 

The story was descriptive, compelling, and you feel as if you are re-experiencing the harsh winds, the life in the Hogan making coffee, the search for work, and all the ceremonies and gatherings that were a part of the Navajo way of life.  The books, which was 335 pages when published, also contained hints and clues in the backdrop about Navajo witchcraft, and the ma-itso, the wolf clan which was feared by most.

The freak death of Luciano was generally attributed to the work of the ma-itso, and Shiyowin gives the clues in bits and pieces, in the way that Tony Hillerman so masterfully slowly revealed his mysteries.

The line drawings for the book were drawn by Navajo artist Chester Kahn. Shiyowin’s daughter Dolores stated that the drawings seemed the ideal artistic representation of Shiyowin’s work, capturing the feeling and quality of the historical account. 

The books is available from Amazon, or from the Store at

The following excerpts from THE WINDS ERASE YOUR FOOTPRINTS are Copyright  and may not be re-printed without permission of the publisher.

Fom chapter 7: The Sing
"Before we came here," her husband began, "when I tried to tell you about everything which might seem strange to you, I didn't tell you about ma-itso--the wolf clan. One reason, it no longer seemed as believable to me as it once had; perhaps all the years in school did that; anyhow, in Hollywood I seldom thought of it. When we came here, my mother told me the wolf clan was still strong in CaƱoncito. I didn't tell you then because I could see no reason why they would try to harm us. But to be sure you were safe, my mother and sisters watched you every minute.

"There were times when I almost told you, those times when you were upset about things you didn't understand. And yet I hated to frighten you needlessly. Already there was so much for you to worry about. It seemed better to wait until I had a job, until we were living in town and then tell you. "But now two things have happened which make me sure the ma-itso is for some reason after us. I found yellow pollen in an X mark on my hat brim, and today my mother found pollen on our clothes. That is their warning. Lorencito thinks you will be safer if you know about this evil thing."    A hundred questions sprang to Juanita's lips, but her husband went on talking, interrupted now and then by Lorencito or his mother.

"The wolf clan is as old as the Navajo tribe. From the beginning some men turned certain powers, which should have been used for good, toward evil things. Corn pollen, used for blessing, is used by the ma-itso as a warning to a person marked for death. And death does not come in a usual manner; it comes in a round-about way which cannot be easily traced. The victim sickens suddenly; sometimes his mind leaves him. No Medicine Man can cure him. Sometimes the victim meets with a mysterious and fatal accident.       

Fom chapter 13: Wolf Tracks
Juanita had hung up two diapers when she became suddenly aware of something across the arroyo. When she looked carefully nothing seemed unusual; in the dim light she could see the sharp banks of the arroyo, the clumps of juniper in dark patches on the other side. Then gradually, two of the dark juniper patches began to take on the indistinct forms of dogs sitting on their haunches.

That was what imagination would do for you. She even thought now that she could see the large
pointed ears. Juanita smiled to herself. This must be what Lu had seen, the queer-shaped juniper
bushes. They looked surprisingly like coyotes, only larger. The likeness had even startled her for a
moment and her mind had certainly not been on wolves or wolf tracks. She pulled her eyes away and began resolutely to hang up more diapers.

A sudden movement, one dark figure detaching itself from the other and moving farther down the arroyo, a third form appearing almost directly across from her on the opposite bank. Juanita stood absolutely still. There was no sound except the flapping of the clothes on the line.

When Juanita reached the kitchen door, she called to her husband to bring the shotgun. "Those
figures that you saw are out there again." This couldn't be her voice, tight and choked.

Two of the dark forms were loping off down the arroyo when Luciano reached the bank, but the
third sat directly across from him like a very large coyote on its haunches. Luciano raised his gun and fired directly at it. The animal seemed to gather itself into a ball and plunge down the bank of the arroyo--across the wide, sandy bed.

"Lu! Watch out! It's coming for you."
He raised the gun to fire again ...      

Sunday, April 05, 2015

“The Medicine Finally Worked…"

Spotted Owl of the Ojibway Nation inspects one of the Aloe vera plants sold at the WTI booth at Highland Park's Old L.A. Farmers Market

Some experiences with the Remarkable Aloe Vera Plant

[Nyerges is the former editor of Wilderness Way magazine, and the author of 14 books, including “Guide to Wild Foods,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Foraging California,” and others. He leads regular outdoor field trips to identify edible and medicinal wild plants. He can be reached at or Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041.]

Sometime in late 1978, my mother shared with me an experience she had with the Aloe vera plant.  My mother, Marie, was a Registered Nurse who worked at a Pasadena retirement home as the staff nurse.  About three months earlier, a housekeeper who lived on-site at the retirement home began to break out in a hive-like rash that caused her to itch constantly. The cause was said to be a nervous condition.  The patient’s thighs, back, arms, shoulders, and neck all broke out in this rash, which the patient described as “burning like fire.”

My mother offered to apply the juice of the aloe leaf to the patient’s red spots, but the patient responded, “No, I’ll have the doctor check it.” The doctor came and prescribed Atarax (internally) for the itching and allergies, and cortisone (externally), which was  applied as a cream.  The doctor also prescribed tranquilizers for sleep.

After about 45 days, the patient, Lucille, told my mother that she still could not sleep at night, and that the rash hadn’t improved. Lucille noted that there was a slight improvement in the rash when she stayed home and didn’t go to work, so Lucille and the doctor assumed this was a nervous condition associated with work.

So my mother, Lucille’s nurse, asked again if she’d like to try some aloe.  Lucille responded, “Yes, please, bring me anything!”  My mother noted that Lucille’s skin was hot to the touch, and there were big red spots all over.

At 7:30 a.m., my mother took a fresh succulent Aloe vera leaf, slit it open, and rubbed the gel on Lucille’s arms, legs, back, neck – almost her entire body.  Lucille said her skin immediately felt better.  By 3:30 that afternoon, all the visibly red spots were gone, and Lucille happily told my mother that all of the burning itching was gone.  The next day Lucille told my mother that that night was the first night she’d slept in the previous approximately 45 days.

My mother had been somewhat reticent to apply the aloe because she was subservient to the doctor, and could have lost her license by doing something without the approval of the doctor.

When the doctor arrived, Marie told him that Lucille’s rash had cleared up, and she admitted to having applied aloe juice.  The doctor was somewhat taciturn as he examined the patient, and, without commenting on the aloe,  told my mother, “It’s good that the medicine finally worked.”  Really?!

My mother always had a laugh re-telling this story about a doctor who couldn’t see the obvious!  Eventually, the other nurses referred to my mother as the “witch-doctor” because she used aloe and various other natural methods of healing, behind the doctor’s back. 

Over the years, I had my mother document the many cases where  she use aloe to cure various skin condition, on her patients, herself, and even cats.

Marie used aloe for sun burn, burns from hot oil,  skin sores, diaper rash, bed sores, even poison oak rash.

In one case, our family cat had a large open ulcer on his thigh – we weren’t sure of the cause, but we presumed that the cat got into a fight.  My mother directed me to put some of fresh aloe gel onto the ulcer every day for three day, while also making some of the aloe leaf into a juice which was added to the cat’s water. The wound was completely healed after three days.  “It was unbelievable,” expressed Marie, “but it worked!”

My mother’s experiences took place over 35 years ago, and today, Aloe vera is a common household word. You can buy it anywhere, even Trader Joe’s markets. And as the succulent plant was studied and researched all these years, many have come to call it a miracle herb. 

The properties of aloe are a broad mix of antibiotic, astringent, pain inhibitor, emollient, moisturizer, antipruritic (reduces itching), as well as a nutrient.  It apparently works because of the polysaccharides present, the main one of which is a glucomannan.  Others ingredients of the aloe include galactose, uronic acids, and pentoses.  The miracle qualities of the aloe is not believed to be the polysaccharides alone, but the synergistic effect of these and other compounds in the leaf.

Obviously, many have tried to create an aloe product that you can buy in the bottle, and some are quite good.  I’ve had some good results from the aloe drink that I have purchased at Trader Joe’s market. But please make no mistake about it: the best results come from the gel from the freshly-broken leaf of aloe.  And though Aloe vera seems to be the best, any of the juice from any aloe can be used for burns, poison oak, etc.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Goodbye, Dr. George!

[If  you like this Blog, please sign up to follow it. Nyerges’ web site is]

I was saddened to hear that another great intellect – and friend – has left the planet.

I am sure many millions of viewers enjoyed this bow-tied meteorologist’s reporting of the weather in his “old school” style. Today, there’s hardly anyone like him, and all the television stations prefer that short skirts report on the weather to help boost ratings.

As a writer and columnist for the Pasadena Star News in the 1980s, I used to call Dr. Fischbeck and get his opinion about some weather-related issue. He always managed to get to the phone, and was always eager to chat.  For example, he told me that there is no such thing as reliable long-term weather, that weather can only be “predicted” accurately up to 48 hours.

Back in 1984 when I conducted a “rain dance”  with the children at the City of Pasadena’s Victory Park day camp, and it rained that August night, I chatted with Dr. George about it.

Apparently, someone had already called him and told him about the rain dance, so he  knew about it when I brought it up.  Fischbeck told me that he recognized and respected the sacred nature of the Southwestern Indians’ rain dances and ceremonies, having lived among the New Mexico Indians for two years as an anthropologist. Still, he believed that there was no connection between our rain dance and the rain, discounting the ability of what he called “prayer” to affect the weather.

He explained that he noted a storm off California’s coast at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, the day we did the rain dance.  By 11 p.m. that evening,  Dr. Fischbeck said that he knew rain would fall, but not where. He was calling it a “freak storm” since this was August with an average precipitation of zero. Due to the winds that arose, the rain moved further west and north than he expected, he told me.

I met him for the first time in the late 1980s when I was the editor of Mensa’s local “Lament” magazine. I wanted him to write an editorial about the then-drought that California was experiencing. He agreed, and I visited him at the Channel 7 studios.  He greeted me like an old friend, and we discussed his column.  When  published, it was a well-received editorial, still very relevant today.

In honor of Dr. George, here is a shortened version of what he had to say:


Folks, do you know that this densely populated Southern California urban sprawl is located on what geologists call a “coastal desert plain”?  That’s right – we live here in a desert.  And yet we use and waste water as if there is no tomorrow.  If we don’t start realizing where we live, we’re bound to have some severe problems in the near future.  Why?  Because everyone wants to live in Southern California.  And where does the water come from?  From Northern California and from the Colorado River.  Water experts tell us that we might have a real crisis on our hands real soon if we don’t learn to live with less water.

Let’s explore some of the ways in which everyone can pitch in and help.

Did you know that nearly 50 percent of our residential water use is literally flushed down the toilet?  Today there are toilet tanks that can flush with less water, and some areas are now requiring these in new construction. 

An innovative group in Highland Park named WTI Inc. has been practicing a unique form of water conservation for nearly 17 years.  The household members save their bath and shower water in one-gallon containers, which they neatly store in the bathroom.  Then, using specially-cut plastic pour containers, they use their bath and shower water to flush the toilet.  This is a simple method of water conservation that even apartment dwellers can practice.

Did you know that some plants in your yard require much more water than others?  Talk to the people at your local nursery, and find out which plants are drought tolerant. 

If you have a yard, you should seriously consider grey-water recycling.  Grey-water refers to the water that goes down our kitchen and bathroom sinks, and down the tub.  With some simple drain-line alterations, and with the possible change of detergent, you can direct this once-used water into your yard to water your trees, bushes, and even garden. 

And did you know that the original navel orange tree in Southern California was planted outside a home and watered with dishwater?  You can still see that tree today in Riverside!

The number of ways in which we can save and conserve water are endless.  Some ways that most of us don’t usually think of are, for example, collecting rainwater from your roofs in plastic trash buckets – just like “grandma back on the farm” used to do, right?  Your editor told me that he has collected up to 400 gallons of rainwater in a single storm, although usually he collects about 40 gallons of rain a storm.  That’s free water that doesn’t have to be imported to us. 
Folks, remember that we can always lick a problem if we stick together and work together.  Don’t wait for “the government,” since the solution is really within our own grasp.   I am hopeful for our future.  And thank you for letting me share my ideas with you!
Dr. George Fischbeck
Meteorologist, KABC TV

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


[Christopher Nyerges  is the author of several books, such as Enter the Forest,  Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City (co-author), and How to Survive Anywhere.  He has led wilderness expeditions since 1974.  He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041 or via]
There’s a lot of green right now in town.  Saint Patrick green: shamrocks, leprechans, beer. But who was Saint Patrick?  Was he a real person?  Children are told  "Saint Patrick wore a green suit, talked to leprechans (he was probably drunk at the time), and while trying to convert the pagans with a shamrock, he marched all the snakes out of Ireland."  Will the real Saint Patrick please stand up?

His real name was Maewyn Succat, born around 385 A.D., somewhere in Scotland, or possibly somewhere else, as there is conflicting historical data on his exact date and place of birth.   His baptismal name was Patricius. 

Around age 16, he was sold into slavery in Ireland and worked for the next 6 years as a shepherd.  Keep in mind that human slavery, as well as human sacrifice, was considered normal for those times.

After his six years in slavery, he believed that an angel came to him in a dream, prompting him to escape and seek out his homeland.  He actually walked about 200 miles to the coast, where his dream indicated a ship would also be waiting for him.  He successfully escaped, and spent the next twenty years of his life as a monk in Marmoutier Abbey. There he again received a celestial visitation, this time calling him to return to the land where he’d been enslaved, though now with a mission as a priest and converter.

Patrick was called to Rome in 432, where Pope Celestine bequeathed the honour of Bishop upon him before he left on his mission.

Patrick returned to Ireland not alone, but with 24 supporters and  followers.  They arrived in Ireland in the winter of 432.  In the Spring, Patrick decided to confront the high King of Tara, the most powerful King in Ireland. Patrick knew that if he had the King's support, he would be free to take his Christian message to the people of Ireland.

Patrick and his followers were invited to Tara by the King of Laoghaire. It was there that he was said to have plucked a shamrock from the ground as he tried to explain to the Druids and the King that the shamrock had three leaves just like the idea of God’s   three aspects - The Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost. This was called the Trinity. 

Of course, triads and trinities were a common concept among the Druids.  In fact, one could argue that the trinity (a term not found in the Bible) was a concept given to Christianity by the Druids, rather than the other way around.  Nevertheless,  King Laoghaire was very impressed and chose to accept Christianity. He also gave Patrick the freedom to spread Christianity throughout Ireland.

When Patrick returned to Ireland, he treated the "pagans" with the respect implicit in his dream. Part of this respect was attempting to communicate with the Druids on their terms, which is why he used the shamrock as a teaching tool.  He also blended the Christian cross with the circle to create what is now known as the Celtic cross.  He used bonfires to celebrate Easter, a Holy Day that Christianity supplanted with the already-existing spring equinox commemoration. In fact, he incorporated many of the existing symbols and beliefs into his Christian teachings.

He spent his last 30 years in Ireland, baptizing the non-Christian Irish, ordaining priests, and founding churches and monasteries. His persuasive powers must have been astounding, since Ireland fully converted to Christianity within 200 years and was the only country in Europe to Christianize peacefully. Patrick's Christian conversion ended slavery, human sacrifice, and most intertribal warfare in Ireland.

Patrick was also unique in that he equally valued the role of women in an age when the church ignored them. He always sided with the downtrodden and the excluded, whether they were slaves or the “pagan” Irish.

According to Thomas Cahill, author of How the Irish Saved Civilization, Patrick's influence extended far beyond his adopted land. Cahill's book, which could just as well be titled How St. Patrick Saved Civilization, contends that Patrick's conversion of Ireland allowed Western learning to survive the Dark Ages. Ireland pacified and churchified as the rest of Europe crumbled. Patrick's monasteries copied and preserved classical texts. Later, Irish monks returned this knowledge to Europe by establishing monasteries in England, Germany, France, Switzerland, and Italy.

When the lights went out all over Europe, a candle still burned in Ireland. That candle was lit by Patrick.

Veneration of Patrick gradually assumed the status of a local cult.  He was not simply remembered in Saul and Downpatrick, he was worshipped. Indeed, homage to Patrick as Ireland's saint was apparent in the eight century AD. At this time Patrick's status as a national apostle was made independently of Rome.  He was claimed locally as a saint before the practice of canonization was introduced by the Vatican. The high regard in which the Irish have held St Patrick is evidenced by the salutation, still common today, of "May God, Mary, and Patrick bless you".

Patrick was not Irish, had nothing to do with leprechauns, almost certainly was not a drunkard, and didn't drive all the snakes out of Ireland.  In fact, there were no native snakes in Ireland, though this story is believed to be an analogy for driving out the so-called “pagans,” or, at least, the pagan religions.

Patrick was one of the "greats" of history who nearly single-handedly preserved the best of Western culture when much of Europe was devolving into chaos and ruin.  He deserves far better than remembering him in the silly ways we do today, such as wearing green, pinching each other, and getting drunk.  Rather, he deserves an accurate memory, and our emulation.  Unfortunately, like all true Saviors of history, they are either killed off, or relegated to the closet of ridicule. 

Perhaps it's time for all of us to re-think how we commemorate this special man, and his vast contribution to world culture.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Commentary: THE BACHELOR

[Nyerges, the author of several books, also writes a blog, and posts Youtube videos. He can be reached at or Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041.]

An example of what's wrong with modern TV

I have been watching Chris the farmer on the Bachelor show on television, along with millions of other fixated, voyeuristic Americans.  I watched some of the last season’s Bachelorette as well, as my various feelings and thoughts about this “reality” show have jumbled around.

The show is obviously well-done, professionally produced, with exotic wonderful places they visit. Yet, on another very primal and basic level, the show epitomizes what’s wrong with our television culture. 

I am bothered by the fact that the show makes a contest out of the most basic fundamental building block of society and social structures: the relationship between a loving couple.   Yes, it is, at the end of the day, a contest to see which of the two dozen or so beautiful women will go home to the farm with Chris.  They are all decked out, trying to out-do the other in their favors and attention to the handsome farm boy. It’s somewhat like two people getting all dress up for a date, except Chris can pick any apple from the tree.  How realistic is that? It’s not, it’s TV!

In the beginning of the show, all the women are happy and having fun.  Of course!  But it is like playing the lotto – only one will “win.”  So it’s sad and disheartening to see the beautiful women all lined up like boxes of cereal while Chris gets to decide what he wants for breakfast.  It’s not real, and while everyone watches from their living rooms as women one by one are voted off, viewers don’t feel the very real emotional agony that the voted-off ones experience. It’s very real pain, and all unnecessary, all for the TV experience.

Relationships are very real, and the best meetings don’t occur in staged TV shows. The best meetings occur in everyday real life, where you will see the person as they normally are, going about their very real life. Meaningful relationships can begin at the flea market while examining ancient coins, or at  the farmers market while selecting apples, or at the park while studying plants and animals.  Life is that way. People meet and love flourishes where you least expect it. 

Real life does not always live up to all the beauty and hype of a TV show. Chris the farmer is far more likely to meet the right person and have a fulfilled life by visiting more of the families in his farm community, where he’d find someone already in-tune with the life he lives.

Each time I have watched the bachelor I get the sick feeling that I am watching some sort of horse auction where one of the horses gets selected for the race track, except these are women, not horses. 

At the root, I find the show demeaning, since it reduces the beauty and magic of relationships and love to a device of entertainment.  I understand the popularity of the show, and yet, we are looking at very real individuals, who perhaps didn’t realize the full ramifications of the web into which they entangled themselves when the agreed to be part of the show.  Viewers who watch the show might just be fooled into believing that real relationships can and should be developed by such an artificial method. But again, real life is very different. The people “dating” on this TV show are certainly not  paying for all the rooms and vacations and decorated sets at all the beautiful far-flung locations.  It’s a fantasy!

We watch as Chris is struggling with who to pick, and trying to decide with whom he might be “falling in love” with, and therefore who he may want to spend his life with.  And I struggle each time the show is on to turn off the TV, and get back to the very real work of living life, and finding meaning and fulfillment in the real world.

As long as we don’t forget that the tale of Chris the Farmer and his assorted potential wives is fantasy, then we might enjoy the tale. 

The big losers may be the “contestants” of the show: the women who publicly flaunted themselves to the star, only to be rejected, and the farmerboy himself, who one day may realize that he already lived in paradise where his ideal mate could have been found in a more organic and private manner.

Monday, February 23, 2015

What the Rain Said to Me

[written 02/22/15]
Outside my window the rain is falling.
like an ancient voice to me it’s calling
I listen to its timeless word
I let there be silence so it can be heard
From childhood’s trauma that voice was lost
Society’s trying to grow up was what it cost
My knowledge -- we and the land are one
My reverence for oakland, grass, and sun
This coastal desert plain where I was born
Where living life and heart was torn
Where for love of money the hair is shorn
No longer child for fear of scorn
In this Los Angeles basin where men go mad
For the love of money and the latest fad
And no sense of place or home to be
And no more goal of freedom’s free
For my ancestors once here this night I mourn
In this land where I was born
From my roots that I was torn
And my feelings all so ragged worn
Trying to be who I should be
In this land I try to see
Who we are and are born to do
Is much more than shiny shoe
And hair-do and money coup
Is living life all through and through
From the roof,  rain talks to me
I listen hard for pictures-see
Respect the land, an
d sea, and tree
Realize for sure, freedom’s not free
But built of work, respectfully
It’s all there, to live and see
And the rain tells it all to me
Mushrooms, food, from dale to sea
Respect the elders, those who know
Never stop, always grow
Rain is gift, its fruits will show
Now to dreamtime, I will go.