Friday, August 23, 2019

Dharma, Karma, Reincarnation, and One Student's Doubts

[Excerpt from "Searching for the Meaning of Life in the City of Angels," available from Kindle]

During an ongoing weekly study on the Mahabharata, led by Shining Bear, we delved into the meanings of karma, dharma, justice, and reincarnation.

Shining Bear attempted to clarify one of the major points of the Mahabharata, specifically the conversation with Arjuna and Krishna, the part of the major work which is generally called the Bhagavad-Gita. In that conversation, Arjuna is looking for a way to avoid an impending war.  Arjuna was told that the only real choice is to do your dharma.  That is, do what you must in your station in life, and do what you must based on your past choices, that is, your karma.  There was a distinction made between the two types of dharma: spiritual-dharma, and karma-dharma. 

“So,” said Shining Bear, “when we speak of the karma-dharma, it refers to those actions that you are have no choice but to do in order to rectify or balance your past choices.  Yes, you can try to avoid this balancing, but some day, in some way, Justice will demand balance.  You can do it willingly, or you can let Justice carve it out of your life, at a time that is not convenient to you, usually very painful.”

Shining Bear then attempted to delineate again that our real work in life should be to do our spiritual-dharma, the work that moves us ahead.  Our karma-dharma work is necessary, but it is catchup.  “Still, you cannot avoid your karma-dharma.  If you try to avoid it, you will eventually still have to find that balance, in this lifetime or in a future embodiment.”

 A student, Joe, who was present spoke up and said, “This is all pretty interesting. But I don’t believe in the reincarnation part.  You can’t prove any of that.”

“For starters, are you aware that close to 80% of the world’s population believes in reincarnation, in some form?” responded a different student.

Joe quickly retorted, “That’s not proof.”

A long discussion ensued about what much of the world believes, and why.

For example, why are some people born with incredible talents, like being able to play piano at age 4.  Conversely, why are some people born into such dreadful conditions?    “IF we live multiple lives, and if Justice does operate in the world, doesn’t this explain a lot?” asked another student.

Joe was silent.


“Keep in mind,” added Shining Bear, “your opinion of how the universe operates in no way affects the universe’s operation.”

After much more discussion – it would take too long to share it all in this format --  Shining Bear looked at me and said,  “We only have a little more time for today, but are you willing to share your own past life glimpses?”  I felt “on the spot.”   I proceeded to share two stories..

“About 20 years ago,” I began, “I was experiencing great conflict in my life.  I was overwhelmed with what I should do, and what choices I should make.  In fact, the conflict had to do with whether or not I wanted to stay close to Shining Bear. I was very challenged by his demands, and I seriously considered moving somewhere else and dropping any further involvement.  At the time, my life seemed to be in chaos, and my involvement with Shining Bear seemed very valuable, but seemed to eat up every single second of my time, and I had very little to show for it in a material sense.  Anyway, I sat outside one day on the hill, staring towards the setting sun, wondering what to do.  While fully conscious, with eyes open, I saw this clearing in the forest.  There was this large tipi there, which I believed to be the medicine lodge where the elders gathered.  I had my back to the tipi, and I was walking away.  I felt shamed in some way.  The feeling was that I had been tested, and did not do well. I would have to work horrendously hard to keep up, and though I wanted to be a part of the lodge more than anything, I just didn’t think I could do it.  The setting seemed like a few hundred years ago.  It felt like it was up in the Northeastern U.S.  At the time, I felt that I had been in this emotional state before, this state of uncertainty, and this state of possibly leaving and going somewhere else.  The scene that opened-up to me was a glimpse of that very same moment in a past life, when I had a difficult choice to make.”  I stopped, and everyone was silent. 

“And the other experience?” asked Shining Bear.

I continued.  “OK,   the other one took place while I was seated in the cave, and it was around the same time.  There were several people present for a meeting to discuss the various ramifications when Mariana (a close student of Shining Bear) choosing to suddenly depart, and sever her connections to Shining Bear.  Some of her family members were there, as were several of the close associates of Shining Bear.  Mariana had been very instrumental in unifying everyone, and providing the cohesiveness to move forward many of our projects.  Now she was gone.  One woman was crying openly. Others were upset, sad, confused. 

“We were all wondering what fate would befall her, and how we all should best carry on.  Shining Bear asked someone to play Pachebel’s Canon in D Major on the record player.  He turned it on loud, and we were all taken on a most dynamic musical journey. It was my first time hearing it and it was an incredible experience to listen to that classic song.  And while I sat there, looking upward at the ceiling, fully awake, a scene opened up to me.   At first I saw only the sands of the desert.  I knew I was somewhere in Egypt, a very long time ago.  I was standing by the side of a road in a very dry and barren place. There were stone or clay buildings of a town in the southern distance.  A man rode by on an elephant, and I knew he was departing to another place.   There was a small caravan of followers and supplies.  As he rode by, he paused and looked at me, but said nothing.  I looked into the deepness of his eyes and I knew it was the Shining Bear persona.  I felt overwhelmed with inner conflict.  He was departing and it would have been my best choice to leave with him and study with him.  But whatever for forces were in my life, they kept me unable to move.  I stood there, sullen, frozen, and then he turned away and they rode off into the desert.  I was with a friend, and I sensed that we traveled south to that city, and lived a short life.”

Again, everyone was silent, and I said, “That’s it.”

“Interesting,” said Joe.  As he looked at me, though, his face said that he believed I was just making it all up.

“Very interesting,” said Joe, “and it really makes me think about it.  I’m not exactly saying I disagree with you.  I’m just saying, there’s still no proof.  Even with all these stories.  I’ll think about it all, but I still see no reason to believe in reincarnation.”

Laughing Bear asked, “What exactly would you accept as proof?”

Joe quickly said, “Well, no one really knows what happens after you die.  No one has ever come back to tell us about what happens after death.”

This caused instant laughter among half the participants.

When the ruckus died down, Big Bear (no relation to Shining Bear) said, “How do you know that?  Lots of people have talked about past lives, and having died and come back to life, and having interacted with ghosts.  But what happens? Our biased, body-mind driven media labels them all as hoaxes, quacks, liars.  Why would a sincere person expose themselves to such indignity?”  After a pause, Big Bear added, “What you’re really saying – and this is really OK – is that you, personally, have no knowledge of the afterlife.  That is OK.  We’re trying our best to open your eyes.”

No one had anything more to add, and Shining Bear began putting away his papers that he carried to our gathering spot under the huge arching tree.  We never did get to the lesson about the Brahman Chronology and the description of the vast periods of time in a Maha Yuga.

As there was nothing to be gained by trying to convince anyone about anything, especially if they clearly assert their opinion or belief in something else. Shining Bear continued to pack up as others did likewise.

“Remember,” said Shining Bear, “that our opinion of how the universe operates does not affect the universe continuing to so operate.”

Joe retorted with an air of authority, saying  “Truth is never established by proclaiming it.”

“Ahhh,” said Shining Bear, as he got up and walked away.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Be Here Now

Be Here Now

Christopher Nyerges

[Nyerges is the author of such books as “Extreme Simplicity,” “Enter the Forest,” “Self-Sufficient Home,” and others.  He can be reached at]

“Be here now.”  Remember that mantra from one of the 60’s gurus?  Though the slogan was widely used and spouted by weekend philosophers, Ram Dass’ simple quote was perhaps the most profound thing anyone could have said.

It can also be said as “Now is now,” or “Now is the only reality.”

I recall waking up early one Saturday morning. I was still in my early teens, and though I woke up in the early morning, it was also a time of simply waking up to my own awareness, waking up to the larger reality all around me, still largely not understood. 

In my earliest years of childhood, I was always living in the moment. There was no other option. I think, based on my own experiences, the perspective of reality of the child is probably very much like a dog, a cat, a wild animal, in the sense that the animal has no choice but to be very intensely in the moment. Survival requires that. The animal does not think about things like getting older, planning for the future, what will I wear tomorrow, how I look to my friends, how can I get more people to like me, what costume I will wear for Halloween, how can I make money during summer vacation, why 
does time go so slow, what will I be when I grow up, etc.

In other words, once I became aware of how the “adult world” operates, I lost my innocence of my own self as an autonomous and pure being in the universe.

Somehow, I was no longer like the dogs and cats and deer and wild animals, focusing solely and intently on the moment.  I was no longer focusing on “being here now.” I learned though my osmotic study of adults that it was important to think about the future, even the distant future, even the unlikely future.

And slowly but surely, like the grown-up adults of the “real world,” I found that I was more and more thinking about, and worrying about, and planning for, the distant future. I was not in the moment.

This is not to imply that adults in the adult world should not plan and prepare for the future. That would be silly to suggest. However, somehow, we need to do both. We need to think about the future, while living and being in the moment.  We need balance because we have become obsessively and dangerously imbalanced. Why else would so many people have found meaning in Ram Dass’ quote?

Part of the process of “being here now,” I have slowly discovered, is the idea that the journey is more important than the destination.  How often have you driven on a long car ride, or been on a backpacking trek, and someone is constantly asking, “Are we there yet?” or “How much longer?”  Since that mindset has not found a way to enjoy and learn from the journey, once it reaches the destination, it will begin to ask, “When are we going home?” 

It took me a long time and concerted effort to enjoy the journey.  I remember one mentor, Linda Sheer, who grew up in rural Appalachia, who used to tell me that I needed to quit focusing on getting somewhere in the woods.  She slowly explained the process of being in the moment, little by little, and after awhile, it no longer mattered where I was, or where I thought I was going.

My childhood growing up in Pasadena was all about trying to do something “exciting” and “not boring.”  I believed that other people, elsewhere, lived exciting lives and somehow I should find them and try to be like them.  Gradually, as I actually met and interacted with some of the most “exciting” people in my orbit, I found their lives empty, hollow, mostly window-dressing.  Not only did I further my efforts to “be here now,” but also to just “be myself,” and learn to be OK to be alone, or to be comfortable with anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances.

In “The Education of Little Tree,” this idea is described in a slightly different way.  Little Tree’s grandmother explains that there is the body-mind and the spirit-mind. The body-mind deals with all the things of the world and the body (money, security, jobs, that sort of thing). The spirit-mind deals with trust, honesty, treating others as you would like to be treated, concern for others, and all the things we tend to think of as spiritually and morally-focused.  Grandmother said that both minds should be developed in life, but some people only develop the body-mind. Then, when they die, since they can only take the spirit-mind with them, they don’t have much at all to carry them through in the hereafter.  

A conversation with my friend Monica made me think back on these topics of childhood. We were discussing the concepts of “heaven” and “hell.”  Sometimes, we have everything possible that we need and yet we are not happy, and want more, and want what our neighbors have. Such a person should be in a state of heaven, but their desire for more physical things keeps them in a state of hell. I know that’s not what religions mean when they speak of heaven or hell, but my point is that when we are always thinking about what happens after we die, we lose sight of the fact that our countless everyday decisions are actually forming our very destiny.   We do better when we focus on each moment, what is right to do, what should be avoided, how we should treat people that minute. 

That is how I understood “be here now.”  It may not be how Ram Dass meant it, but the idea that I should never lose sight of the fact that now is the only reality has stayed with me life-long.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Zen of Painting....

30 Years Later and the House Demolished, Did It Matter if We Used Glossy or Flat?

[Nyerges is the author of Enter the Forest, Guide to Wild Foods, and co-author of Extreme Simplicity.   He has led wilderness trips since 1974.  He can be reached at the School of Self-Reliance (Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041); or on-line at]

 It was the summer of 1973 when my brother and I lived on my grandfather’s farm in Chardon, Ohio.  One day, we decided to paint the kitchen a beautiful shade of light turquoise.  

We turned on the radio, and began our task.  We opened the windows, and I did the trim while my brother rolled.  We listened to the radio as we busied ourselves with our individual tasks.  We worked the corners, the edges, the front surfaces.

There’s something about painting -- perhaps it’s the fumes, perhaps it is the long quiet times of many little tasks.  Painting requires no moral decisions, no great choices, no necessary pontifications about the meaning and purpose of life.  And yet...

And yet, there you are, with your self, and the task before you.  For me, painting time has often been a time to re-enter the inner I, to think, to remember.  In many ways, it is the ideal task for self-enlightenment.

When we were done, we felt we’d accomplished something, and felt we’d given something back to the old farmhouse.  

When the weekend came, another uncle came to visit us .  He strode into the kitchen, looked around at the paint, and simply said “you didn’t use glossy!”  

Glossy?  We were teenagers from California, visiting the home where our mother grew up.  Though it may be second-nature to us today, back then we had no sense that a kitchen should be painted glossy.  
Glossy vs. flat were not issues that we thought much about.  We didn’t think it mattered all that much?

But Uncle Joe seemed to think it was a big deal, and just one more bit of evidence that teenagers from “the big city” were a bunch of  dimwits who wouldn’t know a cow from a goat.  Uncle Joe shared it around to family and friends that we’d painted the kitchen in “wrong” paint, so we heard about in the weeks that followed.  Some relatives didn’t care, but others would comment as they came in, “Oh, so there’s the flat paint job,” instead of, “Hey, hello, long time no see!”   

Dumb city boys who don’t know the difference between flat and glossy paint, who actually had the stupidity to paint a kitchen in flat paint.

Of course, our intent was to make the family happy that we’d improved the old farmhouse.  We wanted the relatives to comment that we were industrious nephews who proved that all city boys were not idiots.

Today, while I was painting my own bathroom -- glossy paint, white -- memories of the summer of 1973 in Chardon began to play again in my mind.  Perhaps it was the paint. Perhaps it was the cool breeze blowing fresh oxygen through the room. I heard the chickens out back and it reminded me of my brief period of farm-living.

I began to think about how Uncle Joe responded, and how he could have responded.  I realized then the great truth in the phrase that WHAT we do is of  little or no importance, but HOW we do it is everything. 

Uncle Joe died over 10 years ago, and when I visited the old farm site in 1999, the entire farm house and barn had been torn down and were now just a field.  None of it mattered anymore in the world of physical reality.  Joe was gone, and the entire farmhouse was simply a memory, glossy or flat.

Joe could have congratulated us on taking the initiative to paint, and could have explained why kitchens are always painted glossy.  He could have told us that it was a great  primer coat, and enthusiastically offered to drive us right then to the hardware store to get glossy paint, and we’d all do the final coat together.  That would have been something.  Our memory would have been profoundly different had Uncle Joe taken that route of inclusiveness, familyness, and helpfulness. 

 I do not fault him for what he did do -- he probably knew no other way.  In fact, from what I knew about his father (my grandfather), his father probably would have beaten him had Joe painted the kitchen with flat paint.   So to Joe, that was just one of millions of automatic reactions to things in his world.  He probably forgot about in a few years, after the novelty of talking about Marie’s silly nephews wore off.

I realized then how important such “little things” can be, and I wondered how well I would do when my next opportunity arose.  It is especially important with impressionable youth to do the very best we can to be a good example.

It seemed like an important insight, that the “how” is more important than the “what,” and that flat or glossy really doesn’t matter.  Perhaps it was the paint.  Perhaps it was the cool breeze blowing fresh oxygen through the room....


Friday, July 19, 2019

The Death Seminars

[from “Til Death Do Us Part?” which is available from Kindle, or from the Store at]

Dolores and I were active students of metaphysics, mostly through our association with WTI’s Spiritual Studies classes.  We spent a lot of time studying Harold Percival’s “Thinking and Destiny,” and other books such as Fromme’s “Art of Loving” and Hayakawa’s “Language in Thought and Action.” 

By the early 1990s, we began to conduct weekly study sessions and classes in our home, mostly readings from “Thinking and Destiny” on Sunday afternoons.  Then we started doing regular evening classes on weekdays also.  Some weeks, we’d have up to five classes, though usually we’d have two to three a week.  These would be classes based upon the metaphysical studies we were doing in association with WTI, or they were survival and self-reliance classes based upon how we lived our lives.  We called our enterprise Gateway (short for Gateway Research, Education, and Training, or GREAT – my, how modest we were!), and we published a monthly schedule of our classes and lectures.

One night, we offered a class called “What Happens After Death.”  About 10 people showed up for this one, which was a large gathering for our small meeting room. 

We began by telling everyone that this was not some sort of religious exercise, nor was anyone required to “agree with” or “believe” anything we were telling them. Rather, we simply asked that they consider the scenario that we’d be sharing as a possibility, and that we would not consider “arguments” or “debates” about it.  In other words, something does “happen” to us after our body dies.  This “something” can range from “nothing” to reincarnation to “going to hell” and many other possibilities. 

We were students of Harold Percival’s “Thinking and Destiny” book, and we explained that for this class, we’d be sharing his version of what happens after we die.  Obviously, Dolores and I considered this version to be not only acceptable, but possible and plausible. 

A brief explanation about Percival is required.  He claimed in the preface to his monumental “Thinking and Destiny” book that he “came to” the information that he shares by means of what he calls “Real Thinking.”  He further defines “Real Thinking” as a four-part process. The first step is the selection of a topic and turning the Conscious Light on it.  (The Nature of Conscious Light is addressed repeatedly in his book).  Next comes the fixing and cleansing of the subject, which is done by training the Light upon it.  Then, the third step is to reduce the subject to a point, which is done by focusing Light upon it.  This is what we would call "concentrating.”  Lastly, by following this procedure, with the Light focused on the point, the result of this Thinking is a “Knowing” about the subject.

He provides no bibliography, no references, no “proofs” for anything he proffers except that the reader can do his or her own Real Thinking for verification.  In general, Percival describes the evolutionary path that each of us should be on to awaken our minds of which we are composed.  In fact, he says we really have no choice in the matter, that the purpose of life is to evolve, sooner or later.

Upon body death, according to Percival, we “automatically” go through a series of steps, which he initially describes as a brief overview on pages 240 to 253.  He describes a specific order of 12 events, which includes a life-review, a judgement, a heaven-state, etc.  

So, the purpose of our “What Happens After Death” class was to emphasize that all of us WILL die, and that “something” WILL then occur or begin, even if that something is “nothingness.”

After our brief explanation, we asked each participant to lie on our floor. 

“Now you have just died,” we announced, and we covered each person with a sheet to further simulate the death experience.  We then read through the after-death stages, one by one, slowly, in the darkened room, asked each participant to work hard to fully feel the experience.

Talking through this process took about 45 minutes.

Then, we got through the entire cycle, and explained that these steps could actually take several hundred years of earth time.  Then it would be time for being reborn into a suitable and appropriate family, in the place on earth that we’ve earned for ourselves.

We turned on the lights, and removed the sheets, and let everyone take a few minutes to get their eyes adjusted to the light.  Slowly, each person opened their eyes and slowly got up, and sat down in a chair.

We began to share significant experiences that each person had.  A few folks were very quiet and would not talk at all, but others were very talkative.  Some were even in tears.

We closed the class by telling everyone that they had not died tonight, and that everyone now has a “new opportunity” to still “do the right things” since they were still alive in a body.

We shared some freshly-made coffee-elixir and healthful cookies, and we discussed a few of the upcoming classes and poetry readings that we’d be having in the coming weeks.  But no one seemed interested in our announcements.  Most everyone was strongly affected by the experience, and they wanted to ask more questions, which we tried to answer.  As usual, we didn’t feel like the most perfect examples in the world, but we knew that “the future” is all the result of each and every choice that we make, second by second, and the consequences of those choices.  To make the wisest possible choices every second of one’s entire life required a unique sort of sobriety and focus which itself required a unique lifestyle regimen to maintain – and, of course, those details were the subjects of our on-going classes.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Review of "Squatter in Los Angeles"


 “SQUATTER IN LOS ANGELES: Living on the Edge”

A true story of living as a squatter for a year and a half, by Christopher Nyerges.

According to Dude McLean, author of  "The Songwriters Survival Guide to Success,”

“Your story is filled with a lot of truth -- some might even be uncomfortable with it.  All that means is you have touched them in a manner they never thought of in the past.  Few authors make you think. They are writing to please others rather than being truthful to themselves.  I think this is a very interesting and unique book.  The book has a great lack of desperation.  I feel it is a very positive outlook. Good job!”

“Squatter in Los Angeles: Life on the Edge” is the true story of my year and a half as a squatter in the city of Los Angeles.  This book is not intended as a how-to guide, nor is it meant to encourage anyone to break any laws. This happens to be the true story of what I did during a very influential time in my life.  I learned how to get more for less, and I realized – just like Thoreau at his pond in the woods – that we can live quite well and fulfilled if we attempt to differentiate our true needs from mere wants.

I share how I came to be a squatter, and some of the details of moving into an empty house.  I describes the concern of never knowing when someone would come up the driveway and tell me to get out (which never quite happened), and how I took the time to learn about gardening, permaculture, recycling of resources, and water recycling.

It’s true I had no rent to pay so I was able to devote more time to learning things.  But I also had hardly any income, which made it clear to me why most people get regular jobs.  Squatting was not what I’d call a “fun” experience, but it taught me first-hand that I can get by on far less than most of us assume is necessary. 

 “Squatter in Los Angeles” is about 100 pages on Kindle, and it’s a fast moving story of the mixed experiences during this short period in my life: dealing with a ghost, a near-death experience, learning how to recycle everything, learning how to dowse, insights into sustainable gardening, an emergency toilet test, and also a rain dance in August with rain the next day.  The book also includes a period of homelessness and how I dealt with it, and what I learned from it.

“Squatting in Los Angeles” is available as a Kindle download, and can also be purchased as a Word document from the Store at

Friday, May 31, 2019

The Winds Erase Your Footprints, by Shiyowin Miller


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 (deceased) 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, May 26, 2019

American Idol: Commentary on this Season's Winner

Number Two is still a “Winner”

[Nyerges is the author of numerous books such as “Extreme Simplicity,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” and “Self-Sufficient Home.”  He regularly Blogs at]

If you’re not a TV watcher, you might not find any value in what I have to say today.  But perhaps you will.

I know that Game of Thrones has a lot of followers and people have been deeply moved by the twists and turns of the plot.  This, despite the fact that I have never seen a single episode and actually have no idea what it’s all about!

But I do enjoy the various talent and singing competitions on TV.  I’ve enjoyed observing amateur contestants working their way through the levels of elimination until supposedly only the best remain.  So this is not a world-shaking issue, and this doesn’t rise to the level of bringing civilization to the edge.  It’s all about entertainment and show-casing the up-and-coming singers who we presume will be starting a dynamic career.

I watched the remarkable talent on the recent series of American Idol and developed my favorites, singer-musicians who I knew were the best of the crop, who I presumed would win.  If you watched this show, you should realize that although there is just one “winner,” each of the highly-talented final contestants is going to have a great career because the show gave them unparalleled publicity.

As the most recent season came to a close, I rooted for Pomona’s Alejandro Aranda, whose occupation was listed as “dishwasher.”  As I expected, he rose to the top and was one of the final two.  His music was unique, compelling, and he performed mostly his own original songs. And then, there was the final vote.  He lost to an Elvis lookalike, who garnered more votes from the adoring public.  The Elvis lookalike was certainly good – good-looking, slick, commanding the stage, and I’m sure he would do well in Las Vegas.

But I still could not figure how he could win over the highly original, uniquely creative Alejandro, my top choice.

Then I realized, duh, this is a TV show, and the “winner” is not determined by any sort of objective criteria by which one judges the totality of musical greatness.  The winner is simply determined by whoever manages to get the most votes.  And I didn’t vote.  After all, it’s a TV show – why would I bother to vote?  And I noted that people could vote up to 10 times!   So that meant that whatever contestant could muster up the popup fan club to get out and vote, and vote often, would win.  

Popularity doesn’t necessarily mean the best musician, sadly.  Nevertheless, I cannot see how Alejandro will not have a remarkable career now that his talent is plain to see.  The show will ultimately have produced several “winners.”

While pondering this state of affairs, I recalled Andy Rooney on an old episode of “60 Minutes” when he talked about how we decide who won the Presidential debates, and thus, how we decide who will be president.  Rooney divulged all the superficial elements that determine who “won” the debate, such as, good looks, color of hair, lack of hair, color of tie, height or shortness, sweat on the forehead, voice quality, and many other highly irrelevant factors for deciding something as momentous as who will be the leader of our country. 

And then, well, after considering that our political elections have because more elaborate versions of American Idol or the Voice, I became a  bit forlorn to realize that this is – sort of, more or less – the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into by “electing” the combination class clown-class bully to be our President.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now we pay the price for an unqualified, nepotistic, sybaritic individual in the office of President who would likely flunk a course in American Government 101.   But now I’m developing indigestion thinking about this – presidential commentary will have to wait for another day. 

My point is to congratulate Pomona’s Alejandro Aranda, Mr. Segundo, on a job well done, and wishing him the best on his new career!