This is a story I wrote for a magazine about 12 years ago. I don't think I ever put it here, and I saw it for the first time in yeas and thought it worth sharing:
A Tree Swing in the Yard
Tuesday, December 06, 2016
This is a story I wrote for a magazine about 12 years ago. I don't think I ever put it here, and I saw it for the first time in yeas and thought it worth sharing:
Saturday, December 03, 2016
On that forum where I occasionally post, someone questioned whether it was right to collect the frog medicine (Sapo or Kambo, depending whether you're in Peru or Brazil), given that it caused fear in the frog. The question was really about whether we could justify using the frog medicine given that to get it we had to stress out the frog. I felt the need to respond. Here's what I wrote:
I think you've got to imagine what the spirit of the frog is thinking, or sensing: I'll bet they don't like the 5 minutes of inconvenience/torture, but that they would prefer that to being boiled in soup. The indigenous who live in the Amazon, at least in the old days when there was not much agriculture, depended on harvesting wild foods, some tree barks for starch, fishing for those who knew how to do it, and hunting. There were not a lot of alternatives. Yes, they knew that if they ate a pineapple and tossed the top on the ground that when they returned there months later there would be a plant with harvestable pineapples, but those would be eaten by the first people who came on them.
To have a medicine that would steady their hand, stave off hunger/thirst/need for sleep, and eliminate the killing grippe had to have been a godsend. And the frogs are not dumb: They, like all of us, would choose inconvenience and some short-term fear over death.
In terms of us, now, yes, I think there is over-harvesting, bad harvesting, people who don't know what the heck they're doing and so shouldn't be doing it (you can buy egg yolk dried on sticks being sold as sapo or kambo in Iquitos; you can buy candle wax being sold as sapo or kambo in Iquitos; you can buy the medicine from frogs who are kept in a camp and harvested over and over--which will produce really lousy medicine; and a host of other icky or bad things). But harvested correctly, used as real medicine with good intention, I suspect the frogs go along with that. It's a very brief process of a couple of minutes from top to bottom, they are then released and put on their tree of preference, and if they have an obvious mate, they're put near that mate.
In terms of humans needing this, well, if you're 20-years old you might not. But if you're 50 or 60 or 70, the idea that you can eliminate the plaque from your arteries, trim the fur off you heart valves to eliminate an irregular heart beat, and cleanse your liver and kidneys in 15 minutes--or in 15 minutes a day for 5-10 days in a row--well that's pretty good and necessary medicine. If eliminating plaque from your arteries provides you with the space in those arteries to deliver just 3-4 percent more blood to your organs, that's 3-4 percent more oxygen getting to where it's supposed to go. That extra oxygen will improve your eyesight, your hearing, your balance, your heart rate, your pulse, your ability to assimilate and eliminate foods....that's pretty important. And if you maintain doing the medicine a time or two a month, well, you'll keep those arteries clear, you'll keep your heart beating regularly, you'll improve your kidney and liver functions. And most of us, at least us old timers, even if we eat organically and live in the country, are suffering from chemical waste inhalation (cars/coal/oil/shale drilling/cement factories) and so we really do need this boost. So yes, it is a very necessary medicine for a lot of people. And the frog is just doing its part--a bit cruel and insensitive, yes, but beats being soup meat.
Posted by Peter Gorman at 3:54 PM
So on a forum to which I occasionally post, one thread has been discussing sapo/kambo, the medicine extracted from the Phylomedusa Bicolor tree frog that is such a great body cleanser. And one person wrote a long entry on the pain the frogs must suffer when they are tied up and stretched out between four little posts and sticks are rubbed along their bodies to collect the secretions which are the medicine. She wondered if the fear caused by the collecting process meant it was something we humans ought not to do--the fear creating an imbalance in the general universal harmony.
Well, given that this is a topic I deal with a great deal, I weighed in with my two cents. Here's what I wrote:
Hello. In my experience, which is tons with this medicine, certainly the frogs are inconvenienced and probably scared to death for a few minutes while the medicine collecting is done. But then they are released. While they are tied up like green trampolines, the chambira fibers generally used to hold them leave marks around their wrists and ankles. The frogs are not collected again until there is no trace of those markings--which can be up to two weeks. In areas where there are large numbers of the P Bicolor frogs, some frogs are probably never caught.
According to the Matses/Mayoruna who introduced me to the medicine in 1986, the story goes that they were going to eat the frogs but that the frogs suggested that their medicine would be better for the hunters than eating them would be. So they began to collect the medicine. And yes, it was much more valuable than the two ounces of meat (or so) they would have gotten in a soup would have been.
In all likelihood, the Matses and other indigenous groups who utilize sapo or kambo collected the frog to eat when there was no bigger game around and the frightened frogs gave off their "venom" which went into cuts the hunters had on their hands and they quickly learned about the medicine that way. It's about 15 seconds from application (intentional or not) to effect, so the indigenous would have no trouble identifying what caused their initial sickness and subsequent strength and clarity. (As a result, all good collectors of the P Bicolor collect the frog by cutting off a section of the branch the frog is on and bringing that, with the frog, back to camp so that the frog is not disturbed and does not give off its initial, and most powerful medicine in the collection process.)
While the medicine has a diminished value for indigenous groups that no longer depend on hunting, it remains valuable for breaking a fever, general well-being, and several other things. In my experience among people who depended heavily on the frog medicine for an extra edge while hunting daily, the frog was always held in high esteem. I never saw one injured, hurt, or abused beyond the abuse of the collecting of the secretions. I imagine that holds true among all groups that utilize the medicine.
And I'll bet if the frogs could talk they would say that while they hate being caught and tied up, they much prefer it to being boiled in soup.
Posted by Peter Gorman at 10:38 AM
Thursday, December 01, 2016
Suddenly, lots of people are reading this blog. Not lots of people like the big blogs get, but instead of 100 people a day, for the last couple of weeks it's been 300 a day. And they are coming from the USA, though I don't know where in the USA. I'm still getting 40 a day or 50 a day from countries all over the globe, but the majority of the additional 200 daily reads are coming from the USA.
Now a few years ago, I had one day where I chanced to look at the numbers to see who was reading what, and it was a day when there were 6,000 views from Germany. That blew my mind. It was as if the students at a small university was given the assignment to read one of my blog pieces. This sort of feels like someone has given high school students the task of reading my blog daily for a couple of weeks. Why? To see the range of topics a writer might post on; to see the style of writing in my blog, who knows why?
If these new numbers are from that sort of assignment, please let me know. I'm curious. On the other hand, if there is some wild and crazy speed freak out there reading and re-reading my posts all day long during a two-week binge, I'd like to know that too. Don't hesitate. Thanks.
Posted by Peter Gorman at 6:26 AM
Thursday, November 24, 2016
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Here's what I'm wishing for:
For those who have no food, those who are starving, I want you to find access to healthy food beginning today.
For those without water, I'm praying for rain for you, enough rain every day to keep you healthy, and not too much to cause flooding.
For those who are physically ill, I'm singing for your recovery.
For those aching from loneliness, I hope you meet a friend.
For those with broken hearts, I wish you a glimmer of love to ease your pain.
For those suffering mentally, I pray for sudden and wonderful clarity.
For those suffering spirituality, I sing for balance for you.
For those suffering from the horrid effects of war, I pray all of the war machines just stop functioning and people realize they're no longer needed.
And for all of you, I hope/sing/pray that your life suddenly fills with absolute joy and laughter, and the strength to deal with hard times.
Posted by Peter Gorman at 10:00 AM
Saturday, November 19, 2016
Posted by Peter Gorman at 5:07 PM
Friday, November 18, 2016
In a follow up note to my last post here, I wrote this--and I know I was shouting, so put ear muffs on, okay?:
Hey, people! Stop! There is no giving this asshole a chance! He's got Ku Klux Klan in Bannon running his show. He's got a number one guy for Supreme court who wants to imprison gays. He's got a vice-president who thinks gay conversion therapy is how to handle LGBQT issues and that no abortions are allowed--and he even includes miscarriages--without a formal burial. He's picking Jamie Dimon to run one end of the economy, and Mnunchin, who has been charged with racist lending policies, to run banking. He's got a retired general with serious Russian ties to be the head of National Security Administraton. He's got Cory Lewandownski saying he's grateful that the FBI's Comey interfered with the election and credits him with glee with turning the election. He's offering John Bolton, who wants regime change forced on Iran, as his number one choice for Secretary of State. He's got a coal mine owner who's had a lot of his miners die in mine collapses and explostions pegged for his Secretary of Commerce. He's got a guy who wants to eliminate the EPA in charge of the EPA; He's got a guy who wants to eliminate the Consumer Protection Bureau to head the Consumer Protection Bureau, which, despite tied hands, has returned $12 billion to 27 million people bilked by bad business practices, including the freaking shame of the Wells Fargo Bank. He's got a person for education secretary who says that only Creationism can explain the world as we know it. He denies Global Warming. Are you guys paying attention? This is surrounding himself with the worst of the worst--I mean, there is not a 90 IQ among them--because, as Trump says: "I like to hire dumb people because that makes me the smartest person in the room!" Trump says he wants to carpet bomb Isis, make friends with Assad. No. NO forgiveness, no space. Trump is an idiot. He gets no quarter. Get rid of him now. And if the Electoral Collage did it's job, it would lose him next month. It's job is to avoid a populist idiot from becoming president. I hope they are paying attention.
which got a lot of attention, some of it quite angry. One fellow even asked me if we could make a bet: If nothing really happens in the next four years, he would win; if something bad happened, I'd win. This was my response to that, with a little less vociferous tone of voice, thank goodness...
Well, we'd need to agree on "nothing really happens" just to start, before we could even begin to think of betting whether or not this administration will be disastrous. With a Republican House and Senate, for instance, there are going to be a lot of federal and then a couple of Supreme Court justices put in place. Skewed anywhere but dead center and fair--no political Scalia's please--those decisions will have a huge effect on our future. I don't believe there will be much more wall than there already is, but the pathway to citizenship for Dreamers might be blocked. That would be awful. Any continuation of the fear engendered by P-E Trump and his legions would be generally disastrous for the country. So if the criteria for "nothing really happens" only means there is no nuclear war or no actual civil war, well, I wouldn't go along with that. If "nothing really happens" does not include leaving Obamacare alone or improving it to single payer, or does not include leaving Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare alone--except for raising additional funds and disbursing more money, well, I couldn't go along with that. If "nothing really happens" does not include improving rights for women--including vastly expanding birth control and abortion availability, along with good sex education in schools; and if it does not include widening the embrace of LGBTQ people in every aspect of society, then I could not go along with it. If "nothing really happens" does not include raising taxes on the wealthy and closing loopholes that allow the very wealthy to avoid paying the fair share the rest of us pay in taxes to keep this all working, then I couldn't go along with it. So I'd be willing to bet, but there would need to be parameters on how we define "nothing really happens".
Posted by Peter Gorman at 11:17 AM
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Some people say that President-elect Trump won because he's a street-brawler. In fact he's not a brawler, he's a name-caller and that's all he's got. From trying to tear down Senator Warren to his crazy birther take downs of President Obama, to his work with the slew of other undeserving Republican nominees for president, all he ever did was name call. And then push buttons: Get rid of them gays! They want your guns! The illegals are living like kings! Bring the Jobs back! I'll raise taxes on the wealthy! We'll build the best wall! We will pay pennies on the dollar for our debt! We will never touch your Social Security!
And now, 10 days after he's been elected by nearly half the voters who got around to voting, he's put together a transition team that will try to unravel social security and medicare and medicaid--you know, the things we pay for with every pay check we ever get, even after we're 65-years-old. And he's backed down on the Wall idea. He does want to deport 3 million illegal alien criminals. Good luck with that: Even if they existed, and they don't, except for the misdemeanor of entering the country illegally, the local cops would get them if they knew who they were and where they were. It's not like the police throughout Texas are hiding 200,000 dangerous felons, or the cops in LA are hiding another 43,000. But even if you did find them, it costs minimally--if you don't send them to a private prison first--$10,000 per person to deport them. 3 million people comes to $30 billion. Not chump change.
Okay, so for those of us who knew he was wrong, we won't be surprised; hopefully we'll be ready to educate people so that we can raise our voices to our legislators to stop the worst nonsense, like eliminating the EPA in an effort to go back to grey skies in perpetuity again. For those who believed his bombast, well, you're gonna take it hard in all likelihood. And no matter what jobs he produces you'll still never get to stay in one of his hotels, lounging around a golden pool.
And what bothers me about the people who believed President-elect Trump had any real message was that they didn't see he was a name caller, not a street brawler. Name calling was apparently enough to get them to sign on the dotted line. Is that who we, as a people, in the USA, really are? Go for the easy kill rather than work at things to improve everyone's lot? Are we gonna cheer when national forests are further opened to drilling and our precious rivers are running in oil spills and our trees are cut even further back? Will we go wild when some LGBTQ kids get bullied out of school and some of them bullied into suicide? Will we get any joy out of marginalizing huge swaths of the population, denying women the rights to their own bodies, keeping people we helped make refugees from coming here because they wear hijabs?
If that's who we really are, I'm disappointed. I always thought the people in the USA, rural and city alike, were, in the end, a fair bunch overall. I thought we sneered at the gutless wonders (yes, name calling myself here) in the KKK, not cheered them. I hope I'm right and the majority of the people decide to be decent and push back, through legislators both R and D, to demand equality for all and things like clean air and water. We can do it. We just have to decide to do it.
Posted by Peter Gorman at 2:47 PM
Having one of those mornings where I am totally embarrassed by my behavior last night. For some reason, I got dead drunk on wine. Had a lot, but it was over the course of several hours, during which time I worked quite a bit, cooked up a storm (salmon for Chepa; chicken breasts for the girls; chicken legs for the dogs and pork chops and sauerkraut for me and anyone else who showed up), and so did not think I should even be high, much less dead drunk. But there I was, losing my balance in the bathroom while I brushed my teeth, and there I was this morning, seeing a couple of drunk-posts I made on fbook. Yikes! The moral certitude! The abject idiocy! I wanted to crawl under a rock and die! But it's too late, of course: Once you write 'em, you own 'em, and you can't return and replace them. Oh, my, I have not done that in a long time. I know not to get near a computer if I'm high, but then last night I was dead drunk and it probably seemed like such a good idea. Oy, vey!
I hope all of you woke with a much cleaner taste on your tongue than the bitter, angry, what-a-fool-I-am taste that I'm still trying to eliminate.
Peter Gorman, 65-year-old wise man and idiot, all in one package!
Posted by Peter Gorman at 10:02 AM