Category Odds & Ends

In Defense of Gawkers and Looky-Loos

Local news reports here in Sonoma County  tell us that many people who lost their homes to the October fires are upset that the fire tourist “looky-loos” now descending on the rubble of their streets are adding further insult to the grievous injury they have already suffered. This is an understandable response, and I feel for them.

But it seems to me there is much more to this phenomenon than mere voyeurism, so I would like to offer another perspective.

I do so as someone who did not lose his own home but, like most all residents of this area, know many friends and acquaintances who did. And who, like everyone connected emotionally to this beloved landscape and community, shares in the grief of so much loss.

Within the collective trauma, each person, in the privacy of their own fears and anguish, still has to reckon with their sense of loss, still has to make peace with the images now seared into memo...

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Dodging Bullets, Traffic, and the Fire This Time…

You are at a country music festival, the weekend’s final act.

It is late and you are feeling the love.

For the artists, the music, the atmosphere, those you came with, all those you didn’t come with but with whom you are now bound and bathed in a warm bubble of what will surely be a lifelong memory.

Then there are alien sounds, rhythmic but not musical—and not coming from the stage.

Then comes the chaos, the confusion, the sudden mad scramble and cowering amid bullets and falling bodies all around you, blood spattering your clothes (is it your own?), screams of fear, of anguish, and death for 58 people.

And for some reason, you are not among them.

You are alive.

***

You are driving down the three-lane highway with a childhood friend on a sunny afternoon, fast lane.

You need to get off, so you move toward the middle.

A driver in the slow lane has the same idea, same time.

You don’t notice, until you d...

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Reflections on “The Path of Totality”

100 percent is the important and even urgent thing, yes?

The Full Effort, Maximum View, Big Immersion, All-Out Hustle to Achieve the Ultimate, Second-to-None, I’m-All-in-Let’s-Head-to-Central-Oregon!

Pour yourself the Best-Ever of Everything, then keep your radar on for something Better Still.

Never settle, never retreat, and never, ever quit.

It’s “The Path of Totality,” and you shall not have it denied, nor deny it to yourself.

No piddling 91 percent view from here; we are headed for the Path.

***

Truly, the arc of history bends not only toward justice, but toward constant, unrelenting improvement in every human endeavor.

No iPlato 6.6, sporting a best-ever deep-probe camera with which we can take revealing Selfies right into the core of our consciousness and peer more acutely, with greater perception, into Who We Are…

We are the species of “More,” leaving it to those below us to settle f...

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The Old Dead Shit of a Late Spring Garden

I know I’m not the first person to realize that gardening is the world’s most ubiquitous and consistent metaphor factory. Prepare the soil, plant a bulb, weed and water a patch of dirt, then have at it on matters regarding one’s place in the world and desire to do right by it.

Where else this side of church is one allowed to stand naked (metaphor there, too…) before the creation while pondering its meaning and relevance to one’s life?

So on yesterday’s late, late spring day, a certain correspondent of yours found himself deep into mounds of decaying poppies and grasses in his backyard, exclaiming to no one in particular: “Gosh, there’s a lot of old dead shit in there!”

And fall was nowhere in sight, smell or sound.

It turns out this is one of gardening’s boundless number of secrets: that death, and the need to move its remnants out of the way, is pretty much a four-season proposition...

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12 Enduring Takeaways From J.M. Barrie’s “Courage”

We are fresh off graduation season and its urgent exhortations for young men and women to sally forth and boldly make their mark in the world. Just over ninety-five years ago, the writer J.M. Barrie, yet to produce his enduring masterpiece “Peter Pan,” sounded some of the same notes but went most all of today’s grad speakers quite a bit better in his inaugural address upon being named rector at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland.

As a speech, “Courage” clocked in at a longish (for these days) one hour-plus, but by virtue of its text being shared and then bound into book form, it has been provided to us as a quickie half-hour or so read, available free here on the Internet. Among its many virtues is this, I will surmise: Once you read it, I doubt you will ever think about courage in quite the same light again.

He states his reason for reflecting on it forthrightly enough:

“You must excuse me ...

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