31 March 2008


a very eventful two weeks have kept me from this endeavor, but i'm back. ain'tcha glad?

winter is hanging on by its fingernails, but oddly, i don't mind. the beauty of all that white on the hills and mountains surrounding missoula reminds me to cultivate serenity, something that is often missing when i spend too much time inside my head. i want to relearn being in the moment. having a cat snoozing in my lap helps.

still, spring is just around the corner, i can feel it gathering. my absolute favorite season, whether in the southwestern desert, a southern swamp, the northeast with trees sporting 68 shades of green, or the temperate rain forest of the pacific northwest. birds migrating, trees and shrubs and cacti sporting floral finery, all sorts of creatures with new babies. what's not to love?

19 March 2008


here's a link to yesterday's speech by barack obama. i've heard person after person say that it was one of the most eloquent, moving and substantial political speeches ever given. you can either listen to it, or read the text. see what you think .....


a footnote: for those who maintain that obama lacks sufficient experience to assume the presidency, recall that when abraham lincoln took office, he had served only one two-year term in the u.s. house of representatives, and had failed in a bid for the senate. similarly, john f. kennedy took office at the tender age of 44, after six years each in the house and the senate. time served in office is only one measure among many by which we should be evaluating the candidates.

however this plays out, what a spectacular year it has been, with a woman and a black man in serious contention for their party's nomination for the first time in history. it's about time.

18 March 2008


i was terribly saddened today when an email from an old and dear friend informed me that her 14 year old cat has a large lymphoma in her stomach. the outlook is not encouraging. my friend talked about the choices she faces, and told me the story of her cat's life, and i felt honored by the sharing. those of us who love cats can only grieve. so sad.

i think back to all the animal and human friends i've known and lost over the years -- some by natural causes, some violently, some in old age. none was an easy loss. they never are. my only consolation is that my life was illuminated and enlivened by their presence, and i hope i returned the favor.

so a moment of respectful and loving silence for shelley the cat, who has lived a full life, safe in the loving care of her human friend irene. we should all be so lucky.

17 March 2008


there once was a girl from montana
who wore just a yellow bandana.
it was artfully placed,
in exquisite taste,
to make her appear even tanner.

16 March 2008


this year will mark a number of forty-year anniversaries, which i shall try to keep up with as they occur. it happens that today, 16 march 2008, is the 40th anniversary of the My Lai massacre, in which u.s. soldiers led by lt. william calley, jr., killed without provocation between 350 and 500 unarmed vietnamese civilians, many of them women and children.

these days we hear the word "hero" used with abandon, applied to anyone who has been within a hundred miles of a war zone, a fire, a crime. i personally don't buy that. a hero is someone who takes a moral stand against overwhelming and probably fatal odds, to save the lives of others. the key here is the larger context of the word "moral". many people would rush into a risky situation to save a person or even a pet, and would be celebrated by their peers as heroes. such actions happen across time, across cultures. but when you actually stand up to your own peers, defy them, face them down for the sake of a higher principle which will be seen clearly only with the passage of time .... to me, that's heroic.

and that is precisely what warrant officer hugh thompson, jr. and his helicopter crew did at My Lai. their chopper, on a scouting mission, overflew the village, and thompson saw the carnage. he landed, and after realizing that american troops and their officers were engaging in mass murder, was able to save a number of vietnamese, mostly children, after ordering his crew to open fire on any americans who interfered with the rescue.

a fuller account of the massacre, and the subsequent investigation, cover-up and courts-martial, can be found at wikipedia -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Lai_Massacre -- and similarly, a fuller description of the life of warrant officer thompson -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Thompson%2C_Jr. .

the mother of one g.i. who participated at My Lai remarked, "i sent the army a good boy, and they sent me back a murderer."

such events are hardly unique in war, any war, on both sides. being artificially placed in a hostile landscape where everyone is armed, warps the mind. to make sense of it, one falls back on a number of sources of mental stability -- military training, home upbringing, memories of loves ones, but most especially the bonds one builds with buddies, fellow soldiers. if you are a soldier on the ground, it's not about patriotism, or the american flag, or democracy. it is precisely about you and your friends protecting each other, helping each other survive. there is a common language, shared events and struggles and hardships and misery and fears and survival (hopefully) among those who have been in war. this is why veterans often find it possible to talk about their experiences deeply, only with other veterans.

the My Lai massacre happened to occur at a point in time when the american public's feelings about the war were on the brink of shifting -- and they did shift. which leads me to wonder why there isn't a similar public outcry now, vis-a-vis the war in iraq. the parallels are just about blinding -- both wars undertaken under false pretexts (stopping the spread of communism and removing a head of state who purportedly possessed weapons of mass destruction), concealing the heavy financial interests at work behind the scenes -- both wars set in an insurgent landscape where it's impossible to tell friendly allies from deadly foes -- both wars providing a massive fortune to military and civilian contractors, with deep ties to the politicians in power -- and on and on. where are the protest marches? where are the mass gatherings in washington, dc? where are the student strikes? where is the public outpouring of anger? i've said it before, as have others -- if there were a military draft, as there was during vietnam, there would be many more people actively opposing our presence in iraq. i was against it from the beginning. it's all about oil, and taxpayers' money, OUR money, lining the pockets of contractors and private mercenary armies like Blackwater.

george w. bush and donald rumsfeld and dick cheney and everyone associated with them, are at the center of a web of deceit and manipulation which too many of our elected representatives, republican and democrat, chose to buy into, to their eternal shame. it is we, the electorate, who pay the cost, in dollars and in blood.

here are a few specifics to place things in perspective, with appreciation to "this modern world" by tom tomorrow:

"at first they told us the war would pay for itself. an early estimate of $50 billion was scoffed at. as it turns out, five years later, the war is costing $10 billion a month. nobel-winning economist joseph stiglitz estimates the total cost of the war will be more than three trillion dollars. (if you taped three trillion $1 bills end to end, they would reach the moon and back .... more than 600 times. it would be almost as effective a use of our resources.

a few other things we could have done with an extra three trillion dollars:

~ funded social security for the next fifty years.

~ paid for health care for 530 million children for a year.

~ not flushed our entire economy down the toilet.

but hey, saddam did have those very threatening remote control model planes and stuff."

guess that made it all worth it, no?

15 March 2008


at a poetry reading i attended last night, part recitation and part analysis of an epic irish lament upon the untimely death of a loved one, the presenter in talking about the irish character noted a time when winston churchill, during WWII, made a remark to the effect that the situation is serious, but not yet desparate. to which an irish observer responded, the situation in ireland has always been desperate, but not yet serious.

when i was young and stupid, i used to dismiss the irish as a bunch of barbarians, engaged in endless internecine warfare. only after i took the trouble to learn much more about irish/celtic history, of which the troubles with england are only the most recent manifestation, did i realize what a rich and wondrous civilization i'd been missing out on. more fool i. now i'm wishing i had the time and means to become part of the irish studies program at the university, in addition to reading and thinking i've done on my own. a hearty reading recommendation: any historical fiction by morgan llywellyn, most especially her four books dubbed "the irish century" -- titled respectively 1916, 1921, 1949, and 1972. those books, together with frank delaney's Ireland, form an entertaining and hugely informative introduction to the old sod, the emerald isle, eire.

it's a pity that st. patrick's day in this country dwells only upon stereotypes of heavy drinking and rabble-rousing. ireland is peopled with natural poets, scholars, dreamers, philosophers, writers, musicians, all of whom have enriched our lives in myriad ways. and yes, a number of whom have lifted a pint or two, but that's hardly a definitive trait. i love listening to celtic harp, to irish bands, to the music of the language itself. irish gaelic has lilts and rhythms all its own.

so here's to the good folks of the north and the south, may their troubles be lifted (out the british!!!), and the sun shine on their souls.

14 March 2008


i'm losing my touch. yesterday, march 13, i went on a long and thoroughly enjoyable trip out of town, and after my return it slipped my mind to make a blog entry. i blush.

i'm squeaking this one in just under the wire, thirteen minutes to midnight. that number keeps popping up. why, i remember when i turned thirteen, back during the punic wars .....

now who among you will pick up the reference to "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"? quick, who were the four stars in the movie version of edward albee's play? no cheating by looking at imdb.com, either.

i shall let the film's acoustic guitar coda ease me into dreamland ...

12 March 2008


i want to take a moment to turn you on to a wonderful new blog that my chicago friend bill ( http://ciexinc.com/blogs/daily/ ) turned me onto. it is: http://sunsparksays.blogspot.com/ . this woman has a witty and penetrating intellect, and an ironic sense of humor -- necessary, one thinks, for a blog aimed at "liberal random thinkers", who, after all, have to put up with the vagaries of conservative random thinkers every day. yes, that's right, all you reactionaries out there, that was a shot across the bows. but i'm too tired to really mix it up with you tonight. lucky for you (he said, safe in the cloak of his anonymity).

actually i get along well with folks from every persuasion, as long as they can argue about something and still remain friends. it's the ones who take themselves too seriously who tend to find me annoying. their loss.

and somewhere in texas, a village is missing its idiot . . . .

11 March 2008


a half century ago, during the early years of the cold war between the u.s. and the u.s.s.r., military paranoia was everywhere. it's something my generation grew up with -- the fear of being vaporized in sudden nuclear war. i recall once, sitting in a barber shop waiting for my turn, and reading an article in some magazine like "argosy" or "field and stream", about a social experiment in which a family was approached at home, and if they agreed to take part, would have a half hour to gather all the belongings that they thought they would need to survive for two weeks in the wild. the article documented their flurry of activity, choosing and discarding and packing clothing, food, camping gear, water, a first aid kit, and other essentials, then high-tailing it for the tall timber. (i don't recall what part of the country this was, but it clearly wasn't manhattan.) the article went on to describe the two week bivouac, noting which items proved useful, and which did not. (e.g., a glass jar and a funnel, submerged in a stream, became a makeshift trap for small fish, which were then used as bait to catch larger ones.) the intended object lesson, to think now about the choices that you, the reader, would make in a similar disaster situation, sunk in. my own conclusions evolved over the years, informed by having grown up on a farm, by becoming a boy scout, by serving in the military, and by working and living outdoors for much of my life.

in a totally unexpected fashion (as nearly all emergencies are), all this preparation was put to the test during the several days leading up to 22 september 1989. my ex and i had just moved from tucson to charleston, sc, where she was doing a year's internship for her PhD in psychology. we found a pleasant little rental house on pleasant pines street in mount pleasant (department of redundancy department), a charleston suburb. imagine our chagrin as, during those several days, hurricane hugo was spawned off the west coast of africa, crossed the atlantic, and approached the southeast coast of the u.s., eventually directing itself like an arrow straight at us. the governor ordered all residents to evacuate inland. so there we were, playing out that old cold war scenario for real. we quickly jammed computers, clothing, important documents, CB radios and other essentials into our two vehicles, shut off the electricity, put "X"s of masking tape on all the windows, called to reserve a motel room in the state capitol, columbia, locked up and hit the road. along with about 130,000 other evacuees, all trying to hit the same freeway inland at the same time.

the first 90 miles were gridlock, and took about six hours. after crossing another interstate, traffic thinned out a bit, and we finally found our motel in columbia -- thankful we had made reservations, among all those poor people who hadn't thought to. that night hugo made landfall with the eye of the hurricane centered on our neighborhood. typical male, i had wanted to remain in charleston to experience the event, but my ex told me that was crazy (she was right). so instead we both slept through it as the storm, weakened by passage over land, swept through columbia sometime after midnight.

we spent several days as evacuees, before getting the word that residents were being allowed back into charleston. the journey home was spent mostly in awestruck silence, passing through a formerly-forested landscape in which all the grown trees were snapped off like matchstick, their tops mostly pointing in the same wind-driven direction. our dread was that the twin humps of the cooper river bridge might be down, preventing access to our home. what a glorious relief to see that magnificent bridge still standing! and equal relief when, after picking our way slowly through streets still littered with storm debris, we discovered that the only damage our house had sustained was a tree fallen across one corner of the roof. all else was safe and intact.

for several weeks we were without power, so survival mode continued -- stocking up on bottled water, a camp stove and fuel, and essential foods; clearing debris from our yard and street; and opening our garage as a storage unit for a friend whose beachfront apartment had been flooded by the tide surge. by the way, with no heated water during that time, cold showers at oh-dark-thirty were no picnic!!!

hugo's winds were clocked at 135 mph, with gusts to 150. enough to devastate a wide swath of the francis marion national forest, north and east of charleston. which, in an ironic twist, provided me with my own job that year, working as a wildlife tech for the u.s. forest service, doing habitat recovery for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, whose nesting trees had taken a serious hit. but that's a whole 'nother story.

10 March 2008


in today's online NYTimes, there was an article by roger cohen that dovetails quite closely with my thoughts over the years on how we view ourselves. my premise (oversimplified for the sake of brevity) is that initially, tens of thousands of years ago during our nomadic hunter/gatherer days, people drew their identity from the nuclear or extended family group they were born into, and subsequently from their clan or tribe. with the advent of agriculture, humans began to settle down, first as farmers, then in established settlements for trade and mutual protection. the tribal identity was replaced by that of one's town or city. you can see where the progression is going -- next came the city/state, then the nation.

all previous sources of identity remained intact, of course. i am a member of my family, a native of my home town, my state, my country. each higher level wields influence and power over the gathered levels beneath it.

we are on the threshold of a paradigm shift, begun first following WWI with the league of nations, then following WWII with the united nations. we are entering an era as a global community. economically, this is already reality. politically there are alliances which serve as precedents, e.g. the european union. but we haven't truly stepped past the threshold yet. the u.n. is a civilized forum in which nations can monitor and influence the behavior of other nations, but it sadly lacks a decisive, unified enforcement power. think about it -- your city has not only ordinances but a police force, your state and nation likewise. we in the u.s. talk about bringing democracy to the world, but we resist the actual deed, because it would alter our positiion of ascendancy, our hegemony on the world stage. yet i believe the transformation of the u.n., or a confederacy of nations like it, from discussion group to planetary governing body is inevitable, and a healthy continuation of the evolution of our species.

until that time comes, we will continue to myopically limit our patriotism to our native city, state, or nation. and in doing so, we delay the day when the voices of all people are heard in making environmental, social and ethical decisions which affect us all. it's like the old joke which asks how many republicans it takes to change a light bulb. it takes five: one to actually change the bulb, and four to sit around and reminisce about how good the old bulb was. it may have been good yesterday, but it is inadequate to the needs of today and tomorrow.

a world government composed of member nations does not imply uniformity or the loss of diversity, any more than our national government, composed of member states, does. the breadth and depth of our local, regional and national cultures will remain intact. in fact a transformation will occur: we will all be made richer in heart and spirit and experience, for coming to know and understand those whom we now label as "other", as "alien". there will be no need for guarded national boundaries, any more than there is a need for guarded state bounderies. we will be one people. our tribe will have become our species. john lennon had it right in his song, "Imagine".

and who knows, maybe someday we'll really make a stretch and include all living things. wouldn't that be something?

here is the link to the NYTimes article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/10/opinion/10webcohen.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin

09 March 2008


in grateful response to two friends who noted that the white typeface on black background, while visually dramatic, is at times hard to read, i'm playing with different settings. hopefully my tiny but attentive audience will find this easier on the eyes. spread the word.

what a fine, almost-spring day! i went out for brunch and a long walk along the clark fork river with a friend -- sunny, temps in the 50s. there's still ice on the fringes of the river, but that didn't discourage half a dozen dedicated fly fishermen, nor an equal number of plain diehard kayakers playing at brennan's wave. brrr. i love kayaking, but not the cold water. which might explain why my most enjoyable kayaking trips have been in the southwest. ah, the san juan river ... in the words of my longtime whitewater, spelunking, hiking and someday flying buddy irene, a sweet little river.

which does nothing to detract from one of my life's dreams: to kayak the grand canyon. i would need to do some intensive retraining first, though. my eskimo roll, far from being bombproof, is so rusty as to be non-existent. but everyone needs a dream, right?

among my other dreams: to conduct a major symphony orchestra (rachmaninoff's second symphony, beethoven's seventh, a little mozart, a little debussy, a dash of bach). to spend several weeks on a space shuttle mission. to learn to fly private planes, helicopters, sailplanes, seaplanes, jets, anything with wings. to photograph certain creatures in the wild -- siberian or sumatran tigers, cheetahs, wolves, orcas, sharks, peregrine falcons, among others. to learn the art of tracking. to learn to operate a backhoe with proficiency. to become a published, widely read and well reviewed author. to fall madly, deeply, and thoroughly in love with the woman of my dreams. to spend several months each in: ireland, new zealand, kenya/tanganyika, spain, france, greece, the caribbean. to relearn the meaning of life, which we all once knew when we were small.

it isn't important that we realize all our dreams. it is vital that we think about them, decide what they are, and choose one or two to go after, no matter how long it takes. love may make the world go round, but so does hope.

08 March 2008


on 8 march 1968 i arrived at bien hoa air base in the republic of vietnam, after a journey from oakland army base to clark air force base (CA), hawaii, guam and the philippines. as i stepped off the plane, all senses heightened and the fight-or-flight response at full alert, the heat and humidity hit me like a solid wall. in typical hurry-up-and-wait fashion, i spent the next three days broiling at the 90th replacement battalion, long binh army base. fine red dust the consistency of flour was everywhere, in some places a foot deep. at last, i was ordered to board a chopper bound for my assignment, as a radioteletype operator in the commo section of HHB (headquarters, headquarters battery), 23rd artillery group based at phu loi, about twenty miles north of saigon. i didn't know it then, but phu loi was one corner of the infamous Iron Triangle, an area rife with hit-and-run contact with VC guerrilla fighters and NVA regulars.

thus began the most vivid year of my life, twelve months in which i would be mortared, rocketed, and sniped at (as a radio/RTT operator, i had a bounty on my head); suffered a bout with malaria; exhibited the odd moment of insubordination; worked twelve hour nights, seven nights a week; got sent into the field for two two-month TDY (temporary duty) assignments with mobile artillery batteries, when i was on duty 24/7; learned to sleep in blistering heat and wretched cold and with my feet resting in a puddle of water; went on a (thankfully unseccessful) homicidal hunt for the chaplain's assistant who screwed me out of my R&R; made friends with a young vietnamese school teacher who was trying to improve her english; unarmed, forcibly adopted a puppy being brutalized by an ARVN (our south vietnamese army allies) soldier armed with an M-16; experienced torrential monsoon rains in which you could not see ten feet away; watched as MPs assassinated a young GI who'd gone crazy and shot his companions in a perimeter bunker; helped carry injured soldiers, legless or gutshot or with sucking chest wounds, on litters to a waiting medevac chopper through a darkness illuminated in surreal fashion by exploding incoming mortar rounds; saw an amorphous gob of brains on the ground, all that was left when a soldier sitting playing cards was accidentally shot in the head by his best friend standing nearby; learned by instinct the black humor that those surrounded by prolonged danger and death adopt, to maintain their sanity; fearfully admired a live cobra, hood spread, staring me down from the tall grass i'd just passed; was nauseated by the smell of nuoc mam, the fermented sauce made from rotting fish that is a staple of residents' cooking; went (in the field) for as long as thirty days without a shower or a clean change of clothes; listened to the planet cataclysmically shatter when i made the mistake of parking my RTT rig too close to a battery of 155mm self-propelled howitzers, whose next fire mission called for them to aim directly over my head (imagine the sound you would hear if you put your head to the pavement, and someone dropped a car off a twenty-story building and it landed a foot away from your ear); became buddies with guys from all over the country, all races and ethnic backgrounds; at age 21 was considered an old man by the 17-19 year olds who made up the bulk of those serving in country; was radicalized against the vietnam war within two weeks of my arrival, and dehumanized by the knowledge that those of us returning home to the u.s. were being spat upon, cursed as baby-killers, and regarded as mindless cogs in the war machine, when the truth was that, as in all wars, when you come under fire, it's no longer about democracy or communism or patriotism, it's about you and your buddies helping each other survive one more day, in spite of the best-laid plans of presidents and generals; did my job diligently and well, and came home with only the slightest of physical wounds, but a subterranean case of PTSD that would take years to surface, so well did i stuff it down once i was back in The World.

i took many photos during that year, with a cigarette-lighter-sized minolta 16mm camera with controls for f-stop and shutter speed. but i did not keep a journal, to my everlasting regret. still, the memories live as though it all happened yesterday. for me, it did.

07 March 2008


i'm beat, my back and shoulder hurt, i have the attention span of a gnat, and there's no place like home. me for a deep shiatsu massage, a glass of wine, the gentle affection of two cats, and some relaxed snuggle time with the woman of my dreams. where are you? eyelids sagging, must post. g'night.

06 March 2008


they don't call it a generation gap for nothing. when i think about my father, and then i think about my son, the image that pops to mind is three sailing ships, each miles distant from the other, just barely visible on the horizon on a clear day. at night, or during the passage of a stormy low pressure system, or during certain phases of the moon, or on tuesdays and alternate saturdays, they cannot see each other. even if they're within a few hundred yards.

i guess it's not all that surprising. consider our respective formative years. my father's childhood was in the 1920s and 1930s. the great depression. baggy clothes, slang with the taste of metal to it, big band music, and world war II looming. he was abused and disrespected by his teachers for being a bartender's son. and he was loved and cared for by six siblings, until he left both school and home at an early age to serve his country.

my own childhood was in the 1940s and 1950s. the post-war recovery, rampant consumerism, the birth of rock 'n roll, and the vietnam war on the horizon. i was a mostly-A student, loved school, tried hard to please, and joined all sorts of school activities to hide my essential loneliness, having moved around a lot and been an only child until i was eight. emotionally ill-prepared for college, i dropped out after two years to serve my country.

my son's childhood was in the 1970s and 1980s. national post-vietnam nausea and uncertainty, hippies and disco, the rise of fundamentalist conservatism, and all too soon divorce and child custody disputes. he was torn between two homes, two sets of rules, two parents who ultimately didn't succeed in placing his interests first. a survivor, he learned to navigate those treacherous waters on his own, and i admire him for it.

three such different lives. and yet, so much shared history, memory, laughter and dispute and tenderness. even when we try, we often don't understand each other as we wish we did. but our saving grace is in the trying, isn't it? reaching out with our minds, scanning that horizon, searching for what is in the other person's mind and heart. we try.

05 March 2008


in addition to all the birthdays i mentioned in a previous entry, there are a number of important anniversaries in march.

in 1968, after eight months' training in radio and radioteletype communications, i flew from fort ord, CA, via hawaii, guam and the philippines to vietnam. two weeks later i celebrated (?) my 21st birthday in country. i was older than the vast majority of the g.i.s whom i met there.

in 1969 i flew from vietnam via japan and alaska to fort ord, CA, where i was honorably discharged from the army. (note: because of crossing the international date line, during my flight, i left vietnam at 2300 hours on march 8, and arrived in california at 2300 hours on march 8. i nearly beat myself home!)

in 1977, on my 30th birthday, my son was born. a finer gift i've never received. i was the first adult in this world to hold him and gaze into his eyes, seeing within them the universe.

in 2004, two days after my birthday and after weeks of careful preparation, my life partner served me with a protection order, falsely alleging assorted malbehaviors on my part, and giving me 30 minutes to pack what i could into my truck and vacate our home. she was able to keep many of the belongings i'd accumulated over a lifetime -- artwork, tools, furniture, electronics, the list goes to three typewritten pages. it being conservative tennessee, and conservative america, her accusations went unquestioned by the court. i was robbed blind.

in 2007, i celebrated my birthday at home with my parents for the first time in over forty years.

i'm certain there are others i'm forgetting. no matter. the overlying, compelling feature of march is the coming of spring. new beginnings. new life.

04 March 2008


not the correction fluid. whiteout weather conditions. thickly falling snow, blown nearly horizontally by the wind, rapid accumulation on the ground. gives a whole new dimension to paul simon's song, "slip slidin' away". i faced six hours of driving in such rapidly deteriorating conditions today. the last couple of hours were the worst, after night fell. thud! for night driving i wear a pair of yellow lenses clipped onto my glasses -- they reduce the glare from oncoming headlights, and at the same time brighten objects in shadow, vastly improving night vision. but when your exterior mirrors keep disappearing beneath big wet flakes of snow that freezes upon contact, and you find yourself peering through the remaining transparent portions of your windshield as you would between venetian blinds, and you have to slow waaaay down to retain traction as the snow gets deeper, and then you discover yourself on a narrow roadway with no lighting, no sidepole markers, no visual reference other than your estimated distance to a chain link fence that runs parallel to the road, with snow-hidden ditches on both sides, and your headlights don't seem to penetrate more than ten feet ahead ..... and then you notice the absolute beauty of what's around you because it is lit from above, from city lights reflected off that low cloud ceiling, and the rest seems to fall into place, you enter a transcendent state in which you sense where to steer and how fast to go and when to turn, before the normal visual cues appear through the whiteout, and life is good.

still, i'm thankful i didn't have to drive farther or later. when i got back to my own vehicle for the short drive home, there were several inches of snow covering it. the wind and snowfall were such that by the time i'd brushed away the snow from the driver's side windows, and the back, and the curbside, and the front, the driver's side was already covered again!! i'm as green as many, greener than most, but i wouldn't trade my four-wheel-drive for anything on nights like this. it got me home safely, where two cats paced worriedly, greeting me with "where have you been? don't you know how hungry we are?" ah, home.

03 March 2008


animism is described thus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animism

this morning at oh-dark-thirty as i exited my apartment on my way to work, i heard a plaintive "meow". looking up the exterior stairwell, i saw my upstairs neighbor's gray tabby, left out in the cold. again. sad to say, i knew that if i allowed him into my place to warm up, my own two cats would have attacked. so we talked for a moment while i rubbed his fur, then i had to hie me to work. later, i let the apartment manager know what was going on. yeah, i ratted someone out. it was easier on the cat owner than being confronted by me directly.

apartment rules for keeping pets indoors aside, this encounter was distressing for me because i hate to see animals (or children) being neglected or abused. it is one of the few situations in life in which i will intrude myself without hesitation or subtlety into the affairs of someone else. (something like dr. seuss' lorax: "i talk for the trees.") in my ethos, it is incumbant upon each of us to step up and take a vocal stand in defense of those who have no voices. which also explains why i've been known to actively interfere with illegal hunters, why i despise trappers as the second-lowest form of humanity (the lowest hasn't been discovered yet), and why we all need to understand planet stewardship while there is still a planet to protect.

note: if you haven't already been exposed to this recommendation, i heartily encourage you to buy, borrow or steal a copy of fred pearce's book, With Speed And Violence (subtitled: why scientists fear tipping points in climate change). extensively researched, cogently presented, it intelligently describes the multiple environmental thresholds which we are about to cross, or already have, and the consequences of doing so, in terms which non-scientists can easily follow. i've been advocating awareness of earth and life processes for years, but i lacked much of the recent hard evidence which he presents. read it, at your peril. read it, and pass it on to someone you care about. read it, and weep. read it, and become extremely angry.....

so the tabby was gone when i came home. i can only hope that his errant owner let him inside. guess i'll find out, if i hear the thunder of little cat-paws through my ceiling tonight. if i do, i'll sleep more soundly.

02 March 2008


it seems that the month of march is filled with significance for me. it all started in 1947, the year whose march saw me emerge with great indignation into this highly questionable enterprise we call sentient life. as i grew older, i came to realize that my favorite season, spring, begins in march, adding a bit of spice and color to my birthmonth. years later, my son was born not just in march, but on my 30th birthday. how cool is that?

on my list of birthdays to be remembered, broken down by month, march contains the most (five). seems like june must have been a busy month for many couples!

so march and spring -- trees and shrubs budding out, landscapes greening up, flowers starting to show their courting colors, migratory birds starting their journeys, all sorts of critters bringing little critterlets into the world. life burgeoning all over. how can you not love a season like this?

purportedly, mark twain was born during an appearance of halley's comet, and died during the next appearance 76 years later. i'll be content if, when my time comes, i'm allowed to bid fond farewell to life in springtime, surrounded by beauty and rebirth.

01 March 2008


doing the right thing. earlier this evening i watched on DVD a movie called "Gone Baby Gone" -- a very intense and excellent film which deftly explores how seemingly clear choices between right and wrong, can carry unanticipated and unpleasant consequences, even if the "right" path is chosen. that has been my experience repeatedly in life, in relationships, as a parent, a teacher, in just about every job i've held (and there have been many). rarely are issues and answers as simple, as black and white as they may first appear to be. at least, not the most important, the most fundamental issues and answers.

i look back on certain critical passages in my life, moments in which my decision to speak up or to act (or not to) led inexorably to a result which i thought would be predictable, but which held ripple effects i never would have chosen. it strikes me that this is nearly always the case when we arrive at a cusp, a threshold. it is new territory, with new horizons and new risks.

in a lighter vein, consider the following messages seen on t-shirts:

~ the villagers are coming with torches and pitchforks. please hide me!

~ some days, it's not even worth gnawing through the restraints.

~ i'm not speeding. i'm qualifying.

~ they say i have A.D.D. but they don't understand. oh look! a chicken!

~ not all who wander are lost.

~ life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

~ guns don't kill people. postal workers do.

~ a mistake doesn't require blame. it just requires a commitment to improve.

~ i'm not conceited. i'm convinced.

~ rarely does one encounter a combination of human traits quite so frightening as a psychopath with a purpose.

~ people need a bad example. it gives them pride in doing the right thing.

which, please note, brings us full circle.