Quality and Intelligence


I read an article today that informed me that Donald J Trump refuses to believe that climate change is real. Government climatologists have issued him reports and he chooses to ignore them. The president of the United States has at his disposal, the top minds in every scientific field there is, and he chooses to disbelieve them when they tell him we must do something about climate change. He doesn’t believe them because there are snow storms. He reasons, (if you want to call it that) that our atmosphere can’t be warming if we’re having snow storms.

One measure of the intelligence of a person is when they know, that there are lots of things they don’t know. I have a high school education and a two year Associate of Applied Science degree in Medical Laboratory Science. No Bachelors, no PhD, no Masters degree. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that I don’t know everything. I know that there are experts in thousands of fields of study who know infinitely more than I do. I know that virtually all climate scientists agree that climate change is real. How is it, that an average guy like me knows that climate change is real and we must do something about it, and our president doesn’t?

Jesse Venture, ex professional wrestler, was Governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003. I voted for him. I got a lot of crap from quite a few people for admitting to that. The reasons I voted for him are many, but the single most important reason was this: He knew he didn’t know everything. He was smart enough to surround himself with really intelligent people who could help him get things done. Yes, he was a loud mouth. Yes, he said publicly, things he shouldn’t have said. But he was there, in the office, doing the job and listening to his advisors. It turns out, he wasn’t a bad governor. This is the difference between intelligence and non intelligence. Knowing you’re not the smartest person in the room.

But Donald J Trump is not really the problem. The problem is two fold. The first part of the problem is this: How could so many millions of people think that Trump would make a good president. The second part of the problem is having a Congress that has defended him and willingly aided and abetted everything he’s done. Many people I have talked to have said education is the answer. We must do a better job at educating people so they understand these things better. I agree that education is sorely lacking in the U.S. No doubt about it. But that in itself is not going to fix things. Many, if not all of our Congress people are highly educated. Trump himself has a college degree. Intelligence alone will not fix what’s wrong. Character, is what’s wrong with those who aid and abet President Trump. Simply, quality of character.

Robert M Pirsig, in his 1974 book, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, wrote about quality. Quality for him, was the single most important issue of life. Quality in our words and deeds. When I read that book so many years ago, it really opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. It made me realize that the quality of what we do, think, and say is as important that the things themselves. Striving for quality in our lives, even in something as simple as washing dishes or something very important like dealing with climate change should be a top priority. Unfortunately, we don’t have quality in our government, or our country. Tear gassing children, closing the borders to asylum seekers, doing nothing about climate change and the many, many other things our president and congress have done, or not done shows us all the low level of quality and intelligence that runs rampant through the halls of our government today. We need a higher standard. Every one of us needs to look at our lives, our words and deeds and do our best to improve their quality. And we need to use the intelligence and reason and common sense we have been given to make this country better for us all.

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A Fine Day To Mourn


Yesterday, I went to the memorial service for a man that I knew who died of cancer. I didn’t know him well. He attended the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship that I frequent, and he always seemed to me to be a very nice person. Always friendly and warm, always a smile on his face. My wife’s service, sixteen months ago now, was held in the same church. I hadn’t been there since. This church, The United Church of Christ, is the very church I attended as a child. It is a very liberal leaning church, an open and affirming church, meaning, they don’t judge you for being Gay, or for being anything else. It’s sanctuary has a sweeping arched ceiling, beautiful stained glass windows, and lots of dark woodwork. And rows of old wooden pews, the same pews I reluctantly sat in as a captive of my parents, being forced to sit still (stop fidgeting!) with hands in lap (don’t touch that!) and listen to a man talk about things I had no interest in. Of what use was any of this to a child who’s head was in the sky and who’s body could hardly be kept still (don’t they know what it’s like to be a kid?) Little did I know that I would be sitting there so many years later, mourning the loss of my wife. Or a friend.

I don’t like funerals. I don’t care how much they say that this is a celebration of the person’s life. When you sit, in rows, with a coffin or an urn full of ashes and people are weeping, it’s not a celebration. And yes, we should mourn. We should cry, for our loss. But it’s not a celebration. I remember vividly, the day of my wife’s funeral. I went through the motions, shook hands, hugged, said thank you hundreds of times, wept tears. I was not celebrating.

My mother died the same month as my wife. 27 days before her. We had her funeral there, also. 2017 was a lousy year. The United Church of Christ in Northfield Minnesota started Carleton College (actually it was the Minnesota Conference of Congregational Churches) in 1866 and my Grandfather and my mother spent their careers working for the college. So I guess it seemed natural to them to attend the church so closely connected to it. I am thankful that they chose a liberal church to attend. It is the basis for my liberal outlook today.

While I’m not comfortable with labels, (liberal, conservative, etc.) Liberal most closely explains how I feel about things. I don’t believe you should be judged for who you are. The content of your character (Thank you, Martin Luther King Jr.) should be the basis of another’s judgement of you. What kind of human being are you? That is what should matter.

As I sat, mourning the loss of my friend from the fellowship, I thought about his character. Our pastor told of his kindness, his generosity, his smile and quick wit. He had a wonderful wife, and a loving family. And nothing else matters. Just that. He was a good human being. A good man. And we mourned his loss. And we will continue to do so. Nothing else matters.

Breaking Words Episode 5


Again, I apologize for the mix up in episode numbers. With that being said, Episode 5 is out today! Even though when you listen to it I say it’s episode 4. Here are the pieces you’ll hear:

Breakthrough Story

I made spaghetti today. When I finished, it looked like a bomb had exploded on the stove. Sauce sprayed in a blood splatter pattern, noodles and bits of hamburger like scenes from a horror movie. Unfortunately, it often looks like this when I cook. I think of children in countries where they don’t have enough to eat and feel guilty writing about my food exploits. But I do it anyway. We do a lot of things we shouldn’t, and justify them in various ways to feel better about ourselves. Just another day in the life.

What if being human is a mental illness? What if all of us so called “normal” people who go to our jobs, raise families, and cook our dinners are mentally ill? Maybe we were shipped here from some distant planet, some place where they decided to rid their society of their less than desirable people. Like the British did when they sent boat loads of people to Australia. Maybe we are the descendants of the worst of an alien society that now enjoys life without people who routinely blow up their stoves at mealtime. Are they watching us, do you suppose? Are they wondering how long it will be before they have to intervene to keep their refuse from infecting the universe?

I scanned the radio dial this morning. I heard conservatives screaming about liberals. I heard Nirvana songs. Lots of talk about the environment and children in cages. I heard Hip-Hop music. I turned the radio off and went out and stood in the rain. But the radio still played. Lots of sounds and voices and screams. And music. Country and Rock and Rap. And more voices telling me what I didn’t want to hear. I longed for the sweet sounds of water lapping at a shore and the calls of loons across the lake. Life is like a radio that never shuts off. And half the time there’s too much static to discern what I’m hearing.

So I cleaned up the stove, and ate my spaghetti. I used fresh Basil from my little herb garden. Turned out pretty good. As all these words started swirling around in my mind I knew I was on the edge of a breakthrough book or at least a prize winning article. I sat down at the keyboard, electricity tingling my fingertips. I felt like Edward R. Murrow about to break an earth shattering story and then what came out was this. A story about exploding my stove and the guilt of writing about eating. Who are we, anyway?

The First Time

There has never been anything
quite like a boy’s first slow dance
with a girl. The feeling of her breasts,
pressed against your chest.
The warmth of her body, held close.
Her breath, tickling the hairs on your neck.
And the lovely smell of her freshly washed hair
filling your teenaged senses
with indescribable feelings.
The song you danced to didn’t matter,
and it was over way too soon.
And the only thing you could
think at that moment was that
you wanted to do that again.
And again, and again.
No, there has never been a feeling
quite like that.
And there never will.

Distraction

The cat, in the field, concentrating ever so diligently on the small mouse hiding under leaves and dry grass, is annoyed by my footsteps in gravel on the side of the road. As I stop to watch this Scottish version of the common house pet, her ears pitched forward toward the mouse, I notice that she doesn’t look Scottish at all. Not that I would know what a Scottish cat is supposed to look like, but when you’re in Scotland well, everything is Scottish. Her right ear, the one closest to me, suddenly pivots toward me as I take a step and the sparse gravel beneath my foot crunches loudly in the still, evening air. I stand still, and just as suddenly, the ear twitches again and returns to it’s former attentive position. Her body tenses, her head lowers and, I take another step. This time her head turns, she focuses on my face and I am the recipient of an evil glare that seems to say, “I know where your hotel is. Later I will find you there, and I will kill you in your sleep.”

Watching Life

I cut my finger on the
dulled and stained
edge on the blade of my
pocket knife.
The blood runs quickly,
bright red as gravity
pulls it to the white sheet
of paper that lies on the
table, dark, almost black
as it is absorbed into
the carpet beneath my feet.

Thickly flowing from my
finger, I stand mesmerized
as drops splatter on my shoe,
the carpet, and the kitchen
floor as I finally move to
the sink to let the blood
drops mix with water on
the bottom of the sink fresh
from the tap that I ran
moments before cutting myself.

The blood joins water droplets
and begins to flow toward
the drain mimicking a river
who’s water finds the easiest
path. I stand and watch as
my life seeps out through
the hole I created at the end
of my finger. Platelets rush
through my blood stream and
work to stop the flow, keep
the life inside.

And I do nothing but watch.

Just Breathe


Random crystal snowflakes fell through the yellow
sodium light of a pathway lamp and on into shadow.
The breeze was light as ducks on the river voiced
their displeasure at the interruption of my passing.

My breath counting came into unison with my footsteps
and suddenly everything slowed as I slowed and the
snow and the ducks and my breath and the air and
my thoughts all came into perfect harmony and

I, for the first time in my life experienced what
Buddhist nuns and monks have spent centuries
seeking, perfect enlightenment. A feeling of such
beauty and peace as to be indescribable.

Harmony of body and soul, and of mind were mine
and in one split second were gone and I felt
such a profound sense of loss, an ache of heart
that I fell to my knees and wept.

Why, I asked, would the universe come together
for me to experience, just to have it ripped away
and leave a truck sized hole in my middle?
Why should I, a random person, be given this?

Only to have it taken away again so that even
moments later I could hardly remember what it was
like at all. Breathing as if I were punched in
the stomach, I stayed on my knees and felt emptiness.

And now, hours later I have to ask myself, did I
really find enlightenment on the path, in the park
of a small mid-western town in Winter or did I
just imagine what my mind told me it might be like?

Imagine, the unimaginable? Did I tell myself this
is what you’ve been seeking, you and everyone who’s
ever went down this path and you’ve hardly begun
your journey but here’s a taste of it, so here ya go?

And now I sit with the feeling of loss for something
I’ve not even gained, the loss of something I can’t
explain, or describe. All I can do it seems is, sit
and breathe and not think about it. Just breathe.

Podcasting


I just finished recording the 6th episode of Breaking Words. Breaking Words is a weekly podcast where I read my poetry and prose pieces, sometimes with a music background and sometimes without. This has been a fun experiment and for the foreseeable future, I plan to continue. For those of you that have listened, I hope you have enjoyed it. Here is the link to Breaking Words: breakingwords.libsyn.com

Unfortunately, I am not a professional at this. My hope is, that I get better with time. Podcasting has become huge over the last ten years and the really great thing I realized, is that anyone can do it. It takes a minimal amount of equipment and a short learning period to get the basics down. What I mean by “minimal equipment” is this: You need a computer with an internet connection, a pair of headphones and a microphone. That’s it! That’s all you need to start a podcast that can be heard the world over. Simple, isn’t it?

The first thing I did, was read a lot of information. I got a couple of books on podcasting, and I read a lot of online articles and watched a lot of You Tube videos. There’s tons of information about podcasting out there, and it’s all free. You will learn about the technical side like how to use a DAW or, Digital Audio Workstation. That’s a fancy name for a recording program. You’ll learn about the different podcast hosting platforms, which are websites that you upload your podcast to for distribution. You’ll learn about microphones for podcasting and about lots of other equipment you can use (but don’t really need) at least to get started. And again, anyone can do this!

One of the first questions I had was, what does it cost? Being newly retired, my income is somewhat limited. I’m not hurting for money but I can’t go out and drop hundreds on new equipment. So that’s an important consideration. Thankfully there is a lot of free stuff for you to take advantage of. Computers and microphones are usually not free of course, but you can certainly find used equipment for a good price. There are some recording programs that are free, like Audacity, which is what I use. It’s a free download and is a really good program. There are also free podcast hosting platforms to upload your podcasts to. Here is the link to the Audacity website.

Next, I needed to figure out what my podcast was going to be about. I had lots of ideas, but the bottom line is this: Your podcast needs to be about something you know well. If you’re going to gain an audience and keep them entertained, you need to talk about something you know and are well informed on. Otherwise listeners won’t stay. A podcast is for entertainment or for information. If you don’t have one of those aspects, you won’t have listeners. Now, as I said earlier, I’m not an expert at this. That only comes with time and practice. My podcast doesn’t have a lot of listeners yet, but it’s growing. Slowly. It can be frustrating at times to see that no one has downloaded an episode for a few days. But what I have learned is that I really enjoy doing this, so I’m going to keep doing it. I can’t expect to be the next world wide phenomena and don’t necessarily want to be. But with time and perseverance I hope to attract more listeners.

Sounds like fun, right? Well it is. One of the advantages in starting to podcast is being a good speaker. There’s nothing worse than listening to someone stumbling over their words, or mispronouncing them, or not being comfortable with speaking. But if you’re not a good speaker, don’t let that stop you. It’s a skill that can be learned! Just like getting comfortable with the equipment, you can learn to speak well too. And the advantage to learning to speak well for podcasting is that you don’t have an audience staring at you. You’re alone! And not only that, but you will learn how to edit your recorded program. You can take out most of the ums and ahs, and all the other filler words we use when we hesitate while speaking. You’re not doing anything live. Although some podcasters do live shows, that is a choice you can make.

So why not start a podcast? It’s a fun hobby that I have found I really enjoy. And it’s a new vehicle for getting my poetry out to people. As any of you who write poetry know, it’s not the most popular form of writing. So any way of getting more people interested is a good thing, right? Listening to podcasts has become very popular over the last few years. Mainly I think, because you can do it while you’re doing something else. People listen to podcasts while driving, or working out. They listen while they’re taking a walk. When you read, you have to invest the time to reading. That’s not always easy in today’s busy world. But if you can listen to a podcast while cooking or commuting or whatever, that’s a real advantage. So people are doing it. There are literally thousands of podcasts on any subject you can think of. Politics, religion, business, comedy, drama, poetry, and anything and everything. the list is endless. So why not start a podcast? That’s a good question.

Breaking Words Episode 3

Episode three has been released and you can find it here: The first piece is a prose commentary on the state of fear we find in the US today. The second is about war and death (happy subjects) and the final is about missing my wife, Ann. With so much garbage in the news today I felt I had to make some kind of response and that’s why I wrote “Fear” just a couple days ago. Here are the words to episode 3’s three pieces. I hope they help you to think hard about the state of our world.

Fear

Today’s political climate in the United States has me thinking about fear. There seems to be a lot of it these days. Fear of the “other.” Meaning, fear of others. Other people, to be exact. Fear of what we don’t understand. We seem to be in an iron fisted grip of fear. And if you look back in history, I’m sure you’ll find that every generation had their fears. Your parents, and their parents back to the beginning, had fears. Fears that drove them to survive, to protect what was theirs. Because they feared losing it. Whatever “it” was. Their lives, their property, their freedom. Fear drove them to survive. As it drives us. Science tells us that modern humans have existed on this planet for about 200,000 years. And yet with all our science and technological advancement, we still it seems, have not advanced very far. We are still basically fearful creatures hiding in our caves. Afraid that others will come and take what we have.

Early humans were afraid of natural phenomena. Earthquakes, lightening, wind and flood. They had no science or history to look back on to tell them what these things were. There was no known cause. And yet humans are driven to find reasons for everything. And so, Gods were invented. Roman Gods, Greek Gods, Norse Gods. Having angry Gods gave people answers to the questions of why things happened. When I was a kid I remember being told that thunder was the sound of God bowling in heaven. It made me less afraid. Now I had an answer for what this noise was that shook the house and scared me. And I knew that God had my best interest at heart, so I needn’t fear thunder. And now of course, I understand the science that explains thunder, so there’s no more fear associated with it. But what became of that fear? Did it just disappear? Or did I find something else to fear instead?

All throughout history, people have risen up and claimed that they were the answer to your fears. They were the ones who could save you from the things that go bump in the night. “Follow me” they say, And I’ll make things right. “Elect me” and I’ll save our country. I’ll chase away the “others.” Some of them were good leaders. Some of them were charlatans. But if you look back at all our past history you’ll find that no matter how many demons have been chased away, no matter how much science explains why natural things happen, we still find something to fear. Unfortunately, there have always been those who understand this and take full advantage of it. First, they manufacture something to fear. And then tell you that they are the only ones who can save you from it.

And fear, I don’t think, is our basic problem. Fear, keeps you from sticking a fork in a light socket. Fear, keeps you from putting your hand in a fire. The fear of dying or at least, great bodily harm, keeps you from stepping out into traffic. In those examples, fear is a good thing. Our primitive instinct tells us we need fear to survive. Without it, we wouldn’t be here. And yet we see fear working in many harmful ways. As I write this, there are thousands of people walking through Mexico, presumably heading to the United States. Our news agencies are ripe with stories as to why this is happening. Our government is telling us we need to fear these people. They are coming for our jobs. They are coming for free money. They are harboring terrorists. They are the “other.” And they blame those that they want us to fear. Democrats. Liberals. Migrants walking across Mexico. If you fear something long enough, you will begin to hate it. You hate it for making you afraid. This is the dark side of fear. What’s happening right now in the U S is a prime example of how people manipulate our fears and use them to control us. A good healthy fear of stepping into traffic, will keep us alive. A manufactured fear of others will destroy us.
Unfortunately, I don’t know if I have a good answer to the problem. I’m certainly not going to shout, “Follow Me,” and I’ll show you the way. One bit of advice I could give is a quote from the Dalai Lama: “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” I think there are many people in the world who don’t have any interest in helping others. And too many times I have seen people deliberately hurt others to make themselves feel better. It seems it is it common for people to look for others that are worse off than themselves, thus boosting their own confidence And if they can’t find them, they’ll manufacture them by treating them badly to see them suffer. President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

This, it seems to me, is what’s happening in the U S today. We are being fed fear. A steady diet of which will eventually cause us to hate. And hate always manifests itself in negative ways. Fear can be a good thing. Something to help us to survive and even thrive. But the fear that causes us to hate others is destructive will eventually tear us apart.

The Sword Of Freedom


As hands are brushed together, dead bodies fall like dust
and a girl in a dress called freedom whirls and twirls
but makes no sound but the sound of a mothers cry.

With the constitution in one hand and a bible in the other,
flames suddenly leap and turn them to ash and
they blow away on the wind called justice.

Crowds leave the synagogue, cathedral and mosque and file
into the furnace while factories make more furnaces
and governments send more children to burn.

The minds eye is blind and feeling it’s way to find
emptiness and sorrow where love once lived.
Time turns backward to other wars with the same stench.

Liberty’s crack grows wider and the clapper has
disappeared to be replaced by the
sword of freedom, and a mother cries again.

And do we watch with hands folded in laps and on
our knees pray to a god who doesn’t listen? And do
we tell our children that this is righteousness?

As our world disappears in flame and ash do
we wish we had done the right thing? Do we say the
words that will set all to right, or collect our pay?

As the wars rage on and refugees muliply we go to our
jobs with blinders in place and plugs in our ears and
pretend we do not see the girl dancing. And bleeding.

And as she falls to the ground her wounds ooze into
the sand and she reaches out to be picked up but
we turn away, not wanting to get our clothes dirty.

With clean hands and clothes some walk away, but
some stoop to carry away the hurt and their
voices are being heard. Quietly now, but getting louder.

Waking Dreams

Like a cricket I can’t find
in my bedroom at night,
your memory haunts me.
Insistent, yet melodic,
you are there,
robbing me of sleep.

Floating through
my waking dreams
you stand on the other
side of a darkened glass.
I reach out to you
but you do not reach back.

You watch me with
placid face as I move
about my day, I, always
reaching. I cannot see your
smile, from where you are,
from where I am.

I long to be released
from this dream of you,
this dream of not you,
and yet, it is the only
way I see you anymore,
except in pictures.

Breaking Words


The first episode of Breaking Words is out! You can click on the RSS feed to the right on the main page here, and listen to it there. The first poem is “The Fiddle Player and The Dancer”:

As he packed up to leave, an old women approached.
“Can you play that thing?” she asked,
motioning toward the fiddle.
“I can, but I can’t make any money here,”
he said, showing her the empty cup.
“Put that fiddle under your chin, boy.
Play somethin’ gypsy, somethin’ that moves.
And as he played, she began to dance.
Bells appeared on her fingers
tinkling in the breeze.
Swaying and swirling to his rhythm
her ragged clothes suddenly seemed new.
Sequins and colors flashed brilliant in the sun.
The people came, and fell in love with her
that day. She twirled, and the sound flowed,
entwining together to become one thing.
Finally the music faltered, as if nothing
could compete with her beauty.
As she twirled her last,
he offered her the money from the cup, now full.
“You keep it boy,” she said with a smile.
“I only wanted to dance.”

And the second one is, “Blue Moon”:

After sending her 2.3 children to play
with the neighbors down the street, the
housewife, in her new, crisp, pink pastel
dress, serves her husband ice tea on a
sunny, suburban, Sunday afternoon.

When yellow foam mixed with blood
ejects from his mouth, wetting his
gray trousers, and he falls from his
lawn chair in agony gasping for air,
she kneels beside him, grass staining
her new dress and asks him if his tea
is as spicy as his new secretary.

As her husband dies on the freshly mown
lawn, she calls her mother, to pick
up the children and then calls the police.
The children of course, will not
understand, for they are to young
to know that the blue moon, is not blue.

I hope you enjoy the podcast as much as I did making it! If you click the “subscribe” button, each new episode will be downloaded automatically. Have fun, and Thanks!

A New Life Podcast


I’ve been writing on this blog for about six years now and while it has been fun, enlightening, frustrating, etc., it has never become very popular. Since my wife Ann died a year ago, (I can’t believe it’s been a year) I’ve done my best to create a new life. So a new venture is in the works for me. I’m getting into the world of podcasting. Podcasting has grown exponentially over the last ten years and it seems there’s no stopping it. One of the reasons it is so popular is because people can listen to podcasts while they’re doing something else. When reading a blog, you have to sit down at the computer or with your phone and read. It’s very hard to do anything else when you’re reading. In our modern American society it seems everyone is pressed for time so to be able to listen to a podcast while you’re working out, taking a walk or whatever is a handy thing.

I’ve assembled the equipment I need, as you can see in the photo, and I’m learning all I can about the ins and outs of podcasting. Before too long, I’ll be recording my first episode. I will keep this blog, and post from time to time but my main effort will be with the podcast. I’ve created a page here on the blog for the podcast. If you look at the black header bar just below the photo at the top of the page you’re on right now, you’ll see a page called, “A New Life Podcast.” That’s it! For every podcast episode I do there will be commentary from me, photo’s and the ability for everyone to comment about the podcast.

The podcast will consist of me talking about creating a new life after the death of a loved one. Because that’s pretty much what I’ve had to do. If you’ve ever lost someone who was a huge part of your life you know what I’m talking about. Everything changes. Everything. Everything you do, think and say becomes different because that person is no longer a part of it. For some, this can be very traumatic to the point of not being able to function.

My hope is that by talking about my own experience, I can provide some insight to others who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Podcasting will open up a world wide audience for me and hopefully. I will be able to reach people who need to hear this. It’s also therapeutic for me to be able to talk about it. As the details of the podcast become clear, I’ll keep you all informed. Thank you so much for being here with me and joining me on this new ride!

Breakthrough Story


I made spaghetti today. When I finished, it looked like a bomb had exploded on the stove. Sauce sprayed in a blood splatter pattern, noodles and bits of hamburger like scenes from a horror movie. Unfortunately, it often looks like this when I cook. I think of children in countries where they don’t have enough to eat and feel guilty writing about my food exploits. But I do it anyway. We do a lot of things we shouldn’t, and justify them in various ways to feel better about ourselves. Just another day in the life.

What if being human is a mental illness? What if all of us so called “normal” people who go to our jobs, raise families, and cook our dinners are mentally ill? Maybe we were shipped here from some distant planet, some place where they decided to rid their society of their less than desirable people. Like the British did when they sent boat loads of people to Australia. Maybe we are the descendants of the worst of an alien society that now enjoys life without people who routinely blow up their stoves at mealtime. Are they watching us, do you suppose? Are they wondering how long it will be before they have to intervene to keep their refuse from infecting the universe?

I scanned the radio dial this morning. I heard conservatives screaming about liberals. I heard Nirvana songs. Lots of talk about the environment and children in cages. I heard Hip-Hop music. I turned the radio off and went out and stood in the rain. But the radio still played. Lots of sounds and voices and screams. And music. Country and Rock and Rap. And more voices telling me what I didn’t want to hear. I longed for the sweet sounds of water lapping at a shore and the calls of loons across the lake. Life is like a radio that never shuts off. And half the time there’s too much static to discern what I’m hearing.

So I cleaned up the stove, and ate my spaghetti. I used fresh Basil from my little herb garden. Turned out pretty good. As all these words started swirling around in my mind I knew I was on the edge of a breakthrough book or at least a prize winning article. I sat down at the keyboard, electricity tingling my fingertips. I felt like Edward R. Murrow about to break an earth shattering story and then what came out was this. A story about exploding my stove and the guilt of writing about eating. Who are we, anyway?

Heat


It is the end of May. At this time of year in my part of the world, outside air temperatures should be in the low to mid seventies Fahrenheit. For the last several days we have been in the low to mid nineties. It is hot. Attributable to climate change, no doubt, but that doesn’t help how it feels. We have actually been blessed with low humidity during this period which has made it more bearable, but still. A couple days ago I turned on the air conditioning because I was going to be gone for four to five hours and my dog, Sophie, who is half Malamute, half Husky, suffers from the heat. I set it for seventy four degrees and came back several hours later to find it was eighty degrees in the house. The air didn’t work. With that comes the possibility of spending a lot of money getting the unit fixed or replaced. Although, if the temperature goes back to normal, I can get by without it.

At the end of April I bought a small greenhouse. I have it set up in my back yard and have been growing herbs and tomato’s so far. I’ve actually started a new blog to document my adventures called, conveniently enough, Greenhouse Adventure. You can find it by typing “Greenhouse Adventure.com” into the search bar on your computer. It’s only just begun so don’t expect a lot just yet.

As some of you may know, my wife died of cancer last July. It’s been a rough period for me but I seem to be coming out of it slowly. I want to do more writing, but I just haven’t felt up to it for quite some time. I think now I’m turning a corner, as it’s said, And you may be able to expect to hear from me more often. I hope so. Thanks for the help and support I’ve received during this time. It means a lot. See you soon!

Distraction

The cat, in the field, concentrating ever so diligently on the small mouse hiding under leaves and dry grass, is annoyed by my footsteps in gravel on the side of the road. As I stop to watch this Scottish version of the common house pet, her ears pitched forward toward the mouse, I notice that she doesn’t look Scottish at all. Not that I would know what a Scottish cat is supposed to look like, but when you’re in Scotland well, everything is Scottish. Her right ear, the one closest to me, suddenly pivots toward me as I take a step and the sparse gravel beneath my foot crunches loudly in the still, evening air. I stand still, and just as suddenly, the ear twitches again and returns to it’s former attentive position. Her body tenses, her head lowers and, I take another step. This time her head turns, she focuses on my face and I am the recipient of an evil glare that seems to say, “I know where your hotel is. Later I will find you there, and I will kill you in your sleep.”

The Process Of Writing

I probably should have titled this, “My” process of writing because I’m sure that for as many writers as there are in the world, there are as many processes. My process is unique to me although many may be similar. Today, I am inspired to write. That’s how it begins. As with a musician, (something I also claim to be,) some days you are inspired to pick up that guitar and play. Or flute, or drums, or whatever. You just feel like now is the time. What you play depends on the mood you’re in. That’s how it works with writing for me. I am inspired to write, but what shall I write? What kind of mood am I in? Happy or sad, frustrated, angry, joyful, what? Some days, I am so inspired that I sit down at the keyboard and it just flows out like a raging river. The words come fast and furious, filling the screen of my computer. Some days it’s so good I hardly have to do any editing at all.

Not today. Today, I am inspired to write. But what, you ask? Good question, that. I don’t have a clue. Today is one of those days when the words aren’t flowing. They have to be dragged out kicking and screaming their reluctance like a newborn being forcefully shoved into a cold, bright world. So here I sit at the keyboard, ready and willing to fill the page with brilliance and, what? Nothing. (I just spent the last five minutes staring at the word “nothing” on the screen.) Where is my mojo? My muse, if you will? Mojo and Muse are off somewhere sharing a drink and a cigar and laughing hysterically at how they left me behind.

“Look at him,” Mojo says. “Trying to write something without us!” They clink their glasses together and toast my utter inability to come up with anything even remotely interesting to say. They puff their cigars in the sunshine, dig their toes in the sand of some South Seas island, as happy as if they were normal. And I sit here in the midst of a Minnesota Winter trying to force out words, trying to force those word into something you might want to read. Ugh! I am disgusted. (I just spent another five minutes staring at the word “disgusted.”)

So that’s it then, they left me. Fine! I don’t need them! I’ll forge ahead on my own. Let them bask in the sunshine of their imagined brilliance. Who are these two, anyway, Mojo and Muse? A couple of over rated hacks, that’s who. Okay, okay, so now what? So now I write! I write words. And I form sentences with those words. And the sentences make sense. And they are interesting to read. Yeah, that’s it! I’m good. I’m doing this on my own! And, and, hey look! I actually wrote something.

Northfield, Minnesota

From 1998 until 2017 my wife Ann and I lived in the Faribault, Minnesota area, the last six years of which were spent in an old farm house on a lake surrounded by corn fields. In November 2016, Ann got sick and in December we found out she had Endometrial Metastatic Cancer. She died in July, 2017 after a heroic battle. To me she is an example of a very strong and brave woman. Born and raised on a farm near Kilkenny, Minnesota, she had red hair, blue eyes, and she was Irish and German. There were times when she felt hopeless fighting cancer, but for the most part she was brave throughout. She didn’t let it get in the way of family and friends. I think about her every day.

In May of 2017 we bought my mom’s house in Northfield, Minnesota. Only about 18 miles from our lake house, Northfield is a different world. This is the house I grew up in. Built in 1940, my folks bought the house on the G.I. Bill, or Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, in 1956, just two weeks before I was born. It has been added on to and remodeled several times over the years, most of the work being done by my dad. We bought the house in May, Ann went into the hospital in June and never came home. We only had a month to enjoy the house together before she became to0 sick to be home.

The months since Ann died have been kind of foggy but I think I’m finally starting to come out of it. In December I applied for a position on the Northfield Human Rights Commission. The mayor appointed me to the commission but after one meeting I realized that it was too much, too soon. So with the mayors blessing I turned down the appointment and am now concentrating on living one day at a time. It seems to be working. I spend quite a bit of time alone and it’s said that when you’re grieving that’s not a good thing. But for me, it’s alright. I get along with myself just fine. As a kid I was just as happy playing by myself as I was with friends. I spend time with my children and grand children. It’s good for us all to be together, to do things as a family. So that’s the back story. You are now caught up with me.

In 1956 the population of Northfield was about 8000. Today its over 20,000 so there has been steady growth over the years. The town is only about 30 or so miles from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. There are two world class colleges in Northfield. St. Olaf and Carleton. Each September Northfield celebrates the Defeat of Jesse James days. On September 7th, 1876, Jesse James and his gang were prevented from robbing the bank in Northfield, effectively ending their career as outlaws. It’s a huge celebration that attracts thousand to the town. (I hope this isn’t sounding like a tourism site!) Even though the population is over 20,000, Northfield is still a rural community. The entire city is surrounded by farms and fields. The downtown area has been maintained with 1800’s building fronts whenever possible. There are lots of unique shops and every Saturday there is a Riverwalk arts fair and farmers market downtown. Northfield is a community where people get out and do things. I love it here.

So now I’m spending time learning the bass guitar. I’ve been a drummer all my life and for the last twenty years have concentrated on hand percussion. But I’ve recently bought an electronic drum kit so I’m getting my chops back with that. For those of you who’ve read my blog over the years, I still have my insane dog, Sophie. Sophie is half Malamute, half Husky. And as I said, she’s insane. She’s six years old and still as frisky as a puppy. One hundred and ten pounds of frisky! We take a walk everyday along the beautiful pathways of Riverside park in Northfield. There is a lot of noise compared to living on a lake in the country but we’re getting used to it. The thing I miss most about living in the country is the quiet and the stars in the sky. It is such a mystical experience to stand outside at night with the Milky Way shining brightly in the sky and not hear a single sound. Just thinking about that gives me shivers. I want to give a big thanks to my long time readers. Thanks for sticking with me, And maybe I’ll gain some new readers along the way. More to come!