What Can We Do To Fix This?

I’ve been avoiding looking at my privilege for a long time.

While I realize I’m a white male in a mostly white society, for most of my life I wasn’t aware of my privilege (which is part of the problem).

I usually fell into statements like…

I am fortunate.
My life is blessed.

Without looking too much beyond that.

When I think about race and racism, I feel stuck. I feel like nothing I say will change the mess of a system we now have. So why am I saying anything? Partly, it has to do with being a writer and an educator; through writing, I often come to understand my own thinking and I feel like I need to do that before I can share it or help others to understand their thinking. More importantly, though, is that I’m realizing that writing is not enough. The injustices in the world are calling out once again that it is time for action.

Below are two, recent Facebook posts (written by other people) that I hope you will ponder for more than a quick read. I have re-read them several times and they are both a call to action.
The second post was written by the parent of a former student; Sam Hosey is a man that I respect — an intelligent, involved and caring parent, whose opinion as a person and as a black man, I value.

#1

In America – because I am a human who happens to have white skin, I can do all of these things without thinking twice:

I can be arrested without fear of being murdered (#GeorgeFloyd)
I can go birding (#ChristianCooper)
I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery)
I can sleep in my own home (#BreonnaTaylor)
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson)
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride)
I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark)
I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards)
I can play loud music (#JordanDavis)
I can sell CDs (#AltonSterling)
I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown)
I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice)
I can go to church (#Charleston9)
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin)
I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell)
I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant)
I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland)
I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile)
I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones)
I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford)
I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher)
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott)
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover)
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese)
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans)
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood)
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo)
I can run (#WalterScott)
I can breathe (#EricGarner)
I can live (#FreddieGray)

White privilege is real. Take a minute to consider a Black person’s experience today.

#BlackLivesMatter

THIS IS NOT A COMPREHENSIVE LIST. It goes deeper and longer and so many injustices never saw the light of day.

I did not write this…feel free to share it…

______________________________________________________________

#2
By Sam Hosey

Thank you to all of my friends, who happen to be white, (or non-black) that have spoken up and spoken out. Many of you are my childhood friends and former co-workers whom I love dearly and I know many of you feel the same. So what do we do next? That’s a question I get asked often. First, keep your eyes open for injustices, but also look beyond the blatant racist acts and look for disproportionate treatment in our institutions. Second, call out your friends, relatives and even employers on their biased habits. Here are some suggestions…(and ask what can you do to fix this?)
* Read the book “White Fragility”
* Ask why is my church predominately white?
* Ask why my company or department isn’t 14% black (percentage of black population) at every level (entry level to executives)?
* Ask why the nonprofit board I’m on is so white?
* How many black people are in my circle of actual friends that I can talk to and listen to?
* How many black teachers has my child had in school?
* How many black neighbors do I have?
* How many black people are city council members?
* How many black public servants are there in my community?
* How many black people have I helped groom professionally speaking?
* Ask why are most of my local news anchors white?
* Ask when the last time I saw a white person brutalized on the news vs. the last time I saw a black person brutalized?
* Ask why are nearly all owners of NFL and NBA sports franchises white but players about 75% black?
* Ask why are most university presidents white?
* Ask why are athletic directors and D1 football/basketball coaches white, but the players mostly black?
* Ask why do I have such a problem with black athletes — who come from disadvantaged economic backgrounds and generate billions for the NCAA and millions for the school — getting paid, but are okay with white coaches getting millions?
* Ask why is the hero or leading character in my favorite movie white?
* Ask what programs does my company sponsor to uplift the black population in our community?
* Ask why are the rankings of “best schools” and “best neighborhoods” and “best cities to live” are always predominantly white?

I could go on. To bridge these gaps it will take very specific and intentional steps from white people. Attend meetings for the city council, the school board, your HOA, your nonprofit, your church, your company’s hiring panel and call this stuff out. Challenge other people who are in charge to fix it. Recruit, start action-based diversity programs, be welcoming, call out injustice and the wrong we see. It won’t do much if a couple people do it, but if a few million do, then we can effect change pretty fast and we won’t have to see racist cops killing people anymore. Thanks for listening.❤️

If you want to watch/listen to something to help kick start you, peep this out…

________________________________________

Wrap up…in direct response to Dr. DiAngelo’s video…and the two posts from above —

I’m the white progressive Dr. DiAngelo is talking about in the above video. I see that now. I do feel that I have tried to inform myself on race issues to some extent: attending diversity trainings and taking implicit bias tests, reading many books by black authors, singing in a mixed race gospel choir, many relationships with people of color… I try to be informed…but no, I haven’t given years to “study, struggle, and focus” on this topic.

I’m aware that my understanding of racism is incredibly incomplete, and there is some discomfort in discussing it…but that’s where growth comes from.
One tries to be humble and vulnerable when one is learning.
Humility…saying one has it pretty much destroys credibility.

the uncomfortability of discussing racism
is where we grow
things fall apart
so that they can be pieced back
together together
to fall apart…
know that the falling apart
will be pieced back
together

Yes, I was raised to be racially illiterate. Being Armenian, I was taught to be proud of my ethnicity. Proud of our language, our food, our history, our struggle to persevere and survive genocide,
and that’s similar
but different,
narrow, limited

I’m not living in Turkey.
Maybe if I was an Armenian living in Turkey right now…

Racism is definitely a system.
I’m part of it. Not proud of that.
A part of it
Not
apart from it

Her re-framing of the Jackie Robinson story for truth (…”whites let him play”…) helps me. I need role models…for change. I keep going back to Sam’s list above and thinking about which ones to address first.

Aversive racism, as she describes it, fit me to a point; I don’t buy the notion that our places of work are mostly white because people of color don’t apply — I’ve seen racist policies in place going on there…but have I spoken up?

I need to use my freedoms, my privilege, to speak up and out to change our unjust system.

Here’s an excerpt from DiAngelo’s book to get you thinking…

continued…

Here are some other resources that have helped me on my continuing journey.

Resources

Begin with the video, above, then read the book…

White Fragility by Dr. Robin DiAngelo

Assertive Black…Puzzled White: A Black Perspective on Assertive Behavior by Donald K. Cheeck, Ph.D.

Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him by David Henry and Joe Henry

Changing Systems, Changing Ourselves: Anti-racist Practice for Accompaniment, Sanctuary, and Resistance

The Race Card Project encourages people to condense their observations and experiences about race into one sentence with just Six Words.

Join the Earl Nelson Singers…we meet on Monday nights at 7 pm at Sexton High School in Lansing (when it’s safe to do so).

Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk About Race

I Want to Get Away

Years ago, my fishing buddies and I created this mash-up of a song. I started singing it again today — a couple weeks into this virus lock down.

* Note: Every time the lyrics change, you need to start singing the new song tune…
It starts with Lenny Kravitz’ “Fly Away” then to Steve Miller band’s “Fly Like an Eagle” and so on.

I want to get away
I want to fly

like an eagle
to the

CC Rider
Riders of the storm
into this world were

Born to be wild
Born to be

Wild thing
You make my heart

Singin’ in the rain
I’m singin’ in the rain

Purple Rain
Purple Rain

(there may be more but I can’t remember it)
Here’s an audio version…

I share this because though ‘I want to get away,’ I am staying home. I do feel like I’m bopping from one thing to another, having trouble going deep into anything (writing, episode-watching, reading, gaming…). This memory reminds me of carefree times and I hope to get on the river again this summer, but I’m taking every precaution at this point. I pray that you will also. We can limit the severity of this virus if we work together.

Coronavirus update

BEST SUMMARY VIDEO: Trevor Noah interviews Dr. Fauci

The numbers of people with Coronavirus in the country exceeded 100,000 recently. The toll this virus is taking on health professionals is tragic. While some news agencies just focus on the dumpster-fire, others share the personal and economic costs Americans are experiencing.

Here’s one of the more compelling personal stories

Fun stuff on the internet:

* 50 Bird Species and the Sounds They Make

* Cowboy Museum Puts Their Head Of Security In Charge Of Their Twitter, And His Tweets Are Hilariously Wholesome

* Universal Studios “Free” Photo Booth, “Can’t Stop Laughing”
(this one opens in Facebook)

* An artist takes a trip to Estonia and comes away with insights about the country and Brexit

* I was going to discuss how many sheets of toilet paper one should use for #1 vs. #2, depending on your gender…but instead, just watch these guys and their alternatives to toilet paper.

Movies we have seen so far:

* Young Sherlock Holmes – We saw it on Criterion, but you can also see it on YouTube TV and Vudu. Directed by Stephen Spielberg, this 1985 flick was much better than I expected. The music and a few of the scenes reminded me of Indiana Jones, Star Wars, E.T., and even Harry Potter for some reason.

* On the Basis of Sex

* RBG

* Amelie

* Hugo

* Moulin Rouge

* Manhattan

* Mrs. Doubtfire
Every once in awhile Robin Williams re-enters our lives. His daughter, Zelda, posted this photo of them on her Twitter feed. And one thing led to another and we enjoyed his humor again last night.

Some of the shows/series we have watched (and where we found them)

* The Marvelous Mrs. Maizel (Amazon Prime)
Here’s the Maizel cast interviewed if you need another fun thing

* The Crown (Netflix)
* Outlander (Starz)
* Schitt’s Creek (Netflix)
* Ken Burns’ Baseball (PBS)
* Mark Maron’s stand up called “End Times Fun” (Netflix)

* a few Sherlock Holmes episodes on DVD (PBS version with Jeremy Brett)

Some Teaching and Learning Resources

* Bound to Be Bound Resources for Homebound or Home Schooled Students

* A list of authors and illustrators doing online storytime

* Virtual Tours of 12 Famous Museums

* A Zoom conference called “Moving Online”: Critical and Creative Teaching in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis led by my friend and mentor, Dr. Troy Hicks


Re: what else I’m doing…

We just finished our second puzzle. I liked several things about it: the reminder that we have so many National Parks and Monuments waiting for us to visit; the information about the parks was interesting (and helped when placing pieces); getting reacquainted with the location of the parks (because I love geography); and the vibrant colors of the puzzle. We are starting another puzzle today.

I’m reading a few things of course: The Sun Magazine (and old copies that I didn’t finish); listening to Trevor Noah read his book, Born a Crime; Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman (our men’s book group book); Lent 2020, Christ Is for Us by April Yamasaki; and several books of poems (In the Corner of the Living by Janine Certo; Tunsiya/Amrikiya by Leila Chatti; and E-mails from Scheherazad by Mohja Kahf)

I’m writing two books right now. My book of poems was coming along slowly until this isolation set in. Now, I have collected in one document all the poems I’m currently planning on using. I need to revise about a third of them and pass the whole collection by the members of my writing group (and by Judy). Here’s a glimpse at the list of poems I have included thus far:

A Hope Unspoken
First Teacher
Baboo Godoshian
Berube
Test Driving a Hearse
Another Day
Clara was a Tiger
Praise for Anonymous
Dad
Reflecting
Language Lover
In a Democrat’s Car
Open Sky
How You Know You’re in the Northwest
Instead, at 6:30 am
BRF is Not Me
Birth of a Poem
This photo
Opening a Pomegranate
My Brainmind
Poem for Today
Too Still, Too Small
Bob Skinny
Guilt
Why We Are All Not Jesus
Ultimately
If Life is Baseball
Cats
In Love
What Will Happen

I will hopefully be self-publishing them at MSU’s Publishing Service…when it re-opens.

I’m co-authoring a book for teachers also. Kristine Brickey and I are writing a book called Lower Your Expectations: A Teacher’s Survival Guide. Much of it is written; we are tweaking it and hope to have it out in some form by the end of the year. Here are the current chapter titles:

Lower Your Expectations: A Teacher’s Survival Guide

Table of Contents

Prologue: Let’s Get Real
Chapter 1: It’s Not Time to Panic…
Chapter 2: Teachers Need Naps, Too
Chapter 3: Your Expectations are Too Damn High!
Chapter 4: Teaching ‘Then’ vs. Teaching ‘Now’
Chapter 5: When To Bitch and When Not to Bitch
Chapter 6: Honesty and Parent-Teacher Conferences
Chapter 7: Why Won’t You Let Us Teach?
Chapter 8: Now is Still Not the Time To Panic
Chapter 9: So What’s in Your Toolbox?

After reading all of that, I seem busy (even to myself). I don’t feel busy. I was just telling our son, Aaron, this morning how I enjoy the pace of my life. Yes, it has slowed lately, but even before our virus precautions, I have a blessed pace to my life. I’m aware that this life I lead is a privileged, white male life in a prosperous country…and I do my best to use my life for good.

P.S. Zoom dance parties are fun, too!

Need a Book?

Do you ever feel that you are holding books as hostages? I have a connection with every book I own and I love having access to them when I want to read them, but sometimes I feel that they are prisoners. That I’m keeping them from being read by others. It may sound strange, but I’ve learned that even when I think my feelings are odd and unique, others can relate.

As difficult as it is to let go of some of my books, I am doing it on a regular basis. Whether to increase the chances they will be read or to clear out my hoard/library, it needs to happen.

So, as we begin to hunker down for the winter, if there’s a book from the list below that strikes your fancy, let me know and I’ll get it to you. If you want to keep it, that’s fine. If you want to read it and give it to another interested reader, even better. And if you’d rather give it back, I can deal with that too (I’ll just put it in a Free Library near me).

Note: this give-away is also necessary because I keep buying more books.

* Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
* Indian Boyhood, by Charles A. Eastman
* Animals in Translation, by Temple Grandin
* What is the Bible?, by Rob Bell
* A Newbery Halloween (a dozen scary stories by Newbery Award-winning authors), selected by Martin H. Greenberg
* Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers
* The 100 Best African American Poems (with CD), edited by Nikki Giovanni
* Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, by Bill McKibben
* The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver
* As We Are Now, by May Sarton
* The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
* Unlearning God: How Unbelieving Helped Me Believe, by Philip Gulley
* Telling Writing, by Ken Macrorie
* Reservation Blues, by Sherman Alexie
* Brainiac, by Ken Jennings
* The Book of Forgiving, by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu
* A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean
* Bird by Bird, by Annie Lamott
* Gandhi: A Manga Biography, by Kazuki Ebine
* Beloved, by Toni Morrison

I don’t know if you can tell, but these are not my throw-away books. Some are my favorite reads (and some are doubles). These are books I recommend. These are books that need to be read. I am freeing them to be read. I want them to have a good home. And I have many more; if you would like to peruse my poetry books, fiction section, Native American collection, biographies…let me know.

My Brainmind

My Brainmind

— with thanks to Billy Collins

Sometimes I picture it
Directly above my eyes
Hovering just out of my view

Or as a fog I should be able to see through,
A grey mass harboring shadows of unrecognizable forms

But then the sun burns away my unknowing
Or I find a box of light bulbs
And my old friend comes through for me again

If it will the next time I call on it, God only knows —
This mystery brain,
Brother to my heart,
A constant companion directing me like a drone operator,
An encyclopedia with pages torn out

Let us say it is a book
I have been writing constantly, even while watching TV and driving the car
Then re-reading aloud — at least in my head

Or now that it is aging,
An echo of itself,
Papers found in a drawer in my hand-writing but foreign

Like yours, it is fickle,
Rock solid watching Jeopardy,
Absent as a deleted app when asked my 3rd grade teacher’s name,
To define ‘transmogrification,’ or what I had for dinner last Tuesday.
Then present again when I need a seldom-used password

Or is it a dream itself,
Not the grey mass the size of my fist the scientists talk about

But part of my whole being —
In every cell,
Hair, organ —
Is even the food I eat, temporarily,
Part of my mind
While in me?

Affecting everything I do —
What to add into my scrambled eggs,
Whether or not to play the guitar,
Which word to choose as an ending

Unhinged

We have a president who is unhinged.

From Merriam Webster —

“Definition of unhinged
: UPSET, UNGLUED
especially : mentally deranged

Synonyms
balmy, barmy [chiefly British], bats, batty, bedlam, bonkers, brainsick, bughouse [slang], certifiable, crackbrained, cracked, crackers, crackpot, cranky [dialect], crazed, crazy, cuckoo, daffy, daft, demented, deranged, fruity [slang], gaga, haywire, insane, kooky (also kookie), loco [slang], loony (also looney), loony tunes (or looney tunes), lunatic, mad, maniacal (also maniac), mental, meshuga (or meshugge), moonstruck, non compos mentis, nuts, nutty, psycho, psychotic, scatty [chiefly British], screwy, unbalanced, unsound, wacko (also whacko), wacky (also whacky), wud [chiefly Scottish]”

Sound familiar? It’s him.

Others have noted his unhingedness; it just gets worse and worse.

John Bolton was the latest casualty of this unhinged president. He has a love-hate relationship with his own cabinet. He hires people to fill positions and then dismisses them or they resign in record time. Thirty-eight appointees either resigned or were fired. That’s over 75% turnover rate. Just ridiculous.

Some of his supporters have even started complaining, noting that he’s swearing too much. If this is what it takes to make sure we don’t make the same mistake twice, so be it.

There was the whole ‘if Denmark doesn’t want to sell Greenland to us, I won’t visit it’ thing. Shades of terrible-twos or middle school tantrums. And I hate how Fox News uses his tweets as the official record of what he said. Tweets are what you come up with to pass the time. Tweets are usually trivial, lazy comments; he’s passes them off as the inside story of his deepest thoughts, which furthers this ‘unhinged’ persona. If this appeals to you, there are trifles on the internet to keep this memory alive forever.

Some say he is impeaching himself with his every tweet and action.

President George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, has a message for people who are excusing President Trump’s racism:

“I had fully intended to ignore President Trump’s latest round of racially charged taunts against an African American elected official, and an African American activist, and an African American journalist and a whole city with a lot of African Americans in it. I had every intention of walking past Trump’s latest outrages and writing about the self-destructive squabbling of the Democratic presidential field, which has chosen to shame former vice president Joe Biden for the sin of being an electable, moderate liberal.

But I made the mistake of pulling James Cone’s ‘The Cross and the Lynching Tree’ off my shelf — a book designed to shatter convenient complacency. Cone recounts the case of a white mob in Valdosta, Ga., in 1918 that lynched an innocent man named Haynes Turner.

Turner’s enraged wife, Mary, promised justice for the killers. The sheriff responded by arresting her and then turning her over to the mob, which included women and children. According to one source, Mary was ‘stripped, hung upside down by the ankles, soaked with gasoline, and roasted to death. In the midst of this torment, a white man opened her swollen belly with a hunting knife and her infant fell to the ground and was stomped to death.’

God help us. It is hard to write the words. This evil — the evil of white supremacy, resulting in dehumanization, inhumanity and murder — is the worst stain, the greatest crime, of U.S. history. It is the thing that nearly broke the nation. It is the thing that proved generations of Christians to be vicious hypocrites. It is the thing that turned normal people into moral monsters, capable of burning a grieving widow to death and killing her child.

When the president of the United States plays with that fire or takes that beast out for a walk, it is not just another political event, not just a normal day in campaign 2020.

It is a cause for shame. It is the violation of martyrs’ graves. It is obscene graffiti on the Lincoln Memorial. It is, in the eyes of history, the betrayal — the re-betrayal — of Haynes and Mary Turner and their child. And all of this is being done by an ignorant and arrogant narcissist reviving racist tropes for political gain, indifferent to the wreckage he is leaving, the wounds he is ripping open.

Like, I suspect, many others, I am finding it hard to look at resurgent racism as just one in a series of presidential offenses or another in a series of Republican errors. Racism is not just another wrong. The Antietam battlefield is not just another plot of ground. The Edmund Pettus Bridge is not just another bridge. The balcony outside Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel is not just another balcony. As U.S. history hallows some causes, it magnifies some crimes.

What does all this mean politically? It means that Trump’s divisiveness is getting worse, not better. He makes racist comments, appeals to racist sentiments and inflames racist passions. The rationalization that he is not, deep down in his heart, really a racist is meaningless. Trump’s continued offenses mean that a large portion of his political base is energized by racist tropes and the language of white grievance. And it means — whatever their intent — that those who play down, or excuse, or try to walk past these offenses are enablers.

Some political choices are not just stupid or crude. They represent the return of our country’s cruelest, most dangerous passion. Such racism indicts Trump. Treating racism as a typical or minor matter indicts us.” — Michael Gerson

Rebecca Solnit: The Loneliness of Donald Trump

Some have noted that “It’s almost satire. Everything our president says is foolish nonsense and it constitutes malicious ignorance.” Unhinged. Unpredictable. Ridiculous.

This is our commander in chief. I want to be an informed citizen. The more I know, though, the more this stuff rubs off on me. Please, let us make a better choice next time. We can do it. If we work together on this, we can do it.

An Update

I’m in a phase where I feel like I don’t know anything. It’s difficult to write a blog entry of any substance right now. I’m doing a lot of reading. It feeds my unknowing more than reading usually does. It feeds this feeling that this world is almost unknowable. Knowledge can be overwhelming. And a bit immobilizing.

Something will come of all of this. I still write from time to time. I offer this draft of a poem which is somewhat on the subject…

This Is One Poem

I once heard of a tree named Discipline
I wanted to find it and revel in
its constant beauty
obeying duty
but alas, it left me wanderin’

Every ant distracts
Birds’ activity threatens
Intent and focus

A laziness of thought
becomes me
I wear it like

a cloak
an x-ray barrier
a pile of stones
that COPD elephant

incapacitating
movement
toward
forward
no word
for it

Antidisciplinstablishmentarianism
comes close

The Tigers beat the odds

Las Vegas went out on a limb against the Tigers, the limb broke clean off, and now Las Vegas is walking around with its tail between its legs.

I would think that any non-Astro baseball fan would love that game last night.

Verlander pitches a complete game, only allows two hits, never pitches from the stretch (because there were no baserunners all game)…and still loses. This victory may have been our peak performance of the season; instead of being in the World Series, the Tigers beat a World Series contender. It was akin to last year’s Lions’ victory over the (eventual) NFL champion New England Patriots. Unexpected victories are often the most sweet. The Astros may end up winning it all, but last night, the Tigers put together the perfect equation of smart pitching, tremendous defensive plays, and just enough clutch hitting to win a memorable game.

Seattle 2019 Vacation

In a world without physical photo albums, I find I need a space to collect my thoughts and memories. I imagine that if everyone had a blog, the internet might break, but this is the space I have chosen. It’s ‘my space’ to use a reference from over a decade ago.

Continuing that analogy, I may use this space to jog my memory about events from life…you know, later on when my memory fades. I’ve been writing in physical journals for over 30 years and I use those journals in a similar way. The thing about this space is that since I don’t really have control over it, it could disappear at some point. After I stop paying an annual fee ($40 to be able to put youtube videos on the blog instead of just links, as well as for the option of people subscribing, and more), the people at edublogs might delete this blog one day due to inactivity or for some other random reason. Then, like many of my memories from years ago, my ideas will be gone. I suppose I could write a book…possibly from these blog entries…but assuming I don’t, let’s just say I am more and more aware of the fleeting quality of memories and life in general.

Every day on vacation in Seattle was precious. Every moment really. We spent most of our time in Edmonds, which is about 40 minutes north of downtown Seattle depending on traffic. Rachel and Robbie moved there almost a year ago; one reason was so Rachel only had to drive 10 minutes to work. Robbie is driving for Uber Eats so his work goes where he goes. They had lived in Seattle for around eight years in the same apartment and I think another reason they moved was for a new, larger, more economical space. We all shared one car for the 10 days (plus travel days) we were there — except for a day and a half when we wanted more space and options, so Rachel rented a van. It was fortunate that we were able to find an airbnb two short blocks away from their apartment.

We have never hiked as many different trails as we hiked this trip. In the past, we had been to several trails within the city — Discovery Park, Ravenna Park, Washington Park and Arboretum…there are dozens to choose from — but this time we found five or six new ones outside the city.


Pine Ridge Park was closest, so we hiked it a couple days

Our time in the Cascades was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Even though every park we hiked was a welcome retreat from life’s hectic pace, the Cascades trip was a journey, a destination (about 1 1/2 hours east), and an all-encompassing get-away. The several, bumpy miles up the dirt road to get to the trail was an event in itself; I couldn’t imagine anyone else would be up at the trailhead. There were about 10 other cars there though. After a delicious picnic, we walked the 2.2 meandering miles to Barclay Lake in lush peacefulness. We explored a few side paths and appreciated the tranquility of the lake when we found it; one family was fishing unsuccessfully and it seemed like most people brought their dog on the trail…but I bet we saw less than 20 people total. The way back went by faster somehow, but was just as gorgeous and serene. The journey was enhanced by a stop for dinner in Gold Bar, WA, at a local restaurant called Prospector’s Steak and Ale. I had a flashback to Bob’s Country Bunker in the Blues Brothers’ Rawhide scene but it turned out to be very good food and decent service. We even commiserated with the Seahawks’ fans during their first preseason game, having many years experience as disappointed Lions’ fans.


Judy and Aaron on our Cascade hike

Rachel and Robbie have a couple of cats that were kittens last time I saw them. This time they were a bit less playful and somewhat distrustful of these new people. It was still fun observing them, though. I wrote an untitled cat poem from my few days with them —

Cats can hear
well enough to be
guard dogs.

Maybe we should domesticate
panthers to be
our attentive watchers.

The grace and style of cats
plus that lethal edge
of a Doberman Pinscher.

The way a cat’s ears
turn at the slightest
peep, crack, bump

In the next room
is impressive —
usually a waste of time

But check it out they do,
anyway —
curious homebodies

That they are —
wary of change
like old Republicans.

Another favorite event was our evening at the ACT Theater seeing The Year of Magical Thinking. I had read the book (and since then, have seen the Netflix biography about the author, Joan Didion) The one-woman play was similar to and different from the book: still a not-so-gentle warning that we will all have life-altering grief to deal with; still a distantly emotional, scattered-but-connected view of her grief; and and update regarding the levels of grief and brief clarity she’s had since the book. If you know me at all, you know I’m a book person. However, when a book is given life in play form with the author’s guidance — I’m always a fan. Theater spaces are sacred to me; magic happens there.

You can see more of our photos at this link (though not all the photos have captions, if you want to see the captions, scroll up on each photo).

Many thanks to Rachel and Robbie for sharing their space and their time which led to many wonderful discussions and numerous, new, special memories.

P.S. I went to several Seattle area bookstores and bought as many (mostly used) books as I could fit into my backpack and luggage. That’s part of what makes each destination unique, I believe. One that I found at the Edmonds Public Library also intrigued me: Halal If You Hear Me: BreakBeat Poets Volume 3. I opened it to a poet from East Lansing, Leila — a sign and a gift. It’s a marvelous collection of young, Muslim poets expressing current, honest feelings and concerns. I bought two copies and had them delivered to our house (delivery was free if I bought two); if you want to borrow one, let me know.

P.P.S. If you want to subscribe to this blog, check out Subscribe By Email: if you are on a tablet or computer, it should be in the left sidebar; if you’re on your phone, you may need to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page (sorry).

When in Doubt, G to the Rescue

Most of the time, life is quite distracting. I have trouble deciding where to focus my time and energy. The circus in Washington is quite disconcerting and tragic; the fires in the Arctic are potentially even more troubling; and then, there are more personal issues like new career vs full retirement and self-actualization in general.

I wish I had written the following, but alas, Garrison Keillor beat me to it. I swear, I was working on something very close to it when I read this today.

“Someday you’ll understand what I’m telling you

My birthday is this week, which I mention by way of saying, “Please. No gifts.” My love and I went through major downsizing in January and we are pretty much done with Things now, even a picture of a wilderness lake taken by you or an inspirational book that could change our lives. My life is good enough. Every day is precious. When you reach 77, you’ll feel the same way. It’s a shame that a con man is in the White House as the Arctic is melting and white nationalists are shooting up our cities, but we’ll be okay, we just need a Trexit vote next year.

I reached my present age thanks to medical advances that didn’t exist for my uncles (than whom I am now somewhat older) nor for Dostoevsky (59) or Thoreau (44). Pharmaceuticals would’ve enabled Dostoevsky to retire from writing agonizing novels and switch over to light comedy in his old age and Thoreau to leave Concord and move to New York and find a girlfriend. He went out on a cold rainy night to look at trees and caught bronchitis, which agitated his TB and he went into a steep decline. As he lay dying, his aunt asked if he’d made his peace with God, and Henry said, “I was not aware that we had ever quarreled.” So he had a good last line, which many people don’t, but think what he and his girlfriend could’ve done with thirty more years. Go into the canoe business, buy a house with a lawn, beget kiddoes, enjoy evenings at home, Isabelle lying with her head in Henry’s lap, reading “Walden,” laughing at the funny parts.

Life is unbearably precious. Two heroes of mine died in car crashes when I was in college, and yet I myself, a couple years later, driving north on Highway 47 in my 1956 Ford, on a straight stretch in Isanti County, gunned it to 100 mph just to see what it felt like. It felt good. Then a pickup truck eased out of a driveway and onto the road. This was before seat belts. In a split second, I swerved to go behind him and it was a good choice — he didn’t back up — otherwise he and I would’ve been forever joined in a headline. I hope he has enjoyed his survival. Whenever I relive those fifteen seconds, all regrets vanish, all complaints evaporate.

I am now older than my older brother, who died ten years ago at 71. He slipped while skating and fell backward and hit his head. I think of him often. He was a scientist and engineer, a problem-solver, a sailor, a family man, and when faced with a personal dilemma, it’s good to ask, “What would Philip have said?” He tends to recommend patience, attention to detail, and taking a break for a few hours, perhaps on a boat, during which the answer may suddenly occur to you.

I don’t brood about death as the actual date approaches. My mother (97) enjoyed herself into her mid-nineties, flew places, saw her ancestral Scotland, cruised the coast of Alaska, and seemed, all in all, happier than when she had six little kids to worry about. We grew up near the Mississippi and she thought extensively about drowning. When cousin Roger (17) drowned, trying to impress his girlfriend Susan, Mother sent me to swimming lessons at the Y, but I couldn’t bear it, the instructor was such a bully, so I went to the library instead, a wise choice on my part, and I grew up to earn my way as a writer rather than as a professional swimmer.

Nature is not interested in my twilight years; past 30, semen develops problems, man becomes irrelevant in the furtherance of the species. God created erectile dysfunction because old men can’t be trusted to raise kids. Living past 70 is an artificial idea, a lovely idea, like flying or anesthesia, but still. So an old man needs to justify his continuance, taking up space and being a traffic hazard on the freeway by driving the speed limit. My reason for living is simply this: I am still working and my best work may be yet ahead of me.

I say, 77 is a fine age, way beyond 17 or 37 or 57, but take your time getting there, and remember to marry someone who is good company and can carry one end of the conversation and sometimes both. There’s the real message. That’s worth reading to the end of the column to find out.”

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Reprinted without permission. I’m more of an ask forgiveness kind of guy.