Thursday, August 6, 2020

Drownings


            We had a drowning in Torch Lake about 200 yards from our beach. We didn’t witness anything except a gathering of Sheriff’s cars and an ambulance. At this point we don’t know any details except that he was 24 years old, and that his parents received the toughest news possible.

            The incident triggered memories of our own drowning experiences, some nightmares, and a recall of some things I wrote years ago:

Drownings

From fifteen feet above myself unbreathing
there on the dock I evaluate those feet,
mine, splayed on the boards I painted.
The camp nurse bends over me to insert
the hard S-tube down my throat. My cool
eyes consider the restless boat,
the waterskies aligned, the tow-rope
a heap. No waves move onto the shale beach.
A benign Lake Champlain accuses me
under a Vermont sun, and I want to disappoint
all these people by dying out from under them
on such a smiling day.
                                       Fifteen years
after my drowning, Jeff chases ducks off
a dock's edge. He sinks beneath the tidal
sheen of Five Mile River. I know he must bob
soon to the surface. I pass my son going up
on my way down.
                               Phillip's drowning
finds him clinging half swallowed beneath a dock
in the Fox River. At dinner in the cottage
I almost too late hear his cries above the voices
of aunts and cousins. I pull my dripping boy
from the suck of the lazy river.

In a film a child falls from a high window
bounces to his feet, runs off. We can
do that on our good days: drowning
through a late spring afternoon held
to my desk by a student's whine, or
through the bed my wife avoids
like my eyes, or through a drive
to scare the boys with my braking:
to be saved, emerging into changed air
and light, or to drown down through green
water into a deeper world where we breathe
through our wounds and join all the other
drowned children alive at last.


And this I wrote this while traveling with Kim in 2011:

Capsized!

         When Kim and I put into the Bow River a few miles upstream from Calgary, I was worried that it was going to be a challenge. The current was very fast, there was a stiff headwind making the paddling difficult, and we could see rough water where there were rocks just under the surface. I am an experienced canoeist, but not in rough rivers. Andrew, whom we had met through on online birding site, did not see a problem, so in we went.
         Andrew paddled his kayak beside us, pointing out a few birds and some natural features. He is a delightful young man filled with passion for the outdoors and birding. He has an enormous amount of energy. We did not know how much of that energy he would be called upon to use. 
         After about an hour of tiring paddling, we approached a large bridge in the city. Andrew, on our right about 20 yards away, called over a warning about some concrete from an old bridge just under the surface. We saw it, but too late. The side of our canoe struck the rock and we immediately capsized into the cold water.
         Kim went down. We had life jackets on, but they did not seem to be much help. She may have been under for 10 seconds, but it felt a lot longer to her. I was aware of the coldness of the water, also that it was not ice-cold that I expected from the previous day’s snow in the mountains. We both knew enough to hold onto the canoe, and for some reason we also held onto our paddles. Kim emerged, gasping and coughing. I noticed my sweatshirt floating in the canoe along with some water bottles.
         Andrew paddled back and warned us to stay away from the bridge, whose large concrete supports were rushing towards us. We had no way to move ourselves toward them or away from them, and luckily we blasted past them. We were about 40 yards from shore and had no idea how we would possibly get there. I had torn my hamstring in a fall the day before, so I was unable to kick my feet.
         Andrew paddled over to the bow of our partially submerged but upright canoe, grabbed a length of yellow nylon rope fastened there, and started paddling mightily toward the shore that seemed very far away. He’s a strong guy and experienced paddler, but he was towing the dead weight of our filled canoe and us, dragging in the water.
         We were hanging on, but just barely. Kim was in a near panic as she could feel her strength ebbing fast and was coughing water she had swallowed and inhaled. She could not breathe. I worked my way back to the stern, trying to shove the canoe forward as I moved back, thinking this might move us toward shore. When I reached the stern I realized that was a bad idea, as there was little to hold onto. I pictured myself hurtling down the river away from Kim, Andrew and the canoe. I moved back to a firm grip on the seat.
         Kim says she was so exhausted she was about to give up when she felt the rocks beneath her feet. The shore at that point featured large, gray, somewhat squared boulders, and I felt some on the bottom, but we were moving so fast that I could not push off, let alone gain any footing. Touching the rocks gave Kim a sense of hope - a belief that she would somehow make it to shore. To live.
         After a short time - and time is impossible to judge in these circumstances - we felt more rocks beneath our feet, then found ourselves standing and lurching forward. Andrew had run his kayak up on the rocks and was hauling our canoe and us in with the rope. We crawled up and collapsed, still holding the paddles.
         Kim was ghastly pale and coughing. I was shaking violently from shock and the cold. I moved a few feet onto a rock in the sun and immediately felt better, although the shaking continued. I told Kim to move into the sun.
         “Can’t. Tired.”
         She managed to remove her life jacket, as did I, and just sat there looking numb.
         Andrew pulled the canoe a bit further up on the rocks and gave me the rope to hold so it wouldn’t drift away. He repeatedly told us how amazing we were, how great. We did not feel great or amazing.
         He said he was going to paddle downstream to where his van was parked and would be back for us in ten minutes. We nodded, not really caring. We were alive and on shore.
         I helped Kim move a few feet into the sun and then spotted a construction worker heading toward us. We had pulled up in a construction zone where the highway was being widened. A low fence separated the highway from a bulldozed new lane near our rocks.
         “Kim, look. That guy is coming over to help us.”
         “You folks will have to move out of here. This is a restricted area. Didn’t you see the signs?”
         We stared at him.
         “You will have to move. Just take your canoe and paddle over to the other side.”
         “We are not moving,” Kim said.
         “Look. You can’t be here without supervision. It’s a safety issue in a construction zone.”
         “Then you better get someone to supervise us because we aren’t moving.”
         I tried to explain the situation to him - that we capsized, that my wife was in trouble, that our friend would be back in a few minutes to pick us up. He became a little more sympathetic, but not much, pointing to a break in the fence about 100 yards away. “Take your canoe over there so your friend can pick it up.”
         Though this was not what I wanted to do at the moment, I was ready to do whatever was necessary to get us out of there, despite Kim’s urgent protests. So I took one end of the canoe as he took the other, and somehow we carried it up forty feet of slippery rocks and then 100 more yards to the break in the fence. This was not what my hamstring needed, but I felt better having done it. I may have been burning off adrenaline.
         When the worker walked back with me I asked him one more thing: to go down to the water and get the life jackets and paddles. He did so willingly. He also looked at Kim and asked if he should call 911. She said no. He asked again, saying it’s best to be safe.
         Just then Andrew arrived, stepped over the fence, and engaged in an energetic conversation with the guy that I could not hear. He pointed at his van parked across the street and the break in the fence. The guy helped Andrew lift the canoe onto the van and rig a tie-down with the rope. Kim and I wedged ourselves in next to Andrew’s kayak, which filled most of the van’s interior.
         At this point I noticed that my sweatshirt was gone, having floated off downstream. My watch was on and still ticking. My wallet was still in my pocket, as were my car keys. I was surprised to note that my hat and sunglasses were still on. It was my Indiana Jones moment.
         Once I got into the van I resumed my violent shaking, and Kim was coughing regularly, though I did not know this until she told me later. Andrew was chattering encouraging words about the thrill of adventure and excitement, and how this sort of thing happens occasionally to people he takes out on the water. He phoned a friend who is an E.R. doctor and described what happened. Kim told him to tell her that she had swallowed some water and inhaled some as well, but the doc said that is very unlikely. She suggested driving to the E.R., but Kim said she did not feel like waiting in a plastic chair for four hours.
         We stopped briefly at his house to drop off the boats, and then he drove us to our motel a few minutes away, saying he would bring our car along shortly.
         I helped Kim down the hall to our room - fortunately on the first floor - but she had to pause to lean against the wall several times. We threw all our wet clothes into the bathtub, Kim got into her pajamas and climbed into bed. I changed into some warm dry clothes and hobbled down to the main desk to get an additional blanket and some towels.
         When I got back to the room Kim was still in bed. But she had started to gag and feel nauseous when she lay down flat, so she got up and headed for the bathroom to vomit. It had streaks of blood in it.
         Then I had the brilliant idea that what she really needed most of all was a cup of coffee, so I made some using the stuff in the room. She used the cup to warm her hands, and we discussed what to do. We decided to phone Andrew and ask him to ask his doctor friend about the blood. He called back in a few minutes to suggest we call Health Link, a   Canadian service where you can get free professional medical advice over the phone. After about a ten-minute hold where I listened to recordings about seat belts and asthma, I got hold of a nurse who asked me a series of questions about Kim’s symptoms. Some I could answer, and some Kim answered on her way to the bathroom to vomit again.
         “I suggest you take her immediately to the E.R. Her status is priority. Call 911.”
         Instead I called Andrew, figuring that would be quicker, and he met us at the front door in five minutes. I had helped Kim down the hall, dressed in her pajamas and wrapped in a blanket. I was carrying the camera bag she’s been using for a purse on this trip, and I grabbed a few soggy items from my soggy wallet and stuffed them into my pocket.
         Kim’s priority status in the E.R. got her into a bed and plugged into monitors while we waited. It took about five hours to have doctors listen to her lungs, get a chest X-ray and an ECG reading. The only surprise was the bill: a total of $741 for all physician and hospital services. The docs held off on some tests they would have given Canadians because they knew our insurance would be unlikely to pay for them. I had to pay before we left, but in my haste I had not grabbed my VISA card, so they agreed to send me the bill to send to Blue Cross. Simple.
         While we were waiting for the X-rays, Kim asked me to get out her pad and list the new birds we saw on the river before we capsized. I told her we saw one new one, the Bank Swallow. Two if you include the Angel of Death.
         The doctors confirmed what Kim already knew: she has some water in her lungs. They heard some “crackling” when she breathes, which may be the water and may be a sign of another lung problem to check out when we return to Michigan. We were back at the motel by 11:00. We quickly toasted the Fourth of July - using Canadian Club.


That’s it. We’re still alive. We drowned

into a deeper world where we breathe
through our wounds and join all the other
drowned children alive at last.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Masks

         
            Lots of controversy about masks, at least in the United States. Therefore, as a public service I would like to shed light on the wearing of masks, so you can make an informed decision. (I left a lot of space for you to add your own suggestions.)

 Things you can do while wearing a mask:
·      Vote

Things you cannot do while wearing a mask:
·      Kiss
·      Pick your nose

Things you can do, but don’t want to, while wearing a mask:
·      Use a public restroom

Things you can do, but shouldn’t, while wearing a mask:
·      Rob a bank

Things you can get away with while wearing a mask:
·      Buy liquor if you are underaged (more disguise also needed)

Things it’s easier to do while wearing a mask:
·      Ventriloquism

Things you can do if you and someone you are with are wearing masks:
·      Look each other in the eye, deepening the connection

Things you can only do while wearing a mask:
·      Ventriloquism

Things that wearing a mask compels you to do:
·      Ventriloquism

Things you can’t do whether you are wearing a mask, or not:
·      Be sure that other people will wear their masks

Things your partner would prefer you to wear a mask while doing:
·      Shopping
·      Ventriloquism

Things that your partner would never do with you while you are wearing a mask:
·      Rob a bank

Things that the very act of unmasking makes more enjoyable:
·      Smiles

Things that continue whether or not you are wearing a mask:
·      Sunrise
·      Gardening

Things your mask might say to you if it could speak:
·      “You drink too much coffee.”

Things you can do if you don’t wear a mask:
·      Kill me, along with strangers and people you love.


Things asked when you wear a mask:
  • Who was that masked man?

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Superpowers


            In an ad for a dating service one couple-to-be asked what superpower each wanted to have. I’m not sure what answer would have landed a date (speculate here), but the question led me to ask it of myself. Here are some possibilities:

Flying. Nope. We don’t get stuck in traffic up here, and we don’t have a lot of places where we want to go. I also think about hitting bugs at low altitudes.

Invisibility. I remember at a dinner party asking everyone in turn what was their strategy to get through adolescence in their family. My answer – invisibility. But as an old guy I am pretty much invisible already, so I don’t need the superpower.

Strength. No need. I can already unscrew the lids of jars, and that’s sufficient. And I can move rocks around to landscape the yard. I would not get any credit for lid-removal if I had extra strength as a superpower.

X-Ray Vision. No real X-Rays, but the kind Superman had, allowing him to spy on Lois Lane. Not my cup of kryptonite.

Ability to Read Minds. When I asked Kim what superpower she wanted, she said it would be the ability to know what other people were really thinking and feeling. She wants to be able to read those thought bubbles that float above cartoon characters. I told her that she already had that power, and she’d have to come up with a new one. I don’t have any interest in that power – best not to know some things. Kim also added

Astral Travel. She would like to have her soul or “astral body” leave her physical body and travel anywhere she wants, so she can see “all the good stuff that is going on.” Her claustrophobia keeps her off of airplanes, so I suppose astral travel is the way to go, though I doubt you get frequent flyer points.

Infinite Coordination. When I taught The Invisible Man (H.G. Wells version), I asked my students to give themselves a superpower and describe a day in their lives. One guy, who was noticeably unathletic, gave himself “infinite coordination.” His paper didn’t work out all that well, but his concept stuck with me for over 50 years.

Immortality. (As Jonathon Swift cautioned, be sure to include as part of the deal that you don’t keep growing older.) Not sure about this one. We are looking forward to disastrous global warming with the pandemic rebooting every year, like the flu? Or will human creativity, morality and common sense win out? Ask me again in November.

Control of Election Results. Nope – this one has already been taken by the Russians.

Perfect Health. Not really a superpower, is it? Still, plenty appealing, if you disregard the envy of everyone you know.

Infinite Empathy. Nope – too painful. I might like to be friends with someone with this superpower.

Ability to Fix My Computer. Or phone. Not just fix it, but simply maintain it, use it after “upgrades,” etc. People my age know why this is a good candidate.

Time Travel. But with some restrictions: I have no interest in transporting into the future, other than mild curiosity with dystopian overtones. I would love to visit the past – ancient Greece, Renaissance Florence and London, pre-Columbian North America, the Roaring Twenties. I would also like control over when and where to travel, unlike the guy in The Time-Traveler’s Wife, who gets jerked, naked, backward and forward in time with no control. And there is the movie, About Time, where the ability to time-travel allows the protagonist do-overs when he needs them, such as for his first sexual experience, which was eventually outstanding. Yes, I think Time Travel is my superpower of choice.

            We would love to hear back from you about your superpower of choice. Please respond by email to dstring@ix.netcom.com or stringer.david13@gmail.com.


From Terry Segal:
Ability to shoot below 90 at golf

From Don Lombardi:
You would be interested to know of my friend Mohammad Sayed, a real live superhero who has created a character Wheelchair Man whose superpower is to make a person who is about to commit a crime see the consequences of the crime before committing it. See www.RimPower.org.

Forwarded from Vince Simmon:
https://www.genengnews.com/news/genomic-basis-of-bat-superpowers-could-provide-new-insights-into-coronavirus-resistance/  

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Alone / Naked and Afraid


Medical bulletin: Kim checked out perfectly on her various scans and tests – no new cancer. Also: I saw a podiatrist, who told me that I have some extra bones in my foot. This confirms what Kim has long suspected, that whoever sent me down here from some distant planet did not have a good set of instructions when they made me.

            Kim and I have been watching two television series, “Alone” and “Naked and Afraid.” In case a few of you don’t know anything about either one, here’s an overview.

            In “Alone,” 10 people, identified as “trained survivalists,” are dropped off separately in some remote location. In the two seasons we watched, the locations were the Canadian Arctic and Patagonia. They are each allowed to take 10 items, usually including such things as an axe, sleeping bag, fire-starting gizmo, primitive fishing gear, and a tarpaulin. There is no camera crew – they are entirely on their own, with no camera crew. They spend their time building their shelters, trying to get food, freezing, and missing home. Whoever lasts the longest without “tapping out” (via radio) wins $500,000. In the two series we watched, the winners lasted about 80 days.

            In “Naked and Afraid,” two strangers, a man and a woman, are dropped off somewhere, usually in the tropics, with no clothes and only one item each can choose to bring – usually a large knife/machete of some kind, and some variation of flint and steel for fire-starting – though one guy from Georgia chose to bring a roll of duct tape. They spend their time starving and dehydrating, dealing with mosquitoes, hiking with bare feet, shivering, and arguing or cooperating. The goal is to last 21 days, at which point they are “extracted.” The camera crew is present but is not supposed to help unless there is a medical emergency.

            Why do we watch these? What do we learn from watching them?

No bleeping way. I did apply to be on “Survivor” and almost made it, but that seems like a visit at a luxury resort compared to either show. Just watch the relentless mosquito attacks, or a starving person swallowing a large live worm or eating a rodent found in the stomach of a recently killed snake, and you’ll see what I mean.

Listen. About half of the time in “Naked and Afraid” the partners have serious problems getting along – despite the nakedness. They may have been paired up in a way that encourages disputes, but even so, the disputes were usually caused by failures in compassionate listening. We construct the meaning of what we hear, a filtered interpretation. When I pledged to a fraternity in college I vowed “to place the best construction on the words and deeds of my brothers.” I’ve expanded “brothers” to include, well, just about everyone. So, make a generous interpretation, even if it seems na├»ve and in violation of your egotistical needs. Some of the redneck / hippie chick pairings worked out well because folks listened openly. Many of the problems occurred because one of the pair, usually the guy, previously taught wilderness survival and insisted on explaining and leading without really listening. Nobody likes what Kim calls “the teacher syndrome” – term I’ve heard a few times and now can read in Kim’s face.

Don’t get naked. Our own version of “Naked and Afraid” means when I get naked, Kim gets afraid. And I remember what my skin doc told me years ago: “You are over 40; nobody wants to see you with your shirt off.” And that’s just the shirt, and I’m now 35 years older.

Carry matches.

Don’t drink bad water.

Value Connections. About half the people who left early on “Alone” left because they were alone and missed their families, the rest because of some combination of injury, starvation, or total discomfort largely due to cold. I’m an introvert, but need people, even if they aren’t around and we only communicate by phone, email or this blog. I was happy to have the person I love sitting with me watching the show, even if she falls asleep at times. Sartre said, famously, “Hell is other people,” and he is smarter than me, but Hell is also the absence of other people.

Appreciate the natural world. “Alone” emphasized this through the photography and the comments of the contestants, even while struggling to live there, though this appreciation seemed to diminish as starvation set in. “Naked and Afraid,” with its thorny jungles, snakes, swamps and bugs, did not make this point, though I still believe it’s true if you are not starving or pulling thorns out of your feet. At least, it’s true for me watching it on television from the comfort of my couch.

Make something. The contestants on both programs were most successful mentally if they were actively and creatively making things – snares, fish traps, improvements on the shelter, a drum, a chair, shoes. Stop doing that and you lapse into self-pity and homesickness.

Hit “Reset.” The contestants on both programs had to reset their lives to meet their survival challenges, and “reset” here does not mean restoring, with a click, a previous state. In most cases this meant an examination of their values and assumptions, and this was fascinating to watch. Winning was important to most, but as a self-test – “Naked and Afraid” survivors did not receive a prize, and though many of the “Alone” contestants were poor, most did not mention the money.

            The pandemic has given us, despite all the suffering, a chance to decide and live by what is most deeply important to us. Reset, and let’s see how we do. We are in for a longer haul than 21 or 80 days, and we don’t have a good way to “tap out.”

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Independence Day


            An old couple sits on the beach. They are looking out over the lake on the Fourth of July, using binoculars to observe all the young people in boats and in the water, having fun. The old couple enjoys it . . . for a while. Then it becomes sad.

            Kim and I, like most people, started celebrating the Fourth of July on the Third of July. We celebrated, first, by pulling weeds and trimming trees, stopping for occasional water (aka “to hydrate”). We continued our celebration by enjoying a geezer-hour early dinner featuring grilled steaks and a Caesar salad. Then we took our second small glass of wine down to our beach chairs to watch folks celebrating on Torch Lake.

            It was quite a scene, with boats of all sizes and shapes, but mainly jet skis and pontoon boats, with a few what we used to call “speed boats” thrown in. We live close to a sandbar where many of them anchor, and it was enjoyable to get out our binoculars to watch the action. For those of you who know Torch Lake, our modest sandbar is not “The Sandbar” at the southern end of the lake, an area crowded with hundreds of boats along with the noise and trash one would expect from a major party. But on this weekend, we had maybe 30 well-behaved boats with well-behaved people.

            So, there we were. The boats were filled with young people. They appeared to be in their late teens or early twenties, but at my age most people appear young. They were sitting on the decks not observing social distancing, or swimming in pairs, or zooming around on jet skis. Not many paddle boards, sailboats or kayaks – they were out earlier in the day. We noticed a lot of friends being friendly, a few drinking beer, most of them just sunning. And we were sitting there, enjoying the sights and sounds – motors, laughter, some music, the waves – feeling old and, upon reflection, a bit sad. Our families were far away. Our neighbors here are either having fun with their families or decided not to travel here because of the risk. Our closest friends in Traverse City live 40 miles away and are busy with their own lives or just being careful. We finished our wine and went back up to the house to do the dishes.

            We went down to the shore about the same time on the 4th, and again, seeing all the friends on the water having fun, we felt separated and alone. After about ten minutes we decided to start pulling weeds. Then we went inside to watch “Naked and Afraid,” feeling a bit naked and afraid.




Thursday, July 2, 2020

Grace


            Forgive me, please, for my ongoing focus on mortality. While I, of course, remain immortal, Kim has been experiencing increasing levels of pain and fatigue, even, on her worst days, “I don’t want to live any more” pain. And this past week, an occasional feeling of tightness and pain in her chest. It’s been a year since she had her mild heart “incident,” and she says this is even milder. The pain and fatigue suggest her body’s response to the possible return/growth of her cancer. We’ll find out more when we learn the results of next week’s various scans and tests.

            We’ve discussed our mortality. For the last several months we have been very cautiously practicing social distancing because Kim’s cancer treatment leads to, among other things, a compromised immune system, so we have family members tested before they visit us. But Kim has speculated, might it be better to die from Covid-19 than to die of her cancer? Death is death, of course, but the process of dying would be different with the two assaults, right? And then a few evenings ago, with some chest pain, Kim said that maybe a heart attack would be the best way of all to go – quickly, like a snap of the fingers.

            Maybe. Dying in our sleep has some appeal, true, though the Greeks preferred dying heroically in battle, followed by living on in fame (provided, of course, someone is there to notice and celebrate your heroism). But next to a heroic death, maybe a peaceful passing in sleep.

            Provided, of course, that everything has been taken care of. I told Kim that she really shouldn’t die just yet. Yes, we have taken care of our wills, etc., and sent endgame instructions to Kim’s kids. But we have planted some trees that are not yet big enough, and Kim has not yet taught me how to cook (she says I should marry someone who cooks) or clean (ditto) – though she has been trying. There’s laundry to be done. Sunrises to be witnessed and photographed. Baby ducks. The Great-crested Flycatchers need to return to be photographed. Kim is not one to quit until things are taken care of. And there a lot of people who would want to say good-bye in person, social distancing be damned, and dying suddenly would deprive them of that honor. Now is not a good time.

            Yes, being dead is tough on the person who ends up dead, largely because of all the pleasures of life that will no longer be experienced. But it can be even tougher on loved ones who confront and then live with the emptiness left when the beloved departs. As W.H. Auden put it, writing about the death of his beloved:

He was my North, my South, my East and West, 
My working week and my Sunday rest, 
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; 
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong. 

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; 
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun; 
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood; 
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

This is what I have to look forward to? Best if we stay here, together, for a while longer. I can’t tell if Kim’s pain and fatigue have improved after her “I don’t want to live any more” moment; she does not like to talk about how she is feeling, and she spends several hours per day doing gardening and/or housework. Yesterday she overdid it in the heat, and I found myself googling “heat stroke.”

               After we learn the results of next week’s various tests, we will know more about how we stand with mortality. Meanwhile, Kim continues to live, day by day and week by week, with grace, a wonderful word, don’t you think? Hemingway’s definition of courage, or guts, as “grace under pressure” seems to apply to my wife.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Solstice


            Saturday marked the Summer Solstice, which means, among other things, that our days are getting shorter. People who are my age are already aware that our days are getting shorter.

            What are we to do about it? Dylan Thomas had one idea:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
                                                            
A professor told me that Thomas was writing about his father’s impending blindness, not death, but most people think it’s about death, and so do I.

            Rage? I don’t think so. But yes, of course, sometimes rage is appropriate – we see that taking place in the streets and elsewhere, and rage certainly can be constructive. But for the most part I prefer to “go gentle,” especially the gopart. Yes, we are going into “that good night,” but we aren’t there yet. (I doubt the dead read my blog.) So: keep going, and gently, if possible.

            How do you go gentle? With empathy, kindness, patience, trust, appreciation, and some suppression of the ego. I know – these are just words, but they can help us focus.

            “That good night”? If you believe in an afterlife, then I suppose there’s a chance that the night will be “good.” But if we follow the night/death analogy, as Hamlet did, then who knows what dreams will come with our last sleep?

                                    To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.

I don’t happen to believe in an afterlife, not that any of my readers care, so I have to find my heaven or hell here and now, or perhaps create it in the here and now, rather than waiting for it in the dream-like maybe-later. So:

·      Play outside. Or work outside – what’s the difference?
·      Share a hug, even if only a cyber-hug.
·      Taste your food.
·      Make something.
·      Make a surprise phone call.
·      Do something you have been postponing.
·      Be gentle with a loved one.
·      Let go of a grudge.

            The Summer Solstice, of course, means more than the days are getting shorter. It also marks the beginning of summer. It also marks a large planetary shift, as the place where the sun rises and sets starts to move the other way on the horizon. Change is good.


            So go play outside while you can. This week Kim and I planted some trees, transplanted some flowers to a sunnier spot, pulled some weeds, moved some stones around our property, and cleaned the birdbaths. Play. And we did some reading together on the porch, occasionally glancing out the window at our Paradise.