Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘search for peace’

Solstice Day

Happy New Year!

Celestial Celebration

Celestial Celebration


In a world that follows the rhythm of the cosmos and the heartbeat of Mother Earth, tomorrow is New Year’s Day.

Today our globe reaches the point when its crooked and wobbling circuit of the sun finds the Northern Latitudes tilted away from the nuclear heart of our solar system.

It was beautiful sunrise for Solstice Day. Bright blue patches of infinity showed between streaks of billowing clouds. Classic tri-color clouds of white, blue and gray; and others painted with the pink peach of wintry dawns. Passing woods, one can see deeply into them, their floors carpeted with pristine snow, the white birches standing out like shoots of snow growing vertically. The golden copper oak leaves evoke thoughts of Christmas kitchen kettles. Frozen mists are seen at distance, hovering over Pigliavento’s sleeping greenhouses. Finally, the sun crawls over the clouds of the horizon and the lights come on for a shiny new day.

The half-moon hangs in the morning sky, upside down, out in the daytime, providing a celestial metaphor for the occasion. We are half-way around the year. As far as we can get from the greenery and flowers of summer, shirt-sleeve weather, the drama of thunder & lightning, the long evenings watching the sunset past nine o’clock.

Today, our shortest day, finds us at the extent of our solar season, far-flung and stretched like a rubber band, our globe pulling against the gravity anchor, the sun holding tight to the reins as we hurtle through space at six hundred kilometers per second, beginning the turn toward the new year.

Days get incrementally longer now, a thought I find exciting and encouraging. Solstice Day has many facets; it marks a circle closing, the circle of seasons, the circle of the year, a circle-within-a-circle of my life. Now it feels as though we are half way round. Half the leafless season of cold is past. The circle seems to get shorter, pass more quickly, each year I count. Regarding troubles, we are glad this time is behind us. Remembering joys and the magic of wonder, we are glad to have added these pages to our life book.

And now we can do that singularly-human thing: we can imagine what our future holds. For by the time I reach New Year’s Day again, that is, the next winter solstice (if I am still here), I will have lived and loved, wondered and marveled, kissed and hugged, fished and hiked and boated and camped my way through another chapter, all the way around another circle.

I count blessings and embrace the good and joy that surrounds me now. I cleave to these thoughts, never knowing what our next course around the sun will bring.

May the peace of the cosmos find you this holiday season, and may good fortune follow you throughout the year.

Look at this mess!

Look at this mess!

Happy New Year!








A life of


will not simply

Come to you and 

Adorn you like a ray of

Magic Sunshine.

It requires your 

Direct and Vigilant Participation.

You must believe it,

Believe it is and

You can make it so.

Herein lies the





On the move

On the move

A dog’s life and family are a strange thing.

Taken from their mother and siblings, and raised by a different species.

Humans have ring after ring of other humans around them. Offspring, relations, parents, family.

A dog is an island in a sea of humans.

For those who may be lost at sea, the island is hope, a respite, solid ground.

A salvation.


Seek peace,



Chow Zen #3

The wisdom of Chuy The Wonderdog


Friends Always

Friends Always


To have a Friend,

You must first be one.

– Chuy

Return to “Civilization”

Editor’s note: this is the third of a 3-part journal entry following “Sojourn” (ACZ Archive, August 2015), and “Shore Dinner DeLuxe” (ACZ Archive, September 2015). – Paz



Three days is not enough time to spend at our favorite north woods spot, Forked Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. After a camping trip of perfect weather, a Shore Dinner DeLuxe, and a great gathering of friends (and mosquitoes), Sunday morning arrived on schedule, and it was time to strike camp.

Leaving the lake for another year is a dreaded moment. I break down the tent and pack the stove, the cast iron, the lanterns. We ask each other if we’ll do any fishing before we leave, but our inner drives compel us to keep moving forward, back to the world of clocks and calendars and schedules and work. We pack the boats and head for the launch.

The boat launch at Forked lake is of the most basic type. There’s a circular gravel drive, a ten by ten foot dock, and a shallow sandy area to put in watercraft. Mostly these are canoes and kayaks. The camp site has a number of aluminum Grumman canoes you can sign out, and some folks bring small power boats like the AquaMarie. This launch is not one of those fancy ones with a paved drive, ridged concrete to help you get traction, a solid surface in the water for your trailer wheels. No, this is as basic as it gets. The drive leads to the water and the rest is up to you. It’s a bit shallow, and has a couple of boulders in inconvenient spots, but if you get right next to the dock you can back your trailer in far enough to launch or retrieve your vessel.

Fast forward past all the neat outdoorsy stuff like loading the boat with the camp gear, motoring through the marked channel to the launch area. Up to the parking lot. Fetch the Funbus, move over one lot and hook up the boat trailer. Here we drive down the gravel road to the small “traffic circle” adjacent to the launch. It’s a busy weekend in the middle of July, and Sunday at 11 am is checkout time for everyone. Not exactly mobbed, but busy.

If you’ve ever driven (or backed) a trailer hooked up to a motor vehicle, you know it takes a little room. Maybe this is obvious to people who have never pulled a trailer, or maybe they’re oblivious to the concept. A sign near the dock says “Please Do Not Block The Launch Area”. As I reach the edge of the circle, I note two cars more or less parked on the left. I’ll need to wait for them to move out of the way before I can swing the Funbus and trailer around to position for backing into the water. I wait, idling, looking. Several young folks are milling about the cars, apparently packing to leave. Guy starts sort of rearranging the trunk so things will fit in. Two cars are behind me. Gal with guy comes up, she must be driving the other car, and they begin to converse. Probably talking about where we’ll get gas or stop for lunch or who will stop at Grandma’s to pick up the cat.

Along the waterfront, the dock area is essentially full. A couple folks pick up their kayaks and load them onto roof racks. A few others pull their Grumman canoes, marked with the name of their campsite home Forked Lake, Lewey Lake, Indian Lake, out of the water and move them to the rack. Forked lake is part of what’s called a chain of lakes, the outlet of one leading to the inlet of the next. In some places you can canoe from one to the next, at others you’ll need to portage your boat and gear, usually a fairly short distance.

I’m all about being considerate of others, and following the rules of civility that allow us to get along as happy neighbors. I wait patiently for the young people to finish talking and pack their trunk. The packing is done now, and they’re still conversing. There are three cars behind me now. In the friendliest tone I can muster, I call out “Can you move those cars out of there?”. They acknowledge positively. Perhaps they didn’t realize they were clogging up traffic. A guy from a car behind me walks up to my window. Clearly another follower of the rules of civility he asks “Do you mind if I go around you? I just have to pick up my kayak over there.”, he gestures to the far left. “Oh, of course,” I reply, “Sorry to hold you up.”.

Folks are not in any hurry to clear out, but then again we’re all on vacation, so why should we rush? I continue to wait as the parked-pair youngsters are finally able to actually get in their cars and move them out of the launch driveway. Our space to the right of the dock opens as a kayaker pulls out. As I wait for the parked pair to move, one of the cars behind me pulls around and drives to the water’s edge, backing up next to the shallow spot beside the dock. Just about where I need to put the trailer.

Now I’ve been parked and waiting for what seems like about ten minutes, so I tell myself it’s probably five. I’m a bit annoyed at the person that drove around me, as if I was sitting still because I wanted to or something. Why else would I be waiting in the queue with an empty trailer, pointing at the dock? Seems obvious to me, but it doesn’t take too many letters to get from “obvious” to “oblivious”, which apparently these folks were.

Well, I can’t sit here all day, so as the parked-pair finally move out, I swing the Funbus around to position to back the trailer in. Another considerate person calls out “You need to get in here?”. Rhetorical, maybe, but considerate. He pulls his car away from the dock area, leaving just enough room to fit the trailer in the space. I begin to back the trailer delicately into the narrow opening between the dock and the inconsiderate driver and mate that end-ran me. It may crowd them a bit, but I can put this in there. Like threading a needle, I carefully inched back, considerate even of the inconsiderate, I certainly didn’t want to hit their car with the trailer!

Then, lady from inconsiderate land (the mate in the end-run car) gets out and calls to me in protest “We need to load out of here.”

Without thinking, my minor frustration boils up a bit and I ask her “Do you have a trailer?”, trying to overstate the obvious. Don’t you think I need to load out, too? Didn’t you notice the eighteen-foot long empty trailer behind me? Why do you think I was sitting there waiting for all these other cars? They’re driving a tiny car, so they could have only a canoe or kayak which they need to lift to the roof anyway. Couldn’t they carry it six more feet, and move over, and let me in? I was here first.

With that, lady end-run moves over and stands next to their car, behind my trailer, so I can’t continue to back in next to them.

Herein lies my Armchair Zen lesson for this trip. After all my study, after all my meditation and self-talk, after three peaceful days in one of the quietest places in the state, it took just one incident in the first half-hour of my return to civilization for me to feel frustration, aggravation.  For me to speak out in a somewhat inconsiderate tone.

So there I sit. Perhaps fumes could be seen coming from my ears. Perhaps my wrinkled old face bore a scornful look. I may even have been talking to myself.

Up to my driver’s window saunters Old Guy. I’m kinda old guy myself, of course, but this guy was a little older, and perhaps wiser. Perhaps further on the zen path than me.

“Please don’t block the launch area.” he says, in a sort of mild tone. I begin to respond with the tale of denied water access, and before I can get too worked up, I realize his statement was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I think he said it just loud enough and in the direction of the End-Run couple. Then he launched into a tale of how he’d been coming here for 30 years. Wasn’t this crowded when he started coming here. There were bear poles instead of bear safes (a 12-foot pole with a pulley, up which you would hoist your food at night to keep it from the bears). His friend would travel around the lake to the campsites with coolers of food, delivering to people who wanted to keep food (and bears) in the camp to a minimum. His voice was soft and smooth as he spoke. His reverence for the lake, the campsite, his joy at being here 30 years later, nearly beamed from his face. He kept me engaged and distracted as the End-Run gang ploddingly loaded their little car with belongings. I was waiting for him to reach out and place his hand on my forearm, as friends do, and was forced by circumstance and civility and a little awe-struck wonder to listen to the old man. To respond to his observations. “Really?” “Wow.” “No kiddin’?”

Just as Old Man is offering warm regards and taking his leave, the End-Run gang finishes their packing and adds the final insult. Leaving the car parked at the waterfront, they walk over and pick up a Forked Lake aluminum Grumman canoe, and carry it up to the rack. They didn’t even need to pick up a boat!

For hours afterward, the inconsiderate actions of the End-Run gang kept milling about in my head. Nearly ruined my ride home, one of my favorite parts of the trip. Driving through The Adirondack Park, hauling a boat, feeling and looking like the All-American sportsmen camper. I stopped at the Blue Mountain Lake Store to pick up a souvenir, a token gift for my wife, staying comfortably at home, and willing to tolerate my trips to childlike adventure with the boys in the woods.

The actions of the Old Man became clearer as I rode. He must have been an Armchair Zen master himself, no doubt. Clearly he could see I was frustrated or offended, he could see that animosity was brewing. He knew there was little point in addressing the End-Run gang. Maybe they’re not a lost cause, but certainly they would not accept commentary or criticism with a zen mind. More likely they might be confrontational, defensive. At any rate, they were not in a good place to learn a zen lesson, perhaps.

It’s my hope that Old Forked Lake Man could see. Perhaps he could see the light of my enlightenedness even when I was blind to it. Perhaps he could see that here is a person that may be able to benefit from a little redirection, and a moment to allow enlightened thought to re-enter my brain. Here is someone ready for a zen lesson.

He was right. I learned that I am but a child at the beginning of my zen walk. While I think of myself as far down the path of the way, I’m really still a construct of my life before the path. Before the age of 50 or so, before it occurred to me there was another way to view the cosmos and all that is in it. The lessons are obvious in hindsight.

Anger and judgment have no place on the path. So they were inconsiderate? Isn’t that judgement? So I was made to wait. Is anger the right response?

A place at peace

A place at peace

I will think of the End-Run Gang incident, and of the Old Man of Forked Lake often.

A peaceful place should be filled with peaceful people.

And don’t we ultimately want the whole world, the entire cosmos, to be a peaceful place?

Peace is in the eye of the beholder, so to speak.

Thank you, Old Man.

I will study your lesson well, and hold it close to my heart.


Seek Peace,



My Cosmos

The Corner Star

The Corner Star

When I take the time to remember that this is My Cosmos, relief washes over me.

The world of this creature on this green rock is downright bizarre compared to the consistent, predictable, unhurried pace of the universe.

No need to run to the Corner Star before it closes because it burns always, with enough fuel to run four billion more years or so.

By then, it’ll be of no concern to me or my kin.

In spite of the seemingly-fantastic speeds, vast expanses measured, unfathomable numbers expressed using the mechanical and mathematical terms of the species trapped on a single tiny planet, the cosmos will not be rushed.

You and I cannot compel it to finish the Quasar before our vacation. We can’t postpone or reschedule the meteor shower due to cloud cover over North America. We can’t call in and skip the crash of our galaxy into the next as we hurtle through space at six hundred kilometers per second on a collision course.

And so, with relief, I said aloud to the sky, “Well, this is My Cosmos. I’ll do whatever I want with it.” I may seize the day or let it pass. I can fritter away the minuscule ration of hours afforded me. Trapped here inside this mind, on this planet, in this wondrous thing called life and time, complete and total freedom awaits me.

“The world is your exercise book.” roughly paraphrasing Richard Bach in Illusions.

You’re free to write your reps, or write lies, or scribble, or tear out the pages.

Go ahead. It’s Your Cosmos.


Be at peace,



Read yourself

Seeking my armchair zen, which has felt a bit elusive in recent days, I returned to some older posts for inspiration.

Re-reading myself, I communicated well with me, and I understood the points so clearly.  🙂

Look back a couple of years, or even a few months. See what you were thinking.

“Then” me forwarded a welcome word to “now” me. To wit:

From here my life seems big.
Before long, in a cosmic sense, it will be as the flash of the death of a star or birth of a galaxy. As unremarkable as the events of a billion years ago.
It brings me such peace to know that all my “worries”, all my errors and shortcomings, don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy cosmos.


Feeling better already.


Be at peace,



Brave New World

These days I seek to simplify. Like Thoreau at Walden, I’m not entirely removed from my local world, but surrounded by it.

I see people, the masses, by and large, hurling themselves daily through a Brave New World, in many ways unrecognizable from the world of my youth, a brief half-century ago.

Everyone must work now, it seems. There are few Moms these days. I mean old-fashioned Moms like June Cleaver, my mother, the Mom on Father Knows Best.

Not to begrudge women their opportunity to be a “whole” person unto themselves, capable of doing truly great things in our world. Discovery, Leadership, Industry, Medicine, Education. It appears, however, that most of this working is born of necessity. “We need the money. There’s no way we could do this without both of us working.” (The ultimate irony: complaints about the cost of daycare, which consumes much of the second check.)

I’m not sure I don’t hear some degree of selling out in these statements. Things were not “easier” back in the when. When Harold and Marie welcomed their boy into the Brave New World of 1959.

Moms were home when I was growing up. I wonder how many people, if any, realize the great and simple value in that. Moms were always there.

Whether it was my Mom, available at a moment’s notice to find another hat, serve an extra sandwich for a lunch guest, bandage a boo-boo or give us a quarter to take to the General Store at McMurray’s boat livery. Keith’s Mom was home at Keith’s house, and Randy’s Mom was home at Randy’s house. We didn’t even need to think about it. In the event of any calamity or emergency, large or small, someone’s Mom was standing by for rescue.

Nowadays it’s a complex mix of afternoons at the Youth Rec Center or Daycare Provider, (in the old days we called that “babysitting”), or an after-school program for latchkey kids. Moms arrive home with Dads at 5:30. When we raised our kids, Mom stayed home until they went to school. After that, Mom got a job that allowed her to put kids on the bus in the morning, then greet them as they disembarked in the afternoon.

The difference, it seems, is that the children I thought I grew up with apparently never grew up. Somehow, I’m the only one of my childhood contemporaries that has made the leap to full-on adulthood. You know, adulthood, where we take most seriously our duty and obligation to our families. The Adult-hood of my world is a direct result of observing the adult-hoods of the adults around me as I grew up.

Adults work hard and save their money. They save their money to buy a house one day (if that’s your preference). They bought Savings Bonds for babies that would mature when junior was ready for college (or a car and a job). They saved their money for two years for the family vacation. They vacationed at the cabin on the lake a hundred miles from home, or the Jersey shore, two hundred miles from home. They didn’t charge three thousand dollars to a credit card to fly the whole family to Florida to see Mr.Disney’s park. (Okay, so, Mr.Disney’s park was only in California in 1965, I think). They saved four hundred dollars to drive to Old Forge, New York, to Frontier Town. Or saved two hundred dollars which was enough for gas for the boat and food for two weeks of camping on Scout Island.

Adults handled their money responsibly. They didn’t spend three hundred dollars on a new iPhone while complaining the School Tax was too high. They didn’t run up credit debt equivalent to a year’s salary then call the debt consolidator. They kept the old car for another year, or bought another used one with the money they had. They didn’t run out every three years to roll over their lease on a brand new Jetta, all the while complaining that Town Taxes were too high.

Nowadays, it seems the adults just never grow up. They’re buying toys for themselves (as well as for their kids) as quickly as they can be released. While literally reliving their childhoods by purchasing every item for which the whim strikes them, they’re also apparently making up for their own less-than-perfect childhoods that did not include hundreds of dollars in the bank and thousands available on credit cards. Meanwhile, they vicariously re-live and repair their tainted, impoverished childhoods (a time when you didn’t have a TV in your room {GASP!}, when you waited for the first day of school or a birthday to get new clothes {those poor children}, or when you didn’t have your own phone and computer {what’s a computer?})

Our boys had friends in their class that lived not far away, brothers. They lived with their Dad, kids of divorce. For every birthday and Christmas, our boys would regale us with the tales of lavish gifts bestowed upon these kids. My guess is their parents were trying to relieve some guilt by spoiling the kids a little. Frankly, I’m for spoiling kids within reason. Remember how much we love them?

But these kids seemed to get everything all at once. Things our kids wanted but hadn’t received yet. A shelf stereo, a boombox, a Walkman, a Nintendo game, a mountain bike, a thirteen-inch color TV for their room. These things were “regulated” in our house. You could get a Walkman if you were over ten. You had to wait ’til thirteen for the shelf stereo or TV in your room. And a telephone extension in your room? My daughter counted the minutes until her fifteenth birthday when she could have one. (google “extension phone” to find out what it was. You may have to add the word “wired”. Or maybe “antique”.)

Partly it was money. We literally could not afford to go out and buy everything a child would ask for. Partly it was the simple life, and the simple concept of having something to look forward to. We reasoned that there would be no “big present” for Christmas at twelve, fourteen and sixteen if we gave them everything before their tenth birthday.

I blame the Simpsons. The mother and father are dolts, and Bart the insolent smart-mouth. I love the show and the humor and the laughs and even Bart, but it seems that show was the catalyst for change. Pre-Simpsons, children respected their parents and their parents’ authority more. Some out of fear, but many out of honor for their parents, traditions, civility. Kids were expected to be respectful of adults (and- brace yourself—polite!) Grandfather was the patriarch, the wise old man. Even if grandfather was fading into his twilight of life, he was respected for going to war for liberty, for building the American Industrial Machine, for being a part of The Greatest Generation, taking our country from the aftermath of the Civil War, Gold Rush expansionism, Teapot Dome, Seward’s Folly, the Great War and the depression to the height of free democracy and economics, all the way to the moon!

In a post-Simpsons’s world it seems nothing is sacred, no one is immune from biting sarcasm and harsh ridicule. Respect appears to be garnered only by the rich and famous and beautiful. Rappers, Sports Superstars, Super models, movie stars, dot-com billionaires, the Bill Gateses and Mark Zuckerbergs.

Sadly, this has become the life view of so many children, and now the grown children (I hesitate to use the term Adults), of the Simpsons’ generation.

In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley takes us to the year 2540. The book, published in 1931, observes modern man and all he has become, and relates a sort of Tarzan tale of finding a primitive people that live the way they had centuries ago. The primitive man marvels at the Brave New World, but the modernistas also marvel at the primitive one, unveiling subtleties that may have been lost in the conversion to modernity. Primitive man finds the New World too fast, impersonal, cold, filled with rules that appear to have left the human touch behind.

Simultaneously, Modern Man in the story travels to the primitive place, an oasis that missed modernization, and discovers that people are closer to animals than machines. The things deemed important in the visceral primitive world are people, babies, community, fairness, solidarity, art, appreciation of nature and beauty, and other things long-forgotten in the twenty-sixth century.

So, Orwell’s 1984 has come and gone. Lost In Space, set in 1997, is retro in reruns. Strange Days, a futuristic story of the millenium, is 16 years old now.

We have a long way to go to get to 2540 (if we do).  Let’s all re-read the book now, and see if we don’t want to pause and think of the things we’re discarding.

Put away your credit card, snuggle in with your kids, and have a good old-fashioned read. Let’s see if we can’t shape a better Brave New World.


Seek Peace,



The Gentleman May Be Excused

I don’t claim to have multiple personality disorder, but there seems to be several of me inside my head. In ACZ, we talk about You and You2.

You is the outward conscious person we all know, and You2 is the other side of your brain. Call it the Id, call it subconscious, call it Spongebob Squarepants if you want, we all have this inner and instinctive self. You2 interprets things based on the data stored in memory banks, typically personal experience.

Your conscious and active brain deals regularly with You2. In fact, the decision-making process in your brain is actually a debate between You and You2. How is a decision made? Why don’t we just do the thing we’re thinking, the thing we want to do? What makes us stop and assess?

When you get an idea to do something, there’s an instinct in your brain that makes You2 play devil’s advocate. You2 squares off with You like two barristers in court. You2 will start thinking and generating all the reasons you should not do this thing. The rest is a natural process of your brain saying “Yeah, I’m pretty sure this is what we want.”, and You2 saying “Well, did you consider [fill the blank]?”. This sparring will take place on a scale equivalent to the importance and gravity of the decision. This is why we may agonize for hours, days or weeks over some decisions, while others seem to get processed quickly.

Back to multiple personalities. Maybe that’s not the right term. Maybe “many voices”, but that sounds a little like auditory hallucination. Maybe there’s some “inner self” and “looking-glass self” terminology that fits. To me, it seems like “the many me’s”. Perhaps it’s moods, perhaps everyone does the same thing.

Sometimes,  a member of the cast of characters pops right into my head. There’s the bristly old guy most likely to be worried. About money, about work. About repairs and chores and things that go unfinished. There’s the Armchair Zen Master, able to breathe deeply and transit troubles with philosophy, inner peace. There’s the cranky old bastard that still jumps out now and then to proclaim annoyance with a driver that doesn’t follow the rules.

Lately I’ve been training myself to recognize these voices, these me’s, these You2’s. First I started to try to bar the undesired ones. Change the subject. Cognitive behavioral therapy. When the worst would try to sneak through, I’d say “Don’t bring that guy.”.


Then along came a post on dhamma footsteps ( where the author, tiramit, explains metta.  In Loving Kindness for the Critical Mind, and Loving-kindness For The Unloved, the concept of thinking and expressing loving kindness, acceptance and forgiveness for one’s faulted inner self is conveyed. It never occurred to me to use my own armchair zen on You2 and the Many Me’s. Since then, I’ve tried to “see them” as being equally deserving of the compassion and understanding that would be extended to others.

The battle continued in my cognitive behavioral therapy. Now, instead of “Don’t bring that guy!”, as if in court, I’d say “The Gentleman may be excused.”.

This worked okay for a little while, until I heard myself repeating “The gentleman may be excused!”, often out loud. It seemed that it would be a long, long haul, working constantly on the conditioned response, expelling the inner voice only to have it return. This particular “voice”, this component of the Many Me’s inside my head, is a remnant of young adulthood. It is the memory and guilt associated with shameful behaviors of the time. Still, it was me. We’ll call him MOB (for miserable old bastard).

This kept up for a considerable time. Expelling MOB, his return, repeated expulsion, finally rising to “The witness is expelled! Barred from the proceedings!” Now that would work in the physical world, but since MOB lives inside my head, where could he go? I thought more about metta, and tiramit’s examples and observations of extending loving-kindness to the unloved, and the unlovable. Poor old bastard, he has no where else to go. He’s done his time for his sins, and has a regular life now. Why does he still wear his prison stripes and hang his head? Sure, he was guilty. Admitted guilt when called out. Done all the right things since then. Has he no one to love him? If he can’t go anywhere, don’t we need to learn how to tolerate and understand him?

Then, the imaginary voice in the imaginary courtroom inside my cognitive behavioral workshop decreed (I swear I don’t know where it came from—well, yeah, I do, it came from deep within You2. A place and person that is in some ways much wiser than myself) He is a ward of the court.”

For a moment I was nearly speechless. Stunned. Dramatic, yes, but also so simple, and in fact, the real truth. I can’t silence MOB, nor can I ban him from my mind. I can, however, understand that I am responsible for “him”. There is no where else to go and the past can’t be changed. “We” simply need to figure out how to accommodate MOB moving forward.

Well, maybe I am a little unmoored in this area. Imagining a court in which the Many Me’s may be judged, or bring witness against those that must be. And the judge? Demanding and grueling on the bench in spite of flaws in “his” personal life. Straightest arrow we can get.

Like writing a screenplay, the scene plays out. In remanding custody of MOB, the court has drawn the 30-year case to a close. MOB suddenly has a home and a resolution of the accusations repeatedly flung. No more trial. No more sentencing. The gentleman may be excused, but is not required to leave the court room.

MOB sits in a chair off to the side, between the bailiff and the jury box. For a moment, his countenance displays a sudden confusion. “What just happened? It’s over? And someone is willing to take me, accept me as I am, as I have come to be?”

The gavel raps. Bang, bang. “Court dismissed!”.

MOB hangs “his” head and cries.

“I” place a hand on “his” shoulder.

We retire from the courtroom together.


Be at peace,



As Bob Lies Dying

My brother-in-law, my sister’s husband, is dying from cancer.


My Sisters, circa 1970

My Sisters, circa 1970

There are lots of details of how it started five years ago with a simple skin cancer. Treatments. Recurrence. Spreading. Treatments.

Now he is leaving the hospital after his kidneys began to fail. He’s going home, to finish his journey “on his own terms”, as my nephew, his son, states.

Not only a beloved family member, but a contemporary. Just a few years older than my wife and I. Stuck in denial? It’s unreal. It’s unfathomable.

I’ve always looked up to and admired Bob, since I met him when I was about 16. I remember the first time I saw him. My sister Bonnie and I were driving through Johnstown and there he was, playing basketball on an outdoor court.

“There’s Bob!” Bonnie screamed as she saw him, turning down the volume on the rendition of “Bobby’s Girl” she played repeatedly.

We couldn’t stop right away because she’d just finished a cigarette, and Bob hated cigarettes. We hit the drug store for soap and breath mints.

Thirty-plus years later, Bob lies dying.

Bob is a third-generation farmer, but a college-educated one. A degree from Cobleskill Ag & Tech. When his father got out of the dairy business, Bob went to work for the town and stayed there until retirement.

He was cantankerous, sarcastic and flawless. He never smoked, and drank little.

When they were married, Bob, along with help from friends of all kinds, built the house he and Bonnie would call home, (I mean he built it, he didn’t have it built for him) eventually filling it with a girl and a boy and dogs and cats over the years.

Bob went down to the creek and hand-picked the stones to build the double-faced fireplace, the centerpiece of the living room and kitchen.

I guess I really don’t simply look up to and admire Bob, but am in awe.

As I grew into a young man, Bob’s example was quite a high bar to reach for. Like great people from history, Lincoln, King, Kennedy, Salk, I always felt that Bob was one of those people whom I could never equal. I could never be all the things Bob was, but I could try to emulate as best as I could.

Now, Bob lies dying.

These days are fractured. At work I am distracted by demands, and the pace of the day engulfs me. A tech calls for support and I run to the parts room. FedEx Freight is on the line about shipping from Houston. Someone relates an anecdote and I laugh. Then I remember. How can we be laughing? Bob lies dying.

At home I fall into the routines of daily life. Filling the pellet stove. Letting the dog out. Letting the dog in. Then I remember. How can these things fill my mind while Bob lies dying?

I drive to work. I drive home. I think of Bob as he lies dying. I think of my sainted mother, our dear late friend Mary Mone, her husband Frank. How life and work and laughter and driving and letting dogs in and out just continues as we lay dying, as we entomb our loved ones and friends, as the flowers on the graves fade and wither and are removed by cemetery caretakers.

I think of my own death, my own funeral. How strange it is to think that family and friends will be mourning my passing (perhaps), while all around them and dead me the world will keep going. It won’t hesitate for a moment. It will make little difference to anyone other than the undertaker.

With this thought I am kindred with Bob. And all the Bobs and dead me’s that have come before us. We are never ready to say goodbye.

And the world and the pellet stoves and the dogs and FedEx carry on. It’s a strangely warm sensation that they will continue with nary a skipped heartbeat for those that still have them. The world will keep spinning, and the universe expanding. Babies will be born, Bonnies will be married. Bobs will build homes.

Many years ago, behind the hearse in a procession of cars a mile long, we wound our way to the cemetery. The procession moves slowly, as if it helps to slow down the parting, spread out the pain and loss. Someone at the back of the line was not in the procession. They peeled out and raced past the cars and the hearse, on their way to work or responding to an ambulance call or going to see their sister’s new-born baby. Even in that moment was an understanding that we can’t all join in the procession. The world can not slow down because you died.

And I am writing blog posts and approving overtime and buying Gravy Bones for the dog and I remember.

How can we write and approve and shop as Bob lies dying?

In New Orleans, the band plays jazz ahead of your casket as it wends its way to the cemetery. I don’t know much else about a creole funeral, but I know it embraces the concept of celebrating a life as we move the decedent to their final rest.

My mind is fogged with all of these thoughts. In little glimpses, my armchair zen reveals lessons learned. The sense of the constant and timeless universe. The sense that we are all but specks on a speck of a rock in a far-flung galaxy arm. We come and go as through a revolving door and the universe is unaffected.

Still, something in my upbringing, my life, my past, my desire and attachment, feels impending loss despite conscious efforts to navigate this in a learned and wise fashion. Now is the time to bring all my living and zenning and caring to my sister and Bob. Their kids. Their grandkids. There is work to be done. I must go now.

As Bob lies dying.


Seek peace,



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