Saturday, January 31, 2009


Sometimes it's a hot pizza, fresh from the oven. Or a beautiful, sunny day spent with friends. A warm bath. Hugging someone you care about. Laughter shared with friends. Coming home. Getting off the ski lift at the top of the mountain on a powder-perfect day. Dancing in the kitchen. A crisp, tart apple.

A dog that wags its tail when it sees you. Buttered toast. An old pair of jeans that fit like nothing else you own. A book you can't put down. The previews before the feature movie. A cat in your lap. Root beer popsicles. Coming out of Penn Station onto 7th Avenue. Sitting on the porch during a thunderstorm. Sleeping late. Getting up early. Pinot noir. Stacking firewood. Fresh salad. Getting snowed in. Pinky-red tulips.

Slippers. Flannel sheets. Dinner out. Dinner in. A freshly mowed lawn. Cranberry-orange relish. Smooth stones. Finding $20 in your coat pocket. Dawn. Singing to the radio when you're alone in your car. Fresh linens. A good sharp kitchen knife. Wearing socks in bed. Chickadees. Coleman Valley Road. Cleaning stalls. Hot chocolate.

Longer days. Shorter nights. A freshly mopped kitchen floor. The smell of baking bread. Fancy, imported soap. Fine old furniture. Red foxes. Gin and tonic with lime.

Two eggs, over easy. Warm socks. Leftover birthday cake.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New Day

It is a season of changes.

Longer days, shorter nights. A new administration, arriving in the midst of chaos, with high ambition and even higher hopes. A layoff and reorg at my day job (which is fast becoming my only job, as resources diminish and my responsibilities increase). Friends in transition from marital harmony to marital discord, and—hopefully--from illness to health.

Change has no intention, it just is. The judgments about change are our own: sometimes we are fearful about what lies ahead, sad at leaving behind things as they were, or confused when we don’t know which decision is the right one to make. On the other hand, change also makes the moon rise and the sun set. It makes our gardens and our children grow. And it brings us all the opportunity to let go of what what was, to make things better in our lives and in the world.

"The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep."

-- Rumi, translated by John Moyne and Coleman Barks

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

We all drank the Kool-Aid.

I used to live in a house that was 150 years old. When I moved in, one of the issues was closet space: the closets, such as they were, were tiny. In the middle of the 19th century, working class people didn’t have a lot of clothes. They had clothes for work and clothes for church, and that was it. If they were lucky, they had more than one or two pairs of shoes.

My closet today is huge by those standards, and full of sweaters, slacks, dresses, shoes. I haven’t worn some of those clothes for years. Most days, if I’m not in my riding gear, I wear a pair of my favorite jeans and a t-shirt (summer) or turtleneck (winter). There are a couple of fleece jackets I like to wear on cold days. Most of the other stuff in the closet sits idle, brought out for the occasional wedding, funeral, or night out.

When I go to a shopping mall, I’m amazed at all of the crap people sell that other people buy. Who needs all of this stuff? They say our economy is suffering right now because many of us are cutting way back on our spending. What that really means is that we’re buying only what we need—and most of us already have much more than we need, or want.

How did we all get here, with our houses full of clothes we don’t wear, dishes we don’t use, books we don’t read (or won’t read again), vases, candlesticks, old cassette tapes, mismatched pots and pans, and lots of plastic: bottles, storage containers, bags, toys, unused kitchen utensils, etc.? When you stop to think about it—and look at all that you own, right now—it’s overwhelming. And appalling.

How did we acquire all of this stuff? Why did we want it? Why do we keep it?

(Imagine that we all buy only what we truly need. Could our economy survive? Could we?)