Sunday, September 27, 2009

How to Turn an Old Story into a New Story

It all depends on how you look at it.

How many times have you said this to someone? It's one of those throw-away conversational elements that usually serves as a segue into expressing your own opinion about whatever is being discussed.

And what about when someone says it to you? What feelings does your body register when you hear those words?

My bet is that somewhere--and probably around the area of your solar plexus--you feel a tightening. A slight but perceptible tingling sensation spreads outward from there, and every little wavelength carries this message to your brain: I already know how I look at it. You're welcome to your opinion, but you're not going to change mine.

Think of Babe, the little pig, and her la la la singing voice--that's what your brain is doing to new information once you have made up your mind. You're not going to tell Babe to stop singing--you're too polite to do that. But you're certainly not going to listen. Your fingers are in your ears--la la la.

There is something in the world of counseling called narrative therapy. One of its assumptions is that the person isn't the problem: the problem is the problem. Narrative therapy suggests that this problem can be identified in the story a person tells about her life as much from the way she tells it as from the story itself.

Therefore, the theory goes, it is possible to address the problem by re-writing the story of your life to create a richer, more complex narrative that broadens and enriches your sense of self. In this manner, you build a larger context, a stronger foundation, for the memory you find problematic. You gather more information about yourself, which leads to more clear understanding.

What does this mean? It means that it--your life--really does depend on how you look at it.

I am not talking about retroactively assigning motives to someone who injured you in the past. Nor am I suggesting you redefine the emotional response you had when something happened to you. In fact, to the contrary.

If, for example, you feel overwrought because someone has taken advantage of you, your story to yourself might go something like this:

I have given her everything she has ever asked me for; I've helped her before she even knew she needed help, with my time, my money, my (fill in the blank)--and now instead of thanking me, she's angry at me because this time I won't give her (fill in the blank). I am generous by nature, but it hurts me when she tries to dictate the terms of my generosity: and now when I won't give her what she wants when she wants it, she gets angry at me. After everything I've done for her. I feel stupid. She's been taking advantage of me all these years and I didn't even see it.

You lick your wounds. You question your motivation: was I really just trying to help? Did I have ulterior motives? Was there a little bit of schadenfreude involved that made me feel happy about her pain and my ability to be generous in her time of need? Am I a big fat phony? Is she calling me on my own self-deception?

This is where you can stop the cycle. This is where it depends on how you look at it.

You can see that while you did give and give and give, you did it out of your desire to be helpful. Your desire to be helpful is good; however, you may have acted on it in the past with a limited understanding of how to take care of your own needs at the time. You may have thought that you were obligated to be generous in order to be a good person. You may have felt responsible to help because you always helped in the past, so how could you stop now? Or--did you feel guilty because you had so much more than the person you were trying to help?

You can continue to ask yourself questions about a past behavior in this manner. At some point, you will come to see that there is a more complex story line around the topic than the one you are accustomed to telling yourself. Am I a phony? becomes How can I continue to be generous without hurting myself?

You can, in other words, investigate an incident in your own past the way a good investigative reporter sinks her teeth into a story: follow all leads, don't make assumptions, don't draw conclusions until you have enough evidence to do so.

This can mean looking at your own memories. It can mean going back to your old journals. It can mean asking friends or family members to tell you their memories around an event. Whatever you can do to expand your understanding of something (without putting yourself at risk for further pain--I'm not sure I'd start this process by going to the person directly involved in the memory you're trying to come to terms with) is going to help you weave a larger piece of cloth in which your memories can be embedded. You can come to see that everything you have done in your life was related to everything around it; you can bring that new awareness of interconnectedness into your life today.

You can write a more complex narrative. You can tell yourself a new story about your life, a story that helps you grow in wisdom and compassion, away from self-blame and hostility toward others.

It all depends on how you look at it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Postmodernism and the Human Heart

There is something called the all-purpose saddle. The sides, called flaps, of the saddle do not go straight down to accommodate the elegant, nearly straight leg of the dressage rider; nor do they extend far enough forward to accommodate the bent knees of a rider who takes her horses over jumps. Instead, the flaps of an all-purpose saddle land somewhere in the middle, neither too far forward nor too straight. (The black saddle is a Passier dressage saddle; the brown, a Stuebben jumping saddle. Comparing the two, you can imagine what an all-purpose saddle looks like.)

Sitting an all-purpose saddle is actually a hindrance to equestrians of all disciplines. A dressage rider cannot extend her leg and drop her heel correctly; a jumper cannot place her knee forward enough to maintain her two-point balance. Most riders think an all-purpose saddle is a saddle that is good for nothing, for the simple reason that it tries to be all things to all people.

It may as well be called the postmodern saddle, because it pretends there is no validity to the question: is there a right way to do something? It pretends that whatever you want to think is fine, and that perspectives are equally valuable, and that the question of definition is supercilious: who is to say what riding dressage or going over a jump actually is, anyway? Are you implying that your way of viewing reality is superior to my way of viewing reality? is the unspoken question to anyone who states a preference. It allows a person who believes in the all-purpose saddle to hold her head up high. This is very different, however, from actually riding a horse.

How is this way of thinking an improvement over the contentious pondering done by early theologians in their debates about how many angels could sit atop the head of a pin? Postmodernism is a flurry of focused thought, but it is not taking place in the classroom of life where actual learning occurs. It is a diversion, off the point, an extra-credit hobby class that mistakes itself for core curriculum.

Still, we seem collectively to agree today that the correct perspective on existence is the postmodern point of view that includes infinite variability. Our zeitgeist is postmodern. We believe that time moves in one direction, and that what comes later is better than what came before. Postmodernism, therefore, is better than, say, The Enlightenment, as if to say history truly were an every-widening gyre, like the flight of the falcon in search of her prey (images extracted from the work of W. B. Yeats).

But which is better for the falcon: to seek the prey, which comes first, or catch the prey, which comes later? Put that way, it's easy to see how senseless the question is. So why do we assume that on the path of our development, postmodernism is better than any other historical perspective on human existence? It's just the philosophical version of the all-purpose saddle: the fact that someone invented it doesn't make it worthwhile. The fact that it came later doesn't make it better.

All points of view may be equally valid in that everyone has a right to think whatever she thinks. But that's where postmodernism has to stop. In our personal lives, we must choose what we believe, where we will put our energy and our faith. We must stand for something, not everything. We declare what is valuable to us and what is not. There is no such thing as an all-purpose belief.

A friend of mine died unexpectedly last weekend. He was here, he was healthy, and now he is gone. If he could come back for one hour, do you think he would go to his desk, pull out all his files, and rush in a fever against the ticking clock to be certain all his facts were straight, that his arguments were persuasive, that his points were clear and inarguable? That everyone would be impressed by everything he ever did?

Or would he sit with his beloved wife in the garden, holding her hand?

Eventually we will come to our senses, and all-purpose/no-purpose postmodernism will blow away to reveal once again the human heart that beats in us all.

Postscript: If you ride with an all-purpose saddle, please understand I am not sitting in judgment. The metaphor of the all-purpose saddle in this essay is based in my own personal experience of riding dressage.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

RIP: Chris McCarthy, 1952-2009

I woke up this morning to the news of the death of an old friend.

I bow my head.

My feelings don't translate to thought. They rush to fill every crevice, like a flash flood in a canyon. Until the surge passes, nothing matters but the tormented rush of water in its most powerful, most insistent form.

The canyon will re-emerge in time. Battered, it will need a season to refurbish. Flora and fauna will appear. To those who have never seen it before, it will look, simply, like a canyon.

But it is changed. Those who know the transformed canyon know this because they hold in their memories the time before the flood, and they see the tracings it left behind.

And now they sit in mindfulness, present to any moment under the sun when there is new growth and the flutter of birds. They know another flood will come another time to reshape the canyon once more, and then again, until floods and rain and wind eventually blow it to dust, and the dust becomes part of something else, and the cycle is renewed.

This is my moment to remember Chris McCarthy. Chris is the name of the flood now scouring the canyon walls.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

For My Father, Who Would Have Been 87 Today

People say of someone who is no longer here: not a day goes by that I don't think of him. It's a way to express love, to say you think about a person every day. I don't say that about my father.
It doesn't capture how much I miss him.

Standard-issue words won't hold the thoughts and feelings in my life that relate to my father, my mentor, my first best friend.

I can't separate us. Not only does my love of the natural world, and gardening in particular, connect us, but within that, our preferences, predilections, aesthetics. The spicy green scent of crushed geranium is home to me no matter where I encounter it (pelargoniums, we now know, but in those days we called them geraniums). I am once again my father's Sidekick (for such was my nickname) in the San Francisco Bay Area, where anything is possible at any moment.

One of my father's geraniums got away from him. In a herculean spurt brought on by the most perfect confluence of soil, light and water, this particular plant reached a diameter at its trunk (imagine a pelargonium with a trunk!) that was so thick my father could not get his hands around it, and mine fit around it the way your ears fit around your head. It was taller than I was, and I was just about right for a girl in the first grade.

Then there was the fire in the bamboo grove. Dad built a clay and stone fire pit into the side of an embankment which he outfitted with a grill. We didn't just barbecue. We cooked outside, and somehow dad's grill made it all a big adventure.

One day sparks escaped and lit the dry interior leaves of the bamboo he had recently brought home and planted ("Bamboo is actually a large grass," he explained. "Who do you think has to mow it?" I asked. "Maybe Paul Bunyan," he suggested,"and if the grass is this tall, how big do you think the ants might be?"). Flames erupted immediately in the bamboo tinder.

In an instant, we were no longer cooking outdoors. We were firemen! The hose! The buckets! Keep the little ones away! We did it. We overcame the blaze. The bamboo lived to sprawl indefinitely, and it would have overtaken the entire garden if it had not been surgically removed several years later.

He brought me many things: cotton bolls from a field in Mississippi; candy that looked just like rocks from Las Vegas; Sequoia sempervirens pinecones that were over a foot long from the mighty Redwood Forest. The best thing he ever presented to me was the Indian washing rock.

It was round, somewhat flattened, and it sparkled slightly with the mica inclusions you see in California granite. This particular rock had rumbled through riverbanks for millenia: it was perfectly smooth on every surface, and perfectly symmetrical.

How did I know it was an Indian washing rock? Easy. From all our visits to the Spanish missions that dot California, we knew many little facts about the native populations whose land we lived upon. We knew what they ate. How they diapered their babies (shredded bark and cattails). How they sewed their garments with sinews. We also knew how they washed those garments: crouched by the edge of the river, with the clothing submerged, women pounded and pounded with round river rocks until the garments were clean.

There are many tons of river rocks in California that could serve this purpose. Any one of them, now discarded, could have been brought into service at one point or another and later forgotten until my father found it.

But he found this particular rock because it had a red and blue Indian design on it. What good fortune! And he brought it home to me.

I was overwhelmed to have an actual artifact in my hands. Immediately, I wanted to share my excitement by bringing it to school on Monday.

"Well," my father said, "it might be a better idea to keep it here and protect it--respect it. What if you brought it to school and something happened to it?"

"Something like what?" I asked.

"Peanut butter and jelly might take the design right off the rock, for one thing," he said. "Also, someone could drop it."

"Oh," I said, disappointed but convinced by his wisdom. "Let's leave it at home." That dropping a rock might hurt it seemed logical the way he said it.

So instead of bringing the rock to school, I worked with dad to build a felt-lined exhibition box for it, and we put it on a bookshelf where we could see it without having to touch it any more than necessary. That rock was my most important thing.

Gradually, with other treasures of childhood, the rock was forgotten. I grew up and realized that one afternoon my dad had probably stopped by a river that appealed to him (trout spotting from the riverbank in his Brooks Brothers suit?) and then came upon this perfectly shaped specimen. He couldn't resist picking it up. Looks like something Indian women might have used to wash their clothes. I know what I'll do...

One rounded river rock. One red and blue editing pencil. One extraordinarily imaginative and loving father. Those were the three ingredients that went into the creation of my best thing.

My rock is right here beside me as I write this morning. The image has faded but it remains visible. I can feel his energy and see the bold, artistic strokes my father made with his pencil in his hand.

The rock still radiates the sun as it shone on that California riverbank one day so long ago, when the mica glinted and caught the eye of a young father who had stopped his car to breathe in the beauty of the natural world. Then he picked up that rock and thought of his daughter, and he knew what she would like, so he brought into this world the touchstone she holds precious to this day.

It's your birthday, Dad, the first day of Autumn. It's sunny here in Seattle. But you're right--if I look closely, I can see that the sun's rays are cast at a lower angle than they were earlier in the summer. In the morning, I can smell the coming of fall now in the damp air. Please tell me one more time: how many hazel nuts can a squirrel put in her mouth? Is it a million or a billion?

Photography: Pelargonium,; Giant Bamboo, Scotteaux, 8 January 2008.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Golf and a Haircut

I had coffee with a friend and classmate this morning and the subject of golf came up. This was not because either of us golfs with any regularity, but because we were talking about hairdressers.

We discovered an interesting connection.

As any woman will tell you, her hairdresser must, first and foremost, be skilled at cutting/coloring hair, and doing so in a way that is individually tailored to face shape, hair texture and color, age, career and life considerations--the list of requirements is long.

Once these criteria are met, usually after several less than perfect experiences (it is sometimes a merciful quality of hair that it grows as fast as it does), the next level of operations comes into play. As soon as you feel assured that your hairdresser (let's say it's a woman, though it could also be a man) can do what you want and like with your hair, you no longer even think about it. In fact, you take her skill for granted.

But here's the key that unlocks the mystery many men see in the relationship between a woman and her hairdresser: the hairdresser's main role is confidant. I'm sure there's something I wouldn't discuss with my hairdresser, but at the moment I can't think of what it might be.

This role derives from one simple fact: if she has been helping women with their hair for any length of time, she has heard just about everything at least once. She has seen reactions, she has seen success, and she has seen failure. She knows happiness and grief; generosity and envy; kindness and nastiness; and every other polarity--as well as the range between them--that you can imagine.

It is unlikely you will bring a completely new story to an experienced hairdresser. The details will be different; the timing and consequences may be unique. But she already holds the basket into which you can set your fruit. She can therefore give you more comfort and better advice than just about anyone else. And she offers you an ear--bless her, she's captive as she's working on your hair.

Obviously, we need our therapists and our pastors and our friends. Very few of us can stand alone and face life's vicissitudes without help from others. But over and above that, when you really need to try out new ideas about who you are, or what you want, or what you might do, your hairdresser is your go-to person.

How does this relate to golf?

When my grandfather had to give up the game at 96 because he was losing his peripheral vision, he was understandably upset. He had been at it since the age of 16--in other words, he had been golfing for 80 years.

"Grandpa," I said, "you must be a fine golfer."

My grandfather shook his head gently. "No," he said. "I'm a very average golfer."

He must have seen the incredulity I was trying to hide.

"It has never been about the golf," he said. "It has always been about the company. Outside in all kinds of weather with three buddies week after week, year after year--that's what I'll miss." He let a great sigh escape. "Those fellows kept me sane."

And that's the connection: women have their hairdressers and men have their golf buddies (though I know there are also men with hairdressers and women who golf).

If I had asked my grandfather a direct question about the therapeutic value of golf, he might not have admitted it. He was from a generation that considered therapy with the same enthusiasm as they relished insanity. But when he told me what he would miss the most about golf, the therapeutic value of his game was clear to both of us.

There are two sacred dates on our calendars: hair appointments and tee times. Is it any mystery why most of us will juggle just about everything else in order to be there on time?

Photography: Drops of water, Staffan Enborn, Finland, July 10, 2004;; I can't remember where I got the hairdresser photo but if it is yours, please let me know and I'll credit you or remove it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Finding Peace in the Autumn Garden

It is possible to see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour, as William Blake suggests. We can invert the vast and concentrate on the small, though it takes effort to do so in this noisy world.

It becomes easier as days shorten and the sun's rays fall lower on the horizon: autumn in the garden is a quieter time, the time when small things come to the foreground.

There are extraordinary events taking place in your own garden right this minute. The spider's web drips with early morning dew and awaits the stumbling flight of an insect losing body heat as the days turn chilly. Chlorophyll no longer holds center stage in the chromatic scale. Where buds once formed, now there are acorns.

We expect permutations of orange, rust and maroon, veils of gold and brown in the garden in autumn. But then we come across a shock of violet, where golden-eyed asters bright as errant amethysts bob on the cooling breeze. Even more surprising is the shy and delicate pink of autumn crocus where it keeps company with brown mushrooms and fallen leaves at the base of a sturdy tree.

All is not quiet, however. The squirrel with the fat cheeks will screech the minute she stashes her hazel nuts, and the gathering crows will sound warnings to all birds preparing to migrate: the way is south and the time is now.

To paraphrase Blake, what immortal hand or eye could frame such a world as what we see before us? Hold this question in awareness as you go through your day, and hold it despite all the mounting evidence in our raucous, consumerist world that to do so is to indulge in a flight of fancy. Then, as the gentle rays of the afternoon sun fade, remember that night will come, and it will blanket you with stars that seem particularly brilliant at this time of year.

Autumn is a time of turning inward, a time of forgiveness, a time to let go of all past efforts. It presents an opportunity to rest, just the way the garden rests, before new undertakings which are soon to come at the turn of another year.

So hunker down: take care of yourself and all you hold dear.

Breathe in the deep calm of the season.

Relax as you exhale.

Photography: Aster novi-belgii, Wikipedia, public domain; Vine Maple Leaf, Nickel Eisen, 6 October 2004; Hourglass, S. Sepp, 21 October 2007

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Susan Boyle and Bernard Madoff: Equal Energy, Two Directions

Bernard Madoff slides from his self-created pedestal of exclusivity and respect into a miasma of lies when his life's work is exposed as common fraud.

Susan Boyle ascends to the stars as her natural talent rides the wave of personal courage and brings her gift into the hearts of people around the world.

These two individuals provide a perfect object lesson for something I've always suspected: it takes just as much energy to do what Bernard Madoff did as it takes to do what Susan Boyle did. Why, why, why, then, would a person use a limited individual allotment of this precious energy to suck the life from others when there is an equal opportunity to enhance the world and leave it a better place with the same amount of effort?

It is fiction to say that it is easier to cheat than it is to work hard. Cheating takes an enormous toll on an individual's mental, spiritual and emotional life: keeping track of frauds, which lies were told to whom, who knows what about what… Can you imagine the anger and stress that has been seething just below the surface for Bernard Madoff all these years? These corrosive feelings are emotions he could never embrace, nor show to anyone, nor discuss with anyone, not even his wife (if she is to be believed).

People have called Bernard Madoff a sociopath, but even a so-called sociopath might squirm when regulating agencies continually knock on the door with long lists of increasingly pointed questions; even a sociopath can suspect there might be a crack somewhere in his facade, a crack he needs to locate and repair fast. Sociopathy is no free ride. Thinking of oneself as smarter than everyone else can only work until you're caught, and as imprisoned criminals have repeatedly attested, they knew that day would come.

I don't even like typing all these ugly words. But they serve a purpose and form the dark background against which Susan Boyle's presence gleams.

Like Bernard Madoff, Susan, too, came out of obscurity. But here's the key difference: his mind was set on No fair! I want what everyone else has! At one point in his life, he could have decided to apply himself and work hard to make something of himself, but his overriding envy rotted his heart. He diverted his energy from creating something good toward destroying what everyone else had. And he probably worked every bit as hard as he would have had he lived honestly, in which case he would not now be rotting in prison.

Susan Boyle, on the other hand, had a gift which she nurtured on her own, and never let fall away. How many of us can say the same about the great promise we once showed playing the piano? or painting? or singing? Most of us have turned our backs on these pursuits in the manner of putting away the things of childhood.

But Susan Boyle persevered. She lived a quiet life, always singing, and made a promise to her dying mother: I won't give up. I'll stay with it.

Then she mounted what must sometimes have felt like an impossible campaign of personal courage, not only to her but to others. She was no doubt accused along the way of having pipe dreams, of reaching beyond her station, of thinking she was all that--and why? Because she dared to put one foot in front of the other, over and over, until she walked right into the spotlight that made her an overnight success in the eyes of the world.

Susan Boyle isn't an overnight success in her own estimation, though. She has been applying herself to her gift for her entire life. She was born with a talent for singing, and she honored her gift and continues to honor it, and look at the treasure she has brought into the world: her voice and her story delight the souls of everyone who encounters her.

Light and darkness; good and evil. Conversations don't get much more basic than this, and examples are seldom more clear than they are in the cases of Susan Boyle and Bernard Madoff. Fortunately for the world, Madoff will be no more than a footnote in the journals of sleazy financial crime. All the hearts he broke will find no sense of justice in whatever happens to him, but at least he won't be doing anything to anyone else.

On the very bright other side, Susan Boyle's light will shine for a long, long time. Even the souls bruised by Bernard Madoff can take delight in the gifts of Susan Boyle.

In this way, it can be seen that good outweighs the bad, just as we've always been taught to believe but have perhaps come to doubt over the years. The same equation holds true with tiny, anonymous acts of kindness in our own lives today.

I know this is true.

Photography: Susan Boyle, Perez Hilton; Rose bush, Fastily, 4/26/09; Rose,

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Why The Mad Pruner Can't Get Me Now

Bing cherries. Who doesn't love them? Summer in the Northwest is paradise for cherry lovers. The Bing cherry was actually first hybridized here and named after Chinese orchard foreman Ah Bing in the 1870s on horticulturist Seth Lewelling's Oregon farm.

The Pacific Northwest is also home to the magnificent Rainier cherry, which was hybridized in 1952 at Washington State University. With its delicate skin and delicious flavor, it is a clear (and expensive) favorite of cherry lovers everywhere. It bruises very easily and must therefore be harvested completely by hand, and even then you'll have to put up with slight bruising on most Rainiers you find in the supermarket or roadside market. Don't worry, though--as long as the flesh is firm it will remain sweet.

Many people have a cherry tree or two in their garden. Often planted is the self-pollinating Stella, a very sweet cherry with a dark red color that looks a lot like a Bing. What this means is that it doesn't need another type of cherry around. Bees transfer pollen from the burgeoning anthers to the stigma, and then come July you have paradise in your own back yard.

Unless you are The Mad Pruner.

Cherries set fruit on year-old shoots and lateral spurs. This means two things: 1)very old wood will not set fruit; and 2) this year's growth will not set fruit. The Mad Pruner, however, wanted his cherry trees to look a certain way: kind of like a lollipop, with dense foliage. He went at his trees with a power saw, and sheared them evenly in all directions, and he did this every spring, just as the new leaves were beginning to unfurl.

The Mad Pruner's trees did not set fruit.

He cursed them. He told them that if they didn't produce any damn cherries this year, it was their last chance: he would rip them out. In a predictable series of events, they did not set fruit and he ripped them out. He showed those useless cherry trees.

It sounds ridiculous to tell the tale this way. It even felt ridiculous at the time, and it is hard for me to admit this, but with this man I couldn't seem to find a way to approach the subjects of how cherry trees work, and how fruit comes into being, and that an open vase shape with strong horizontal branching is optimal for the health of the tree and for fruit production. If I came anywhere near these subjects, his eyes glazed over: he didn't seem to want his idea of the perfect tree shape compromised by anything I might have to say about horticulture. To paraphrase my father: The Mad Pruner's mind was made up and he didn't want to be confused by the facts.

It broke my heart to see those poor trees tortured into submission and then punished for not producing cherries. I felt horrible that I had been unable to intervene on their behalf. But, of course, there was a larger lesson here.

What doesn't work with cherry trees also does not work with people. That's why The Mad Pruner is now a man I used to know.

In my own case, I was able to intervene. I got out before he completely uprooted me.

Photography: Rainier Cherries on Tree,; Stella Cherries,; Rainier Cherries, Gilbert W. Arias/Seattle P-I; Rainier Cherries, Washington State Fruit Commission; Bing Cherries, AGS/USDA

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

That Was Then...but This Isn't!

The past is what comes before this moment, but it is not a vessel into which you must pour the rest of your life. Nor are you obligated to look back in bondage: the present is not cast by tentacles from the past.

The dense web of memory (think of Marcel Proust) can seduce you into the illusion that you are present to the unfolding of your life if indulging in memories. But by coddling your memories you are looking backward, while each new moment glides past unnoticed like a new frame for an old photograph.

I know a woman who is so blind to today that she compares everything she does, hears, and sees either favorably or unfavorably to what she did, heard or saw as a child. Nothing exists in its own new moment: nothing new can happen. It is as if her book is already written and all that remains of the task is appending the footnotes.

In this way, the original memory disappears like a sunken ship overwhelmed by coral--a new monolith calcifies. Retrospection becomes a celebration of vocabulary: how many ways can you conjure anew something that once was but is no more? And if you do this repeatedly, you risk becoming like dust left in the corners as your life sweeps by.

Live bigger than that. Moderate your habit of looking in the rearview mirror in order to drive forward.

Suit up for snorkeling. Try the french fries with white truffles. Wear red. Tomorrow, do something else. Give yourself over to radical awareness of the present. It doesn't matter what you used to do, or what you used to resist doing.

On this plane and in this dimension, the arrow of time only goes in one direction. Unless you possess superhuman powers, why not go with the flow?

Photography: Is this a new plant to you: Jade Vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys), Hawaii? If it is--oh, good!