Some perspective on four years of upholding a difficult decision

After the last presidential election, I made the hard decision to refrain from posting on White House politics for the duration. Admittedly, it’s been a trial when it comes to biting my tongue.

For one thing, my degree’s in political science, with a strong dose of the Federalist Papers and the foundation of American political theory. For another, I spent most of my career in the newsroom and watched with dread as these developments gathered momentum.

What I sensed with Trump was that I could add nothing from the sidelines. The storm had to play itself out, and vital criticism would ultimately have to come from the so-called conservative side of the spectrum.

What I didn’t anticipate was how appalling the daily affronts would be, each one washing over the previous one before the impact could sink in. No blogger watching the news from afar could react in time to remain current. Well, maybe by taking a longer term view, like once a week, but it would have been a full-time job.

As you can see, I had enough else to post on, trying to maintain a life-is-normal focus, even amid the current Covid culture.

Still, drafting this confession is painful. I long to see decency and intelligence return to leadership and society in general. At this stage, it won’t happen overnight. But we can hope the tide will turn.

Looking for a word that means ‘wisdom’

I was trying to find a word in Spanish for “wisdom,” one conveying spiritual depth.

Instead, what I came across in the dictionary related to factual intelligence or knowing. All head, no heart.

Nothing even suggesting common sense or good judgment.

What I wanted went deeper, say to the kind of understanding gained through long experience and discipline. Sometimes, the kind of knowing you feel in your hands.

Better yet, what Merriam-Webster calls “the natural ability to understand things that most other people cannot understand.” To which I would add a sense of calm and patience.

If the word or phrase exists in Spanish, I’d love to know it. Perhaps even with a few other things that get lost in translation.


What do we make of a trio of evil great-aunts?

OK, I’ll have to admit they’re cardboard characters. I do little to develop her three great-aunts in my novel What’s Left, the ones Cassia and her brothers and cousins simply refer to as the Erinyes. Unlike the classic Greek marble statues, these have no redeeming qualities from the perspective of the story. They’re out-and-out evil forces, having fled the family rather than staying put where they’re needed. But they have enough influence to wreck everything, given a chance. And, yes, I’m still startled by Sandra’s outburst in my final revision. Let me know what you think when you get to that part.

As an author, I rather like the way they might simply dance across the stage as a trio arm-in-arm. And then back. Like a storm cloud, even.

I also like the way they serve as a foil to Cassia’s father and the others who voluntarily join the family the Erinyes had so readily fled at the earliest opportunity. Should I say abandoned?

Could it be they’re cardboard characters with a marble veneer? Do we even need to name them, individually?

I even delight in the weasel home-breaker who appears in their place further along in the plot — the one who aligns herself with their monetary claims. Oh, but that’s such an insult to weasels.


Here was one consideration I cut from an earlier draft:

What if the Erinyes had married into Baba’s side — something like it, out in Iowa or Salt Lake City?

And then moved on to Orlando or Orange County? No, they were bound for big cities. Which is where your Baba expected to thrive.


I dunno, but I’d guess they’d wear globs of makeup and tons of jewelry and loud stretch pants and perhaps even vote for Trump.

As an author, I can’t even forgive them for the way they treated Bella when she began working in the family restaurant, much less their threatening actions in the years when Cassia fights to preserve something for her own generation.

They have me thinking of the phrase “bad eggs.” I’ve seen more than a few in my own time … in my own life, actually.

Have you ever seen someone break up a relationship, a home, or a business? Anywhere else? What was the cause? What did they do? What could others do in response? What was your experience?


In the family, Cassia may have had food like these beet roots, photographed at Mario Restaurant in Monolithos. (Photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis via Wikimedia Commons.)



Unpacking the past, opening space to move on

I’ve been up in the loft of the barn, going through many of my goods that have been packed away here. These days, the temperature’s not too hot, and though the air’s chilly outside, the sun on the roof has this space comfy. The wind sends maple spinners tapping overhead, as well as falling leaves and twigs. For me, it’s autumn in more ways than one.

I’ve already gone through my spirituality/religion bookshelf in my studio in the house and pruned nearly a hundred volumes from it – mostly Yoga and Buddhism I’ll no longer be referencing in new writing. I look one last time at these field guides and backcountry maps from across the continent while hoping to find an appreciative reader to give them to. Any ideas?

Alas, I’m finding more books here in the barn, some of them adding to that pile, but also Whole Earth Catalogs, political science, poetry, marketing and agenting guides, art and history, Cascade Mountains trail books and photo albums. Each of them is a reflection of my life’s interests and pursuits, now in my past.

There are also picture frames we’ve never used, rolled-up posters, Quaker outreach materials.

At least I went ahead and burned the outdated assorted financial records a few days ago – credit cards slips, receipts, insurance mailings, and so on. Shredding them would have taken forever.

And then correspondence and photos. What to keep and what to release?

The point is that it’s time to let go and move on.

Soon to follow are the genealogical working notes and files. Four filing boxes stuffed with them. Everything I’ve gleaned is now up on my Orphan George blog. Another completed project, as far as I’m concerned. Yet when I open one of the boxes, I feel myself burdened with some constricting force, likely arising in a self-imposed obligation. No, the time has come.

Along with another filing box of poetry and fiction acceptances and correspondence. I discarded the rejections long ago. I hate to think how much I spent on postage and photocopying in that pastime or of the hours I devoted to it before I shifted my output to blogging and self-published ebooks.

More symbolic is my old backpack basket, at one time a status item reflecting my reaching first-class rank in Boy Scouts and, along with it, the right to weave the basket and attach it to the frame I made when I had earned second-class. It no longer fits and has long been battered in my moves across the continent. Besides, I won’t be backpacking again. With it, I learned to back light in my travels. Farewell, then, as I pack light anew.

Not everything up here is mine, but we are on a downsizing effort.


I have to admit feelings of failure, of seeing how often I was compelled to move away and start over just as something else was about to open. Of near-misses, too. Of broken relationships.

But there’s also the warmth of past friendships and support. Long, personal letters from busy people, for one thing, something that’s really from a different era than the one we inhabit now. Of deceased elders and mentors, especially.

I have moments of sensing this as a prelude to the aftermath of my own funeral, a kind of this-was-your-life sweep. As I do the work of clearing out things I’ve treasured that won’t mean anything to anyone among my family and friends, I spare them the task. There will be plenty enough as when I’m done, far as I can see.

It’s bittersweet, really, making room for what’s left. Nobody said it would be easy.