Small towns, big cities

After quietly listening this past weekend to my son and sister-in-law debate better, faster routes through the city for several minutes I said, “I can’t imagine living anywhere that people talk more about streets and highways than each other.”

This stopped the conversation, and the car remained silent for the rest of our drive.

So that was it? Their most important conversation consisted of whether 290 was faster than some other road, how to get to 610, or which exit would be less congested than another?

Evidently. With no more words forthcoming, nor any laughter at my observation it became sadly apparent to me that people hide from each other behind the trivial. It is so much easier to talk about the objective or inanimate than what we think or need. About our hearts. Our souls.


I moved to a smaller town a year ago and immediately felt the non-claustrophobic closeness, that it would matter  to me if someone preferred a balsam tree to a spruce. I really do not care how I get anywhere so long as I do eventually get there, and whatever I encounter along the way though it may be frustratingly slow or congested gives me opportunity to hone my maneuvering skills or think about comments someone made, a friendly conversation, or simply to notice wildflowers that might be growing on the roadside. No one here I find is the least bit concerned about speaking their mind, or giving an opinion solicited or not, or simply pontificating on the virtues of Florida oranges over California ones. If I miss a church service and happen on a friend later that week they wonder how I am, where I’ve been.

It matters.

I have heard people comment or complain about a new road being built and the trees they took out for it, or some landmark now gone and that it was where their grandfathers greeted each other of a Saturday afternoon, on the porch or over a woodstove. But not about travel routes. People here are not afraid they might impose if they show that they care.

We each make our own way in this life and hopefully help each other. Our strengths and vulnerabilities make us who we are, not what we do or how we get there. We share our stories and laugh at our foibles. But which highway or short-cut does not matter.

The journey is not about the conveyance but we who convey.


Usually it’s  upside-down. The difference for me is the upside is still up, the downside is trying to be up without all the life work that goes along with it.

I’m sick of hearing these whiny ivy-league and other college students complaining that they are the reason colleges and universities exist. Really?? You mean by virtue of the grace of your presence or your (often government-paid) tuition payments? Or do you mean your fresh outlook that no one has ever thought of before because you just did and don’t realize that your thought has been disproved through the millennia which is why it is not really a fresh thought, only to you.

Guess what? Remember when your mom said not to touch that hot burner on the stove and instead of taking her word for it you touched it and got burned? That’s what happens even when you get bigger. So you’re in college now. Well, good for you. And you did this all yourself, right? Wrong, dearie. Your parents fed, clothed, sheltered, protected and educated you throughout your entire life. Sure, maybe your brain processed it all but without their tender, loving money and care would you be where you are?

Not likely.

You may believe you are something special and a gift to the world. In a way yes, you do have gifts, abilities unique to yourself. But so does everybody else. The thing is we all offer them back after so many years of having been cared for, fed, clothed, sheltered. That’s how it works. And if we are fortunate enough to be good enough we actually even get paid for our abilities: teachers, architects, writers, economists, accountants, landscapers, whatever we find we enjoy doing and are good at.

So, back to that stove. Be careful how far out on the limb you elect to crawl. Everything has a breaking point.

You’d hate to find yourself with nothing left to cash in. Then you’d really have to go to work.


So I was enjoying a peaceful retreat in the mountains last week. It’s a good place to come away, be with my thoughts, let snarls untangle themselves with no distractions.

My first morning I hiked to the mountain summit. Usually not a difficult climb, this time I felt as though I was behind myself, pushing. I took a different road up, generally considered to be more gradual and less steep but I found myself huffing and panting as much as when I walked the steeper path. So another year older, that wouldn’t make any difference? Maybe it’s all in my mind.

Still the day was clear, sunny. A gift when so often there are unexpected storms any time of year there.

So often our days present themselves open, unhindered to be filled by our fretting anxious thoughts. Racing hither and yon, frantic to complete tasks, errands that when we really look at it, are not essential.

“What is essential is invisible to the eye.” (1)

“It is only with the heart that one can see, rightly.” (2)

So why, at the end of each day, have we no recollection sometimes of the freshness we knew at the first of it? Why do we need to go away, get out of sight of the familiar to appreciate the familiar?

Sometimes a different environment resets our heart, our mind. Gives us a new focus so when we return to our familiar lives we are not the same.


(1), (2): Antoine de Saint-Exupery: The Little Prince


We don’t usually start making these until we grow up. Except of course the lists we made for birthday presents, holiday gifts, stuff we wanted to see when our families went to the beach. Those were important.

Then we’d have the best friend list. These were usually torn and smudged from erasing and changing the names so much.

We got older. We now make grocery lists, lists for other people’s gifts, lists for meeting agendas, lists of questions we need to ask someone, lists to remind us how to close down a server, or turn the server on, or back the server up. To-do lists we make for our jobs, for our families, our pets. Lists of ideas for something we want to write about, a paper and pen by the bed if we wake up with some amazing idea for a million-dollar patent, or a paper and pen in the kitchen for a running list of errands to run.

Then I have another list. My sleeping list. I won’t say this is a no-fail because there are the rare times it does not work, but on the average it works quite well. This is a list I make when I wake in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep for the thoughts ping-ponging around my head. Something someone said that hit me wrong, something I forgot to do, things bothering me, things I need to take care of and keep putting off, things I wish I’d said but didn’t, and so on.

Like I said, this doesn’t always work but generally after I empty my head of these little nagging anxiety-makers I am usually blank enough to be able to fall asleep.


Oh, to have those simpler days back where as soon as my head hit that pillow the day was over. When next I opened my eyes it was a new day. A fresh start.

When did we lose this? Maybe some never do.

Almost a Sunday snicker

Just Cruisin 2

We say almost because this installment isn’t funny. But
we think you’ll like it anyway.


A old cowboy went to a barbershop to have his hair
cut and his beard trimmed. As the barber began to
work, they began to have a good conversation. They
talked about so many things and various subjects.
When they eventually touched on the subject of God,
the barber said: “I don’t believe that God exists.”

“Why do you say that?” asked the cowboy.

“Well, you just have to go out in the street to
realize that God doesn’t exist. Tell me, if God
exists, would there be so many sick people? Would
there be abandoned children? If God existed, there
would be neither suffering nor pain. I can’t
imagine a loving God who would allow all of these

The cowboy thought for a moment, but didn’t respond
because he didn’t want to start…

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