A Lone…

…ranger? …wolf? …some dove? …star? …ly hearts club band? The family went back to the White Wooden House yesterday after Thanksgiving. The moon is startlingly full and the color of butter. Later tonight there will be a partial lunar eclipse. One tiny planet’s shadow will soon fall on an even smaller object across a couple of hundred thousand miles of empty space for a few tens of minutes. Some members of a somewhat less-hairy two legged species of apes who inhabit the planet will look up at the skies in the middle of the night and get excited.

I enjoy being here alone. Perhaps because it is an option just like when I had a vegetarian lunch the other day, knowing there was bacon in the fridge for breakfast the next morning. Having established that I’m not a true loner, I’m going to admit that I’m not even really alone. They left Ouiser with me. Ouiser is not a loner. All day she played, ran, slept, ate, pooped, chewed, barked, rested, and most recently, farted, all never more than a few feet away from me. I took a break from my activity for the day – planting wildflower seeds – to take numerous photos and videos of Ouiser. I won’t share them all with you, but I will share some.

The kids have noticed that I more or less stopped taking pictures of them since we got the pets. What can I say? Ouiser is much better looking…

Speaking of being alone, here’s a thought. Imagine where no one interacts with anyone outside of their family for eight weeks (assume a worst case serial infection scenario of two weeks per person and a family size of four). Each family stays absolutely alone. So, no mingling at schools or hospitals or nursing homes or grocery stores or Amazon delivery or pharmacies or the police or gas stations or gyms or restaurants or bars or drivers license places or prisons or homeless shelters or hotels or cruise ships or airplanes or at football games or church or Sturgis or military bases or weddings or Kim Kardashian’s birthday party. Would the virus have disappeared from the human species by the end of those 8 weeks? I’m not saying this is practical. But I have questions. Can/could we do some version of this with more time thrown in for where people inevitably have to interact? And if my yard doesn’t look like this come spring, should I ask for a refund (native wildflower seeds are more expensive per pound that aged tenderloin steaks)?

Paper Cranes

In Walter Dean Myers’ The Treasure of Lemon Brown, Brown says “Every man has a treasure,” and I may not be a man, but I do have a treasure. It was given to me by an old man standing outside a museum.

I wince as I dig through my bag, finding only crumbs and stray dirt until my hand brushes against a folded paper. It’s dry and cool to the touch, and has a slightly glossy feel to it. As I retract my hand from my bag, the folded paper held gingerly in my palm, I can see that it’s a paper crane. I toy with its delicate wings, slipping its waxy surface between my fingers. It’s folded out of a black paper, so dark it seems to suck all the light from the space around it. It’s of an incomplex design, but holds a certain elegance in its simplicity. It’s head tilts down, bending its long neck gracefully, as if paying respects to the lost lives it symbolizes. I gaze at it as I am transported back to when I first received it.

It was chilly, but not cold, and the wind nipped playfully at me through the thin fabric of my dad’s sweatshirt, tugging on strands of my hair, inviting me out into the grey city. Everything was quiet, as if the town itself was mourning its dead in silence. My fraying tennis shoes padded softly on the brick ground. The cold stung the barely dried tears on my face. Like everything else in Japan, the city was neat and clean. The trees lined the streets, perfectly spaced and groomed, rounded on the tops, like mushroom clouds.

Fresh tears leaked from my eyes as I replayed a gruesome slide show in my head. Images burned into my mind, like kimono patterns burned into little girls’ skin. Husbands with missing arms weeping over the charred bodies of their wives and children. Faces marred beyond recognition, skin practically cooked. They don’t show you that in school, the way it moved like a tidal wave of superheated air, so fast you didn’t have time to scream. They don’t tell you how it started fiers so intense , they could suck you into their inferno. They didn’t tell me. Now I’m walking out of this museum with tears in my eyes and my head bowed in shame, and yet, an old man with a weathered face and a pair of forgiving eyes is slipping a paper crane into my hand.

[Vivian wrote this yesterday for a short writing assignment for her Language Arts class. I am glad to see an occasional tangible dividend of our traveling, which seems light years away. The experience Vivian recollects here happened in Hiroshima in February. I’m also blown away by what a great teacher and dedicated school can do. Four years ago Vivian couldn’t write more than a couple of sentences without getting frustrated – though her head was bursting with ideas she wanted to express. Here’s a photo of the old Japanese man who gave the kids their cranes of peace in Hiroshima. Vivian is wearing my Pilani sweatshirt.]

I didn’t say we should….

Kill him!

Vivian is our bringer of memes from the world on Instagram. She found this jewel the other day. Evan thought it was the cleverest thing he had heard all day. Try saying this and emphasize a different word each time:

I didn’t say we should kill him.

I didn’t say we should kill him.

I didn’t say we should kill him.

I didn’t say we should kill him.

I didn’t say we should kill him.

I didn’t say we should kill him.

I didn’t say we should kill him.

After the laughter subsided at the dinner table, the kids agreed that subtilty matters!


Evan took a good hit last weekend during a league soccer game. He collided with a bigger kid whose shoulder or elbow got into Evan’s chest. He went down like sack of flour. I stood on the sidelines wondering if the ref would blow her whistle and the coach would trot over to check him out while the other players took a knee and waited. It happens every few games to someone. For 10 year olds, soccer is a full contact sport.

But Evan got back up and in the game almost instantly, rubbing his chest and taking shallow breaths. He was winded but otherwise fine. I asked him about it when we walked back to the car after the game (which they handily won). He said that Coach Steven from three years ago had taught them the importance of getting up quickly and getting right back into the game. The coach famously crept up unexpectedly on the kids and pushed them over during practice to teach them how to fall and roll right back up. Since then, Evan, as a matter or pride, minimizes his downtime after a fall. What an amazing lesson to learn, I thought.

About 16 months ago when we were on Day 3 and 4 of a hike up Kilimanjaro, Aaron caught some sort of a stomach bug. That night he couldn’t eat dinner and crawled into the tent looking green. The next day we go up to 16,000 feet. We started the day by going up the Barranco Wall, which looked very daunting from our camp.

The morning was morose. But after a huge song and dance with lots of clapping and jumping, our support crew perked us up. As we slowly (“pole-pole” in Swahili) clambered up the Barranco Wall it didn’t seem so bad after all. Aaron sat down where he could. The rest of the day’s hike wasn’t bad either. The next morning Aaron looked better. When we started our final ascent at midnight that night Aaron was back in usual form and beat me to the summit by an hour.

Aaron and Evan did the same thing in different time scales. They got knocked down and they got back up – fast. They were on their feet when it mattered. They both showed resilience.

Countries too can be resilient. Neither the most powerful military nor the biggest treasury (well, a treasury that can borrow the most) were able to help us deal with the corona virus. American competence and advanced science and technology, our staples, could have stepped in, but they were hobbled. The leadership, with the explicit mandate of its voting base, smothered the scientific community, and created a lack of trust in the government (precipitated strangely by a president who heads the government), making it difficult for the competent to do their jobs. So we fell like a bag of dicks. Even defendable places like Hawaii look more like Nebraska than New Zealand. To get back up we must recognize that we are down. And we must agree on which way is up. Should we make American even greater again, again? Or should we chart a new course to a future that isn’t some faded sad replica of an old whitewashed patriarchal christian past? It is too bad that we can’t have Coach Steven creep among nations, pushing us down during practice to teach us how to jump back up.