Equinox opportunities

Here around the 45th parallel, the high temperatures are expected to drop into the upper 50s today after a high in the mid to upper 70s on Wednesday, the last full day of summer. 

The autumnal equinox is supposed to occur right after 8 p.m. tonight in this neck of the woods, and for the next six months the days will be shorter than the nights, barely noticeable at first and then darker as we approach winter. The only good news about the first day of winter is that the days start regaining a few minutes back daily even as the cold gets colder.

I am a big fan of summer, but I’m fond of fall and spring, too. Autumn is OK because the hot and muggy days of summer are behind us, but the cool weather is not yet bone-chilling, and spring is OK because the bone-chilling is behind us and the green comes easing back. It’s only in winter that I wish my modest book sales would start sprouting extra zeros so we could buy that second home somewhere where freezing weather is just something you read about or see on TV.

For now, though, here we sit on the cusp between seasons, a cold front ushering summer out the door rather brusquely if I say so myself. The switch is not usually quite so dramatic, but what are ya gonna do, it is what it is, and a dozen more cliches that people use when they’re making small talk about the weather.

So here we are entering autumn, and who knows what happens next? The only thing that’s certain is the green leaves will turn to brown, we might get a few inches of snow by the end of the year, and life goes on. That’s something.

The zen of a puppy’s paws

The pads on a young dog’s feet help you know that you’re dealing with a young dog. A puppy’s paws are soft and smooth, and she slides across a smooth floor. An older dog’s paws are rough after many years of running and playing and dancing across rough and ready ground.

Dogs are important to heart health, because a heart needs to melt at least once a day to remain resilient and fend off things that go bump in the night, politicians, and other scary stuff.

Summer lay next to me while we watched Jeopardy! Tuesday night, lost in whatever REM adventures were keeping her entertained, and I took several photos of her from odd angles. The one that featured her soft, smooth paw pads lingered with me the most, for some reason, at least in the first review.

We all start out soft and smooth and get filed down to worn and calloused. Every so often we need a reminder that we were softer once, so that we can hang on to a remnant of that blank slate that was our bundle of opportunity, that youthful enthusiasm, and that readiness to take on the world. That is why we adopt puppies, to be that reminder.

Sometimes Summer waltzes over and insists that I pay attention, leaning into me with an eagerness to hug and be hugged. Most of the time, though, she curls next to me or sprawls on the floor. I think she is sleeping, but sometimes I reach a hand down and stroke her shoulder or neck, and she sighs, almost as if all that time lying there she was waiting for my touch, just that brief connection that says yes, I’m here, and I know you’re there, and I’m so grateful for it.

I’m still shaken by the sudden loss of Summer’s predecessor, with whom I had one of those magic bonds between human and canine that you read about. But the end of that life set some sort of cosmic clock in motion that determined that when we were ready again, and looking for a puppy, Summer would be there. Without the ending this sweet animal would not be named Summer, she would make connections of a different nature with a different set of humans, and the world would not be the same in so many ways.

We drove down the road on the way to pick out a puppy, trying dozens of names out for size. We didn’t know what name we wanted, but we trusted we would recognize the right name when we found it. Sure enough, when the name Summer rose into our consciousness, we both got lumps in our throats and tears in our eyes that said, “Yes. We’re going down to find Summer and take her home.”

And here she is, curled up and comfortable, and this is home. Her paws are smooth and soft and her journey has barely begun, but one thing at least is certain: She is home. She is surely home.

I choose a book and explain the why

I have made the choice I promised to make 11 days ago. The book I will complete and send to the publisher this month is called It’s Going to Be All Right, and I plan to ship it to the printer by midweek. By this time next week, it ought to be available for pre-order with a publication date of Oct. 20.

Wait a minute, wait a minute. Wasn’t I going to publish a book a month? Why, yes. So why can’t you buy the September book before Sept. 30? Well, I have slowly learned in these challenging times that there are important things to do before a book’s release, and so I’m parsing words a bit and saying I promised “send to the publisher” instead of “publish.” Once we get past this month, when I completed a book but didn’t actually release it, my intention is to ship a book to the world at least once a month, starting with this one.

So what is It’s Going to Be All Right about? It’s another short book mostly collected from these daily writings, 117 pages, and here is the blurb:

It has become almost a cliche to refer to these times with anxious adjectives: These challenging times, these trying times, these unprecedented times, these stressful times, these times, these times, these times.

For more than a decade now, the world has gotten angrier and meaner and more afraid. Log into your favorite “social media” site, anytime, and someone will alert you about some outrage, someone will warn you about some threat, and someone will be shouting down voices of reason and calm and peace.

This book has a simple but powerful message: Never mind that the world is scary and raging; if you reach inside to a calm place, you’ll find the most basic of truths: It’s going to be all right. Oh, change is inevitable, and tomorrow will not look like yesterday, but it’s going to be all right.

Of course, second-guessing yourself is in the job description for anyone who puts a part of themselves into the marketplace, and as I’m currently reading Starr O’Hara’s very cool and insightful book How to Survive Dystopia (with your humanity intact), I wonder if it’s wise to be putting out a book called It’s Going to Be All Right, because there are often days when it seems it isn’t going to be all right for a very long time.

Then I remember that it depends on what we mean by “It.” If by “It” we mean society and the world in general, things are indeed going to hell in a hand basket, and much of the bad stuff is in the “things I cannot change” bin.

But the stuff O’Hara writes about — independent thinking, freedom, honesty, resourcefulness, peace of mind, faith, gratitude, a sense of humor — and the knowledge that the secret is not electing the right boss, it’s about realizing that I am the boss of me? Those are definitely in the “things I can change” bin.

And a book that encourages people to take heart and not despair as the rhetoric rages and the fear mongers ramp up their mongering, because evil cannot prevail for long? It might even be a nice complement to O’Hara’s outstanding book. A book with a subtitle “Reasons for hope in troubled times” might be just what we need.

It’s certainly going to get worse before it gets better, but like anyone who believes that humans are slowly growing, I believe freedom will out in the end, and it’s going to be all right — eventually. And it’s precisely because it doesn’t look like it’s going to be all right anytime soon that people need to hear this message.

I’ll let you know when you can pre-order.

Refuse to Get Angry

Wendy McElroy, my favorite aggregator of news and opinion (find her site here) linked last week to Jonathan Turley’s article about rage rhetoric, which the author said has arisen from time to time in U.S. history, even as far back as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

It’s interesting that for all the bile those two men heaved at each other, they were friends who respected each other, to the point where Adams’ dying words are said to have been, “Thomas Jefferson survives,” not realizing that Jefferson had died five hours earlier. The raging rhetoric of the 1790s was forgiven, forgotten, or always understood to be just part of the game.

The best advice anyone can offer in times of rage rhetoric is not to get mad, because the politicians want you angry — for which “mad” is an apt synonym because anger is a short form of madness, which claws reason aside and replaces it with a blinding flame.

I have the same question about rage politics that I’ve always had about fear mongers, and I suspect the answer is similar. Why? Why do they want you to be afraid? Because they can offer you comfort and shelter in exchange for giving them more power, in exchange for your freedom. Why do they want you angry? Because you may do something foolish, like lash out, which would give them an excuse to exercise more power and take away your freedom altogether.

It’s crucial, then, when politicians are fanning the flames, to resist the urge to start raging, because an angry person, like a fearful person, is too easily manipulated.

“Refuse to Get Angry” is my mantra for these times, from the same arsenal where I found “Refuse to be Afraid.” Resist rage rhetoric, for the sake of your own peace of mind and for the sake of peace in general.

Life and meaning

I hope to write something profound, or funny, or moving, or otherwise special, every time I sit down and touch the pen to paper. A person wants to believe their life has meant something.

Of course our lives have meaning, because our life touches other people’s life life all the time. We choose whether it’s a gentle touch or a battering ram. 

I suggest gentle. What is the point of bringing more violence and pain into the world?

Life is such a precious and fragile thing. Respect and honor life, and preserve it when you can.

And Now

Tomorrow is approaching — or is it?

It’s always now, isn’t it?

We plan for tomorrow — or fail to —

and we comb over yesterday

with fondness or regret, but meanwhile

Now is in progress, 

Now is happening,

Now is all we have.

It behooves us to pay attention now, 

to look around now,

and see what there is to be seen,

to find what needs to be done and do it,

Now.  

While we were busy making plans

The ancient scientist who cured a dozen deadly diseases sighed and said, “All I really wanted to be was a rock star poet.”

The celebrated author with 30 novels, a couple of popular movie and TV series, and a master class thousands had attended, said, “I was really good at science; what if I was put on this earth to cure cancer?”

The old man who never retired said, “I wish I’d saved my money when I was young so that I didn’t need to go to work now.”

The old man who grew rich, retired at 55 and traveled the world 10 times over said, “I miss work.”

The If Onlys creep up and seize an unsuspecting mind, leaving regret and imagined alternate realities in their wake. 

“If only I had done this one thing differently, things would be different.”

“What would have happened if that thing had happened one minute earlier, or 10 seconds later?”

Its fun to speculate, unless it isn’t and a pile of regret lands on your head.

They say life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. It doesn’t turn out the way you imagined, and imagination always, always painted a prettier picture.

It always, always turns out differently, for better or for worse. And the wishing you could go back and change things? That way lies madness.

This is the life you have lived and are living, ups and downs and sideways and forward and backward and all. Say what you will, but it’s been quite a ride, hasn’t it?

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