Life teaches you to make friends friends with grammar, especiallythe adversative conjunction, “but.”

Example: I’m confident, but also easily bumfuzzled. That’s true. Bifurcated realities.

My core emotions dive into the deep, the abyssopelagic, but I have had jumps out of the water, like the Exocoetidae, the flying fish.

This is human, this but that.

I think of the painter Frida Kahlo. So beautiful. So much emotion in her self-portraits. So much pain there too. She ranks, a renown Mexican painter, but she suffered terribly. She was weak but strong, disappointed but fulfilled, hopeful but despairing.

There are conflictories for all who work hard and hope for much. Lots of “buts.”

Paul Tournier was a Swiss physician and author who parsed two kinds of humans, strong and weak. He clarifies the characteristics. But truthfully we are all some of both — especially when it comes to the inner life. Especially over the long haul.

The low country of emotion — sadness, disillusionment and doubt — they can easily follow the Himalayas of excitement, hope and belief.

My first teaching job was at Lincoln High School in San Diego. I began weak, unsure of myself as I navigated the deep waters of class management and curriculums that would empower our racially mixed student body. It was a rough start for me. For some classes we failed over 50% of the students — simply for non-attendance. But as the years went on I strengthened, inspired students, they did better too. Strong helped. I eventually became a mentor teacher. But by my last year there, I was burned out. Weak again. Interesting.

When we think of the strong we picture a person who is fired up. They’re on vision steroids, courage adrenaline. But not always. Remember Sampson. Strong, weak, strong.

Humans range, vary, run the gamut, ply the spectrum. An emotional dualism is endemic to us.

Thought: Letting people see our weakness can be a way to bond with them.

Here is my area of weakness at the present time. Chronic pain. It sucks! Sometimes I’m strong. I take it. Other times it just crushes me. I’m weak. Ugg.

Being open about such things is healthy. Think of the opposite, hiding behind a strong-only image — name dropping, credit taking, FaceBook swaggering, snoutbanding, gasconading. But all that is a bulky backpack. It’s a heavy load to keep carrying a fake face.

A thought: Don’t hide your weaknesses. Unpack the pack. Take off the mask. Let your whole self shine!

Don’t hide your strengths either, your toughness. Help people. Be authentic. People like that.

Another thought: Be gentle with yourself. Strong, weak — ahh, you’re normal.

Sun seeking jungle vines are heliotropic. They race one another up tree trunks to the light. One type of thorny bramble whips from side to side, shoving other plants out of the way. How rude! It is a jungle out there.

The Queen Victoria’s Water Lily has circular leaves that can grow to over 8 feet in diameter and float holding up almost 100 pounds in weight. Air is trapped in the ribs of the leaves. Air mattress plants.

The Africa acacia tree produces a whistling sound from the bulbous of its thorn. It also makes friendships with ants. Ants who can be whistled in? Maybe not.

Smart kites and falcons in Australia fly into active fires to pick up smouldering sticks and carry them away to area the flames have not yet reached. They start new fires to flush game from that area. They use fire to hunt. So much for a romantic view of nature. Yikes! Mice, snakes, lizard and rabbits should all move out of Australia. Find a nice, small suburban yard in London or maybe San Diego.

Forest trees have learned to live in mutually beneficial relationships. The trees communicate using a collective intelligence much like an insect colony. They share water and food through networks. Cooperative. We could learn from the trees.

Sand dunes are built one sand grain at a time. Each dune type is the result of different wind patterns, and the presence or lack of vegetation on the ground. It’s a self-organizing phenomenon. Beautiful! It’s natures geomancy, the art of arranging buildings auspiciously.

Our world! Strange. Instructive. Brutal. Beautiful.

Today I helped a butterfly escape from our patio cover. It was trapped there banging frantically against the fabric until I guided it with my hand down to where the cover ended. Then it fluttered away, freed. Safe.

I like the cooperative elements. The forest trees working together. The acacia and the ants. Beautiful and safe. It’s coming.

Isaiah 11

The wolf will live with the lamb,

the leopard will lie down with the goat,

the calf and the lion and the yearling a together;

and a little child will lead them.

7The cow will feed with the bear,

their young will lie down together,

and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

8The infant will play near the cobra’s den,

and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.

9They will neither harm nor destroy

on all my holy mountain,

for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea.

I will always remember kicking my fins along a coral wall off the coast of Kauai, excitedly pushing myself toward a large school of Achilles tangs. The sun pierced the water and illuminated the fish. I still remember the joy of their dark purple bodies, their bright orange tear drops and their blazing white highlights, the sudden and odd thrill of the unexpected combination of vibrant colors swimming together like some kind of underwater flock of geese painted by a madman.

Life is like this. You turn a corner, kick a couple of times in calm and quiet waters and there — a new school of something unexpectedly colored, swimming with you, sharp, well defined, clean lines. Then, as you approach, off they dart together into the deep, you in mad pursuit of something amazing. We pursue the good times and the feelings they evoke.

But at other times, swimming along, reality is not so calm and clear as that. Life does bring us excited, happy emotions but also wild, windy, stormy, clangorous ones as well.

Take Charles Burchfield’s painting, “Oncomming Spring,” the cold, white snow is melting on the ground and the brown, leafless trees are all a blur, wind-whipped-wild, wind-bent-curved, banging into one another.

The trees in “Oncoming” are noisy. The wind is too. The problem with paintings is that you can’t hear the noises they make. It’s often the same with humans — all creatures. We look at them, but remain outside the frame, the sick, disabled, the refugees, the immigrants, the marginalized, the racially discriminated against. We may not hear the storm inside another creature’s wooden picture frame, the banging silence there beneath the painted curve of distance between us. But our world suffers today, me too — swimming after sunshine and safety. Perhaps you too suffer, or you have. The suffering are pain brothers and sisters, a pandemicized world. We school together; we are a grove of bent trees.

So much pain is so often hidden behind walls of isolation, in impoverished neighborhoods, in shielding behaviors — the public smile that hides the grimace, the protective clichés we offer when we meet, the hiding behind words, the socially acceptable masks, the socially enforced keratoconjunctivitis sicca, dry eyes, the sere eyes that fear the bully judgements. Mostly only our babies and very young children cry in public.

And the Achilles tang, see too how they retreat from us, beautiful, but they are moving away. Where are they going as we pursue? A noise is hiding inside their purple and orange beauty. It’s alarm! They swim away from us toward safety. How often do we do the same.

But notice in Burchfield’s painting how windows open between the trees to blue skies and yellow warmth. The trees — whipped and jangled — also wait for life and safety in the oncoming spring, for bud, flower, green leaf. Burchfield knew this feeling and painted it — life’s longing wait for something safe and renewing, for spring, a watering. Like the deer we pant for running steams, for love, for the Devine. I know that labored-breathing wait and so do you. When will I again … ?

Oh life! You are a gorgeous schooling of purple tangs and you are brown, bent, wind-tossed groves of trees, both calm water and the raging storm, living inside us and outside us too — an advancing, a retreating, an oncoming, a storming, some sunlight peeking through the gaps.

Look and listen too. We are all schooling toward warmth and safety. We can at the very least understand that, listen for what isn’t voiced and attempt to swim together.

I love the work of Marc Chagall, his lovers floating through the sky.

Marc Chagall was a Russian-French 20th Century artist. He painted in the Jewish artistic tradition. I resonate with his bright colors and magical scenes.

He was influenced by surrealism, later by cubism. I’m enchanted by his people and animals, floating through the air, beautiful symbols of the romantic, magical and mystical in life.

His early paintings were of the Russian villages he grew up in.

Later he moved to Paris and was influenced by cubism. He expanded into stained glass and stage sets. He also did etchings of scenes in the Bible.

The painting above, “I and the Village,” is one of my favorites. “The flowing, merging life of animals and people, town and field, faith and mystery. Eye to eye, a green face, an intelligent animal, a glowing, flowering branch — I’m enchanted.

In the painting below, again we the magic mix, girl and window, field, sky and flower so tastefully juxtaposed — such wonderful colors.

Oh life!

Oh Chagall.

Thank you!

Anne Dagg, a Canadian zoologist, was the first person to study giraffes in the wild. In 1956, as a young woman, she bravely traveled to South Africa alone to study giraffes. Returning home she got her PhD, but she found a stone wall of resistance from the good old boy network in the sciences. She was refused a job as a tenured professor, but tenaciously she still published over 60 scientific articles and 20 books an animal behavior. She also became a strong advocate for women. Anne is now getting her due through apologies, awards and a documentary on her life is available on Amazon Prime’s CuriosityStream.

The sloth bear is a species native to the Indian subcontinent. There’s nothing slothful about it. So much for names. It has a long snout to vacuum up insects and a shaggy back for its cubs to ride on. It was made famous as Baloo, a fictional character featured in the movie based on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. The species is now endangered.

Hayabusa2 is a Japanese spacecraft that successfully rendezvoused with a diamond shaped asteroid named Ryugu in 2018. In an amazing display of technology it landed on the asteroid and picked up subsurface “organic matter” that scientists hope will help clarify the origin of life. The probe is on its way back to Earth to deliver the samples to eager scientists. In December of 2020 it will deliver its asteroid material by launching a small capsule with the material it collected.

Honeybees are disappearing from the earth. Many believe that our increasing use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, which honeybees ingest during their daily pollination rounds, are largely to blame. Parasites, viruses, and fungi also take their toll, especially on commercial bee colonies. In the US, to help with the problem huge numbers of bees are now carried around on semi trucks from California to Washington to the Dakotas to pollinate almond trees and apple trees. In 2015 one of the trucks overturned in California. It held 448 hives and an estimated 14 million bees.

What do a Canadian zoologist, a sloth bear, a space craft and bees have in common?


“The lover can see, and the knowledgeable,” writes Annie Dillard.

We are capable of learning about our world and our universe and understanding it better at an astonishing level of sophistication. From vacuum-cleaner bears to teams that produce astroid landing spacecraft, we earth creatures love life and hoover in knowledge.

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. Proverbs 18:15

Seeking! Seeing! That is the beginning. Seeing of loving and doing. Loving is understanding and continuing to vacuum up knowledge to better care for our world and ourselves.

Secondly, our learning and the application of it has dramatically altered the world. Some of this is good. We are figuring out the universe. We are keepers of the bees. We understand and preserve some bears and giraffes.

But some of our application of knowledge has resulted in a very harmful state of affairs. The proverbial “ears” of wisdom haven’t always been a wise. Bears and bees, giraffes and space — we are in the process of devastating them, our planet and space.

There are 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. There are an estimated 28 million pieces of human made debris smaller than 1 cm (0.39 in) in space.

What to do?

Protect and nurture. Use wisely. That was the Genesis command. It is a misunderstanding to think that we are here to dominate and destroy. We are not commanded to do that. We are commanded to responsibly love and nurture the creation, all races and genders and classes, bees, our earth, it’s atmosphere — all creatures, all persons.

A huge garden spider is now connected to my patio umbrella. I’m leaving it alone. I’m watching it increase its web. I not so fond of spiders, but I am absolutely sure that messing with this beautiful creature is wrong. It will spoil my backyard ecosystem.

But not messing with creatures hasn’t always been the response.

Beginning in 1958, chairman Mao in China decreed that all the sparrow should be killed. The whole country attacked them furiously. It was a national grotesquery. The result was a huge ecological imbalance that was in part responsible for the great Chinese famine. It turned out that while sparrows eat grain, they also eat insects — and without sparrows to keep the insect population in check, China’s crops were fair game. Locusts, leafhoppers and other insects descended in droves. At least 30 million Chinese died in the great famine.

The birds matter. What happens when the birds and bees are gone? This morning I close watched a pair of brown towhees hopping in my lawn. They were right in a place where I used to apply weed killer. I’m not going use that anymore. My earth care friend Brenda Smith influenced me this way, as well as my wife. We have a rabbit living in our hedge, birds and butterflies galore in the yard. We planted flowering bushes and trees to attract them. It is senseless to poison the wonders, the ground hopping extravagances that we created home and food for. The world is full of billions of these. We live in world teaming with life.

“The universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagances, flinging intricacies and colossi down aeons of emptiness, heaping profusions on profligacies with ever-fresh vigor,” writes Annie Dillard.

The Joy is in seeing it. For many years we bought passes to the San Diego Zoo. My wife and daughter have volunteered there. The zoo is a world leader in conservation and species preservation. And in part, as a result of this, my daughters are fascinated with nature, one even getting her PhD with an emphasis in ecofeminism.

There are simple things we can do to help. Several years ago, even before it became popular, my wife insisted that we stop getting plastic bags from the grocery store and that we stopped buying disposable water bottles.

I have to admit that despite my fascination with nature, it is the influence of others, very often women, that have led me to begin to change my behavior.

Wised-up ears listen to good counsel. We are so capable, even of Sisyphean labors to create refuges, conservation education, address poverty and preserve species. My intellectual hat is off to such as Anne Dagg and also to the Hayabusa2 space craft team, and to my wife, daughters and earth care friends.

If we can send a craft to an astroid can’t we turn from the destruction of our planet’s and nurture its profligate intricacies and natural extravagances?

We can.

Living is about routine. Since many of us have been home more than usual, we may think of this as boring, but we don’t have to slant it that way.

We have always done the same things again and again. We do them without thinking, for example brushing our teeth. We utilize muscle memory and neural grooves. The capacity to do this was built into our brains by the creator. It’s good.

Yesterday I saw a baby mockingbird in the backyard. As it walked through the grass it lifted its wings. Flight training? A wing strengthening routine? I know that kind of prep goes on with humans.

My daughter sends me videos of her 2 1/2 month old baby. Same thing. Lots of arm waving and leg kicking. Leg prep for walking. Arm strengthening for picking up and grasping things. She does this everyday. By this routine she is developing, engaging an interior, autonomic, built in gift. It’s her daily regimen. I love to watch her move. Nothing routine or boring about her.

We were made to do some things. How wonderful! God designed us just that way!

We can do so many things instinctively, intrinsically — walk, gesture, sleep — and we can initiate our brains for things we choose to do, new things, needed things.

What do you want to do next? What would be productive, maybe artistic? Perhaps within you lie exactly the right mental and physical gifts to make that a new routine.

Yesterday I made an espresso drink. I value coffee and precision. To me coffee is an art form. I weighed the fresh, locally roasted beans —18 grams — ground them on setting 9 on my burr grinder — achieving the required texture, close to the consistency of flour. I then pulled a two ounce shot — which takes 23 seconds — and frothed some whole milk, the wand at just the right angle and depth to produce microfoam. Exactitude tastes exquisite. It is a routine that I never find to be routine.

I’ve been in pain, chronic pain. At times it shuts me down. Sometimes I can’t manage it.

What helps?

Yesterday I texted encouragements. People love. I cleaned the house. Home love. I washed the cat. Creature love. I watered our garden. Earth love. I fed myself. Self care. My friends and family contacted me. The love of others. Love is a routine, yet beautiful.

Our used SUV — but new to us — came with an interior lighting issue. When you opened the doors, the interior lights didn’t come on. I figured it was just a setting. It was. On the interior roof consul by the sun roof controls there’s a button with the meme of a light on it. It also says “Door.” It simply needed to be pressed. Now the lights work.

What buttons must we press to do what we need to do next? Some buttons have already been pressed. They initiate our beautiful, well-lighted routines. What other buttons need to be pressed?

Life is routine, and the best routines involve pressing the buttons bearing the memes of love.

I love you my readers! I treasure you!

As we all struggle through a difficult season of life, I find myself wanting to be talk about what it means to be connected to each other.

Today a close friend stopped by. He shared about his battle with cancer earlier in life. He reminded me of the time, before a major surgery, when we walked in the park and talked and he disclosed his feelings and I listened.

We talked about my current chronic pain. We talked about his hearing loss. We talked about what it feels like to be dependent. We talked about what it feels like not to be able to do the things we use to do. We have a bond over shared experience — and shared loss.

The question arises, how well can we connect with others during this time of social distancing, during this time of racial and political tension?

In contemporary parlance to be rightly connected to each other is to be “woke.” The word “woke” has now taken on a specific political meaning. It means to be woken to the awareness of social, class and racial inequality and injustice. It means to wake to the institutional nature of racism, of the harm it causes, of the need for change.

Early in my career, when I was teaching a class in Advanced American Literature, I had my gifted students read the Autobiography of Malcolm X. One of my female students, a black Muslim, stayed after class one day, and told me that I was of the white devil race, I was an oppressor and that I would never understand the black experience.

I didn’t argue. I heard her. What she said had truth in it. She was resolute. I tried to receive that, but in a very real sense we cannot fully understand and feel the exact experience of another. She left. I felt pain. I still do over this issue. I felt some of her pain, and I felt my own, and I felt the pain of the history and literature of the people of the United States of America.

I was the white teacher, I was male, I had wealth and with these things came many advantages and many privileges. My goal was to empower my students. Not one my students in that class was white, and so the very dynamic of our relationship argued in favor of my accuser’s position. I had all the power over what they were taught, over how they were allowed to behave, and over the grades that would determine their future.

A question stands before us as a nation, a question for conservatives and liberals alike. How does one wake up to what another person experiences and feels? How do we wake up to truths that we haven’t made our own, truths that we haven’t wanted to hear? How do we awaken to what someone else thinks and feels about us? How do we bring justice to the harmed?

This morning as I spoke with my pain brother, my pain elevated to the point that after a while I wept in front of him —so much so that we couldn’t continue. My sense of loss in the moment of connection actually increased in the very presence of what I need and loved the most — my dearest friends. He sat quietly as tears roll down my face. He knew my heart. He was present. just as I had one known his. I didn’t hide my pain. He didn’t look away from it.

Before he left we prayed for each other and I found myself praying for the whole world, that God would have mercy and bring healing to all of us.

How do we connect? How do we understand? Understanding begins with being present. It proceeds along a path following the awareness of shared pain. Then brokenness begins to connect with brokenness. Loss with loss. Tears with tears.

Our losses may be different, but our tears are the same. How do we become woke? We “weep with those who weep.”

A close friend texted me today. She wrote, “Funny. I am amazed at how much spontaneous crying I do. There is a vulnerable place opening up within me. I’m in a less thinking, more loving place. I hunger and stumble after ‘the love that will not let me go.’Finley said ‘I’m not God, but I’m not other than God. I’m not you but I’m not other than you.’”

We know this. Within us is the capacity for understanding. The secret lies within our tears. We may not merge with another, but we can identify. Inside us there is the possibility of unity. The secret is in the awareness of our shared losses. Inside us there is the possibility of justice and equality. This happens when we realize that the other is none other than us.

When we consider other’s pain, their particular form of suffering, we often don’t know what to say or do, so we do or say nothing.

Recently my dad told me that his vision has deteriorated so much he can’t read. What to say?

It’s hard. I’ve been in that linguistic vacuum of not knowing. It’s awkward.

But lately, suffering my own significant degree of pain and loss, I better see what can be said or done.

After hearing about my dad‘s loss of vision, I asked him what he’s been doing with his time. I was interested. He had some things to say. He’s been sitting in beautiful spaces taking in the scenery. It was good. I didn’t really say anything, just listened.

Sometimes It’s OK to be silent if it is attend by interest and questions. Silence is fine —- as long as we are still present. Just sitting with someone in a waiting room at the hospital, just listening on the phone and not giving any advice, this can be so respectful and honoring.

But there are things to say. Wisdom has words. Wisdom communicates.



We can ask questions. We can draw out the person’s experiences, thoughts and feelings. Recently, upon hearing that one of my daughters was struggling with her emotions, I encouraged her to write her feelings in a journal and then to send them to me. She now does that regularly, and I respond with “Good job,” and “A+” drawing from my experience as a teacher. Sometimes we discuss what she has written.

Feelings — they are best approached as being normal, human, not right or wrong. I love the line — upon hearing of someone’s fear or embarrassment or shame or anxiety — “Considering what you are going through, anyone would feel that way.” It is so salutary to normalize people’s feelings.

Next we can relate to and acknowledge the whole person. We are more than our suffering, even when it seems to dominate. Recently I received a text from a friend asking me if I would like to speak to his congregation. He was honoring what I used to do. We had some fun with it. I often used a barstool while speaking. I did so to give a relaxed, human, cool, down-to-earth vibe to my presentations. I told him now that I’m suffering chronic pain, I’d have to speak laying down on the stage, and I would invite people to sit around me. It would be a new take on on casualness. The sermon on the ground! My friend saw me as more than my pain. We could laugh about it. Humor helps.

Another approach is to speak of good memories. Recently we heard of a friend who doesn’t have much longer to live. Despite some years of separation, even some alienation, we wrote notes to her remembering all the good things we experienced together earlier in life. Remembering the good, when you’re faced with the bad, it’s helpful.

Finally, instead of focusing on dysfunction, disability or pain, we can focus a person on what is good in them. Someone told me recently, “You are so strong, you’re brave.” He spoke of my previous accomplishments in reinventing organizations. I needed that. I was feeling weak, afraid and unaccomplished. It was good to be reminded that strength is still there within.

As I hung up with my dad the other day, he said he felt so guilty for not calling me. I told him that was OK. I had no judgment of him. He thanked me for this. This is something my pain has done for me. It’s knocked the criticalness out of me. It is powerful to relate to others without judgment.

Pain and hardship, it’s rough, but we can still talk during it, and at the very least we can go through it together.

I told my wife recently that we were going on a trek, an outing.

We did. We hiked out the back door to the edge of the patio concrete, right to where the grass begins, our few square feet of prairie, the very edge of safety, right at that line where civilization ends and wilderness begins and there we sat down on patio furniture.

Just beyond us stood several small trees, orange jubilees. I planted those last year. This is our forest. And nestled in the corner is our lake, a pond about three feet across and eighteen inches deep, with a solar water pump and water feature jostling some duck weed and water lilies. Monet had nothing on us.

And so we sat out back and waited. I knew if we kept our eyes open we might see stuff, maybe something from the order Rodentia, perhaps a capybara, the worlds largest rodent, 100 pounds of flat nosed, wiry haired, webbed foot cuteness.

We didn’t see a Capy, but we saw a chthonic cousin of Capy. Sitting on our lawn furniture, we saw a small black rat, Rattus rattus, scamper up the fence. My wife hates rats. I suggested that maybe the neighbor’s dogs would get it. That pleased her.

But on other recent backyard outings we have also seen some un-ratty lovelies, some yellow and black Anise swallowtail butterflies, orange and white gulf fritillaries, black and orange Monarchs, red dragonflies, tan doves, olive kingbirds, grey and white mockingbirds, a house sparrow with a black bib, a brown towhee and a rufous hummingbird.

Florence Wilson in her new book The Nature Fix writes, “Thanks to a confluence of demographics and technology, we’ve pivoted further away from nature than any generation before us. Science is now bearing out what the Romantics knew to be true.” We need to be outside. We need a connection with nature. We need to see living things inhabiting shared spaces. It helps fix us. It makes us happier.

But I find myself not wanting to romanticize nature too much; it brings what it brings and it isn’t always what we want.

We all have our scary things, our bête noires. At our home we have black widows living in the low stucco screed on the north side of our house. Sometimes they migrate to the lawn furniture. Messy webs where we lounge — yikes! I confess, I have gotten out the can.

My daughter texted me the other day that there was a huge, execrable tarantula hanging out by her back door. She was horrified. She called her husband. They spoke of death in a can. I lobbied for the positive medical possibilities currently being researched regarding tarantula venom. It fell on deaf ears. The gigantesque, we generally like it — think dinosaurs, mountains, redwoods, portions of ice cream — and then most of us don’t, at least not in spiders.

There are other things. Two years ago the fire department, when called upon, fetched a diamondback rattlesnake out of our back yard.

Such is life, snakes and rats, doves and butterflies. We have our biases, but it occurs to me that perhaps the snakes keep the rat population down. And yet I still don’t want to find neither in my backyard.

Lately, I’ve suffered some extreme chronic pain. Rats! Spiders. Snakes. I’ve journeyed to the backyard of my own soul, and I haven’t always liked what I found there — fear, anxiety, anger and tears hiding under my mental lawn furniture. I don’t like it, and I don’t like the drugs that make me stupid headed.

Life is such a mixed bag of goods, much like nature. Here in our home, in our bit of civilization and wilderness, we have experienced the most joyous things in the world, raising two beautiful daughters, and some of the most difficult things in the world, pain, anxiety, depression and loss.

Recently, I often haven’t been able to get out of bed all day because of the severity of my pain. But one evening — getting an hour when the pain let up — I dragged my telescope out into the yard and picked up some beautiful views of Jupiter with its tan cloud bands and its four Galilean moons lined up near it, and also Saturn with its lovely golden ring. Ahhh! It did fix something in me.

Our crazy journeys. Some thinkers want to make philosophical or theological systems out of the good and bad, out of the polarities, the rats and doves, the antitheticals, pain and pleasure, perhaps an aesthetic, a morality, perhaps a life lesson, a pattern of order and disorder.

Currently I don’t. I don’t try to systematized life. I don’t make sense out of the paradoxes. I love the moments of beauty. This morning we did some FaceTiming with my daughter and son-in-law as they opened a box of gifts, beautiful hand-crafted little dresses, rompers, hats and tiny shoes my wife crafted for their little baby girl.

And I grieve the moments of isolation and pain, face down on the bed in my room, shut off by mind-numbing pain from friends and family, unable to take in the wonders of our world, lost in a wilderness I journeyed into unaware of what I might find there — or not.

What to do? I’ll leave it to God with no offense for what has been seen along the way, and no offense for what was not seen, and grateful for the occasional lovelies that flew within range of sight and the moments to enjoy them.

I just finished James Mathiesen’s book Snow Leopard. He trekked deep in to the Himalayas to see the beautiful snow leopard. He didn’t — see it. But the elusive cats probably saw him. He left concluding that some things are best not seen.

We trek. We look. We see. We don’t. We’re watched over by God. It’s life, it’s beautiful, and not so much sometimes, all in the same journey.

What protects and feeds the earth?


Every year, over a hundred million tons of dust is picked up from the deserts of Africa by mountain winds — picked up from the massive Bodélé Depression, the “dustiest place on Earth,” picked up from the giant old lake bed of Mega Chad, and blown across the Atlantic Ocean.

7,000 years ago, the Sahara wasn’t a desert at all, but a land of huge lakes, and the largest was Chad, bigger than all of the Great Lakes combined.

Much of the dust consists of fossilized microorganisms, diatoms, billions of diatoms that fell to the bottom of the lakes as they evaporated.

Diatoms are micro-algae. They are the only organism on the planet with cell walls composed of transparent, opaline silica. Diatoms live in houses made of glass.

So billowing clouds of desert dust — glass diatom houses — from the Sahara waft into the atmosphere, form a plume that stretches 4,000 miles — more than the size of the continental United States — and head out over the Atlantic Ocean. There, in part, the dust clouds play the role of hurricane spoiler. The dry air shreds the forming clouds.

Some of the Saharan dust falls into the Atlantic and sinks to the bottom. Full of nutrients, it feeds the phytoplankton. They in turn help create our oxygen.

Some of the dust keeps going, traveling high in the atmosphere. An estimated 27 millions of tons of Sahara dust reaches the Amazon. Water vapor in the Amazon nucleates on the dust particles, and mineral-laden rain falls — fertilizer from the sky.

This is needed. Surprisingly the Amazonian soil is poor. The heavy rains wash away its phosphorus. The Shaharan dust adds back in phosphorus, present in its microscopic diatoms.

One of the driest places on earth nurtures one of the wettest. Former lives feed current lives.

The interconnectedness of the earth is astonishing. The complexity of our ecosystem is amazing. The sequencing is first rate.

I can just imagine God working this all out ahead of time saying, “Hum, what if we solved that problem with this solution. Dust. Cool!”

Then he paused and said, “I can do a lot with dust.”