Archive for the ‘thought of the day’ Category


As i stood in the river yesterday, casting a line in the futile hope of catching a fish, it occurred to me that I was standing in “the current.” The water purled around my legs, the current tugging at me. And at the same time, I was fully absorbed in the practice of trying to catch a fish, absorbed by the dappled sunlight sparkling off the river, absorbed in the sensation and scent of what I was doing and where I was standing. Free from thought and concern, I was also “present” in the sense of being free from thought and consequence. And in being present, I was absorbed in the present. Is it a coincidence that current means present as well as moving water? Perhaps not.


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I have realized, while killing time in Boston and now in Miami, that it is strange to be in an airport traveling to one of the poorest countries in the world. The airport is a place of opulence. Just to be here you have to be able to pay a couple hundred dollars (at least) for a ticket. And it is a consumer’s paradise – fast food and duty-free shops and excessive packaging. Should I buy a magazine that I will throw out before I get on my plane?

Still, there is a pleasant diversity here in Miami. Many languages spoken, particularly Spanish, and the gates are entrances to legendary places like Grand Cayman and Sao Paolo and Santo Domingo. And Bolivia. I’m tempted to try a different gate…

Tomorrow morning I will land and I have no idea what to expect. I hope the customs officials are friendly and forgiving. It’d be great if they spoke English, and I suppose that is possible, but too much to expect. Have I brought the correct documentation to get into the country? I sure hope so.

Here in Miami they have a “Sky Train” that travels between groups of gates. I prefer to walk, but it has firmly stuck that old Replacements song, “Skyway” in my head as I wander here aimlessly. Two hours before the plane will start boarding.

You take the skyway, high above that pretty little one way, and in my stupid hat and gloves at night I lie awake, wondering if I’ll sleep. Wondering if we’ll meet out on the street…

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Oil is US

I sat and watched images from Japan this morning for ten minutes or so this morning and was overwhelmed by the images. A wall of what was hard to recognize as water (debris, cars, boats) moving across the landscape… buildings toppling… floating debris on fire. I couldn’t help but feel the magnitude of it — those people killed, uprooted, traumatized. Lives and livelihood taken in one slip of a tectonic plate. And slowly I began to recognize the voices dubbed over the carnage… a woman, the anchor, telling us that there were reports that this should cause the price of oil to drop. Another station with images of a watery apocalypse, and another confident voice talking about how this might ease the prices at the gas pump.

Is this what it has come to? That our gluttony has finally conquered our compassion? That a tragic day for thousands, millions of people, has come to measured in words like economy and barrels? Really? This tragedy in Japan registers for us only in dollars, not tears?

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Vermont is…

a blue-sky day with growing heat as morning gives way to afternoon, and finding still, in the grass seeped in morning shadow, the clinging droplets of last night’s dew.

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Is it strange that you call the back part of a truck the “bed,” and that’s where I sleep for the summer? It’s like it’s meant to be. 5’7″ person in a 6′ truck bed… perfect.

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This one keeps coming up for me again and again. Binoculars. A set or pair of binoculars, even. But here’s the thing… bi-nocular… as in a binocular (two eye) scope as opposed to a monocular (one eye). So in truth, the thing you wear around your neck birding is a binocular. A set or pair of binoculars would mean that you have two of them. Don’t think this one will ever change, but i can’t help hearing people use the words without thinking to myself…

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Canyonlands National Park, at the backcountry permitting desk. I mention to the rangers helping me that I worked in the park, surveying for spotted owls, 15 years ago, and was back to hike Salt Creek Canyon.  They’re interested, and curious about my work and life, so I share a few stories.  It’s nice, every once in a while, to find people that treat me like what I do is special and unusual. Sometimes I forget.

Later, after the ranger-led campfire talk at the campground, one of the rangers approaches me with a couple of friends. He wants me to give a spotted owl hoot and tell his friends about what I do. His wife is there and curious. When I mention that I am driving from Washington, where I was working with wolverines, to New Mexico, where I’ll be working with spotted owls, he turns to a friend and says, “see, he’s living the life!”

And it makes me stop. He’s there with his wife. I can’t reconcile a long-term relationship and this type of lifestyle. He is surrounded by friends. I’m traveling alone and my phone rarely rings. He has a steady job and probably benefits that include health insurance. I haven’t been to a doctor in fifteen years and live in fear of a serious injury or illness. It would bankrupt me. Quickly.

The Life. I suppose I am living it. I see beautiful places and get paid to do things that other people only wish they could do. But then again, there is a price. It is a glorious life, but not an easy one.

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