These comments and notes were written for NorfolkNet.
Some have appeared on the web page, but not all.
Written Monday, December 15, 2003
What's so damn important?
Last week many things were, or at least they seemed, terribly important to me. There was the dead server at a client's that I had to fix and how was I going to do that? It tested out OK every time I ran the hardware test. Then there was the other client that couldn't send e-mails. And the annoying power steering pump belt slippage in our other car. When was I going to have the time to get to that? Huh? This is what's so damn important. Getting all these things done. Getting them done now before more things pile on the "must be done right away" list. There was no time for anyone.not myself, not the kids, not my wife. No one. No time at all. Work, work, work. Then, the phone rang. While driving along to one appointment or another, the phone rang. Little did I know that within minutes of this seemingly unimportant event, time, as I knew it anyway, would stop.
I grappled with the phone to withdraw it from the always-at-the-ready holster and quickly said "Hello". The voice at the other end spoke and identified itself as my new doctor. Hmmm, this isn't a social call I thought.this can't be good. It wasn't. The voice told me that it had been routinely looking over my past medical records when it noticed a "spot" on my left lung. Such a small, insignificant word, "spot", for such a huge impact. The old x-ray from 2002 showed it. The not-quite-as-old x-ray from 2003 showed it. The words were just beginning to vibrate in my ear when I noticed that I had been hit by 1,000,000 volts. I felt warm all over and then went numb. The mind detaches itself instantly from what it instinctively knows is reality but what it does not want to absorb. "What did he say?" "Is he insane?" "Is he talking to the wrong guy?" "Who's server was crashing again?" "Who can't send the e-mails?" It seemed so far away. It did not matter any more. As far as I knew I was being told I had a disease survived by less than fifteen percent of it's victims. The voice asked if I had any history of exposure to asbestos. Did I have any older x- rays that could be looked at? Did I have any symptoms? Any shortness of breath? Any unexplained weight loss? (this one re-assured) Any persistent cough? Is this really happening? I scrambled my mind to begin answering the questions but at times like these who remembers dates of x-rays and asbestos locations? Was my last breathless ascent up the stairs caused by my three hundred sixty pounds or was it my corroded lungs? The follow-up, the voice said, would be to have an MRI which would more clearly explain what was going on inside me. I mumbled agreement and hung up the phone, stunned, scared and quite sweaty. "Jesus, this is going to spoil Christmas for the family" I thought as I tried to keep the car on the road. Numb, I continued on to my next stop and like a zombie I went through the motions of picking up the computer parts and paying the nice man for them. I decided to go home instead of continuing on so I could see my wife and family and maybe find the strength to break the news to my wife. When I saw her I realized that if I didn't speak immediately I would not be able to at all. Choked up and fighting for emotional control I repeated what the voice had said from inside my phone. We both stood there silently holding on to each other as though the badness could be squeezed away.
The next day came and I awaited the call that would tell me where to bring myself to be magnetized and prodded by 21st century technology. Yet another voice emerged from my phone and told me I had to go to the Guild building for the test but I would have to wait until next Monday. It was only Thursday now..four days of waiting. Four days to think, think, think. On this day I had important meetings with clients, which I am now told I did attend. Perhaps I was there in body but certainly not in mind. My thoughts swirled around a seven year old boy and a 4 year old girl. Would I dance at their weddings? Would I see them go to the prom? Would I even make it to their next birthdays? I wasn't sure but now these things were the things that were so damned important. Each second seemed to pass in an hour. Time slowed to a halt. I wanted it to be Monday. I wanted the test to be done and the results to be in, good or bad, I wanted to know. As Friday night passed into Saturday morning all I could think of was this thing. This enormous thing that had been unceremoniously dumped upon me. I could not look at our Christmas tree and enjoy it, as lovely as it was, without now thinking was it the last tree I would look at? Each time Erin hugged me and said "I love you Papa" I had to fight back the tears. I could only see my son Kenneth in terms of what would happen to him as he grew up without a father. I tried to sleep this nightmare off but my sleep was filled with wakefulness. I tried to occupy myself with things but after a few minutes of being occupied, there was this thing again. It was everywhere and inescapable. My Friday night out with friends, usually a relaxing good time, had this unwelcome thing sitting right there with me that only I could see. Talk, talk, laugh, laugh, oh yeah, remember the thing. Saturday night crept up and then there was a message sent to me on my TV. "Come sit", Lorna said, "It's a wonderful life" is on. I had never seen the 1946 Frank Capra classic in its entirety and decided this must be the time I am supposed to watch it. Curiously I enjoyed the movie even though the three hours spent watching it was pure hell. Somehow, and for some reason, I felt its being on meant that I too, just like George Bailey, was going to have a happy ending. It would be a wonderful life. It certainly had been right up to the moment the voice emerged from my phone with the two minute warning that stopped the damn clock. All I could do now was wait. Wait and try not to think too much which was quite impossible. All I could do was think. Think of every nuance in the voice that had brought me this message. Think of the reassurances I had been given.were they real or were they just to calm me down. What did the voice mean when it said it thought it probably was going to turn out to be nothing? Probably just the standard stuff these voices are trained to give out to the terminally ill. But then again, maybe it would be all right. No way to know.damn it why isn't it Monday already?
About four hundred days passed from Wednesday to Monday and it was time to get the test. Up early, can't sleep anyway, and off to the Guild building in Norwood. In and out, the test took twenty minutes. Lay on the table, slide into the big magnet and hold your breath...OK breathe now and poof you're done. Go home and wait for the results. They told me it's usually twenty four to forty eight hours before the results are in. Bullshit I thought to myself. I am going to be the voice coming out of this doctor's phone by early afternoon if he doesn't call me first. I went on about my day still thinking and thinking and thinking. Good, bad, not too good, not too bad..what would the answer be? One PM came and went and no phone call from the voice, only clients that called ten times with their problems. I felt like screaming, "Problems? Problems? I'll tell ya about a problem!" but instead opted to dole out my advise that, yes without a network wire in the machine it was normal behavior to not be able to access e-mail and the web.
Two o'clock and one more ring on my cell phone.this time it was the voice. This time the voice wasted no time on small talk and simply said "I have your test results. Everything is fine. There is nothing even showing up in the MRI. No bumps, no lumps, no marks, no spots. It is not there and we need no further testing." Somewhere a bell chimed and Clarence got his wings. I had to hold the chair lest I fly right out of it and hit the ceiling. I kicked the server room door shut so I could have this joyous moment in private as liquid joy streamed down my cheeks. It has been a wonderful life. It is a wonderful life and apparently it will continue to be a wonderful life. This was the result I dared not even dream of. I had thought the best I would get would be "The spot is still there, unchanged, and we will repeat the test every six or eight months to keep a watch on it." But this was even better. It was gone or had never really been there. Perhaps it was the alignment of my bones, the voice said, that caused this x-ray shadow. Who knows? Who cares I thought, my spot is gone, my spot is gone. I will see another Christmas tree, I will adjust my son's bowtie as I send him off on his prom date, I will dance at my children's weddings. Christmas isn't gonna suck this year. No sir, no way. My household will have the best Christmas ever because I have received the best Christmas gift. Now I know what's so damn important and it surely has nothing to do with work. It's the little moments of love and kindness we have and overlook each day. It is the hug of the small child and the kiss of my wife. It is the sweetest little child running up and grabbing me and saying "I love you Papa". It is my son showing me his report card and his beaming pride in it. It is the love of my life, my wife, who showed more courage and strength during this time than even she knows. It is this season of joy and hope and the gift of sharing it with my family and the hope of sharing it each and every year. It is all my future days, however many they number, where I will hopefully retain the joy and wisdom of the moment the voice returned my life to me.
Looking after our town...
The Tragedy of the Ambiguous Boundary*
Some years ago, across the railway tracks at the Norfolk Station, a Cedar tree was losing its struggle against vines slowly smothering it and pulling it to the ground. Surely this should not have been allowed to continue, but who was responsible for stopping the destruction? I was reminded of this on Sunday when I took my daughter to meet her train to Boston. Very few cars were parked along the tracks and even fewer intended passengers were pacing along the platform, so we had an unimpeded view of the entire boundary of the railway cut between Main Street and the overpass. It looked like a rarely attended trash dump. Towns are partly defined by boundaries internal and external, including many of ambiguous and careless ownership. In the case of the edge of the railway cut, the owner does not care about appearances and nobody else feels responsible or empowered to maintain it. Not that this particularly visible stretch would be expensive to maintain; a few hours per month of Highway Department time could keep the trash picked up, trim away the brambles and vines and plant an occasional tree, or a neighboring business could adopt and tend the boundary, or the Community Preservation Committee could arrange for a part-time custodian, or the Boy Scouts could take it on as a Project. The tragedy is that nobody takes the lead to get the concurrence of the owners of this ambiguous boundary and to institutionalize a local solution. The Selectmen, the Town Administrator, the Board of Health, the Planning Board, the Community Preservation Committee, the Lions Club, the boy Scouts and many other likely leaders either don't see the problem, don't care, or don't feel empowered to do anything about it. So our downtown Station Platform that could offer a view of a hundred yards or more of attractive woodland border instead overlooks an untended stretch of briars, vines and scrub trees, all festooned with trash. As for the tree being smothered by vines, about ten years ago someone put on his roughest and least memorable clothes and trespassed with heavy shears to cut off the vines at their roots. Today that Cedar across from the first Handicap parking slot at the Station is a thing of beauty and a credit to the Town.
*With apologies to Garrett Hardin, "The Tragedy of the Commons", Science, 162 (1968): 1243-1248.
On growing up in Norfolk
Growing up in Norfolk
2/17 12:56pm I grew up on 40 Grove Street. So many things for a kid to do right in my back yard. On Saturday mornings for a couple of years my friend Chris and I would go to "Mr. Wright's" farm to feed the 4 cows and 2 pigs. Each cow had its own special diet and answered by name. Across the street were strawberry patches, peas and green beans. Dr. Wright would have us pick the vegetables and bring them back to the house. He let us pick at the food and paid us a fair rate. Just down the dirt road past the strawberry patches was a little frog pond. The bull frogs were huge and fun to catch. Every now and then we'd get a water snake too! During the summer I'd work at the little preschool as a "helper" since I wasn't old enough to get an "adult" job yet. I was paid $20/week to help out the teachers with activities and play and watch the kids on the play ground. Behind my house were wetlands. We would hike in the spring and summer looking for wildlife, and would track the rabbit droppings on the ice to "rabbit island" in the middle of the swamp in winter. Deer, hawks, snakes, raccoons, rabbits, skunks, owls, salamanders and many others were amongst some of our favorite animals to spot. The wild flowers were abundant and I remember hearing that you could be fined $50 for picking a Lady Slipper, the state flower, so we always just stopped to look "not touch". We'd build forts out of ferns and pine needles and swing on the tire over the old oak. If we weren't picking blueberries in our back woods, we were climbing pine trees, making forts or ice skating on one of the many ponds near by. One of my favorites was lake #### past Grove over the wooden bridge. Pete (old best friend) and I would finish our paper route (Sun Chronicle) and stop on the bridge to wait for the train. We would stand on the second wooden rail slightly elevated to feel like we were flying as the train would rush underneath passing swiftly. Down on Main Street past the fire station was a dirt road up to the old town pond. I actually took swimming lessons there. That was a great place to swim and fish. Plenty of bass would circle the little pond and you could see them below on the concrete diving block. We would fish anywhere there was water...even if we never caught anything. At the lake we would hike to the backside away from the street for peace and quiet as we climbed the train bridge and dropped our poles into the stream that left the lake. We would tease that we felt the track vibrating to make the other scared and go down below. Stony Brook was another wonderful place to hike. We would go the entire trail around the lake and count how many animals we saw along the way. Before they built the new minimall across from Daley's Sunoco, we would explore the old abandoned hotel that was said to have been the place where George Washington stayed one night. Cubscouts at St. Mary's Catholic church and the Federated church's basements. My Cub Scout Pack Leader Mr. James made sure we had a good time at pinewood derby car races and trips to see the fire engines at the station. One of the hotspots for kids on Friday nights was "Skatetown USA". I believe it closed down, but was the best place for arcade games, popcorn and roller skating. We'd skate to the music and roller games and if you were lucky a girl would let you hold her hand during the "slow skate". Basketball games in friends' driveways, rollerblade hockey at the Centennial School tennis courts and kite flying at the elementary school football field. Motorcycle riding down dirt roads and skateboarding anywhere we could find smooth asphalt. We would "ollie" the pot holes as a challenge. I liked going to the town pharmacy candy aisle. There were so many items to choose from, and the pharmacist ( don't remember his name) knew us by last name. "How are the Vick boys doing today". On half days of school friends and I would go to Andy's pizza for cheese fries and pizza. Andy welcomed everyone and gave special service to our family of 8 when we came early on Saturdays for breakfast. Norfolk House of Pizza made the best pizza around. Oh how I loved growing up in Norfolk. - SV
Written while the Bush, Jr. was preparing to invade Iraq in early 2003...
2/1 9:30am To PFD - if we could fight our war against Saddam Hussein only, I'm sure none of us would be arguing about it. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of Iraqis are almost certain to lose their lives in the crossfire, and we can expect to lose hundreds, and possibly thousands, of American lives. In order to justify this, we have to believe that Hussein is a realistic threat to the United States. It is clear now that he does not have nuclear weapons, so the threat of a large scale attack on us does not exist. Yes, he probably still has chemical and biological weapons, but he has had them since the 1980's, and has never attempted to use them against the United States, probably because he's not suicidal. Tell me, do you REALLY believe this war is about weapons of mass destruction? Finally, I hope that the last line of your post does not suggest that you believe in supporting our government's policies, right or wrong. Blind support for the government is the most un-American thing I can think of. Living in a democracy means that we have not just a right, but a duty to ask questions and oppose our government when we think the situation calls for it. Please do not suggest that anyone do otherwise. - WJB
Advice on how to part with posessions accumulated over the past 48 years ...
8/24 10:20pm To JJL: September is one of the most beautiful months of the year! Perhaps a tag sale in your yard? It is indeed a lot of work, but you will get to see many of your treasures go to new and enthusiastic owners. I will share a story about my own parents when they downsized from their home on the Cape to a smaller townhouse. The decision was an emotional one, but one we all knew had to be made. The house was just too big and too much yard. With my family living in Norfolk and with very busy lives, we were certainly not lending a tremendous amount of assistance. It took them time, but when they finally made their decision, mom and dad had the same question..... what the heck (my dad used a rather more colorful expletive....the same one he uses when he watches the Red Sox :-) are we going to do with all of the stuff we have collected during 50 years of marriage? We decided to take advantage of a beautiful fall weekend and have a tag sale. With help from their kids and grand-kids, we advertised, planned, cleaned, organized and then tagged the items they wished to sell. It was a family event. Grandma got a little high-pitched from time to time (phew), so we just got her back to the kitchen where she loves to prepare to feed everyone. My dad was "cute"! Dad, who has very serious osteo arthritis which drastically limits his mobility, needed a stationary job. Well, what do you do with a 38 year veteran of Wright Aeronautical chief design engineer/project manager? You make him the PROJECT MANAGER (he also did all the finances). We had him in a chair in the middle of the garage and with his cane he managed the who sha-bang!!! He was perfect...calm, funny, sensible; but a real pain with that cane! Well, the weekend was a wonderful success. My parents let go of a lot of their things... some of them were tough! However, I will never forget my parent's heartfelt and emotional reaction when a young couple (who were adult children of one of their friends) bought their pedestal table and chairs. The young woman and her husband came over to my mom and dad to thank them. Quietly the woman took my parents hands, brought them to her face, and said, "Please don't think of this as a day of loss....think of it as a day of touching many lives... think about how much joy you have brought to them." That really help them a lot..... it helped all of us. May I wish you Godspeed as you move into your new home and the next stage of your lives. However you decided to downsize, remember the item will go into another's hands, but your memories will be yours forever. Good luck! - RLV
From a discussion on town growth, on the difference between planning and good intentions
5/13 10:46am It's easy to blame town officials for the current state of Norfolk. And certainly, voter apathy is an easy and accurate target. For me, it is not whether there should be investments in town projects. Improvements to the town increase resale value as JT points out. What concerns me is the lack of quality in recent projects. Projects are started, but then corners seem to be cut & nobody is happy. Either that or the planning wasn't adequately done at the beginning. The town Center is of course the obvious example. But drive around town and you see many more. The intersection of Rt. 115 and Union Street? Somebody actually designed that? We built a new elementary school and within just a few years needed a prop override to expand it! The extensive (& costly?) planning that went into attracting businesses to Rt. 1A - resulting in 2 after several years. "Norfolk" Power Equipment? Water well #3 discussed on these pages? Drive 1A - compare Wrentham, Norfolk & Walpole. A small, but I suspect common example, of how good intentions without adequate planning & an expectation of quality end up producing results that hardly add value for any of us: I live near Union & King Streets and for FOUR years there has been a relatively minor re-layout of a section of Union & King street. The last steps? Pave the road - then dig a trench across the new pavement and unevenly patch it; place the intersection at such an angle that cars & school buses drive across the edges; stack stones for a rustic stone wall so some are already falling down; end the new pavement without evenly patching the old road where water lines were put in at the beginning of the project (4 years ago); dump loam and grass seed on the street corners - on a slope so the seed washes away & the soil runs off. If I produced this kind of "quality" in a project at work, I'd be fired. We have the potential for a beautiful town where it should be a delight to live & raise a family. Our tax burden is outrageous for what we have. And we continue to make investments but don't ever improve the core of the town. My suggestion? It is time to do the hard stuff. Should the library be expanded? Sure. Can we afford to? I'd say let's finish some of our other "projects" first. The same should be true for every budget line item. Show me the plan to finish the existing projects & we can talk about the next ones. The Town Center must be resolved - that will increase resale value. Business must be attracted (preferably to the Rt1A area) - that will ease some tax burden & increase resale value. I'm sorry, but if I couldn't manage my budgets at work, they may find somebody who could, but they certainly wouldn't increase and give me more to manage. - TMB
Written the day after the World Trade Center was destroyed.Tragedy
9/12 9:31pm Wow, how to come to the realization that the problems we face day to day, ergo, to golf course or not to golf course, to pave, tear down, build up, scrape up, seize up, my neighbors (dog barks, kids yell, radio is too loud etc.) mean NOTHING in the large scheme of things. I sit transfixed, in front of the TV set, watching those terrible pictures over and over again yet unable to turn away, all the while thinking, ``What am I going todo, how is this going to affect me, my kids, my grandkids, my world?'' All of a sudden, I feel very small and very vulnerable and very thankful that I am where I am and not where ``they'' are. I am sorry for everyone in this world, it's not supposed to be like this. Everyone that is safe today, take a minute and breathe, tell people how much they mean to you, smile at all you meet, and above all, Love and Laugh together. - JW
Posted as part of a longer message about the King/Union St. intersection.Home in Norfolk
7/11 9:25am My family and I live on Union Street near the intersection of King Street. Our home sits up on the hill and I can say without reservation that we have one of the most beautiful views in the town of Norfolk. The field across the street is loaded with wildlife! It changes its characteristics as the seasons come and go. From the sound of those first spring peepers and the first signs of green, to the regalia of lightning bugs creating a festive yuletide effect against a wall of darkness, to lazy mist hovering over the Stop River as it ebbs in-between a palette of fall colors, to the full moon glistening on the ice crystals which form on the brush . . . it is breathtaking. In our opinion, this little field is one of Norfolk's treasures! How fortunate we are to look out at it every day. - RV
Posted as a follow-up in reply to a plea of please, don't be slobs out there, we all live in this town together.On Manners
6/1 4:41pm Hello - About the playground on Boardman Street. I agree with KC. I can't understand how people can bring their children to a playground or anywhere for that matter, let them make a mess with litter and forgotten clothes etc. and not clean up, at least, their own mess. I live on Tucker Road, and I walk to that playground often with my four year old daughter. I am constantly amazed at the amount of trash on the streets and at the playground itself. This is a small town not some vacant lot in the inner city. The most unsettling thing is that I have seen some of the commuters "tax paying homeowners" who walk home from the train drinking "coffee coolatas" from Dunkin Donuts and throwing their empty cups in the woods in front of my house . . . where did these people come from? I teach my children to respect their surroundings, and not littering is just a small part of that. Last year my daughter and I brought a trash bag and picked up all the litter between our house and the playground. Now this year SHE told me we had to do it again. It is not difficult to keep our town clean, and we all reap the benefits by maintaining a good self image for our town, and ourselves. I am no activist, but if we teach our children good habits when they are young we may be able to avoid these same problems as they grow into adults. Its the job of the parents/guardians to set a good example, so far we seem to be failing. I plan on picking up the trash within the next week and I dare anyone to be responsible enough to do the same to their own area. I believe if only a handful of people do this we can make a difference in the town, and perhaps if the area appears cleaner and we make an effort to discourage future litterers this problem may no longer be an issue. I hope so.
. . . and may the relationship continue!
3/22 12:54pm Happy Birthday, girl! There are 20 candles on your cake today. A whole generation has gone by since we first met. This might not be so unusual, except that you are my trusted companion, my cat! We've lived in two different countries, three states, and many types of homes over the years, big and small, new to 200 years old. You adopted Frisky, your cat companion for nearly 13 years, whom we still miss. You sniffed the man I was dating when you first met him, but quickly grew to like him, so we got married. You even accepted our two sons as they joined the family, even though the little one bugs you sometimes! We learned to give you shots when you developed diabetes at 15. You've done well to live with it and take the shots every day. You have a wonderful, gentle nature, and a great, loud, motor. I feel lucky to have had you in my life for so long. I love you, Toby, and wish you many more purrfect days!!! - CR
Winter means snow, snow means shoveling . . .
1/23 9:20am The snow was neat Sunday; shoveling took only an hour, and it was fun. My back is not very sore, and my blisters have mostly healed, so I'm ready for the next one! (and no, the photo is not of my driveway, and no, I did not shovel the whole road :-)
2/6 7:44am I don't understand the physics of it, but snow is a curious substance. The light and delightfully fluffy powder next to the house that virtually leaps from the path of the shovel progessively turns into a heavy, immovable, ice-laden sludge that has to be pried off the asphalt and dragged over to the side. This odd property is not always evident on close inspection, and it may be that sighting down the length of a snow shovel handle is involved in its full appreciation.
Appeared in Notes in response to a post wishing for more modern conveniences.
12/19 10:58am [ . . .] I've found both Norfolk Food Mart and Linda's to be open on most occasions when I've needed them, and to have a surprisingly large variety of the things one needs in a pinch. Their hours of operation *are* posted, and are fairly reasonable given their clientele and the type of town they're in. Best of all, the people there, as well as the people at the downtown gas station, have been unfailingly pleasant. I too have lived in town for 5 years, and I'm now a full-serve gasoline convert mostly so that I can continue to support a well-run family business! As for charm versus convenience, there really *is*, and should be, a price to pay for the former. Norfolk is, in many ways, a throwback to the days when people lived their lives in a small community, got to know their merchants, librarians, and public officials, and understood that these people also appreciated a chance to be home and with their families at nights and weekends. There already are several towns that offer convenience in the form of multiple strip malls and a gas station on every corner. Perhaps change in that direction is inevitable, but there are those of us who will much regret the passing of the old town and its people. - VR
This one was an e-mail reply to a reader explaining our editorial policy.
While we started out with the same ideals as you express, it didn't take long for reality to catch up with us. It is simply not possible to run a general-interest, everyone-is-welcome type of web page without some amount of changes to the readers' contributions. These are often minor, for example, we adjust spelling mistakes and incorrect word usage. These are surprisingly common, and we fix them both to help out the reader as well as to improve the quality of the site. The more significant changes, which are rare, are prompted by our objective in creating the web page, namely to create an on-line focal point for the town. We wish to create a page that will be welcoming, interesting and pleasant for all town residents to visit, including kids (who are on occasion directed to the page by the librarians when they have school assignments involving research on the web). Therefore, when necessary, we re-word phrasing to make it suitable for a general family audience. On occasion, animated discussions have veered toward crass language, which we're very strict about. The most serious challenge we face is posts that attack or insult another reader for a comment they've made. We do not like to have the web page defaced or hijacked to be used as a tool to personally attack a town resident. If the post otherwise has merit, we take the liberty of removing or blunting the offending portions (this also saves the writer of having to re-submit the post). In the most extreme cases, and this has happened only twice, we have sent e-mail to the poster asking them to rephrase their comment because it was not appropriate for us to post it as is. We had no such policies in place when we started, but had to develop them because some people did get hurt by what they read on our page. But we are proud of never having simply discarded inappropriate posts, and of making the effort to salvage even rude or obnoxious messages. I hope this helps allay your concerns about censorship on the page. If you have questions, please feel free to write me.
Appeared on the web page in a discussion about town development, 9/30/2000.
The world is ever-changing, to be sure, but not all change is equal. Some change is good, some change is not so good, some change is bad. Minorities were accepted into society, women got the vote, childhood mortality was eliminated, the paper dollar was re-designed (again), natural foods have become elitist, dust-bowl farmers were lured West for cheap labor, the Eastern old-growth forests were removed for profit, the buffalo were slaughtered for sport, children were forcibly taken from home for a proper Christian education, millions were ``ethnically cleansed'' for various manifest destinies. Jefferson brought change. Elvis brought change. Hitler brought change. There are always those that stand to benefit from change, be that a new invention, a new fashion, a new conecept, or a new development. They understandably lobby for more and faster change, change without delay, time is money, change without consideration, before the hot profit opportunity fades. Then there are those who see change as an inevitable consequence of the human struggle to make a better life, but one that forever alters the present, sometimes for the worse, sometimes the same present that we would have liked to leave as an inheritance to our children. I would like my daughter to know true darkness, and complete silence. Think about it, and you'll realize how truly rare these have become. Some things we've lost without even noticing. I would like her to have good clean water, healthy air, green trees around her, neighbors who are also friends. As one who's lived around the country, I no longer take these for granted, and have a special appreciation for what we have here in Norfolk. Do not assume that this is the only possible way of life - our out-of-state guests constantly worry when we leave our cars outside in front of the house. Some things we too could lose if we're not vigilant. And I would like to leave her a home town she can be proud of, one that remains a pleasant place to live, one that matures wisely without losing its character or its soul, without selling out for petty profit, and ultimately, one that would be woth moving to when she settles down to raise her own family. Some things we can only achieve if we try hard enough. Change is coming, not because change is good or bad, but because there is profit in change. Someone gives up something, someone else gains something, it's the way of the world. And while some would have change for the sake of change, sometimes more is given up than is gained. It's our responsibility to refuse to be rushed into every latest great deal, to pause and reflect carefully on whose long-term interest would be served. Although change is inevitable, no-one can rightfully force change. It's up to us to choose which change to welcome, and which to reject. So what if we take a little time - what is a year, or two, or even a decade when the consequences would weigh on us and our children for the rest of our lives. - AR
The following was written in mid-July of 2000, but was never posted to the page. I promised myself, however, that I will post it the next time I have cause :-)
To the two kids down the street saying passionate farewell by the curb - greetings! Good show, bravo! The next time, when you two act the role of enraptured romantics, I'll take on the part of the captivated audience. I'll cheer and clap, maybe wolf-whistle. Everyone should enjoy a good show!
Clearly you intended to be noticed - there is no expectation of privacy standing next to your car, on the street. The only sensible explanation is that it was a show for our benefit. Way back, before your time, people used to be timid. They shied away from public displays, inventing rules of conduct probably because they could not face their inhibitions. I'm glad to see you're not burdened by those antiquated notions! So farewell, bold youth of today, until we meet again!
This one dates back to early May, 2000, and was also never posted to the web page. Never really found the occasion.
Saw a beat-up camper trailer yesterday morning, pulled by a large tan Ford pickup with an elderly couple in the cab. The camper had black-and-gold California plates, the pickup blue-and-gold. That sure brought back memories . . . Those plates have been discontinued twenty years ago! I remembered my dad's camper shell on his old Chevy truck, hiking in the San Gabriel mountains, and the caravan of campers on the roads leading to Yosemite and the North Coast. During the few seconds it took to pass them by I was plunged decades into the past, back to a time before computers, deforestation, crime in school, before e-mail, pagers, cellular phones, before mandatory overtime or suburban sprawl - back to a time when the world consisted of books, sunshine, and my bicycle.
I tried going about my business that morning, but it took me a while to catch up to our modern times.
Written on All Souls Eve, October 31, 1999, a lovely sunny day.
10/31 Puttered in the yard this morning, raking up some of the leaves, but mostly simply enjoying the pleasant weather and the gorgeous colors. Watched my daughter explore the twigs, leaves, and pebbles at the edge of the lawn, and recalled how, as a kid, I could spend hours just browsing the back yard. While raking, I glanced up at the scrawny little spruce tree in the side yard, and it struck me that it isn't all that little any more. It's still scrawny, but it's starting to acquire stature and character, and it looks like it'll make a fine tree some day. It must have grown a good three feet since I last noticed it, but I'll be well into my autumn years by the time it'll be a young adult. It's funny how one can learn to enjoy a tree grow, slowly, year by year. Then I drifted back in time to the spruce on the corner by my grandmother's house, its storm-crippled top towering above the neighborhood. We used to walk by that tree whenever she took me with her to the cemetery, to change the flowers or to trim the grass and bushes. I would cut across the grass, climb over the little retaining wall and wait for her by the tree, while she took the sidewalk and the stairs. I got to carry the little bucket for water, she the fresh-cut chrysanthemums. And one evening every year she also took some candles with her, and come dusk she lit them around the edge of the little grassy mound, and would just sit a spell. And there I was, standing in the gorgeous sunshine on the brilliant yellow carpet of leaves, raking with tears on my face, while my heart was visiting a small graveyard on the side of a hill far far away, among little mounds all lit up by candles, sitting a spell. Happy Halloween, everyone.