Mountaintops and beaches

It has been noted by people who calculate such things that if the 4.5 billion years this planet has been a-making were converted to a 24-hour clock, we humans have been here less than five minutes. Sixty-six million years ago, give or take a few months, what must have looked to the universe to be a small pebble hurtled through the blackness we humans would eventually call “space” and crashed into a larger rock circling what humans eventually would call The Sun.

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Wilderness is for wandering

Several years ago, when I was still a daily news reporter, I covered an event in which three busloads of youngsters from inner-city Philadelphia arrived to visit a potato chip factory. It was the first time most of them had been out of the city.

“We saw cows!” several of them reported excitedly.

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Diversity is the celebration

I often wonder what is going on behind the eyes of critters I observe as I wander the creeks and forests within range of my home. I went wading in a local stream this week and found a whole feast of mud puppies – it would have been a feast had I brought along a net – and an assortment of bugs and fish of multiple species.

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The time is NOW

The gunman was said to have been armed with a rifle and a handgun when he took control of a classroom in the Texas elementary school Tuesday.

“He shot and killed, horrifically, incomprehensibly, 14 students and killed a teacher,” (Texas Gov. Greg Abbott) was quoted in published reports later that day.

Police killed the gunman who had murdered 19 children and two of their teachers. Wednesday morning, three more children and three additional adults remained in area hospitals in serious condition.

Horrifically, certainly. To the parents, anyway.

But incomprehensible? Really? Gov. Abbot could not see it coming?

And so it begins, another round of prayer vigils, lots of thoughts and prayers from politicians. Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut, beseeched his fellow senators to do something to “make this less likely.”

“I’m here on this floor to beg, to literally get down on my hands and knees and beg my colleagues,” he said, except he did not get on his hands and knees.

Right on cue, Texas state Rep. Tony Gonzalez told reporters, “Now is not the time” to talk about guns and dead kids.

“I’m happy to debate (gun control) policy. Not today,” he reportedly told the hosts of “CBS Mornings.”

Gonzalez also told his interviewers he recently had voted to kill several bills aimed at controlling gun ownership.

If we should not discuss the problem now, while the need is fresh, then when? I haven’t fixed the leak in my roof because it only leaks in a heavy rain, and when it’s not raining, it doesn’t leak. That is the policy we have so far followed. The latest result is nearly two dozen dead or dying children in a town in Texas.

What is it that tells an 18-year-old it’s OK to drive four hours to kill a group of Black people shopping for groceries, or Mexican kids trying to learn things, or Jewish people in synagogue, or Christians gathered to study their Bible? Or just a crowd of a few hundred concert goers?

The town in which I live earns it’s living from a bloody battle that was fought here. But the thousands of reenactors who gather the first weekend in July do not then grab real guns and shoot up the local schools and supermarkets.

On the other hand, grabbing a gun and killing anyone who offends us is The American Way, though we usually can convince ourselves the action was necessary and justified. It has been our M.O. since we came ashore and pretended to have discovered a place that was already well-populated.

Guns are in our DNA, and military weaponry in high demand. TV is loaded with ads for “Tactical” gear for wannabe soldiers needing the proper equipment to drive their tank, er, Toyota down the boulevard. “Tac” sunglasses seem way more effective than normal polarized lenses at exposing oncoming vehicles. A flashlight becomes a little brighter when it is a “Tactical” flashlight.

There are millions of guns in the hands of private individuals who do not load up and kill people, no matter how rough a week they have had at at work or home. So what is it that prompts certain American males to go on a shooting rampage?

I do not have the answers but I know who can get them. We need to elect lawmakers who, instead of telling, for instance, the CDC to not research the matter, fund the CDC and other pertinent agencies and demand the answers be found.

And then fund the solutions, whether that is to provide more mental health resources or buy all the guns in private hands. The time clearly is NOW!

Thanks for coming along. And please take a few seconds to share these thoughts.

Reaching for the hem of Heaven

I love watching the stars, like LED Christmas lights pinned to a blanket stretched like a child’s bedroom tent over my head. They all seem to be the same distance from where I lay, just out of reach of my fingers, though in my mind I know the distances from me to them varies.

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85k acres of live shows

Imagine a movie in which you could walk around among the characters and activities. You can reach out and touch them, talk with them, and see them interact with each other.

Wandering in the forest is like that, where you’re an actor in a perpetually changing story, where trees are the stars of the show, providing the environment for the panoply of other characters.

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Most invasive species

We humans think we are special, and we are, but we are not quite unique. We have many similarities to many other inhabitants of our biosphere.

We have hearts and lungs and brains. Even fish have the same organs except notably, they breathe through gills that enable them to extract oxygen to fuel the rest of their machinery.

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Call for reusable cups

The pandemic has been a boon to plastics makers. Nowhere is that more obvious than in hospitals. It seems nearly everything in the hospital is plastic, single-use.

They once provided a cup of ice and a pitcher for the patient to have a steady supply of water. Since the pandemic set in, water refills come each in a new cup, which goes, when emptied, in the landfill.

Another plastic peskiness comes with take-out food. I have to remember to tell the person handing my dinner that I am eating at home and have no need for another set of plastic knives and forks.

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The secret to seeing

I always have preferred to aimlessly wander, even on seemingly well-defined pathways, with little or no clear destination in mind. My Partner-in-Travel says I’m always looking everywhere except where I’m going. She exaggerates, but not by much.

I look also where I’m going. There is so much going on out there, and I don’t want to miss any of it, and it’s not really difficult to look in multiple places at one time.

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Solar for clean air, local food

A few years ago, a nearby township turned down a proposed zoning ordinance. Opponents declared a god-given right to do as they wished with their land – until a neighbor opened an entertainment venue in which young, mostly unclad, women danced and served customers. Suddenly, zoning was a divine protection.

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Sometimes, some places, war is necessary

Occasionally I peruse columns I’ve written to see whether I have changed my mind. For instance, I have not changed my opinion that too many Big Media reporters cloak their reporting with an emperor’s robe of non-information as they all seem to read from the same press release, and turn phrases of one into clichés of the other.

Repeatedly, for instance, we heard emphasized how much gasoline prices had increased “from the previous year,” with no mention that the “previous year” had sent gas prices plummeting when people stopped vacationing and commuting during the early years of the pandemic.

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Temperatures rising

The coming spring is warming, though barely unfrozen, like the pond the first time I try to go swimming after ice-out, when I know if I’d just jump in it would be fine for the rest of summer but not yet so I walk in slowly, and feel the blue slide up my legs.

One day, probably soon, I’ll just jump in all the way and be fine.

Not yet.

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Rethinking resources

In the middle of the 19th Century, oil refineries began pumping out kerosene, refined from crude oil, to light lamps along American streets. Kerosene had a useless byproduct which refiners, including Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller, needed to evacuate.

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Europe’s Yellowstone Ranch

The events in eastern Europe over the past week (or 16 years) compare eerily with an episode of the popular television series, “Yellowstone.” Of particular note are the responses from several of our politicians who have pronounced their admiration for the biker club leader, er, Vladimir Putin.

In the TV story, a passing motorcycle gang cuts a barbed wire fence and moves into the pasture to build a fire and drink some beer. They are having a grand time when a couple of hands from the ranch stop to advise the intruders they were on private land and should leave.  A fight ensues and the bikers leave rather than be buried in the pasture.

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Snowthrower chronicles

A couple of us were sitting around swapping tales of winter and keeping our coffee from getting cold. We all had seen snowy mornings, though not lately.

Our first snowfall of the year had left about an inch on the ground. The resident Keeper of Order In the Home gave her permission to not even shovel.

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Planet warning

My trusty navigator and I took a drive last weekend, to Cincinnati, my son and the Cincinnati Bengals. Our drive took us across miles of unseasonably barren farmland virtually devoid of snow.

I’ve been making the trip for decades. I don’t recall any year in mid-February when there was so much brown ground.

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