Friday, February 28, 2014

RANGERING: October 2004 (3)

Dear Reader: The truth is never an absolute; it is subjective and it changes over time. So I do not claim that any of what I write is the truth. It is only my perception and recollection of events as they happened many years ago. In some situations I have changed names and details to protect the privacy of people involved, but I do my best to maintain the underlying substance of events and their impact on me.

CAUTION: This post discusses suicide in some detail. 

It was a beautiful day, and I was cleaning restrooms in the campground. It was a couple days after chasing the guys from Seattle through the woods. As I started to wheel the mop bucket from the women’s side to the men’s, Joseph walked up.

“Beautiful day,” he said.

“Indeed. Makes this job easy!”

“Hey, I wanted to say I got another camper compliment on the restrooms. You’re doing a thorough job on them, and people are noticing.”

“Thanks. Eva trained me, and I like to do it to her standards.”

A few hours later I heard Eva and Steve on the radio. It was dark, and the campground was being put to bed.

Steve said, “I’m at the jetty road parking lot, and there’s still a car here.”

“Did you look around for the owner?” Eva asked.

“I’m walking around now, but I don’t see anyone. I guess I’ll have to leave the gate open tonight.” 

The next night at about the same time, I again heard Steve and Eva on the radio.

“Eva, I’m out at the jetty road parking lot again, and the same car is still parked here.”

“That’s not good.”

“I’m going to take a closer look.”

I continued my work, listening carefully.

“The car seems to be completely empty inside. In fact it’s immaculate, it looks like it’s been vacuumed out. I’m going to find out who the registered owner is through dispatch.” 

Over the next couple days, the story continued to unfold. The owner was from Eastern Oregon. Police there were asked to do a welfare check on the registered owner of the vehicle. The man was not home, and had informed neighbors that he would be on vacation for several days; he’d said to one he was going camping. We all wondered about our mystery man, but no one turned up. 

Beautiful but invasive Scotch Broom
About a week later as I was starting my shift, I heard the news from Bob. A hiker had come upon a body in a remote part of the park; our mystery man had shot himself in the head. It was a painful reminder that sometimes life is so difficult, a person cannot bear to be a part of it anymore.

I asked Bob about it. “I went out with the county sheriff to recover the body,” he said. “Since he’d been there for a while, his body was bloated on the side on the ground, where the blood had pooled. His skin was completely black on that side.”  Bob seemed to have a bad taste in his mouth.

“What was it like seeing him?”

“Kind of disturbing,” he said with a laugh. “Articles of clothing were on the ground in a circle around him, some a couple hundred feet away. They think he probably was walking around, working himself up into a rage so that he would be able to pull the trigger. He would have thrown off some of his clothes, maybe was arguing with himself. Most likely he shot himself that first night he was in the park.”

“Was this your first dead person, I mean at work?”

“Yeah. Yeah,” he said soberly.

He probably shot and killed himself that night during my shift. I waited for that to sink in; I waited to feel horrified. I didn’t, but I felt the need to talk about it, to try to understand what had happened. It seemed strange to me that a man had killed himself on my shift, in my park, and it didn’t bother me more.

“It’s sad to think of people getting to that point,” Bob said. “I just thank God for my religion. It helps keep me grounded through the tough times.”

Bob was Christian, wore a cross to work despite uniform regulations, and occasional spouted scripture to me. I wondered if Bob talking God to me opened the door to me talking homosexuality to him.

I heard that Joseph was going to take the tractor out, and went to the maintenance shop hoping he would train me. He was cleaning the tractor. I asked him about the suicide, and if it had a big impact on him.

“No, not really. I find it more interesting than upsetting.”

“Have other people died while you’ve been a ranger?”

“Two. I worked at Deception Pass for a while. Have you been there?”

“Not yet, I heard it’s beautiful.”

Deception Pass
“It has this absolutely amazing bridge that’s extremely high. It’s a beautiful place, and known as a place for people to come who want to end their lives.”

“They jump off?”

“Yeah, pretty much every year.”

“Do they ever survive?”

“No. It’s too high. A lot of times they crash into the rocks. That how the first person was. A woman. We had to go by boat to get to her, where she’d smashed up on the rocks. Her face was gone from the impact. I think that’s maybe why it didn’t bother me too much. Because I couldn’t see her face.”

I wondered about that. Was it the personalization of the death that made it harder to bear?  Somehow it stopped being random, and became a real person?

“Her body was kind of scattered. It was pretty gross. You know, some of those images stay in your mind forever.”

Joseph didn’t seem terribly upset by any of it.

“The other was the same way. This was a guy who’d been in the water so long, you know, his features were pretty much gone. He was completely bloated and sort of saturated.”

It sounded horrible to me. I wondered if I would have been more upset if I’d seen our guy who killed himself. I was certain of it; it would have been more real, less analytical.

I was disappointed that Joseph did not have time to show me how to drive the tractor.

Later when Eva came on shift, after she had gotten the updates from the other rangers, I had a chance to talk to her as well. She was cleaning her gun in the maintenance shop.

“Is it OK that I’m here while you’re doing that?” I asked.

“It’s fine. I unloaded all the ammunition in my truck.”

“Do you clean that pretty often?”

“We’re supposed to, especially on the beach with all the wind and sand – it can really jam things up. I don’t very often outside of our quarterly trainings.”

“Pretty sad about that guy, huh?”

Eva nodded.

“You had a feeling about it, didn’t you?  When Steve told you about his car.”

“Not the first night. But it was strange that it was still there the second night. And when Steve said it was so clean inside…  People do strange things when they’re preparing to die. Almost a ritual or something.”

“Does it bother you a lot?  Him dying on your shift?”

The North Jetty
Eva paused with a piece of gun in one hand, and a greasy rag in the other. “No, not really. Maybe it’s because I didn’t see him. Hard for it to become real when you don’t see the victim. In fact that’s always been the case. We lose people off the jetty here. They’ll be fishing, or just trying to climb the rocks, and a wave will sweep them off into the ocean. Their bodies often aren’t ever found. And if they do wash up, the currents have usually taken their bodies down south on the beach in Oregon somewhere. That’s happened a couple times since I’ve been here. Last summer a family was fishing off the jetty. The dad and a son got swept off.”

“Their bodies weren’t found?”

“No. Not yet. So no victim to see. But sometimes little things will get to me, make it real. Like in that case, the person who had the car keys was the one who drowned. They didn’t have any way to drive home. Things like that.”

I wondered about what they had said. For Eva, not seeing the victims allowed her to stay emotionally detached. Joseph saw the victims, but not their faces; for him that made it easier. I wondered if I would respond to any deaths as a ranger. Certainly it was possible, and more so in some parks than others. Would it be like this time, theoretically upsetting but not impacting me that much?  Or would it depend on the circumstances?  I felt badly for Bob, who had to see the body in its state of decomposition, all bloated and distorted, not the way a human body is supposed to look. Would those images be seared in his memory forever?  Undoubtedly.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Gentle Persuader? Or just the Good Girl?

I was raised this way, and I’ve spent a lifetime cultivating it.

My entire life I’ve been told that my best response to someone who is behaving in a way I don’t like is to be diplomatic; make a request or make my case in a manner that is polite and won’t challenge them. I call this the art of “gentle persuasion,” and in particular women in our culture are taught that this is the only viable way to get what we want. For most of my life I believed that if I could only find the right way to say something, others would come around to my thinking. If they did not agree with me, it was because my technique was faulty – and I would resume my training.

So I’ve spent my life developing the skill of gentle persuasion, of trying to get my way without offending; without meeting aggression with aggression (or even assertion); without confronting or directly standing up to someone. No matter the offense, it has been my role to respond in a way that will not anger or challenge the other person, but will gently and diplomatically offer them another perspective.

These skills were put to the test while co-parenting my son with his father. This was a particular challenge because this man was very manipulative, could talk circles around me, and argued to win. In addition I was afraid of him. So for many years I honed my skills in verbalizing, debating, making my point, or taking a stand. I would prepare ahead of planned interactions, write out my points and my goals, practice, and try to anticipate and develop responses to whatever insults and deflections he might throw at me.

Ironically the more I practiced, the more I learned the wisdom and necessity of simplifying. I had to admit that he could always manipulate and confuse me with his words. Despite my preparations I could never adequately anticipate his approach, and in the moment would become sufficiently rattled that I couldn’t come up with relevant responses. So I learned to simplify: I would draft about three phrases, and in response to his attempts to derail me would keep returning to one of those phrases. I wouldn’t respond to whatever he’d said (deflection, criticism, etc.), but kept bringing it back to my prepared phrases.

The more I practiced the skills of oration and diplomacy, the more something inside me felt unsettled: the part that was left unexpressed, the part of me that was angry, outraged, that wanted to call the other person on being manipulative, unreasonable, a liar, or mean. I would feel satisfied for staying calm and not showing if I felt rattled, but afterwards was always left with unexpressed anger.

A few years ago after leaving my job as a park ranger, I took on a job with a small nonprofit. I reported to the board of directors. Two of the board members (in my assessment) acted out their own unresolved issues by lashing out at others in a manipulative and vindictive manner. I became their number one target. For several months, during which time my PTSD symptoms fully blossomed, I struggled to not completely fall apart.

I read the book The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to unravel the mystery of why seemingly innocent phrases can make you feel defensive and attacked. Words are powerful, and toxic and accusatory messages can be delivered stealthily through subtle wording, or which word is stressed. For example the exclamation, “Everyone knows that!” implies that the person being addressed is really stupid (because they don’t know something that everyone else on the planet knows). Another example, “If you loved me you would stop nagging,” implies that you don’t love that person. One of my ex’s favorites was to drop an accusation like, “I think you are weak,” and then follow up with, “but I recognize that’s my problem, and it’s my responsibility to deal with.”

The book helped me to better understand verbal stealth attacks. It also helped me to identify the ways, throughout my life, I have silent conveyed that I am a target. Subtle things I say and don’t say, along with my body language, convey a strong inclination to not make waves, to get along.

I read and read, wrote out possible scenarios and rehearsed in anticipation of my employers’ attacks. Armed with this new and revealing information, I felt prepared for whatever they launched at me; I was soundly and repeatedly bested. Over these months I reached several conclusions. We people who are not inclined to use words to attack and manipulate will always be several steps behind those who are. We may spend a lifetime trying to prepare for these battles, but most of us will never achieve mastery. Those who are wired to manipulate, those who seek out targets, have more practice and their brains just seem to work that way. They don’t follow any rules of behavior, don’t following any particular strategy, but employ multiple strategies in rapid succession that will ultimately flummox all but the most skilled gentle persuaders.

And through all of my attempts at gentle and diplomatic entreaties, my building anger and outrage went unexpressed. I wondered if these people needed to hear that from me as well.

But we gentle persuaders (often women) coach each other to not abandon this approach: I have been relentlessly coached to keep reading, practicing, and trying to perfect the art of gentle persuasion – regardless of the challenge or offense.

I’ve started to notice a double standard. All this effort, to try to persuade someone who is being inconsiderate, a bully or manipulator, or even an abuser. Are they never to be held accountable? Are we the only ones held to a standard of conduct? Why are we the only ones being asked to change?

When I first started telling friends about my desire to also express my anger at, and disappointment in this person, to stop self-censoring, the response was overwhelmingly negative. I was told that it would be wrong for me to be less than gentle; it would be wrong to express my anger; I must only use “I” statements and only talk about my feelings and my behaviors; I certainly should not call the other person on his/her behavior. I was told that if I asserted myself I wouldn’t get what I wanted. In addition to not being encouraged to try this, I started to notice friends’ tendency to excuse the other person’s behavior.

Why is it that the folks who are inconsiderate, rude, insulting, or demeaning are allowed to get away with it? Why isn’t anyone coaching them on being more gentle and diplomatic? I am beginning to suspect it’s because these people are really hard to talk to, they aren’t interested in change, and they aren’t interested in what’s fair. It is far easier to talk to the folks like me who will bend over backwards to be fair and to not make waves.

At another job, I sat near a coworker who spent an impressive amount of the workday complaining: complaining about her home life, complaining about her job, even complaining about how busy she was at work (no doubt lessening her load by spending hours of her work day complaining).

One week when she was particularly vociferous, I found myself becoming angrier and quickly feeling anything but gentle and diplomatic. I felt like I was either going to yell at her to shut up, break down in tears, or simply leave work. Instead I went to my supervisor and asked if I could work at another desk just for the day (what seemed to me a simple solution). She declined, and instructed me to ask my coworker to quiet down; she told me I could put it on myself, say I was having a bad day, ask if she could help me out. She even trotted out a few sample phrases that were placating and unassertive: typical coaching from a gentle persuader.

I did talk to my coworker, and did use gentle words and “I” statements. She was quieter for a while, but for several days would not make eye contact or return my greetings; and ever after she was quite chilly towards me.

In sharing this later with my supervisor (who asked me for an update), I was staggered by the amount of pro-gentle persuasion rhetoric she used. The coworker’s initial inconsiderate behavior was excused: “she’s a venter;” “she’s having a really hard week;” “others have had to tell her to be quiet before, you just have to ask her politely.” And her cold-shoulder response to my request was also excused: it was implied that my approach must have been lacking for her to respond with coldness; I was told that I really have to catch myself before becoming frustrated, before I might have a hint of frustration in my voice when I make my request; I was reminded that my coworker “is really young.”

And threaded through this rhetoric were even more examples of courteous wording. To be honest, this particular coaching method of supplying me with the words to use is infuriating because I’m a lifetime student of courteous wording. I don’t lack the skills, I don’t lack the words.

All of this coaching suggests that I must care more for the other person’s feelings and needs than my own; it is not ok for me to express myself unless I am able to do so in a gentle and diplomatic manner; it is definitely not ok for me to express my frustration and anger; if the other person responds poorly it is because of my poor approach, or because of something in them that they can’t help.

Even my therapist told me that I accommodate people too much, until I become completely frustrated. She says I need to be fully present within myself so that I know if I am over-accommodating, and do something about it before the resentments build.

I don’t disagree with her. But I was raised to not make waves, and to consider others’ feelings before my own; it is my default to accommodate. Trying to change this, to be fully present with and honor my own feelings, will take more than this lifetime. In the meantime there has to be another option; there has to be a Plan B.

What might my unexpressed anger sound, if I were to speak it? For this coworker it might be something like this, “When you complaint all day long, it ruins my day. Be more considerate of your coworkers!” For other situations it may be, “You are being mean,” or, “Your behavior is unacceptable.”

It’s time for the other person to be held accountable: the insensitive, the aggressors, the manipulators, those who are uninterested in self-examination. And no wonder: they’ve mastered the art of not taking responsibility, of not being held accountable.

Meanwhile we are completely preoccupied, focusing on changing ourselves, refining our approach, trying to fix ourselves. It reminds me of the farmers in some Central American countries whose farms are routinely destroyed by a corrupt government, to keep them so busy with the struggle for survival that they are unable to rise up and revolt.

I do not suggest that the art of gentle persuasion and diplomacy isn’t important; it is. The more we cultivate these skills, the more options we have. But its applications are limited. Gentle persuasion is not the solution to every problem. It doesn’t always work; it leaves unaddressed our need to express anger and indignation; and it leaves unaddressed the need to tell people when they are behaving inappropriately.

This revolution is about holding the other people responsible, calling it like it is. I am jealous and admiring of the older woman who says the most offensive and unbelievable things and doesn’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks. That woman is my hero, and I would like to dedicate my life from here on trying to emulate her.

Dear Reader, please consider posting your comments and questions below. I would love to hear from you! Please let your friends know about my blog. And thank you for visiting!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

What do I know about Life? Not Much.

The goal of life 
is to make your heartbeat 
match the beat of the universe, 
to match your nature 
with Nature.

- Joseph Campbell

All my life I’ve tried hard, worked hard. Something inside has driven me to pursue my goals or what I believed was right.

These are some of the beliefs that motivated me:

  • I must honor my responsibilities,
  • If I want things in my life such as the ideal job, social life, and romantic partner I need to get really clear on what I want, write out steps towards those goals, and then take the steps,
  • If I just try hard and keep a positive attitude, all good things will come to me in time,
  • It is a certainty that I will find my life partner, it’s just a matter of time,
  • If I am honest and live with integrity, the truth will out and I will be vindicated,
  • If I work hard I don’t need to toot my own horn; ultimately my efforts will be recognized,
  • If I play fair in response to being unfairly attacked, others will notice and appreciate that I have taken the higher road,
  • Hard work is the only route to achievement,
  • A life without challenge is a wasted life,
  • If I keep trying for the things I want, eventually I will get them,
  • I must always do “the right thing to do;” and I will be rewarded for this,
  • The most important goal in life is to live authentically, and the route to that is careful self-examination and strident efforts at self-improvement,
  • There is some force in the world that is helping to guide my life and make sure that things work out.

I don’t believe these things anymore.

As a young adult I was swept up in the “positive affirmation” movement, which insisted that “thought manifests:” whatever I think will come true – think negatively, and negative things will come into my life; think positively, and positive things will come into my life. More than that, with positive thinking I will achieve an abundance of riches in my life. The only barrier is the tone of my internal dialog.

I spent hundreds of dollars that I couldn’t afford going to trainings and learning a language that made it hard to relate to folks who weren’t also attending these trainings. I relentlessly created lists to help define my ideal job, partner, friends, home, and bank account. I uttered affirmations, prompted by notes left everywhere, morning noon and night. I looked for meaning in the smallest things; if a train made me fifteen minutes late, I was certain there was a reason for it: a spiritual reason, intended just for me.

The reality of my life was that I was a young adult with a young child, I was an emotional wreck after leaving an abusive relationship, and we were incredibly poor. My life was rather desperate. And yet this philosophy I had taken on insisted that the only thing keeping me from extraordinary riches was my own thoughts. In other words, I was the only one to blame for being a poor, single, depressed mother; and the solution was so incredibly simple anyone could do it.

Positive affirmations did not get me out of this desperate situation. In fact these beliefs brought me to the darkest time in my life.

While I broke off abruptly with this spiritual group, many of the philosophies lingered in my subconscious. And they combined well with those I’d learned as a child: hard work and persistence are rewarded. Always.

Hard work and persistence have defined my life.

There is very little in that list that I believe anymore. I do believe that if I live with integrity, honor my responsibilities, and work hard, I will feel better about myself. But I no longer believe that these are the keys to bringing abundance into my life. There are no guarantees. Of the people in this world who work hard from birth to death, far more live in poverty than live in wealth. Not everyone finds the love of their life. Sometimes people find the love of their life, only to lose them to death. People die in accidents before they are able to fulfill their responsibilities, before they are able to achieve their potential, before getting to the best parts of their life.

I have plentiful examples of liars, manipulators, and egoists stepping on me and others on their climb to the top. They are rewarded while the rest of us who are working diligently, fairly and honestly, are overlooked.

I have gone to workshops, written out all my limiting internal thoughts that might prevent me from achieving success, drafted the criteria for those things I want in my life, created my “treasure map” collage, come up with steps and doggedly taken those steps.

Trying to gain a sense of community in the places I lived while rangering, I joined book clubs, writing groups, volunteered, went on group hikes, and participated in open social gatherings.  As time went on and I failed to achieve the social life I craved, it became harder each time to walk out my front door. I would push myself, make promises like, “you only need to stay 15 minutes, that’s all.” I had quotas such as a minimum of two social outreaches each week. And yet social fulfillment escaped me.

My goal of becoming a ranger was certainly my ultimate career pursuit. I have never worked so hard pursuing a career, then trying to be the best ranger I could be, then struggling to stick with it when it seemed everything was a struggle. Never have I worked harder. Initially I was driven by my lifelong desire to become a park ranger. While raising my son and holding down more pedestrian and lucrative jobs, I yearned for the freedom to do what I really craved. That kind of desire, long denied, can be a powerful motivator. And once I became a park ranger, I was also motivated to prove wrong those who did not think I had what it took. And after things became so very hard, I was unwilling to give up in such a way that I would feel like a failure. All very strong motivators.

But what have I learned? Hard work, honesty, integrity, these things don’t guarantee you anything. Living life “right,” trying to be a better person, this doesn’t guarantee you anything either. People who work hard, are honest and compassionate, don’t necessarily find the love of their life; some of them meet an early death; some of them live out their lives struggling to pay the rent; and some of them are taken advantage of by others. These things I know.

I suppose belief in Heaven might come in handy here, believing that my efforts in this life would ultimately be rewarded in the hereafter. But I don’t believe in this. How could I believe in a Heaven when Life can be so cruel and unfair?

How many times have I pushed myself to do something I didn’t want to do, because I believed it was the right thing to do? Too many times to count. It was my way of life.

And now, it’s as if I reached a point of saturation where I am longer able to push myself to do something that doesn’t feel good in the moment. Unfortunately this includes exercising, passing up the bowl of chocolates on my coworker’s desk, meditating, even getting outside to stretch my legs and breath in the fresh air.

In probing why I seem to have no will anymore, I realized that I cannot imagine a time when I will again have that internal drive to push myself for something in life. Because after more than four decades of trying that, I have concluded that pushing isn’t the road to success. Why push myself through minor discomfort (of sitting still, or doing 20 minutes of cardio), when I don’t believe that I have the means to create a life I love?

I can only conclude that I don’t understand how Life works. I don’t understand what I want in my life; I certainly don’t understand what I must do to reach for the life I want.

I have seen examples of people whom I believe have a realistic view of Life, and its inherent indifference. And yet they are satisfied with their lives. They focus on things that are important: friends, community, a love of roses, or building model airplanes, or reading mystery novels. They still do many things that are not particularly enjoyable: going to work every day, chores, taking out the garbage, taking the bus because they can’t afford to fix their car.

But I have also seen examples of people who seem to wrest so little pleasure from life. They hate their job, seem irritated by their spouse, don’t have any hobbies, and appear to move through each week waiting for the weekend, in an endless rush to their death.

What a shame it would be, what a waste, if I were to find myself at the end of my life without having found a way to find pleasure and contentment from Life.

So many things I know that are not true about Life. What do I know that is true about Life?

  • I know that I love my son and feel immense satisfaction at having him in my life.
  • I know that I feel a special closeness to my nieces, nephews, and daughter-in-law. Thinking of them fills me with a sense of love and a desire to be there for them when life is hard.
  • I know that I love animals, often more than I love people. I love them for not destroying our planet, for their beauty, for their loyalty and zest for the moment.
  • I know that I am awed by the strength, beauty, and resiliency of the Natural World. I love that a view of a misty lake can take my breath away, that the sight of sunlight streaming through trees in a forest can leave me speechless, that the layered colors of the ocean at sunset can mesmerize me.
  • I know as well that Nature can be ruthless, violent and deadly; all while being spectacularly beautiful. I know that in the natural world life comes and goes, that a single life is not measured so much as the ebb and flow of Life and Death. I know that beautiful, graceful animals are killed and eaten to sustain beautiful, powerful creatures. I know that the young often die. I know that these things happen without an accounting system: concepts such as “deserve,” “reward,” or “fair” do not exist. Life simply is. Death is the inevitable conclusion of a single life, though the timing and circumstances are not known beforehand. Species of plants and animals also have a lifespan, and over time many species will die as well. But Life carries on. There was a time before humans, and there will be a time after humans.
  • I know that the gazelle being chased by the cheetah has a surge of adrenaline and fear, just as humans do when faced with danger. And it is only our unnatural existence, so separated from the forces of Nature, which can get our brains stuck in the trauma. Animals in the wild literally shake off their trauma and resume their lives (Dr. Peter Levine).

Does the gazelle experience joy or contentment with life? I can imagine there are times the sun is shining on the plains and the grasses she is eating are tender and juicy, surrounded by her kind, that she feels something akin to contentment. When she lifts up her head to sniff the air, and breathes in the sweet fragrance of springtime, perhaps she feels something similar to joy.

What do I know? Life goes on, even while species, and individuals, ultimately must die. I know that even in the midst of tragedy, there is beauty. I know that struggling against the laws of Nature will only bring frustration and failure.

So from here, where?

I know that spending time in the natural world is always healing to me. I soak up its beauty. I am reminded that today’s troubles are finite and brief in the scheme of things. I am reminded that there is beauty even in death.

Perhaps it is time that I cast off the goals of our very unnatural and artificial society. Perhaps it is time to become a student of nature, to pay attention and learn what it is to be in tune with the natural order of things. Perhaps it is time to stop asking myself, “What kind of life partner do I want? What kind of dream job do I desire?” and start asking myself, “How can I live a life that is more in accord with the natural world?”

For now, I have almost no idea what that means, how that would look. Perhaps my diet would focus more on seasonal and local foods. Perhaps spending a little time outside every day to be a part of whatever the weather and the season brings. Perhaps finding a community garden where I can be reminded of the turning of the seasons, and what it is to dig into the soil, and to coax out of it plants that will someday feed me. Perhaps when I am confronted with difficulties, I can try to find the parallel in the natural world; and if there is no parallel, perhaps I can take comfort in the artificiality of the difficulty.

Dear Reader, what things do you do to feel more in tune with nature? How do you take comfort when our unnatural human society seems particularly artificial and ridiculous?

Dear Reader, please consider posting your comments and questions below. I would love to hear from you! Please let your friends know about my blog. And thank you for visiting!