Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Story is King

Reading Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories, which I heartily recommend. He's writing about how the orthodoxy that dietary fat is the main evil of the American diet established itself, despite the lack of compelling evidence for it. He goes through the various studies meticulously. Over and over someone will set out to demonstrate that dietary fat causes human heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or obesity: the data will fail to support the hypothesis -- and the researcher will conclude that it must be true anyway. And the press reports another study that implicates dietary fat in chronic disease. As the examples accumulate it becomes a little surreal feeling.

What impresses me most is how persuasive familiar narratives are, how they override both evidence and common sense. One familiar narrative was the tobacco one -- courageous scientists bucking the big money and insisting that smoking caused lung cancer, while lickspittle lackeys of Big Tobacco published studies saying it didn't, or that at least it wasn't so bad, or argued that the evidence was ambiguous. That was a true story. When the familiar characters appeared, regarding dietary fat -- powerful financial interests arguing something wasn't harmful, and goverment-sponsored scientists saying it was -- the power of the narrative was overwhelming. Facts just don't matter, at that point. The story must be served.

Again, the story of original sin, always so powerful in America. Primitive people used to eat grains and vegetables, ran the story. Then we were corrupted and became greedy and cruel and began eating vast quantities of animal fat, and God struck us down with all kinds of diseases. The facts all disappeared from under that story -- it turns out hunter-gatherers probably ate more animal fat than we do, and of course they didn't eat grains at all. But again, facts can't stand against story. The story wins, every time.

I make a grim little game, every time a new war comes around, of trying to spot the bogus atrocity stories. They always show up. I correctly identified one early on in the first Gulf war. The Iraqis, so went the story, deliberately switched off the power in a Kuwaiti hospital wing in which premature babies were on life support. In some of the stories they actually went through and deliberately killed the babies. It was widely reported in the press. The fact that it was false was reported, too -- eventually. In tiny "corrections" buried in the back pages. I had no facts at the time, of course: I just recognized that the story was too good. It fit too well. It was too much what people wanted to hear. I've suspected others, but that was one I was sure of from the start, and pegged at the time.

This is one reason why I don't watch television. It consists almost entirely of familiar narratives, played over and over, incessantly. In the most popular one, something evil comes along and hopes to prey on something innocent, and heroes violently destroy it, in the nick of time. Over and over and over. American kids watch tens of thousands of these narratives. And you wonder that, confronted with a threatened innocent, they look around for a weapon and an evil predator to kill? And that they're in a terrible hurry to do it? The story is irresistable. They actually think -- or rather feel -- this is how the world works, that this is a reasonable response to evil. The fact that they've never seen it happen in real life matters not a whit. The story is king.

I'm grinning
Through the transparent ground.
Cast a cold eye
On this, you chowderheads.
These rotting shreds are what
You thought you loved.
On life, on death: what do you know
Of this parched country, you who spit juicy,
Runny fluids? Horseman,
(Ah, horseshit, Mr Yeats,
who was riding, even then?)
Pass by.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Help is on the Way

For those of you who find the holidays difficult, Richard Thompson's highlights of the history of Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Priscilla Outdoes Herself

Priscilla Gilman's drawings. Oh my God. She's so good.
Remedial Religion

I started writing this in response to a post by Zhoen of One Word, who wrote:

I will never call myself a Buddhist, for instance, because that involves accepting their dogma and ceremonies.

But it got a bit long for a comment, and she wasn't looking for arguments anyway, so I'm posting it here instead.

Huh. Well, I guess it depends on what Buddhists you get hooked up with. I've been a Buddhist for, what, fifteen years? And no one has ever asked to believe or affirm anything. (Which is good, because I don't and can't :->)

With Christians, who are often terribly anxious to know what you "believe," I always have to say, "well, tell me what you mean by God, and I'll tell you if I believe in it at the moment." & the answer, if we get so far, is usually "sort of." Very few religions make such a huge deal of committing to believe a checklist of cosmological assertions. They've just been extremely successful ones. (If I were in a contentious mood, I might say extremely virulent ones.)

But I think that, as William James observed long ago, there are two basic sorts of people: people who are at ease in the world and people who aren't. People who are at ease can be happy with any religion or none, and don't really take any of it all that seriously. But those who aren't at ease -- such as me -- have an intense and seldom-absent perception of being fundamentally and obviously wrong in the world. So I'm drawn to religions that have plausible programs for changing my relationship to the world (or to "God," if you're talking theistic religions.) I have less than no interest in convincing people who are at ease in the world that they shouldn't be. It's quite possible that religion is a sort of remedial course for people who are spiritually or psychologically damaged. I don't resent people seeing it that way at all. I see it that way myself, in some lights and at some times of day.

So to me my religion is more like an exercise program or a diet than a set of beliefs, which explains why I'm not enthusiastic about "cherry picking." The parts of any program you tend to leave out are probably the parts that will change you most, so if the point is to change yourself, you'd probably better view the impulse to leave things out with suspicion.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I listened to you play a Chinese tune on your recorder. It curled up at the ends in strange, mournful ways. It was to go with the poems you're translating, you said.

You sleep alone by the sea. All night, the sound of the waves breaking. In the morning, you'll walk on the beach.

All locked up in our little houses, scattered around the world. And I used to think I knew what to do about it.

You laughed when I said Shelley was a Puritan, but that's exactly what he was. One of those people who says, no. It's not all right. It's not all right that there's sin and suffering in the world, and I'm going to stop it.

But that was at the beginning of the ocean, not at the end.

I sleep on the floor beside your bed, so I can hear you breathing. Don't worry: I'm an early riser. I'll be gone before you wake. You'll never know I was there.

And in the old, old country with its worn-down hills, there's snow falling. It will kiss your face. If I could kiss your face, I'd melt too, vanish in a trace of delight. Worth the long drifting fall through the dark air. A moment of warmth.

I think you still don't understand that it's precisely the clumsiness, the awkwardness, the hesitations, that love is made of. I would never love someone who was graceful all the time.

I'm empty, a carapace, the cast skin of a human being. I wander from place to place, looking for someone to make me real. But like the old man said, you can't burn snow. You must have something to work with.

This is as real as I get.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Give me a kiss
to take with me, so
I have one in my pocket.
They say that keeps you dry
if it's drizzling on the day
he takes you over.

But they shrug when I ask
if I can take the scarf you made for me.
It doesn't really matter, they say.
Nothing keeps you warm.

Words die in my mouth
and turn to copper
pennies on my tongue. Fare

for the old man who crouches
by the riverbank and munches
obols and shillings and sous.
He's not interested
in market value. He likes
the taste of coins.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


We regret to inform you that the confidence maintenance costs of this post have not been met. It has therefore been unposted.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Blue Triangles

She said, I am made of blue triangles of glass
cut from the windows of a factory. I shatter
easily. My bones knit weaker than before
and every time I get more fragile. She said,

I like to climb on top and close my eyes.
She said, there are too many turnings
to remember so I just turn each time
in the direction of the sun.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Middle Age

For a while I was bothered by the invisibility of middle age. A large number of younger people stop seeing you: you're not a potential friend, rival or lover, in their minds, so you have no conceivable use. One glimpse of your white hair and you simply vanish from their field of vision. You're not there. For someone who liked flirting as much as I did, that was difficult, at first. But I don't mind it now. In fact it's useful: I can effortlessly avoid getting tangled up with narrow and selfish people. They don't even see me.

So far, at fifty, there are only three things that I really dislike about being middle-aged. One is the decline of my sight. I can't read fine print without reading glasses, any more. I can't read even normal print, for very long, without them. So I have to pack glasses around, lose them, buy them again. A bother.

Another is that I can't hear soft, deep voices very well any more. It's difficult also to follow conversations in noisy, crowded places. I particularly resent the cavern restaurants, so common now, that have deliberately ruined their acoustics so that there will be a cheerful roar of voices and a din of music. It is cheerful, but when it means you can't follow the conversation at your own table, you start to feel like a stranded dinosaur, with the cheery little mammals all chittering around you.

The thing I dislike most is that I can't think quite as well as I used to. It's subtle. But I used to be able to solve quadratic equations in my head, and I can't do that any more. I notice it playing Tetris: I'm not as quick at visualizing how shapes will rotate and fit together. It's not a huge change, but it's unmistakable. I don't (to drop into Computer jargon) have as many registers for storing temporary information. I can't hold two sums in memory while working out a third. I'm not as clever as I used to be. And I don't have the long-term memory capacity that I used to have, either. I don't think I'll ever again learn a language from a language family I don't already have a handle on. Not to read easily. I was defeated by Chinese and Tibetan, a while back. I'll never really learn Arabic, or Welsh, or Hausa, now. I don't think it's anything pathological: it's just ordinary wear and tear on the brain. It's the reason that mathematicians do their best work in their twenties. There aren't many mental activities that require that kind of memory capacity, or that much quickness and dexterity of mind, but I notice that I'm not quite as good at the ones that do.

But that's it. That's the whole, for me, of the discontents of middle age. I wouldn't be twenty again, for the world: I was so lonely and desperate, with no pharmacological weapons against depression and anxiety, no resources of meditation, and no idea of how to maintain my body's equanimity. I love knowing what to do when I get anxious. Knowing what to do when I have a sore shoulder or low back pain. Knowing what to do when cravings get out of hand. Knowing how to get company when I'm lonely. I am so much better now at the day to day business of being alive, of keeping my body and mind and spirit in running order. And I've learned enough hard lessons that I not only know what to do: I do it, mostly.

The nicest thing is that I'm not in the running for glory, any more. My name will never be known. As a child I acquired absurdly high expectations, no less burdensome for being vague. Someday I would have a name. I would be the acknowledged best at -- something. I lived under those baleful stars for years, panicking because my chances at greatness were slipping away. And if I was not great, then I was nothing. Worse than nothing, because I had squandered the gifts given to me, wasted my opportunities. My junior high school counselor used to ambush me in the halls (as I remember it: thinking back, I wonder if this can be true) and tell me, more in sorrow than in anger, that I was not living up to my potential. I was, apparently, a great disappointment to the world.

Actually, of course, the world had no particular interest in me, and friends and family would have been more pleased by emotional steadiness and generosity than by honors and distinction. But clear through my thirties I was haunted by glory, and horrified by my failure to live up to my supposed potential. It was not until I coasted into my forties that I realized I had been sold a bill of goods. I was not a genius. The legitimacy of the concept of potential was dubious, and the validity of techniques for measuring it were even more dubious. I was able to entertain a novel, exhilarating hypothesis: what if I was an ordinary person?

Well, then, my life didn't really look so bad. I had done some things wrong, and some right, like most people. I only had to figure out the ordinary things that ordinary people had to figure out. How to make a living, how to have a marriage and a family. How to accommodate my mild social and psychological disabilities. I did not have to figure out those things and figure out my path to glory.

The relief has been tremendous. I knew all along, I think, that I was no genius, and that I was not destined for greatness. There was a huge upheaval in my life. Things suddenly came into focus in a new way. What was wrong with working for IBM was not that I was betraying my genius: what was wrong was that I hated it. If I wanted to touch people it wasn't necessarily because I was a prophet of the age of Aquarius; it could simply be because I liked to touch people, and I could do work that let me do it. The love I felt welling up, all the time, didn't have to be yearning for revolution and universal brotherhood. It could be just love, loving this person, here, now.

The deficiencies that loomed so large, for a fledgling genius -- a certain wishy-washiness, a lack of confidence in my opinions, shyness with new people or in groups -- were actually quite minor for an ordinary human being, and possibly even endearing. I did indeed have to learn to make telephone calls, if I was to work as a massage therapist, but I didn't have to transform myself, by some übermenschlich triumph of will, into a forceful and confident person. I could be a shy person making phone calls. That was okay. Ordinary people are allowed to be shy and awkward sometimes.

So thank God for middle age. I'm glad to be here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Moon has become Huge

The moon has become huge. It takes up a third
Of the sky. Stars scramble away in alarm, hide
In the branches of trees.

I kiss the involutions, the doorways, mouths
Into the heart.

I hold you
All night while you sleep. My arm
Goes numb. When you stir I touch my lips
To your forehead, and
You make little noises and settle again.

The gull, blown sideways, slips down the
Updraft, gives a thin wail, before dissolving
Into the lavender rush of dawn. The sun is coming up
Bigger than the moon.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


we looked out the garage door
to see the rain falling like silk
transparent handkerchiefs, and the fall colors
muted but not yet gone.

This morning Orion, his dogs
at his feet, walked down the
hill of the morning sky.

On Walcheren Island
eight thousand down with malaria
and the town of Vlissingen
pounded to ruins. English
sailors step through
their handiwork and grieve, but
none of them doubts the necessity.
Women and children, they soberly
note, were burned to death
inside the church on Sunday morning.

How much would we really have to know
to stop being cruel? I gaze in wonder
at people who think they know that much

Standing behind you,
holding the flowers of your breasts
to the rain of the shower.

You apologized because, you said,
you were not in the habit of expressing affection.
I suppose it's true, in
a trivial way. But every word, every breath
is a testament. You have no idea
what towns are beaten flat
and what gardens are brought to flower
by your love.

God I guess forgives us
because repairing us
is beyond his powers.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Saturday, November 08, 2008


Already my hold in this world is weakening
The next is appearing. Doorways
Start to shade themselves in
In blank walls. I find myself in conversation
With people who are not quite living,
Not dead. Crows flap towards me
Veering off suddenly when they realize
I am still alive. (It's only a technicality, but
In this matter crows are punctilious.)
I walk through walls that shouldn't be there
Find myself in kitchens that have not yet
Been built. Women fall in love with me
Under the ludicrous misapprehension
That we live in the same world. I don't know how
To disabuse them.

The flesh is sliding off my bones as though
I had been hours in the stew pot. Clean white
Ulna. Tapered radius. The lovely jigsaw
Puzzle of the wrist. I must be careful
Not to move too suddenly and step out of the meat
Altogether. My bones startle people;
They flash at inconvenient times. Thoughts
Stream from my skull like the banner of cloud
That tugs from the summit of
Mt Hood. Nothing will stay put.

Love burns and scorches. All the bits of
Me that are peeling off, like birch bark,
Catch fire. I am not long for here.
I would like the time for a proper goodbye
But I think it may be too late.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Coming Home

Why was I in tears last night? It wasn't because I think Obama's policies will save the country, or the world. We are dug into a hole so deep that maybe we will never get out: and I made my peace with that a long time ago. We may stand at the end of humanity's little run on this planet: we learned sorcery before we learned wisdom, and we're more likely to destroy ourselves than not. That hasn't changed. Presidents come and go. Some will be better and some will be worse.

No. I was in tears for personal and very American reasons. I learned in the late sixties that I belonged to a treasonous family. President Richard Nixon told me so himself, in so many words. We didn't support his war: therefore we were traitors.

Well. You tell a person he's a traitor, at the age of fourteen, and he believes you. It's not like telling a forty year old that. At forty, a person just recognizes the hyperbole and shrugs. But at fourteen, if your president tells you you're a traitor, it sinks into your heart. You will never feel the same way about your country again.

So ever since, I've wandered in America as a traitor. And all the narratives that got built into my life as an American child -- about freedom, about opportunity, about government of the people, by the people, and for the people -- all turned into bitter parodies. They were all stolen from me. I was American; I couldn't help it; but none of the American stories belonged to me any more.

Last night I got my stories back. It was McCain's concession speech, even more than Obama's speech, or Obama's election, that did it. McCain said -- and I think he believed it, though many in his audience didn't -- that Obama loved his country. He said that the fact that he and Obama disagreed didn't mean that one of them wasn't American. McCain told me, after more than forty years in exile, that I wasn't a traitor any more. I could come home.

It's not that I can believe the stories in the simplistic way I could when I was a child. Nothing can erase, and I wouldn't want anything to erase, my knowledge of Sand Creek and My Lai and Abu Ghraib. Americans have done evil and they will do it again. They don't live up to their stories. (So who does?) Lincoln, the man Obama quoted last night, the man on the penny and the five dollar bill, suspended Habeas Corpus and jailed the opposition press. I know all that, and much more, to my nation's discredit. But no one sensible expects their childhood stories to be literally true, any more than sensible People of the Book believe that God made the world in seven days, or that Noah's flood covered more than a local patch of the Middle East. These stories aren't history. They're stories of the heart. They're stories about who we are. They're stories about what we want to be true. And as of last night, the American stories are stories about me again.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It Rains

Sat this morning, with my massage blanket around my shoulders, hearing the rain rattle and hiss outside. My eyes were unfocused, a little crossed. Every once in a while, apparently of their own accord, they uncrossed and focused, and the room swam into clarity.

Rain. There are few things more comforting to me than the sound of rain. The only time in my life I've lived long without it was the five or six years we spent in New Haven. Even when it rained, in New Haven, it rained wrong. Great big fat drops that actually made you wet. It didn't sound quite right. It was dirty and intrusive. It made people anxious. They'd linger under awnings, peering out at it as if it was nuclear fallout. When I'd just arrived, I was sitting in a cafe with a bunch of other first-year grad students, and it was raining hard outside. Someone suggested we go, and someone else suggested we wait until it stopped raining. I laughed, thinking it was a joke. They looked at me. And I realized that I was truly in a foreign place, where what I'd learned as the rules of nature don't apply. Rain stopped, here. And sure enough, fifteen minutes later, there were only occasional stray drops. Unsettling. Rain as something you could actually avoid, like a pothole in a street. You could just go around it. I never got used to that.

Here the rain sings all winter. The sky weeping gently for all the sin and suffering below. It falleth as the gentle rain of heaven..

Carolee, who inspired me to resume sitting, asked me to tell her about the Pacific Northwest. It rains here, Carolee. It's a quiet gentle green country, and it rains.

Monday, November 03, 2008

If I were King

This is just for fun. I don't know anything about economics or taxation, but, having always had a utopian bent (which I view now with extreme suspicion, but which will out, from time to time) I can't help every once in a while but try to think about what I'd do if I were king. I do wish there was a larger conversation going on in America about just what we want the country to be and how best to get there.

It is not entirely reassuring that, according to economists, our collective well-being depends upon our individual foolishness. Maybe it should be reassuring -- since individual foolishness is never in short supply -- but there's a fundamental madness revealed by the fact that the sudden realization that we are living beyond our means, and our attempt to respond to that rationally by reducing our spending, should imperil the economy. If our economic health depends on an ever-increasing indiscriminate consumer frenzy, you kinda have to wonder whether it's an economy that's worth keeping healthy at all. I was some sort of socialist in my younger days, but always halfheartedly, since I was also ardently anti-centralist and libertarian. I could never quite make the ends of the laces match up, between the two. I'm not a socialist now.

(By the way, calling Obama a socialist is, of course, absurd: taking the highest income tax level from the 36% it's been under George Bush back up to the 39% it was before does not pitch us headlong into a different economic system. On the larger scale it really doesn't count as a change at all.)

Capitalism has, among other systemic flaws, the tendency to suck wealth from the bottom and accumulate it at the top. There's nothing mysterious about this. All other things being equal, the winner of a poker game is the guy who starts with the most money, because he can afford to lose more often and still stay in the game. Add to that basic fact all the advantages of growing up rich -- the good schools, the good medical care, the varied experience: you wind up with people who are going to be a little better at making money, and a lot better at keeping it. So over time the money just keeps trickling up. There aren't many respectable economists, I think, that would dispute this. You don't have to regard rich people as sinister and predatory. It's just the systemic effect, over time, of market capitalism. The so-called "progressive" income tax was introduced in America, in 1913, explicitly to counter this tendency. If that's socialism, then America has been socialist for nearly a hundred years, now.

There are various methods for pushing the wealth back down towards the bottom. The simplest solution, and the one I favor, is just to tax the wealthy and give the money to the poor. If I ran the zoo, I'd slap a really hefty transfer & inheritance tax on absurdly large estates -- say, estates of over five million dollars or so -- and give the money to the poor. A guaranteed national income, or maybe a "negative tax," as Milton Friedman called it. And then, rather than establishing huge elaborate government programs, we could just let the market do the rest. I don't really understand the repugnance to just giving money to poor people. I know, some of them will get drunk with it. Some rich people get drunk too. It's too bad; but no one seems to think that taking away their money is the proper response to it. A lot more poor people, if you gave them that extra money, would buy health insurance for their kids. Some will object that the poor will all stop working and give up trying to better their circumstances, because the government is giving them $5,000 a year, or whatever. This strikes me as just silly. You don't live that comfortably on $5,000 a year. And people are greedy. They want more. A few people are hopeless as workers, that's true; but that's nothing new. It wasn't caused by welfare and and it won't be fixed by capitalism.

I'm not fond of taxing income. We want people to work, don't we? Why penalize them for it? These are the people who are producing the country's wealth. Why do we punish them so heavily, and reward parasites that simply swap around stocks and bonds and other pieces of paper? And why do we just leave inherited wealth sitting there? When I was idly living off my inherited money, I paid maybe a couple hundred dollars in taxes per year, tops: when I began working, I suddenly paid tens of thousands every year. That struck me then, and strikes me now, as absurd. We should tax assets, not incomes. If we did that mostly through inheritance taxes, we could essentially never tax people on anything they themselves earned. I should think people would like that. And my heart does not bleed for the billionaire who is allowed to pass on only five million dollars tax-free to his kids. It just doesn't.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

SAT Morning

I knock softly at the door. Light leaks from under it, which concerns me a little. How much has he slept, I wonder? I open the door a little, and pause, as I always do -- I always disliked it when I was a teenager, if people barrelled into my room -- and then go in. He's sleeping in his clothes, as he tends to do these days.

"Time to get up," I say, rubbing his back a little. He wakes readily enough, which is good. He probably did get some sleep.

I go downstairs, scramble some eggs, make some toast for him. I never hang around the house at breakfast, let alone cook it for anyone: this is my silent way of marking the importance of the occasion.

Martha comes down in her nightgown. Goes over the list one more time. Goes over the instructions with Alan. Makes sure he's not carrying a phone that will go off: supposedly your scores are cancelled should you commit such an enormity. Checks to make sure he has everything, twice. Two number 2 pencils? Eraser? Calculator? Photo ID? Alan bears all this with typical patience and good humor, answering, "check!" spiritedly to each inquiry.

Tori appears, sleepy. She's wearing one white sock and one black sock. "I like your socks," I say. "They show originality of thought." I give her a little half-hug -- Tori doesn't do full hugs. "Or absence of it," I add.

Tori smiles faintly and drifts to the window. "I don't believe it's morning yet," she says. "It's too dark."

"Standard time starts tomorrow," I say.

I go out, into a remarkably balmy dawn, to warm up the Honda. Leaves swirl around my feet. Soon they will be a sodden mess. Weather this warm in November means only one thing, in the maritime Northwest: a bruising rain is on its way from the ocean. By tomorrow the remaining leaves will be beaten from the trees by the deluge. But at the moment all is quiet, warm and still.

I leave the Honda running and trot back up the porch stairs to the house. Alan is moving toward the door. Martha's running over reminders and exhortations for the third time. That's her job, in the family: to think of everything that could go wrong. My job is to quietly make sure people are awake and underway on time.

I reflect, not for the first time, on the sexism and unfairness of it. She gets to seem fussy and overanxious, and I get to seem strong and solid: but if she weren't here, I would be the one having to fuss, checking to make sure the pencils were sharpened, making sure he's got something to eat with him, running over the SAT instructions. And if I weren't here she would somehow manage to drag herself and Alan out of bed on time. Thousands of mornings and events together have shaped our responses this morning. The family works, and we are very fond of each other. But I wonder sometimes how much playing our parts costs us.

I drive through the quiet leafy streets. "Did you take the SAT's?" asks Alan. I can't remember. I remember the GRE's. I think maybe I didn't take the SAT's.

"I'm really not sure," I said. "I don't think they were as standard then as they are now." Though I don't know. Maybe it was me that wasn't standard.

"When did the SAT's start?" asks Alan. He has an orderly and historically oriented mind, and likes to have things in their places. He also still, at moments of abstraction, expects me to know everything.

"Golly. No idea," I say. We subside into silence. We're never big talkers, just the two of us. We rely on the females in the family to make conversation go. Sometimes when I drive him to school he'll make an effort to start a conversation, always the sort of question you'd ask a distant acquaintance: "How are you doing, these days?" And I make an effort to answer, in the same vein. If Martha or Tori were in the car we'd all be chattering away.

I pull up to the nearby high school. We're a bit early.

"How long does this go?" I ask.

"I don't know. But I can make it home fine on my own," he says. Two guys, casual, sure of themselves. No fuss.

A few kids are going in; a sprinkling of parents. Martha would no doubt go in with him and make sure everything was happening right, go over the checklist one more time. I just drop him off. He's perfectly capable of dealing with finding the place and making sure he has everything. Though again, I only have that confidence because I know Martha's been on it.

"Break a leg," I say.

"Cheers!" he says, and he's off.

I make myself drive off without watching to make sure he gets in the building okay. Leaves swish under the tires. Tears prickle my eyes.
The Trees

Dave Bonta is hosting this month's Festival of the Trees. It ends with a piece of one of my poems, so I have a personal interest in this one, but the festival has been since its beginning one of my favorite flowerings of the web.