Category Archives: Humorous Perspective

The Perfect Bag

The perfect bag is just the right size
For the things you need
Should the need arise.
Not too big or not too small
And whole lot lighter than a cannonball.

I always start out with things deemed essential
But I quickly digress to the random tangential:
Lipstick, hairbrush, keys and glasses
I.D., checkbook, old boarding passes,
Cell phone and charger and candy molasses.
And one more morass would make two morasses!

I should stop there, but just to be fair
I’d rather be safe than sorry.
On the side of caution I try to err.
Just in case of a sudden safari.

Now please don’t think that I’m slightly dotty
But I could get beamed up by way of Scotty
And wind up on some weird planet,
Doing battle with an evil pomegranate.
Entangled in vines, I’ll fight for my life
And I’ll cut myself free with my plastic knife
That I didn’t throw away but stowed in my purse.
I’ll be glad that I cleverly prepared for the worst.

Because getting wet can be a pain,
I have a mini poncho for the rain,
A tiny mirror and small pair of scissors
Just in case I’ve got to cut my hair
In the middle of a couple of blizzards.

And just remember,
You never know,
You could get stuck in traffic.
That’s not too bad,
but you could get sad
If you don’t have a
National Geographic.

And that’s why I don’t go anywhere
Without my Jews harp and harmonica.
When faced with something dismaying
I breathe deeply and just practice playing
Songs from Weird Al, Christmas and Hanukkah.

Little packets of salt and pepper
Make random snacks taste better.
Sometimes there’s Mustard and Texas Pete
And duck sauce and sugar for something sweet.

Ketchup and soy sauce
Band Aids and dental floss
Rubber bands and paper clips
A notebook and a sewing kit.

Pens without caps
For my writing pleasure
Outdated coupons
And a tiny tape measure
And wads of tissues
In case I’ve got “issues.”

Plastic bags for picking up trash
And a few dollar bills to share
And loose expired aspirins
Sporting sandy fuzz and hair.

For civilized dining on the run
I have nice plastic cutlery.
It sure beats eating things with your hands
That are slippery, wet and rubbery.

I confess that my bag is a random mess
But it’s also a grab bag of happiness.
A trashy treasure trove to be mined
I’m always surprised at the stuff that I find.

After all is said and done
I think it’s fair to say
It’s almost always the little things
That quite surprisingly save the day.

Photo Credit: http://www.funnyandhappy.com

 

 

 

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Wrapping it Up: Final Visit Rap

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The World’s Best Orthopedic Surgeon

The hardware from my knee
Was gonna have to come out
Cuz when I’d kneel on my knee
It’d made me want to shout
And scream out in pain
From which I try to refrain

I don’t like to complain
And be a pain in the drain
Because pain is not
The name of my game

So I told that to my doctor
Who is some kind of saint
Who always tells it like it is
And never like it ain’t

Watching Dr. Mazoue
Examining the X-Ray
He said I had a skinny knee
I’ll need a hardware-ectomy

So thank you, Dr. Mazoue
For driving in from far away
With scalpels
And pliers
To pull out nails and wires
Using pails and magnifiers
On sale from weird suppliers
And all things consistent
About which you’re insistent

I’ve got an awful lot of friends
Who’d pay a king’s ransom
For a doctor only half as good
And only half as handsome

I hope our paths will cross again
But I cannot say how, or why or when
I just hope to heck that it will not be
For a bone-ular glitch inside of me

But I digress…
My case I rest
I just gotta confess
That you are the best!

Note: The words “hardware-ectomy” and “bone-ular” are not real words. I assume full responsibility for any and all lexicographal repercussions resulting from their use.

Photo Credit: University Specialty Clinics, University of South Carolina School of Medicine.

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Two Boats and a Helicopter

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Talk by Gloria Talcove-Woodward
Sunday, November 20, 2106
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia
Columbia, South Carolina

Cautionary Tale: Recitation of Original Poetry by John Starino, “Lois.”
(Included here, with permission, from John Starino)

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John Starino

“Lois”

She was a big woman
For her height, five, five

Her other sibling
A Brother

She was married
Two children
One grew marijuana
For daily use

The other
Invalid from the First
Gulf War by some
Undetermined disease

She rarely sang in choir
Enjoyed her gossip with
Soap Opera at The Beauty Parlor

Her husband died in
An auto accident
While driving to the plant
Early one morning

She smoked, she drank little
She was

Now Lois is on the floor
In a cob webbed corner of her
Mother-in-Law’s garage within
A brown wooden box
Which has a peaked
Detachable lid
Along with her Wedding Picture

Inside of
Two plastic bags
One Wal-Mart
One Bi-Lo

Opening Words [adapted from Deuteronomy 6:11]:

We build on foundations we did not lay
We warm ourselves by fires we did not light
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant
We drink from wells we did not dig
We profit from persons we did not know.

This is as it should be.
Together we are more than any one person could be.
Together we can build across the generations.
Together we can renew our hope and faith in the life that is yet to unfold.

Time for Children of All Ages: Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece
(Gloria Talcove-Woodward)

 

Community: Two Boats and a Helicopter

There’s a huge flood and a man is stranded on the roof of his house. A guy in a rowboat comes by and the guy shouts, “Jump in! I’ll save you!” The man on the roof shouts back, “I’m waiting for my God to save me.” Five minutes later, the water has risen to the man’s knees. A guy in a pontoon boat comes by and shouts, “Climb in the boat! I’ll save you!” And the man on the roof shouts back, “I’m waiting for my God to save me!” Next thing you know, there’s a helicopter, and the pilot throws out a rope ladder and shouts down using a bullhorn, “Climb up the ladder! I’ll save you!” The man on the roof shouts back, “I’m waiting for my God to save me.” Just before the man on the roof gets swept away by the flood waters, he shouts up to the heavens, “God, why have you forsaken me?” And the sky breaks open and God, who looks just like Bernie Sanders, shouts down, “I just sent you two boats and a damn helicopter! What more do you want?”

A religious person would interpret this story to mean that God’s hand is in everything. A Unitarian might say that we are God’s hands if She, in fact, exists, and a pragmatic agnostic (who looks just like Bernie Sanders) might say that if you had paid more attention to evacuation warnings, you might not need so damn many miracles.

My talk today is about community and the low-hanging fruit of happiness and how, in spite of the cards we have either chosen or have been dealt, a spiritual community can point us in the right direction towards having the best life we can possibly have.

And it’s also about how not to wind up in your mother-in-law’s garage like poor “Lois” in John Starino’s excellent poem. It’s a little late for a Spoiler Alert, but I don’t think Lois had a spiritual community.

As a Northern transplanted recovering Catholic, I moved to conservative little Columbia in June of 1987. My only acquaintances were my elderly neighbors with whom I talked a lot about tomatoes, tomato sandwiches, tomato plants, tomato cages, seven dust and tomato worms. I had no friends or relatives here, and other than my five-year old Chris, and the mailman, and an occasional magazine salesperson, I had no one to talk to during the day. I missed adult conversation so much that I believe I was the only person that the Jehova’s Witnesses had ever tried to get away from.

On September 27, 1987, I walked into this church for the first time–almost 30 years ago, great with child, and towing my little Chris by the hand. The first person to greet me was Mark T., who took his jacket off and put it on Chris because Chris was cold. When the service began, Mark lifted Chris up and put him up on the stage so he could light the chalice. I was so bowled over by that act of kindness and inclusion, that I immediately felt like I’d come home to a spiritual community I never knew I had. I knew I’d be here for a good long time. And ever since, I’ve called myself a Born Again Unitarian. Every time I see Mark, I always remember his kindness with a gratitude that I’m not sure he is aware of.

That same morning, during Joys and Concerns, Mitch Y. stood up and announced that he and Angie D. would be getting married right here, that very afternoon, and, to Angie’s complete surprise, announced with that great largesse that was so very Mitch that the whole church was invited. He didn’t have to invite ME twice! I had nowhere else to go!

I ran to Belk’s, bought a Chinese Ginger Jar that was on sale for $10, and Chris and I went back for their wedding, which was wonderful. I felt a part of someone’s family, and it didn’t matter one iota that it wasn’t mine. Angie tells me that the first time she remembers meeting me was on the reception line at her wedding. She had no idea who I was except I’m sure she noticed that I was about 10 months pregnant and that I was stuffing my face with wedding cake. The Chinese Ginger Jar went to Mitch after their divorce nine years later. The congregation continued to cherish Mitch and Angie, and their daughter, who grew up, right here in this church just like my kids. Sadly, Mitch, such a fun and funny guy, passed away in 2006. But every time I see Angie, I always think of her as that beautiful bride and the joy I took from being an almost wedding crasher on her big day. I am sure she has no idea how grateful I still am to her and to Mitch.

The same day that Angie and Mitch got married, Janet S., our wonderful piano player, who had just had a baby herself, also noticed that I was about ten months pregnant, and she gave me her telephone number and said I could drop Chris off at her house at any time of the day or night should I need to go the hospital. Nine days later, my parents were here, so I didn’t need to call on her, but what a relief it was to know that I had someone that I could call even in the middle of the night, if need be. Janet didn’t know me or Chris, but that didn’t stop her from reaching out to me. She probably had no idea of how much comfort I took in having someone I could rely on. Every time I see her, I remember with such gratitude that act of loving kindness.

And that was just the first day of my being here! And I’ve got thirty more years to tell you about, so kick off your shoes and get comfortable. Just kidding!

Why would anyone bother having a spiritual community? I mean, we have our little communities at work, we have our neighbors, we have our kids, other family members, we have sports teams, bowling leagues, book groups, our own circle of friends, you name it. And who has the time, anyway?

A spiritual community like ours remains a constant in our lives. We share a common history with a community that celebrates our joys and mourns our losses, that witnesses our milestones and our rites of passage, providing us with a sense of connection and continuity.

How important is that? Pretty important, considering that all the non-church groups I’ve just mentioned, come and go, but a spiritual community is always there. Your kids grow up and move away. You can move away from here, or you can get busy and forget we’re even here, but you can always come back. And the minute you walk in, you know you’re home again. There aren’t too many other places like that. And if you really want to feel like you’re home, walk into the kitchen, and open up the fridge. Just remember to close the door again after you forget why you opened it.

Everyone is here for variations on the same theme. We need different things at different stages of our lives. You will see everyone from newborn babies to senior citizens. We are all looking to find someone who can relate to who we are and where we are in our life’s journey. Some of us might be leading the way, and others of us might be trying to find our way. So many of us might just be looking to figure out which way is up so we don’t fall down.

In his new book, “Tribe,” Sebastian Junger points out that while 50% of our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans apply for permanent PTSD benefits, only 10% of those veterans have seen or been engaged in active combat. How can this be? He suggests that their PTSD is due in large part to their separation from their military brothers and sisters, their “tribe,” for whom they were prepared to fight and die, regardless of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, political philosophy or any other characteristic.

After their deployment ends, our veterans return to a society that has learned to live without them, and which seems to be at war with itself. Disoriented, marginalized and isolated, they cannot recreate what they have just lost: a purpose. In their platoons, they developed an intense loyalty towards each other and an unquestionable sense of belonging not common in our nuclear families and fragmented social systems. It is easy to forget that we were once a communal species, but the lack of our own tribe where each person is needed and valued does seem to explain our never-ending quest for meaning.

Tragedy and loss intrude their way into our lives when we least expect it. Death, divorce, addiction, betrayal, illness and disability, financial insecurity, and even elections, can all devastate us and make us wonder what, if anything, life is all about. Our survival depends upon our ability to get back on our feet again.

The right kind of community can help you to define a purpose to your life, just in case you’ve lost sight of what that purpose might happen to be. If you’re really busy and stressed out, the purpose of your life is just to get through each day. But during transitions to other stages of our lives, we have to reinvent ourselves. To some people, such an opportunity is a joy, but to others it is a profound and daunting challenge. Communities will have a common purpose, and whatever you contribute to that common purpose will be appreciated by others, and best of all, you’ll have the personal satisfaction of being useful. If you find yourself with some time on your hands, please don’t forget that we are here and we have lots of fun things we could use your help on. And the pleasure of your company would be just as good!

I will never forget the conversation I had many years ago with a man who was a custodian at my kids’ school. He told me that he had been a hopeless alcoholic, crushed by debt and illness, and tons of family problems. In desperation, he sought out the preacher from his local church. The preacher didn’t lecture him or quote the Bible to him. The only thing he said was start tithing, come to church two or three times a week, and you’ll be healthy, wealthy and wise, and you (probably) won’t go to Hell when you die.

Now if you’re a Unitarian and you come to church more than once a week, you just might be the minister. Also, we generally don’t tithe, probably because we don’t believe in Hell, so therefore, 10% of your income (and I don’t know if that’s before or after taxes and deductions) would be a steep price to pay in order to avoid going somewhere you were never going to go to in the first place!

That’s probably why the only Unitarian miracle I’m aware of is meeting our pledge goal. Now if we did tithe, we could probably afford to hire Megachurch Preacher Joel Osteen as our minister which would probably increase our membership by at least a thousand-fold, but then just imagine how high our capital campaign goal would be! It makes my head spin just thinking about it. Come to think of it, our current capital campaign is a real bargain! It’s much more than half-off!

Getting back to that man? He told me that he had stopped drinking from one day to the next, and, miraculously, his health and family relations had improved tremendously, and his finances stabilized, allowing him and his family to live a more secure and peaceful life.

It’s not that I don’t believe in miracles, but the skeptic in me just couldn’t take that at face value. Then I figured it out: There’s a difference between value and cost. Just like that commercial: The cost of tithing: 10%, the value: Priceless.

And here’s the explanation in Luke 12:34 and Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

All of which means that the man probably went to church where he was probably eating church food (which could be something like mystery meat on a hot dog bun), which would constitute a nutritional upgrade from bar fare (which could be something like four beers and a handful of Slim Jims). He probably got involved in some healthful activities like playing basketball with the church youth and quite possibly became a mentor to a few of them, and maybe he became the go-to guy for plumbing crises, and maybe he discovered that he was someone people could look up to, and maybe his kids were proud of him because they saw him as a leader that other people respected, because when I met him, he seemed like someone who had earned the love and respect of people he loved and respected himself.

The best way to surround yourself with a loving community is just to roll up your sleeves and pitch in. Whatever you do, you’ll probably have a pretty good time doing it. Very often, you find yourself just working on a committee with someone, or washing dishes in the kitchen after coffee hour, or painting the RE wing, or putting the chairs away in the social hall, or manning a table at our garage sale, or attending a pancake breakfast fundraiser for our RE program or carrying our rather unwieldy Standing on the Side of Love banner in the Pride Parade. (I mean, could that thing be any heavier? Even we Unitarians have our cross to bear) And something happens. You drop something (hopefully, it’s not the banner dropping on your foot!) or you say something, you laugh and you find yourself sharing a moment with someone that neither one of you will ever forget, and that becomes a little tiny chip in this huge mosaic of all the experiences that you have over the years in this church that will keep you coming back. You find yourself caring about other people’s lives, rejoicing with them over their triumphs and crying with them through their sorrows, helping lift a burden off their shoulders or letting them help you lift one off your own.

Community, especially a spiritual community, is an investment of our time, our care, our talents, our love, and our resources. If you take care of your investment, the dividends are surprisingly high.

A spiritual community contributes to our physical and mental health. Just being here calls us to our better selves, helps us to practice things like gratitude, compassion, forgiveness, mindfulness, respect, generosity and acceptance. It helps us to deal more honestly and effectively with disappointments and conflicts. If you have children, you know they watch you and they learn from you how to solve problems and conduct themselves during trying times.

It is here that our children learn to think critically and to make good decisions using our Seven Principals as an ethical guide. A community is where you learn to be kind, when to say yes, when to say no, and when to say nothing It shapes your relationships with people in your own life, the larger community of our neighborhoods, our institutions, our state and our nation. I like to think of our UU kids as good global citizens.

Not everyone needs or wants a church, and that’s fine, but for those of us who do, I sure am glad that this place exists. Community is a little bit like health insurance—it pays to have it before you realize how much you need it.

And because my favorite spiritual practice is laughter, I will close with one more joke:

God appears to a man one night in a vision. The man asks God to let him win the lottery. God agrees. When the man dies in a tragic flood, he goes to Heaven and meets God and complains that God broke his promise because he never won the lottery. God, who looks just like Bernie Sanders, says to him, “You never won the lottery because you never bought a damned ticket! What more do you want?” And the man says, “I don’t know! Two Boats and a Helicopter?”

Thanks for coming. Have a beautiful Thanksgiving, and please know how thankful I am for you, this wonderful congregation that I love so very much.

Benediction

Each of Us Ministers to a Weary World
By Darcy Roake

There is too much hardship in this world to not find joy,
every day
There is too much injustice in this world to not right the balance,
every day
There is too much pain in this world to not heal,
every day

Each of us ministers to a weary world.
Let us go forth now and do that which calls us to make this world
more loving, more compassionate and more filled with the grace of divine presence, every day.

*******************

Go in Peace.

bernie-and-me

Bernie and Me

 

Music Credit: Bruno Mars, “Count on Me,” www.youtube.com

Photo Credits: “John Starino,” by Kevin Oliver

“Two Boats and a Helicopter,” from The Office of CBP Air and Marine helicopter (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File )

“Bernie and Me,” by Sarah Damewood

“Literary Credit: Onion Season, Pt. 1, by John M. Starino, SilDag Press, 139 Dickert Drive, Lexington, SC 29073-9040, jmstar5@aol.com, Copyright © John M. Starino/SilDag Press, First Edition, 2012. “Lois,” p. 8.

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I Guess This Means You’ll Be My Valentine!

 

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You picked me up when I fell down
And then you drove me and my knee cap all over town.

You googled and yelped all we needed to know
Then you got me to where I needed to go.

Surgery, a knee brace and two crutches later,
No one but you could’ve ever been greater.

You waited on me like I was a queen,
You cooked great meals and kept the house clean.

You’ve been extraordinarily patient, kind and good
You never complained and did all you could.

Thanks to you and your care, my knee can now bend,
The stitches are out and I’m well on the mend.

Sure, I can’t drive and still wear my brace
But I can hobble around from place to place.

So when you weren’t looking, I hobbled away
And bought you a present for Valentine’s Day.

And since I like chocolate a lot more than you
I’ll help you eat them so less calories you’ll accrue.

So thank you forever for all that you’ve done!
No matter what happens, you make my life fun.

I’ll love you forever and I’m so glad you’re mine!
Let’s break out that chocolate, my sweet Valentine!

Art Credit: http://www.Funny2014.com

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Does This Thing Come With a Reset Button?

Cheval_de_Troie_d'après_le_Virgile_du_VaticanA gift is defined as something voluntarily given, with no expectation of payment of any kind, intended to show favor towards someone, to honor a person or an occasion, or to assist an individual or an organization in need. Most simply, we view a gift as a tangible sign of gratitude, consideration, affection, love or goodwill.

In a perfect world, our gift would elicit delight and gratitude. The grateful recipient would be sure to use and enjoy our gift as per our intentions, whether expressed or merely implied.

Now THAT would be the gold standard of gift gifting, wouldn’t it?

But, wait! Such an expectation transforms the gift into an exchange, a crass transaction sucking the very spirit out of the gift itself.

In this cheapened form, the gift is more about the giver than the recipient and, therefore, no longer a true gift. It has become an obligation and a source of tension and regret, one better not given in the first place.

Life is too short to wallow in remorse, though. Damage control is far more constructive than waiting for a perfect outcome. There is no perfect remedy, but a decent remedy would be to hit the reset button on the gift, provided that the recipient hasn’t yet rightfully hurled the gift back at the insipid, non-virtuous head of the giver.

The reset button should display the following message:

“Please forgive any negativity which has resulted from this gift. I now re-gift it to you with an open heart. Please enjoy this gift in any way you see fit…or not.”

Better to ennoble our faulty spirit than to pander to our bloated, indignant ego.

And one last caveat: Be prepared to duck!

Art Credit: Trojan Horse from Vergilius Vaticanus (wikipedia.org)

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The Cruise Not Taken

missedboat

Sorry to hear the March cruise has been scrapped
And on terra firma you’ll still be trapped!

So when March rolls around, as its name would entail,
You’ll be walking jauntily, not traveling by sail.

But take heart, dear friend, and consider it a blessing
Because after said cruise you would surely be stressing

Over the five pounds you’d gained just sailing around
Instead of the five you’ll march off on solid ground.

So…the five pounds not gained and the five you will lose
Will give you a ten pound lee-way for your very next cruise!

Photo Credit: “Missed Boat,” http://www.politicalfray.com

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Who Stole My Shade?

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The aggressive cacophony of chainsaws cuts through the passive humidity of this oppressive summer day. I run out into my huge backyard here in a leafy, old neighborhood where the treetops of the giant live oaks meet and interlace above the shady streets. I stare in disbelief. The wall of green jungle at the end of my yard is gone. In the stark, fluorescent daylight, I can clearly see every inch of what I almost couldn’t before: a garage apartment, not particularly ugly, but a totally unacceptable substitute for what is no longer there—the illusion of the woods, a lush, verdant, enchanted coolness that flowered from time to time and protected us from the merciless sun that reserves the worst of its wrath for South Carolina.

I speak Spanish with the two men wielding the chainsaws. One is hanging onto the last remaining, and now limbless, tree trunk on the neighbor’s side of the fence. They smile and laugh and tell me that I should be happy, that the sun can now make my grass grow greener and thicker. I shield my eyes with my hand from the blinding sun and tell them that I know they had no choice in the matter, but that they robbed the shade from my back yard. Encouraged by their laughter, I boldly state that the person who hired them to wreak such devastation must be a “desalmado,” one who has no soul. They think it’s funny that a Gringa even knows such a word. We share a laugh and some good natured bantering for two minutes. I thank them for putting up with me. I wish them good luck and a good day, remind them to be careful not to fall, and not to tell their lousy boss that I called him a “desalmado,” which I know they won’t since I doubt they know any English.

I’m somewhat ashamed of myself. Really, the guy has a right to do what he wants on his own property. Who I am to tell anyone they have to maintain a jungle in their yard for MY benefit? If I don’t want to look at his house, it’s my problem, not his. I’m sure he’s a decent, nice guy. I’m sorry I called him a “desalmado.”

I skulk back to my little bungalow. I sit here writing, listening to the deafening drone of some other kind of equipment that is chopping something else down somewhere nearby, over which I also have no control. Although it’s a little too loud to qualify as white noise, it ushers me back to the first time I realized how vulnerable nature is to the whims of those with the desire and the means to commit “progress.”

My beautiful little 1950’s Topping Street in New Dorp Beach, Staten Island, was also a shady haven where giant Sycamores huddled over our narrow, pot-holed but charming road. I had a good friend named Nancy, who lived in a bigger, nicer house just three doors up from our little bungalow. We were both 5 years old and our mothers were good friends. I was sad when I found out that her family was moving out to Jersey to a “brand new house in the woods.” They came back one day and took me with them to spend the weekend with Nancy. I was overjoyed. They even had a car! Imagine that! We got there at night, and thanks to the moonlight, I could see the woods, which they said Nancy and I could play in the next day. I was so excited! I even had my own room! I woke up at sunrise, listening to the early morning birdsong, entranced by the first rosy/golden rays of timid sunshine sneaking into the room. The magic ended with a rude, metallic jolt that unleashed a non-stop torrent of cranking, revving and whining of several engines. I ran to the window and through the thin line of trees at the side edge of Nancy’s yard, I could see huge steam shovels and bulldozers driving back and forth, knocking down groaning trees and crunchy bushes and picking up dirt and rocks and tree trunks and limbs. The light in the room went from rosy to stark, and I understood the need for words I didn’t yet know, words like “intrusion,” “destruction,” “carnage,” “violation,” “unholy,” and “injustice.” I was too little to express what I was feeling, but I remember that sensation in the pit of my stomach to this very day. I felt that I was witnessing a tragic loss and that I was powerless to stop it. I remember nothing else about that weekend, but after it was over, I never heard from Nancy or her family ever again.

Now that I’ve become somewhat accustomed to the disappearance of my green wall, I’m a little surprised that I don’t feel worse than I do. My thoughts fluctuate between planting some fast growing bushes to replace the lost jungle and selling my house next week and moving somewhere else, somewhere where chainsaws don’t exist, where pretty weeds and vines are preferable to bare, eroding dirt, where shade is recognized as an asset.

But for now, I’m just going to avoid the back yard until I can figure out a viable game plan.

Meanwhile, I have to admit that the rest of the neighborhood still looks pretty good. I think it’s time for a walk.

Photo Credit: Gloria Talcove-Woodward, Sculpture on the Campus of University of California at Davis

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