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The Noise Between the Quiet

For about a minute and a half today, in the middle of this crisp, sunny day, I experienced virtual silence. It began as I noticed the sound of the battery operated wall clock ticking by the seconds, and suddenly all other noise came to an abrupt halt. There was no traffic noise from the nearby highway, no noise from the wind blowing, no airplane noise, no noise from the heating unit in the house, no cell phone calls or alerts from text or email messages, no noise from my computer’s internal cooling fan, no noise from the name tags on my dog as he lay still, sleeping just outside my office. The only sound came from the wall clock. I listened, anticipating the interruption of neighbors or cars or wind or birds or barking dogs; but not a sound emerged. I felt as if the ticks of the clock were grabbing me, forcing me to listen to the surrounding silence. “Here, hear…that nothing but my second hand is calling to you. Here, hear…nothing needs your attention now. Here, hear…nothing is as important as this moment. Here, listen, now. Here, right, now.”

My breathing slowed and deepened. Calm fell to my face. My brow relaxed. My cheeks relaxed. My eyes relaxed and closed, then opened again to witness the still scene in the quiet moment. Worries ceased. Thoughts floated away.

The extraordinary quiet gave way to amazement at how loud daily life is, and how accustomed to it we become, so that in witness of such extreme quiet, we react with slight panic. What is wrong? What is about to happen? Is this the calm before the storm?

I heard a truck on the highway, and my cell phone alerted me to a new text message. The dog stirred in the hallway, clinking the name tags on his collar. My computer fan began to whir, and a new email message arrived with an audible notification. The silence was gone, for now.

Having been the recipient of such an extraordinary gift, I will now listen for these moments. I will manifest this quiet and reap the rewards of calm and peace. There is no storm after the calm. There is nothing wrong. There is only noise, between the moments of quiet.


Moonlight Sonata…in Pain Major

Oh the moon–

Big and bright,

White, light

Warms the night

Come the morn

Will I

be here

Or will I

be downed?

Oh life–

What do

Oh life–

What do






Oh the noise

Oh the cries

Of my mom.

Oh what

do you want–

My skin now,

My heart now,


(breathing, heaving, panting, peeing)

Oh my life–

My sad life–







Pressed against

Cold hard steel,


The cold

and sick,

The dead

all ‘round,



floods in like heaven’s showers

bring us love,

bring us light.

What is this?

What more hell—

Awaits us

From here.

Dreadful hum

Rancid fumes

Fallen friends

Up ahead

Limbs strewn up

Yanked underneath

I am done

I’m Off Meat


After a lifetime spent consuming numerous hamburgers and steaks, chicken and pork dishes, sausages, and lots of fish, I am off meat.  Because it’s bad for you?  No.  Because it feeds an unsustainable chain of carbon-footprint pollution?  No.  Because I looked into the eyes of our dogs and cats and said, “How can I eat anything even remotely resembling you?”  No.

Because I watched a film, “Vegucated“, and I rocked in sobbing horror over what I’ve been doing all of my life, the animal-terrorism cells I’ve been feeding all of my life.  I can say in earnest at this moment that I will never desire the flesh of a formerly living creature again.

If you like/love animals (especially to eat), then I challenge you–LITERALLY challenge you–to watch the film and not be profoundly moved.

There are so many groups out there pushing for humane treatment of animals–not just in farming and butchering practices, but also in keeping pets and animals raised for dairy and meat consumption.  The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Wayne Pacelle, in particular, are bulldog advocates for fair treatment of animals.  I’ve been following several of these types of animal-rights organizations for awhile.  You may have seen my posts on Facebook and Twitter, sharing for the intent of caring for animals.

However, I am so grateful to report that I have been so profoundly touched in my stomach’s heart that I am completely off meat of all kinds (including fish), and that even dairy and other “live-animal” by-products are off my palate.  We just don’t need them to live.  Unless we live in Alaska or other places where the ONLY things to eat are living creatures.  Keep in mind, tho–in areas like these, we may be one or more living creatures’ only sustenance.

I also just read a great article from The Onion that’s a quick read and encompasses just a small fraction of what I’ve gleaned and what has motivated me.

Netflix has “Vegucated”, and you can buy/watch it instantly on Amazon for $0.99 or purchase the DVD for about $13-$20.  Please, please, PLEASE watch it…and let me know your experience.

A Croat by Any Other Name

My father was born in the States of Croatian parents—the son of immigrants who came here for a better life.  I never knew my paternal grandparents, who had died years before I was born; but I imagine, knowing my father, that they were rough-hewn, strong and stubborn, having lived and fled a hard life in their homeland and then uprooted to a foreign country where they did not speak the native language but pressed on and built a life for themselves and their family.

Steve was my dad’s name, and he proudly told us the story of when he was born in Ohio–how his parents, in their thickly accented tongues, had tried to tell the hospital staff what they wanted to name their new son.  “Stif” is how the birth certificate was printed. My father proudly touted to everyone that he was “born a Stif”.

My dad had a large frame and dark features.  He was about six-foot-two I think, although his posture rendered him a couple inches shorter in appearance.  He had a swagger that was part-tired and part-cocky.  His hands were huge and rough from decades of manual labor.   He wore his hair always very short—a crew cut, mostly.  And his skin was leathered and permanently browned from years of working in the sun building houses.  His dark eyes were menacing—intimidating and even frightening at times.  He had very bushy eyebrows that framed them, and when he was telling you something—and I mean he was TELLING you something—his bushy eyebrows raised a half-inch each, and only then did you realize his dark eyes were sometimes a steely-hazel…and you knew he meant business.

Steve was a carpenter of the old-school variety.  That is to say, he did not just hammer nails into wood or drywall—he knew every trade and could build a house from bottom to top, outside to in.  A true craftsman he was, and a perfectionist, too.  He was the consummate artisan who milled and sanded and oiled the wood of whatever project until it gleamed.  He quit school after eighth grade and went to work to help support the family and himself.  So he was born proud, and he lived proud, although he never put on airs for anyone or pretended to be anyone or anything he was not.

With that little introduction, I shall tell you more about this character, for that is what he was.  From my earliest memories of him, he seemed old; although he was always very strong.  One late summer night as he sat on the front porch smoking, a car came ripping up the road, hopping the curb and smashing into the telephone pole across the street.  My father jumped up and ran to the scene, while neighbors phoned the police.  The driver had got out and was throwing beers into the neighbor’s bushes—he must have been drinking—and began yelling and flailing about wildly when my dad approached.  The cops were there quickly (small town and not a lot of action), and attempted to gain control of the driver who was now in the neighbor’s yard hollering and swinging punches at everyone.  Six officers could not gain control of the young guy in his craze, so my father jumped in and grabbed the guy and subdued him single-handedly.  It was later reported in the papers that the guy was intoxicated and under the influence of narcotics.  Nothing was reported about my dad, although we and all the neighbors had seen what had happened.  It was a very big deal in our small town, and we stayed out on the front porch for hours into the early morning watching the utility crews taking down that telephone pole and hearing our father telling why they were doing this and that wrong.

When I was in my teens and my father had basically retired from employment as a carpenter, he and my mother began working on the garden like they never had before.  We always had a garden, but with my father’s time freed up now in retirement, it became his new unpaid occupation.  In my father’s perfectionism, he had used the same concerns for gardening as he had in carpentry.  “If you’re going to do it, do it right!” was one of his favorite sayings.  So began the arduous process of designing and constructing the garden that became a monument on Franklin Street.  The plot of land for the garden was roughly 30 feet by 40 feet.   We all helped here and there, but my parents did most of the work.  First, Dad tilled the ground, adding water and other soil compounds and fertilizer as he saw fit.   I can remember the first time I saw him start up the gas-powered roto-tiller, how it went off into the yard on its own like some deranged mechanical monster, its multiple crooked feet alternately digging and crawling…from that moment on, I was scared of the thing and would not go near it.  But my dad ran after it, grabbed it, and mastered the monster; and he would spend hours and days working with it and sending us to the gas station as he ran out of gasoline while tilling and re-tilling the soil.

Finally the soil was the perfect consistency of the black dirt he had envisioned.  The next step was creating rows of mounded little hills—there were about a dozen of these long, black rows altogether, I think—and he and my mother hoed and shoveled and tossed stones and other undesirable contents out of the dirt as they worked.  Then with a tool, which now I’m thinking was a narrow putty blade of some sort, they created the trenches atop the hills where the seeds would be placed.  Next came the actual planting of the seeds—finally, some real progress, I remember thinking—and irrigating of the entire garden, which was done not by any fancy mechanical tool but by hand, with a garden hose.  Every day they toiled in the garden, watering, weeding, breaking up clumps of dirt and throwing out rocks.

The first evidence of their efforts were the tiny green shoots of the leaf lettuces breaking through the soil.  After that, things happened very quickly.  Lettuce, green onions, sweet peppers, cucumbers, parsley…but the stars of the garden were the carrots and tomatoes.  The tomato plants which yielded huge, delicious beefsteak tomatoes were over my head, and I was five-foot-ten at the time.  My nephew yanked and pulled at one carrot in particular until it came out of the ground and he landed on his butt—this beauty was the size of a small rabbit in both length and girth.  We ate fresh vegetables–raw and cooked–out of our garden every day, and that winter we enjoyed the canned goodness into which my mother had invested so much work at summer’s end.

All of these things came not with any ease—they were the results of a lot of hard work and sweat.  And more sweat.  And more sweat, especially in the heat and humidity of the Ohio summer.  This will be important as I illustrate this little ditty.

Steve always had practical ideas and even very outlandish solutions to ordinary problems.  One of these was a solution to the sweat that poured down his face and into his eyes while he worked in the garden.  He had attempted to fashion a home-made sweat band that would do a better job than the commercial variety which “didn’t do nothin to keep the goddamned sweat” out of his eyes.  I was surprised that the bushes that lay above his eyes didn’t catch the sweat, although I would never have said that to him.  He took a sweatband and affixed a kitchen sponge to the inside that would rest on his forehead.  He used this for about half a day, and then went into the bathroom to forage for a new solution.

My father came down the stairs wearing his latest invention, and we were all mortified.  Unhampered by our looks of shock and terror, he excitedly marched out to the garden to continue working and try out his latest invention.  When my brother-in-law came to the house, he went to the garden to visit with my dad.  “Steve,” he called out.  “What’s that you got on your head?”

“The most goddamned-absorbent thing I’ve ever seen!” was my father’s proud response.  He had taken the kitchen sponge out from underneath the headband and had replaced it with a woman’s maxi pad—the full-blown, thick, long monstrous things that looked like something nobody should ever see in public, let alone on a man’s forehead.  My brother-in-law laughed at him hysterically, but my father was unencumbered by judgment and continued working away, unfettered by any more sweat-in-the-eye problems.

There was also the incident about my dad and the hot pants…but it may be too risqué for the gentle reader.


As I sit here musing on all the chatter and white noise flying across my computer at warp speed, I realize that tomorrow is the International Day of Peace.  I take a break from the rapid pulse of Twitter and Facebook posts and calm myself with a few deep breaths while I attempt to manifest peace for all of humankind.

Come on people, now…smile on your brother/sister…everybody get together, try to love one another right now.  At least, be peace.  Be peace, and all that surrounds you will be so inspired.


The Boss

Springsteen wants his audience to leave the arena, as he commands them, with

Bruce IS the boss…

and we, his devoted fans,
when he takes the stage, we rise.
“How high, how high?” we ask.
And he breathes his earnest, his life
into the microphone,
and our hearts beat.
“How fast, how fast?” we ask.
And he strums his first, raw, passionate note,
and our bodies begin to dance.
“May we listen and dance and sing forever, Boss?”
It appears so.

Water-logged Lily

Oceanside, CA

photo courtesy of stephanie hess

Water-logged lily

uprooted, lightly deposited,

anchored to your crypt by a teaspoon of sand.

Footprints of a mourner

who cried for your disposition,

etching a path for others in your wake.