Quintessence ~ the essence of a thing in its purest and most concentrated form. Substance composing the celestial bodies.

The shoes that climbed Gonergrat, Switzerland

QUINTESSENCE

Seclusion

August 19, 2016

Tags: family, art and creation, finding joy, nature, patterns, the moderns

Priest Lake Moonrise

Back to the archives today, my friends. This post is from August 26, 2013. Tomorrow I head to Priest Lake for a vacation of mountain hiking, huckleberry picking, and that mellow glass of wine on the deck in the company of a gorgeous sunset.

My favorite time of day at the lake is early morning. Out on the deck with a mug of coffee as the mist and loons drift away across the bay under a pink sunrise.

I'll see you back here at the end of August. Enjoy these last days of summer.


MONDAY MORNING, LATE SUMMER

On the fence
in the sunlight,
beach towels.

No wind.

The apricots have ripened
and been picked.
The blackberries have ripened
and been picked.


- Robert Hass, from the poem "Cuttings"

The opening of the chest, the heart chakra - literally opening to the deep breathing and calm rhythms of a lengthy period on break - profoundly affects the mind as well as the body. When we step out of the box, the stress-filled, demanding, unrelenting responsibilities of the 24/7, the break from routine can begin the restoration of the soul. As an observer of my own fifty decades of living, the wide empty stretches on life's blue highways are far and few between in the 21st century. It's no news we live in a plugged-in, high demand, ever-changing, constantly stimulating world. The irregular dry spells, down time, wayside adventures, lags in scheduling all seem to have disappeared along with party-lines and land lines. We are "on" and plugged-in every moment of the day: pinged by messages, expanding lists of to-dos, global information, and social media even when we sleep.

Small wonder we find peace walking in the silence of tall cedars, lulled to sleep by lapping waves on the lake shore, listening to the creak of wind in the trees, bird call in the quiet dawn. Thoreau was a relentless champion of "disconnect and rediscover" for the human soul, and frankly, so am I. I found it interesting to watch my family, traveling to our rustic cabin on the lake shore with four smart phones, two laptops, three iPads, two iPods and one Shuffle, slowly adapt to first making the long trek down the trail to the nearest wifi center for internet signal, to eventually, mournfully, accepting there would never be more than one half-bar of cell service off the lake, to at last letting the devices sit in their cases, untouched. Withdrawal from the digital world was both painful and amusing - catching ourselves automatically engaged in a pointless click to check email, Twitter, FB. The urge to connect releasing, ever so slowly releasing its grip, to be replaced by long naps sunning on beach towels on a gently rolling dock, acoustic jazz guitar on the porch, long conversations by wine and candlelight at the picnic table, delving into not just a chapter but an entire book, board games and cards accompanied by a crackling fire and mellow whiskey.

We learned the nurturing quality of quiet. The sweet richness of intimate conversation. Walking the mountains, taking in the whole of life.

We disappear to the cabin every year, coming from wherever we are in the four corners of the world, from whatever education, work, or travel schedules occupy us, ready to find our way back to ourselves. To recharge in the power of tranquility, the open spaces of daydreams, sunny contentment, the deep truthful night and undisturbed sleep. We reconnect not just within, but together. And when the last spider is slapped with a sandal and tossed out the door, when the last huckleberry has made its way to a pancake drenched in maple syrup, the last pot of camp coffee poured to the dregs, we pack up our beach chairs and book bags and return to the world.

Halfway down the road to civilization the electronics buried in our duffles ping on, buzzing and downloading in a bursting hive of fury and we have to laugh. The world. It doesn't wait, and it doesn't matter.

The Hero, The Story

August 11, 2016

Tags: intention, presence, art and creation, finding joy, nature, the moderns

David Grunzweig, 14,202 ft summit Mt. Yale, Colorado

We read stories to get experiences we've never known firsthand, or, to gain a clearer understanding of experiences we have had. In the process, we follow one or more characters the way we follow our 'self' in our dreams; we assimilate the story as if what happened to the main characters had happened to us. We identify with heroes. As they move through the story, what happens to them, happens to us. In comedy, heroes go through all the terrible things that we fear or face in our own lives - but they teach us to look at disaster with enough distance that we can laugh at it. In non-comic fiction, the hero shows us what matters, what has value, what has meaning among the random and meaningless events of life. In all stories, the hero is our teacher-by-example, and if we are to be that hero's disciple for the duration of the tale, we must have awe: We must understand that the hero has some insight, some knowledge that we ourselves do not understand, some value or power that we do not have.
- from "Characters & Viewpoint," Orson Scott Card

Preparing for an upcoming speaking panel for Bouchercon 2016, a mystery writers conference in New Orleans this September, I reread this paragraph by science fiction novelist Orson Scott Card from his popular writing guide, "The Hero and the Common Man." I frequently write about human duality. Mankind's possession of tandem weakness and potential greatness. Joseph Campbell famously explored the attraction of the heroic ideal in his groundbreaking work on the psychology of the mythic hero, writing we are both the ordinary and the extraordinary in any given moment.

In choosing what we read, we predominantly seek characters who inspire us through their vulnerabilities and predicaments. Fallible characters who uncover a surprising ability to rise to the occasion. We seek the ideal: To be brave, compassionate, courageous, inventive, adventurous, just. Powerful in defense of truth and right.

In the individual stories of the athletes of the Summer Olympics in Rio we confront the heroic and personal cost of heroism at every turn. How situations that bring out the best in us are often the most difficult to endure. Events we respond to bravely are often the ones that cost us the most. If the gift of triumph is permission to define ourselves as great and capable, future challenges will be met with battle-tested courage.

I confess I do not know whether challenge strengthens our vitality for life or merely toughens us with protective scars. Perhaps we exist on a pendulum between the two responses - boldness and aversion. The heroic stories we read challenge us to imagine greatness for ourselves, explore our own courage. And in our mental shadowboxing, realize a true, real world strength. As readers we use story. Stories are allegory. A call to action. We embolden ourselves to undertake the unimaginable, to find our personal greatness.

Push your boundaries. Celebrate the day and its challenges. Be in awe. You are the hero of your story.

Stones Against Worry

August 3, 2016

Tags: nature, intention, family, finding joy, solitude, presence


THE OCTOPUS
by Benjamin Harnett

Out into the wary wideness
eight minds dragged it, sunlight
fire here, the cool of dark
downwardness. Tentacles go
self, self, self, self, stone!
Ah, lifted to the eyes, this the one.
Quick, back to the closeness
of home.

Felt air, once, a pitiless
flattening, the bright roar, God.
It worries an old scar
balancing self-wrapped rock
on others like a bone. What
was the self, but worry
without comfort, and ache
for food.

To be a child again, all eye
and jelly, drift among ignorant
millions, and be swept up into
a world-mouth with one's family,
to dissolve instead of being
torn by iron to die alone.
Yes, the new cave needs
another stone.


Can you feel the flex in the spine of this poem from Benjamin Harnett's chapbook, "Animal"? The Octopus captures the essence of self, survival, and aloneness, but in a way that spotlights attention on the pure and directive nature of life. The centering of home, cave or nest. The binary reality of safety. The collective comfort of our others. Our known.

It's been a rough month around here, and in the world. There were times when I felt more than a few stones extra were needed to shore up the cave. Life has a way, doesn't it? Lobs in chance, and everything changes. Events occur that destroy calm and defy stability; that undercut every effort at organized living. A disaster or tragedy blocks our pathways, shuts down options, blows a hole in our every effort at risk management. We panic. We howl. Then we get it together and get it done.

Humans, like the octopus, endlessly gather stones against worry - fearing that moment fate yanks us in a new direction.

Stones Against Worry.

"Emergency Fund" was a real thing for us this month. Why you have one, when to use it. Others scoot encouraging stones our way. A box arrives, unannounced. Inside, personal, sentimental things to restore equilibrium, offer faith in good memories, a reminder of good things yet ahead. When good people do good things, it is as if God hands you a star. However dark things may be...there is that star, casting its comforting glow.

So thanks, good souls. You know who you are. No gesture, however humble by any of us, goes without casting its ripple in this world. Those smallest of ripples build into waves of good things. Before we know it there are stars everywhere, lighting the dark.



Make This Place

July 27, 2016

Tags: family, the moderns, finding joy, intention, art and creation, faith

World Peace Flame, The Hague, Netherlands

GOOD BONES
by Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.


This poem by Ohioan poet Maggie Smith was published recently in Waxwing Literary Journal. "Good Bones" then flashed across Twitter, reader to reader. Here was a poem that acknowledged risk yet expressed gritty, guarded optimism about life. How we needed this, reeling, tumbling, weeping through waves of terrorist attacks and violent shootings.

Smith's poem echoed the unspoken fear I felt twenty-seven years ago, when my eldest child was born. I remember looking at my tiny newborn infant, her head cradled in my palm, her small body resting half the length of my forearm, and thinking, Dear heavens, what have I done. I had brought innocent life into the world. But into a world of opportunity and love, or darkness, without hope of joy? This was 1989 and long shadows fell across history. In my work overseas I had experienced tremors of global unrest and growing sectarian violence and terrorism. Home in America, we had yet to experience 9/11. Today, fundamentalist intolerance and terror are at levels that threaten to choke out the quieter voices of peace. Everything is "at least half terrible" as Smith writes, "and that's a conservative estimate."

What tore up my gut all those years ago was feeling forced to question the essential goodness of the world. The moral rightness of bringing children into a world of certain risk and chaos. What "gift" do we bestow upon our children at their birth to protect them? There is no invincibility shield.

The secret, as Smith shares, is that life is delicious. The gift we bestow is joy. To pursue pleasure in a thousand risky ways. At every turn we may be disappointed, scammed, a victim, grow ill. Yet the good and the bad and the ugly are entwined together. Risk, mortality, and the joy of being alive. It must be enough to believe each child might find a good life in the midst of a world in crushing disarray. Each child brings the potential of change.

Maggie Smith's poem ends on promise. It ain't much, but things can be done. This, this is how we build the world. Lift it up and fix it, again and again. Not only for ourselves, but for the future.

Good. Good bones.

In Our Heads

July 14, 2016

Tags: presence, art and creation, finding joy, intention, patterns, the moderns


Our lives were stored in our heads.
They hadn't begun, we were both sure
we'd know when they did.
They certainly weren't this.

We read, we listened to the portable radio.
Obviously this wasn't life, this sitting around
in colored lawn chairs.

- from "August," Louise Gluck

Today must not be a souvenir of yesterday, and so the struggle is everlasting. Who am I today? What do I see today? How shall I use what I know, and how shall I avoid being victim of what I know? Life is not repetition.
- Robert Henri

I have been rethinking a post that I wrote in 2011 on the tension between imagined life and reality. The fantasy in our heads and the truth. What we dream our lives to be in contrast with the ways they unfold.

In Louise Gluck's "August," her young narrator is confident she will be certain when "life" as she imagines it will spread in blazing technicolor across the white screen of summer days. Future selves dormant like ungerminated seeds within the ordinary hours. "Our lives were stored in our heads," the narrator observes, unaware life spools by even in the time spent imagining it. Can we not relate? How we grow lost in daydreams, absorbed in nostalgia, frequently swept to the banks by unbidden musings. "Today must not be a souvenir of yesterday," Robert Henri warned. For what would we have then but a hall of memories? Of recollections like mirrors, arrayed in an endless vision of the past.

We are now in the summer of another year. We may indeed sit in lawn chairs. But if we do so in the company of a friend, perhaps turn a page in a book, enjoy solitude in the pleasure of a favorite tune on the radio...it is all genuine, all everyday living. The ordinary hours produce the honey of life's busyness. Days to years rolling into a swell of gathered sweetness that rests in our hearts like morning dew in the throat of an iris.

This. This universe in the universe of one.

Beautiful. Ordinary. A summer of books, the radio, and colored lawn chairs.

Carpe Diem

July 1, 2016

Tags: finding joy, intention, art and creation, presence

Pebbles on the beach, San Juan Islands

VARIATION ON A THEME BY RILKE
by Denise Levertov

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me - a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day's blow
rang out, metallic - or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.



I think we try so hard to be perfect, we miss life.

Let's stop the pendulum swing of self critique and judgement. Allow our souls to find center, to come to rest. To neither push nor desist but just hold space for awhile. And in that sacred space embrace our permission to be. To luck into, to try, to change our minds, to give it a shot, maybe fail... Perhaps gently settle into ordinary happiness.

Daily human emotional and mental ebb and flows are not the antithesis to life success. Perfectionism is.

In the pursuit of "perfect" lies the negation of all that is not. Perfectionism is an eraser we drag across the life we are living and have lived. Crossing out what may have been our best efforts, our bravest moments. Scars of boot-strapped, gut-wrenching, all-out-there struggle. All those unwanted, unsettling gifts of deepest courage. When we devalue even our smallest efforts, be they honestly sufficient or perhaps barely forward motion, we also devalue the grand essence of human nature - which is to strive.

Humans are not born perfect, they are born to evolve. To seek to understand, to take action, to plan, to expand, to be joyful. Life is not a target. There is no bulls-eye that says, Bingo! Got it. Life is about process. About being vividly, messily, actively present in our own skin. Accepting that however or wherever we may be today, just getting by or progressing along the spectrum of our goals... Well, good enough. This is today. Dame Judi Dench made the point spectacularly - unveiling a wrist tattoo to commemorate her 81st birthday. Carpe Diem.

Don't waste a single second on pointless judgement or wasteful regret. Put down that edit pencil. Stet. Let today be a day of presence.

Reflections Revisited

June 24, 2016

Tags: nature, the moderns, art and creation, finding joy, intention, solitude

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans. . .

With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning. Sometimes the heavy cold rains would beat it back so that it would seem that it would never come and that you were losing a season out of your life. This was the only truly sad time in Paris because it was unnatural. You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason.

In those days, though, the spring always came finally but it was frightening that it had nearly failed.”

- Ernest Hemingway, A MOVEABLE FEAST

After travels from Holland by way of the Rhine and up into the Alps of Switzerland, I experienced what Ernest Hemingway described when he said, “By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped. But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself. If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better.” A wealth of deep thinking - new tapestries of symbolism - spilled over into my dreams. The richness of mingled languages, Dutch, German, French, and Swiss, murmured in my ears. To settle before sleep I read Ernest Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast," the restored version. Hemingway's sons, Patrick and Sean, contributed extensive introductory notes to the original chapters left by Ernest in this never-completed memoir of his early years in Paris.

Hemingway described the life of an ex-pat in rich detail and as quoted above, paints a moment when the lingering melancholy of a late spring anchors the bold and unfamiliar. Vivid recollections need "to be made, not described," Hemingway stated. He writes with clean observation, attentive to distinct and simple elements...oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away.

Reading "A Moveable Feast," I tumbled into another time and place. Hemingway's essays on his artistic struggles to write his first novel, his appreciation of raw nature, stories of less innocent, darkly-undertoned friendships, and the details of the uncertain but stable domestic routine upon which he built life with Hadley and "Mr. Bumby," his young son, came alive on the page. Closing the book, I fell to thinking about what makes both the strangeness of new experience and what is deeply familiar penetrate our consciousness. Why do we travel, and why do we always then make "home away from home"?

“Never to go on trips with anyone you do not love,” Hemingway noted after a convoluted, unsettling journey to Lyon with fellow writer and friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Travel highlights companions who are compatible with us by their nature as well as those for whom the burdens of a journey unleash additional friction and underscore hidden, rough-edged dissimilarities. I appreciated anew the genial nature of my fellow travelers on the Rhine even as Hemingway found solace within Sylvia Beach's "lending library" on the Left Bank and in the welcome aperitifs in the salon of Gertrude Stein. The places our minds and souls take comfort equally open us to companionship.

Hemingway writes his way into deeper understanding, opening himself to the journey, to what simply is. His words mark truth like the swift charcoal outline a painter draws to anchor a picture. Reflecting back on the loves and friendships of his Paris years, Hemingway concluded, "You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil.”

World Building

June 17, 2016

Tags: art and creation, finding joy, intention, the moderns, family


MY MOTHER'S NOVEL
by Marge Piercy

Married academic woman ten
years younger holding that microphone
like a bazooka, forgive
me that I do some number of things
that you fantasize but frame
impossible. Understand:
I am my mother's daughter,
a small woman of large longings.

Energy hurled through her
confined and fierce as in a wind
tunnel. Born to a mean
harried poverty crosshatched
by spidery fears and fitfully
lit by the explosions
of politics, she married her way
at length into solid working-class:
a box of house, a car she could
not drive, a TV set kept turned
to the blare of football,
terrifying power tools, used wall
to wall carpeting protected
by scatter rugs.

Out of backyard posies
permitted to fringe
the proud hanky lawn
her imagination hummed
and made honey,
occasionally exploding
in mad queen swarms.

I am her only novel.
The plot is melodramatic,
hot lovers leap out of
thickets, it makes you cry
a lot, in between the revolutionary
heroics and making good
home-cooked soup.
Understand: I am my mother's
novel daughter: I
have my duty to perform.


Marge Piercy included this poem in her book of poetry, "The Moon is Always Female," first published in 1984. I felt the ethos of her words in my bones, thinking of my own mother who desperately wanted to major in Forensic Science in the early 1950s, only to be told women were not allowed in the field and shunted into sociology. I think about my mother, top of her university class academically, working two secretarial jobs for male bosses possessing half her intelligence for a quarter of their wages. I think of my mother wanting so much more than her world would yield up; how she struggled for a foothold, demanding of me I carry that fierce hunger and hard work and do better. Hit harder with the chisel and crack a few more walls.

I can't claim that I was able to do this with my life. Not in a way that encompasses grand change. But in my daughter's life I have seen change that matters. And so I think it goes. For mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. We crack doors more ajar with each generation, heart and shoulder to wood. Seek more, demand more. We may ourselves settle for less, but with hope the next set of shoulders will carry the day. And in time, I believe this is true.

On this Father's Day, as Mother's Day, let us celebrate the work of generations. Acknowledge the sacrifices of grandparents and parents - flags on the masts of a new generations of ships that set sail with rich cargos of more than fresh ambition. As Marge Piercy writes so eloquently, we are each someone's novel. The work-in-progress of a grand and daring world-building that began early in Grandma's kitchen, or Dad's garage, in the warmth of Mom's home-made soup.

I offer gratitude for these daring works of imagination.

The Dissonance of Change

June 7, 2016

Tags: presence, nature, family, intention, patterns, finding joy, art and creation


MORNING POEM
by Mary Oliver

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches—
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead—
if it's all you can do
to keep on trudging—

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted—

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.


I have just spent the last six days in the company of my daughter, a new MD, on a cross-country drive from Seattle to Cleveland - where she will begin her surgical residency training. The interesting thing about road trips is that changes in life circumstances - the process of shift - are richly reflected in passing landscapes. The pitch and roll of mountain ranges and valleys, the changing color of dirt and rivers, vistas opening to prairie then to lakes, the populating of wilderness by farms, and those wide, cultivated acres narrowing to industry, cities rising upon concrete overpasses, the towering downtown skyscrapers... These are all echoes of personal relocation.

All we travel through echoes what we feel inside the midst of great shift. One known thing gives way to a new and unfamiliar thing. The translation between experiences gaps. We stand, stranger in a strange land, "grokking" as Heinlein would have it, the essence of all that looms before us. There is real dissonance in change. We thrill to the adventure and call of new challenges and stimuli: and we step back, trembling at the edge of our comfort zone. The new world is both attractive and unsettling at the same time.

Yes, we grow when we adapt and challenge ourselves to conquering unknown circumstances. But we also experience a poignant sense of loss stepping away from our established lives. The known is familiar, perhaps even beloved; the past represents the most grounded we have felt in recent memory. What lies ahead is a question, and the potential to fail, to find life wanting, or severely disappoint ourselves is achingly real.

Arriving in Cleveland entailed a profound geographical shift, a cultural shift, and an immersion in learning to navigate on the fly. Nothing is known: not routes nor directions, location of services or grocery stores - not even whether the nod in the elevator is ritually feigned or sincere. Does one say hello or keep a respectful peace? Mistakes abound. Amusement frequent. Surprise and alarm a daily occurrence. All of this shift: the dissonance of change. What is familiar, surrendering to the strange.

Moving from one part of these United States to another is difficult. The goodbyes to friends, paperwork hoops, proofs of identity and legality, even the establishing of credentials - finances to vehicle licenses - it's all just huge. But here's the fun thing: every step in life that enlarges personal boundaries in fact enlarges the self.

So, hang on little tomato, as Pink Martini sings it, and grow. Let it be in your nature to be happy.

Riding the Dream

May 24, 2016

Tags: intention, nature, love, loss, finding joy, presence, family

"Riding the Dream," Cross-Country America, 2016

This week's post is in special honor of two extraordinary guys. My first husband Kenneth Grunzweig, and, his best friend, Perry. Ken died of lung cancer in 2003. A lifelong marathoner and long-distance cyclist, his unexpected illness and death was a shock and a terrible loss. Perry had been friends with Ken for most of their San Francisco years, and he is the godfather of our daughter, Kate. On May 7th, Perry and his fellow adventurers embarked on a cross-country cycling challenge: Los Angeles to Boston. Perry is riding in honor of Ken, an incredible tribute to their friendship.

Briefly, here is an excerpt of Perry's letter to his cycling mates, friends, and our family:

As an introduction, my name is Perry. I am 68 and Durango, Colorado has been my home for the last 20 years.

This bicycle thing got a hold of me at a young age when I ordered a new 10 speed bicycle from Birmingham, England. Shortly thereafter I achieved my Boy Scout Cycling merit badge and it was all down hill from there, so to speak.

The seed for a bike ride across America was planted by my very best friend and bicycle buddy, Ken. He and I were on a three week self-contained bike tour from Missoula, Montana to Jasper, Alberta. We were resting somewhere in the Canadian Rockies, looking at our 50 pound bicycles, when Ken said to me, " Ya know Perry, we could take a credit card and a change of clothes and motel our way across the country without all this shit we are hauling with us." We shared that dream and talked about it every once in awhile, but sadly, Ken died of lung cancer before we could make that ultimate ride.

Ken died, but the dream did not. So with Ken in my heart, and with a photo of him front and center on the head tube of my bicycle I am going to ride our dream in his honor and in his memory.

My efforts to ride across America have been recognized by a private philanthropist, who, upon my successful arrival in Boston, will make a donation to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (lungcancerfoundation.org)

My family and friends have been very supportive, some are amazed, and some think I should have done ride this 30 years ago.


I know you will understand when I tell you how moved I am by Perry's undertaking and fundraising in Ken's name. How deeply honored my kids and I are by Perry's tribute. Indeed, this ride is just the thing Ken would do. When Kate was born, he made her a tiny personalized American Express card. She had his heart, his wallet, and a ticket to her dreams, he said with a chuckle. Often, especially on a family camping trip, Ken would muse that his real idea of roughing it was the "nearest Hilton in the woods." In a summer during high school my son cycled with an adventure group across the country - porting his gear and supplies, camping coast to coast - something he would have done with his father had they the opportunity. David is cheering Perry on. We all are.

I know Ken will be Perry's guardian on his adventure. Keep him out of trouble and make sure he has fun. Ken, always funny, deeply loyal, adventurous, and courageous, knew how to cherish and protect the ones he loved. He also knew how to have a good time - even if he had a famously terrible sense of direction and zero skills as a camp cook, the man could be counted on to bring a great wine. He was the wit and laughter of the party. As you may know, Ken is the central subject of my 2008 memoir, THE GEOGRAPHY OF LOVE.

So here's to you, Perry. You've got the Rocky Mountains over your shoulder by now. And here's to the end of lung cancer - to all cancers. We lose too many of those we love too soon.