Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Modern life has clogged my skull to the limit. Technology has delivered an avalanche of options to preoccupy me at any hour; the notion of idle time that can’t be filled with some form of digital distraction is foreign to me, almost unnerving.

If you’re reading this column on a phone, or any sort of computer, you’re seconds away from all kinds of diversions—social media, digital games, the state of your 401(k), the latest celebrity embarrassment or political mess…

For me, the problem comes when I need to think for myself. If you read this column, you know that any kind of complicated thinking is hard for me, and perhaps impossible. My brain’s interior is not a series of mathematical formulas dancing around balletically, like it does for beautiful-minded geniuses in the movies. My brain is more like a slop-sink faucet, slowly dripping. Or an arcade machine that only plays 70’s-era Pong…

As I get older, I realize I need to utterly unplug. My ideas will not come from my phone, a Facebook post or the latest tire fire on Twitter. For me, they come from digital distance, from oxygen and exercise and especially from time spent outdoors. There once was a time I could get ideas from staring at websites, but not anymore. I get them from looking at trees…

I fear we’re getting worse. Technology just gets better, as those airport bookstores get smaller. I’m wary of our artificial-intelligence future, and the notion that we will lean on bots to think for us, writing code, speeches and even poetry. It sounds like more off-loading of our brain space to technology. And to what end? To watch more episodes of “Love Is Blind?”

I don’t want to sound like I’ve figured it out. I’m not saying this brain of mine is on the cusp of a breakthrough. My brain will not save the world. It barely remembers why it went to the supermarket.

But to get anywhere real, it needs to be uncluttered. It needs to be empty. I mean empty more than the usual. It needs to be bored. And for me that means: unplugged.

—  Jason Gay, from “The Joy of a Totally Empty Brain. Modern distractions cannot compete with the inspiration of old fashioned boredom (, April 21, 2023)

Some events are simply too big for us to fathom.

Some events are simply too big for us to fathom. Bird migration, for instance, happens twice a year on a planetary scale that bruises the brain, so we’re forced to look for evidence in the traces around us: Skeins of geese and vanguards of vireos in the sky; a four-day mob of warblers passing through the neighborhood on their way from somewhere to somewhere else. A waxwing slain beneath a living-room window, its biannual journey stopped dead by the sky in a pane of glass. The Baltimore oriole that arrives in the yard next to mine every May 1 or 2 and starts advertising his availability for a mate. Up to 3.5 billion birds and more than 600 species migrate across North America each spring, mostly at night, but usually we can see them only looking up from the ground.

BirdCast lets us look down from above, and that changes everything. A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Colorado State University and U. Mass Amherst, it’s a website that lets us see them from a vantage point hundreds of miles above Earth, capturing each night’s continental migration as collected by over 140 radar stations across the country — data gathered about birds on the wing. The site went live to the public in 2018, around the time my own birding was deepening from a lifelong side project into something more personally, even spiritually, necessary — a way of being in the world that I had trouble finding elsewhere. After 40 mostly satisfying years as a film critic, I began to feel all those imagined visions closing around my head. I yearned to shake them off, to return to reality; birding has come to seem one of the more graceful ways to do that. […]

To me, the nightly BirdCast map has come to mean a great deal, not least a corrective to our human-centric view of the planet. BirdCast reorients us in both space and time. It shifts our understanding of ecosystems from the narrow — the street, the neighborhood, the town — to a vast globe that birds traverse twice a year because they must. Looking at that ceaseless neon flow forces a viewer to acknowledge patterns that long predate our appearance on the stage and, unless we succeed in our drive to kill everything on the planet, could long outlast us. Within this epoch the thing that matters — a bird setting out on a journey a thousand miles long, not data but feather and bone — is still here. But BirdCast helps us see that one creature and ourselves as fractals of a larger picture in which we are infinitely smaller yet bound by conscience and consciousness to obligation.

—  Ty Burr, from “Trying to Find Your Place in the World? Try Birding From a Different Angle”. (The New York Times · April 18, 2023)


  • DK Photo: April 9, 2023, 6:30am Cove Island Park. More photos here.

The tide goes on, throwing itself again and again at the shore.


  • Video from this morning’s walk at Cove Island Park. 6:00 am. 48° F, feels like 43° F. For photos from this morning’s walk, click here.
  • Post title: Madelaine Lucas, Thirst for Salt (Tin House Books, March 7, 2023)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Q: I want you to think about the generation that comes after Generation Z, people born in the last 15 years. What things do you hope will be better for them than they were for your generation?

Elizabeth, 82, Kan., white, Republican, retired: I’d like to see less crime, less hatred and more kindness in this world.

Barbara, 71, Ore., white, Democrat, retired: I want to see the next generation be more concerned about taking care of this planet and each other as human beings. I want to see more tolerance.

Elaine, 83, Mass., white, independent, retired: I hope there’s going to be more kindness, people getting along. Right now, it’s just not good at all. We need more time, more love. Money’s not the answer to everything.

Ray, 76, N.J., Black, Democrat, retired: Hopefully the next generation will study our generation and correct our mistakes, because what’s happening in the world, we can’t pass it all off to the generations after us. We have been responsible for a lot of how the world has become today. And hopefully, the next generation will return to a feeling of being one set of people, united together as one country.

Elizabeth, 82, Kan., white, Republican, retired: Wisdom does come with age. It’s the little things in life that really do matter. You shouldn’t stress about so much in this world. It’s easier to just enjoy life and do what you can for others.

—  Kristen Soltis Anderson, excerpts from “Opinion | What Happened to America? We Asked 12 People in Their 70s and 80s.” (The New York Times · April 10, 2023)

Happy Birthday Dale!

Happy Birthday Dale! Have some Cake on me!


Guess who turns 5-0 TODAY!

Happy Birthday Sawsan!

More on Sawsan here at Sawsan Takes The Proust Questionnaire!

Easter Sunday

Biggest crowd at Cove Island Park that I’ve seen in 1069 consecutive (almost) days of my morning walks. Like in a row. More photos from this morning’s walk here.

I say a silent thanks. For the beauty of that.

I sometimes think I could write my own book on what dogs, specifically, do for us — and I don’t mean the herding, the hunting, the guarding. I mean what they do for us emotionally and spiritually. My relationship with Regan would give me much of the material I need, and that material would include how dogs turn our attention toward, and heighten our appreciation of, nature.

The centrality of an animal or animals in our lives reminds us of all the other animals out there, of how the world teems with remarkable and curious creatures, some of which our dogs and cats bark or hiss at, some of which they chase, a few of which they kill, at least if they’re sufficiently bloodthirsty and skilled.

But dogs also connect us with nature because they invite and encourage us to venture with them into it. We spend more time outdoors and more time appreciating the outdoors, whether we’re in cities, suburbs, exurbs or rural areas.

With Regan, I take forest walks of a length and adventurousness that I wouldn’t otherwise, and when her nose twitches and her ears swivel at the smell or sound of something, I find my own curiosity piquing, my own senses sharpening. I hear the woodpecker that had escaped my notice just seconds before. I see the white tail of a deer almost obscured in tall grass. To follow Regan’s gaze is to be introduced to the turtle moseying over the lip of the creek, to the fat wild turkey waddling up a distant slope. They were always there, but I wasn’t around to note them, or I wasn’t surveying the landscape with the requisite reverence.

But take the woods and the hikes out of the equation and Regan still reorients me toward the natural world. A walk with her around the block means breezes and bird song. In opening the door to let her out of and into the house, I notice a shimmering orange sun as it tugs itself above the horizon, a smudgy red one as it takes its final bow. I pause. I say a silent thanks. For the beauty of that. For the dog in the dimming light.

—  Frank Bruni, “On A Personal Note” in The New York Times, April 6, 2023

I think I heard divine intervention

Do people still see God’s face in their oatmeal or do we only worship money now? Either way, as corny and impossible as it might be, I wish I could reach out from these keystrokes, set my hands on your shoulders, gaze deep into your retinas and tell you that when Joni Mitchell sang George Gershwin’s “Summertime” at DAR Constitution Hall earlier this month, something like God entered in the room.

The circumstances were strange. Mitchell was in Washington to accept the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, and in the moment I’m describing, to headline at a tribute concert being filmed by PBS. Accepting her award in a satiny frock the color of the ocean and a beret the color of gold bullion, the 79-year-old colossus of song seemed a little out of sorts. Was it the implicit awkwardness of a televised exaltation or something worse? Mitchell suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015 that left her unable to speak or walk, and has since made an astonishing recovery, but as she sidled up next to the grand piano, the room held its breath.

Then, clutching a shiny golden microphone in her right hand, she exhaled that opening verse, her phrasing patient and exact, her tone heavy with color and feeling. “Hush little baby,” she sang with a finesse that can only be measured in metric tons. “Don’t cry, don’t cry.”

Failing to connect those words to the sopping wetness that had instantaneously materialized on my face, Mitchell was halfway through the song before I noticed that my lungs had also chosen to relocate to my throat, which technically qualifies as an out-of-body experience, which is where the whole God thing comes in. Cumulatively, this moment felt greater than life, greater than everyone in the room, maybe even greater than Joni Mitchell, unless she’s God, which I suppose is no longer out of the question.

Normally, I’d worry about sounding hyperbolic here (greatness feels cheap in the social media age), or even worse, sentimental (hooray for a fragile older person doing an incredibly powerful thing), but I’ve been too busy spending the past few weeks trying to figure out how a song so delicate managed to collide into my sensorium with such annihilating, tidal force. Maybe the secret of Mitchell’s entire songbook is tucked away in that paradox — all of those drumless ballads from “Clouds” and “Blue” crashing against our collective consciousness like rogue waves. Maybe we can trace it all back to Mitchell’s lifelong affinity for dancing. There’s a tremendous amount of movement in her music, even when the gestures feel stark and the mood feels serene.

And then there’s all of Mitchell’s unambiguous greatness: Her singular ability as a songwriter to speak to our experiences and imaginations through characters we may or may not know (Carey, Edith and the Kingpin) and settings we may or may not have visited (the autonomous Champs-Élysées, ex-paradise parking lots). Singing about all of this stuff with the intricacy and insistence of a pen scratching paper, she matches unexpected words with unexpected melodies, simultaneously possessing them in ways that feel deeply inventive and allergic to cliche.

But how all of this felt so abundantly clear as Mitchell gently moved another songwriter’s words around in time, as if placing them into their most perfect position, I’m still not sure about. Something profound, and complete, and deeply life-affirming had suddenly sprung into reality, and it was hard to understand exactly how or why.

“You had to be there” is a cruel phrase, isn’t it? We’re a storytelling species, and we spend our lives trying to share “there” with those who weren’t. We search for it in novels and “How was your day?” at dinnertime. But on a Joni Mitchell album, “there” feels like “here.” The visceral experience of hearing her most vivid songs always seems to supersede the detailed stories they’re recounting.

This is all to say that you can watch Mitchell sing “Summertime” in full on television tonight, and while I can’t promise God will visit your living room, try listening with all of your being and see who shows up.

—  Chris Richards, from “Joni Mitchell sang Gershwin. I think I heard divine intervention” in The Washington Post · by Chris Richards · March 31, 2023

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Watch it…


  • Movie Review: CRITIC’S PICK – ‘Women Talking’ Review: The Power of Speech.” Sarah Polley adapts Miriam Toews’s novel into a timely political parable with a stellar ensemble cast. (NY Times, December 22, 2022)
  • Thank you Susan for recommendation.

Walking. High on Sucralose.

I walk.

1055 consecutive (almost) days on this daybreak walk at Cove Island Park. Like in a row.

43° F. Spring is in the air.  Heavy fog is lifting.  A runner, a pair of kayakers, the ever present Canada Geese to remind me where I came from, and me.

I walk.

I circle back walking the wind swept shoreline, and there are my footprints, my Heavy imprints.

You’ve gained a few pounds since your last annual physical.” We’re both masked, she’s looking at me, and my eyes lock in on hers. I don’t bite on the “few pounds” slight, I know exactly how much weight I’ve gained, and I wouldn’t describe it as “few.”

Could it be triggered by the medication I’ve been taking since December?”

No chance of that,” she says, the response coming way too fast and way too confident.

There’s a moment or two of silence, my body temperature surging, I’m broiling in shame. I don’t respond. [Read more…]

Lightly Child, Lightly.

My paintings have neither object nor space nor line nor anything – no forms. They are light, lightness, about merging, about formlessness, breaking down form. You wouldn’t think of form by the ocean. You can go in if you don’t encounter anything. A world without objects, without interruption, making a work without interruption or obstacle. It is to accept the necessity of the simple direct going into a field of vision as you would cross an empty beach to look at the ocean.

Agnes Martin, Agnes Martin: Writings


  • Photo: Daybreak. March 18, 2023. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. More photos from this morning’s walk here.
  • Quote. Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.






Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Life is soupy, mixed up, and tumultuous. Muddying the waters is precisely the point because it’s from such nutritious streams that life grows…

[KP: How would you start to answer this vast question of what it means to be human? Perhaps, how has that evolved how you might start to answer that question?]

What it is to be human is such a small thing…in this universe, right? Just try to be nice, be kind babies, be kind. As Vonnegut wrote. That’s the only guide. Try to be good and try to do the least harm and be kind. That’s the only human bit. But what it means to be more-than-human, that’s something else. That’s the bigger question, I think, for me is what it means to transcend that narrow frequency of being human in this time here to perhaps partake of something far greater, something more-than-human. That is actually the more deep or meaningful connection to everything around us…

Every time we train our most sophisticated tools upon the central questions of our existence – Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? – the answer comes back clearer: Everyone and Everywhere…

—  James Bridle, excerpts from “The Intelligence Singing All Around Us,” an interview with Krista Tippett. Onbeing, March 2, 2023.

Notes: Portrait: Quantum

Read it.

Take a moment for yourself…Every day. A Moment. A moment where YOU are your own priority. Just you… Not your work…not your filthy house, not anything. Just you…. Whatever you need, whatever you want, whatever you seek, reconnect with it in that moment…Then recommit…

On the other hand, wasn’t that the very definition of life? Constant adaptations brought about by a series of never-ending mistakes? ….

And as humans, we’re by-products of our upbringings, victims of our lackluster educational systems, and choosers of our behaviors. In short, the reduction of women to something less than men, and the elevation of men to something more than women, is not biological: it’s cultural. And it starts with two words: pink and blue. Everything skyrockets out of control from there…

Bonnie Garmus, Lessons in Chemistry: A Novel (Doubleday, April 5, 2022)

Lightly Child, Lightly

Even now,
decades after,
I wash my face with cold water –

Not for discipline,
nor memory,
nor the icy, awakening slap,

but to practice
to make the unwanted wanted.

—  Jane Hirshfield, “A Cedary Fragrance

I’ve written many, many poems out of the need to find a way to say yes to what I would, at first, rather say no to. Because our whole lives consist of such moments. Many things will happen to us that we would prefer not. We would prefer our loved ones don’t die. I would prefer the world were more sensible and kind and compassionate. I would prefer there not to be forest fires of such extraordinary devastation as we’ve been having, or fill in the blank.

But a human life requires all of these things. And so to every day begin the day with this simple affirmation of “I will make the unwanted wanted” has been a practice of decades for me now.

Jane Hirshfield, from an Interview with Ezra Klein in The New York Times, March 3, 2023


  • Portrait of Jane Hirshfield by Nick Rozsa in The Marginalian
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.


I have a great deal of nostalgia for Wigton. I had a very rich childhood in everything that mattered. I liked being able to knock on friends’ doors to ask if they were coming out to play. Looking back, I seem to have spent an awful lot of time playing. Wigton gave me a sense of friendliness towards everybody. You just nodded to people and said hello. That ease was helpful.

Melvyn Bragg, from ‘At 83, time goes round too quickly’, in an interview by Kate Kellaway in the ’The Guardian · March 4, 2023

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

He picks up on three themes: first, that mastery is the “slow carpentering of fragments into a harmonious whole”. The expert creates the illusion of something unified by learning each tiny step – whether those steps are the small melodic ideas of a jazz pianist or the rhythmic pattern of a boxer’s jabs.

Second, mastery is about humanity, not perfection. “We never really love an artist’s virtuosity, or if we do, it feels empty,” Gopnik writes. “We love their vibrato, their … way of entangling their learned virtuosity within their unique vulnerability.”

Third, it’s not about “life rules, but real lives”. Gopnik thinks mastery can be found everywhere, from his mother’s kitchen to his driving teacher’s car. “We always overestimate the space between very good and uniquely good,” Gopnik says: we know the names of the Michael Jordans and the Leonardos, but there are countless people who are nearly, if not quite equally, brilliant. And even if most of us won’t become household names, “we are all more varied and capable than we are often allowed to seem”.

— Matthew Cantor, from “The Real Work: On The Mystery of Mastery” by Adam Gopnik book review – the art of expertise” (The Guardian, March 4, 2023)


Watch it…

Thank you Sawsan…

Wally’s Great Adventures (51)

Wally’s Great Adventures (51) hello friends, wally here. mom went to run errands so i was helping dad work. i figured if i could stare at dad long enough maybe he would get off the phone and play with me. he told me if i was good for 20 minutes, just 20 minutes, he would give me some treats. 20 minutes is like forever. so while i waited for dad to get off his stoopid call i decided to chew on the black stringy cords, and that made dad very unhappy, and he told me to stop that. i then decided to check out the back of dad’s desk, i put my paw on top of something dad calls a home-pod, which then turned on loud blaring music, and dad whispered to me, ‘wally, i’m begging you, please stop.’ then i banged my head on the big screen, and started chewing on the corner of the computer tv, and dad’s eyes went bug-eyed and he said ‘that was that, i had to get down, and i was a super bad boy.’ just then mom came home, i was so happy to see mom because working with dad was no fun at all! have a good evening everyone. Wally.

Wally’s Great Adventures (50 – ‘let it snow’ – VOLUME UP)


Wally’s Great Adventures (50 – ‘snow day!’ – VOLUME UP) hello friends, wally here. i woke up this morning to see the world painted white. amazing! magic! like cottonballs all over. dad came back from his walk and i helped mom and dad clean the driveway. mom said that i was an excellent helper. dad smirked and looked at me and said ‘what are you doing?’ ‘what do you mean dad?’ ‘what are doing walking on your tippy-toes, and shivering like a little kitten? do you know you are canadian?” and dad told me that while i’m sharing my Great Adventure stories across the internet, to tell all you nice ladies out there he had nothing to do with me going out without my coat on. i told mom that i love her but i hate those stupid itchy jackets and i won’t put them on. and after all that fresh air and running on and eating the cotton balls, i took the world’s longest nap. so good. have a good evening everyone. Wally

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