Christmas in the Trenches

I first heard this song in 1991 while driving, and had to pull over to cry. The song not only portrays a real event; the event portrayed has happened many times on many fronts, but since the pursuit of peace is considered treasonous by those who order the killing and the lackeys who follow them, we seldom hear about such things.

The whole world professes its abhorrence of war, yet war never ceases. I don’t understand why we live this way, and I’m ashamed that it’s my own country—and my own taxes—that’s behind much of the violence. America boasts of being "the leader of the free world,” but the only place this greedy, arrogant, and wasteful nation of mine is capable of leading anyone is to hell.

Nollyposh 1963-2011

When a blogger friend dies, it’s abrupt even when it’s expected. Where you had a loving friend, you now, if you’re lucky, have one of her family members who you hope will update you on what happened, what arrangements were made, and maybe even provide information about how her survivors are doing. I wrote to Nollyposh’s email address to ask for permission to use some of her words and her photo on my blog as a memorial. I received the following:

"This is Patrick (Vicki's husband). I have been checking Vicki’s emails each day since her passing. I am sure Vicki is happy that you use her words and main photo as a tribute.

"Today is one week since Vicki’s funeral which I must say was overwhelming with more than 300 people attending. The hardest part was entering the chapel and looking into the eyes of all the people that turned up to farewell Vicki. Our children were amazing on the day, both daughters spoke about their love for their Mum and our son stayed up all night to finish the DVD presentation for the service.

"Vicki’s blog was all her creation from the first day she told us all she wanted to set one up. Normally, she would call on help for someone to set it all up, but she really insisted that she had to create it herself - which she did spending hours on the computer and calling on our son only to adjust some of the graphics.

"Vicki’s blog gave her the chance to write and to share it with all her bloggy friends, as she called them. I know how well Vicki can write and the blog enabled her to share her thoughts, her wisdom and ultimately her love with a lot of people. She told me about your conversation and how that you will probably never get to meet face to face, and she nodded and it made her cry. Even though you haven't met, she counted you as a close friend - she said that maybe you were not meant to meet, but I always hoped that maybe you would. I cannot tell you how much the blog kept Vicki strong and the joy and inspiration it gave her. She told me that she could not believe that she found people just like her all around the world - spirit sisters."

The following is from Nollyposh’s final tribute to her "bloggy friends":

"i have learned most importantly that ~Love~ is everything and that it can come in many small and mysterious ways... Most wondrously it can reach me from all corners of the worlde and wrap me like a blanket... And for all these wonderful gifts i am most grateful from the bottom of my Heart and send it back to ~You All~ ten-fold X:-)"

Nollyposh and I regularly disagreed—with her taking a spiritual perspective and me a materialistic view—yet there remained a transcendent closeness between us. I feel a similar bond to others of you. One of my blogger friends wrote that he can only be my friend because we live 2,000 miles apart. I think he meant that our differences would get in the way if we were closer, yet I recalled Thoreau’s words:

“You want room for your thoughts to get into sailing trim and run a course or two before they make their port…. If we would enjoy the most intimate society…we must…commonly [be] so far apart bodily that we cannot possibly hear each other’s voice…”

Nollyposh and I were separated by an ocean and a hemisphere, and if such a distance was necessary for us to be friends, I am glad we had it. The last thing she wrote to me was: “You mean just as much to me as if i met you in the flesh xox”

Nolly, I grieve less for your death than for my loss of you. If you were here, you would tell me that whatever I am feeling is okay, but you are not here, and nothing seems okay. I would that I could believe your final words of hope to the people you loved, but I cannot. May I be wrong, and may your love be with me even now.

“I won’t be far away for life goes on
So if you need me call and I will come
Though you can’t see or touch me, I’ll be near
And if you listen with your heart, you’ll hear
All my love around you soft and clear
And then when you must come this way alone
I’ll greet you with a smile and a welcome home.”

Nollyposh's blog is at:

The men in my life part 3: Josh

Josh moved next door when he was eight, and he’s now seventeen. He wants to design and build motorcycles for a living (he has already built one), but he’s planning to go to college too, and his grades are good enough for a scholarship. Since he’s skilled with tools, enjoys detail, is undaunted by complexity, and has the maturity to see a job through, I would expect him to succeed with motorcycles. I envy Josh his good sense; when I was seventeen I was flunking school, getting drunk every weekend, and my sole ambition in life was to avoid Vietnam.

When he was a child, Josh would come over after school each day to help me with whatever I was working on. When I took every last piece of siding and sheathing off the house, puttied the nail holes, insulated the walls, sanded the siding on both sides, painted it on both sides, replaced the felt and such boards as were rotten or split, and put everything back up, Josh was right there beside me with a hammer in his little hand. Likewise, when I lowered the crawlspace under the entire house by three inches, Josh was there, flat on his belly, crawling alongside me through the filth, mouse skeletons, and spider webs.

The only problem I ever had with him was that he would take a job away from me if I wasn’t careful. For example, when I ran a 220-volt line for a clothes dryer, he was hell-bent on making the final connection to the live breaker box himself. Every time I would turn around, there he would be, back in front of the box, holding a screwdriver and trying to figure out what to do. That kind of thing can get on a person’s nerves after awhile.

He also loved power tools, and again, my protest and his lack of experience didn’t deter him from firing one up when I had my head turned—and sometimes when I didn’t. I was in awe that such a little kid had such big self-confidence. By the time he got old enough that he really could have been a help, he lost interest in coming over, and I felt very alone.

Then, I became disabled for any real work, and Josh returned. He would either ask me or come right out and tell me what projects I needed help with, and then he would do them. Sometimes, he would mow the grass or rake the leaves without even letting me know (of course, I figured it out when I heard the mower), and he always seemed to do them right when I needed help the most. Other times, I would do a job alone that Josh had told me I needed help with, and he would get mad when he found out. Only he wouldn’t tell me he was mad; he would tell his mother, and she would pass it along. Then I’d start thinking about how I might get back on Josh’s good side. This was never hard because I don’t think he has it in him to hold a grudge against a friend.

The last time he got mad was in October when I had the Ponderosa Pine removed. It was a big tree that he liked, and it had to be cut from the top down. Josh opposed the project, but he said that if I insisted on having it done, he would do it. I knew he was capable, but I would have worried too much about him. I think he interpreted my refusal as an insult, but his mother never confirmed it. I like Josh enough that I would give in to him on almost anything, but I had to stand firm about that tree, although it hurt me to do it.

I don’t condescend toward young men because although I know more about many things and am more prudent and skillful in many ways, there are still areas about which they know more—and they’re also stronger. For instance, Josh can weld, and I can’t, and his mechanical ability is so far beyond mine that I had rather have him work on my car than to do it myself. And although he opposed having the tree cut, he came over when the job was done and spent most of a day using wedges and a twelve-pound sledgehammer to split three and four-foot rounds into firewood. As I watched him swing that hammer hour after hour in an accurate arc that took it high above his head, I was in awe because when I was seventeen, I was still a few years away from having such strength and coordination (I only weighed 115), and I sure don’t have them now.

I have no one to care for me when I get old, no son or daughter to hold my hand when I die, and no one to leave my junk to. Sometimes I wonder if Josh will still be in my life twenty years from now, and what role he will play. I’ve never known anyone but Peggy and my parents who so consistently went out of their way to do me good. Josh’s friendship humbles me because I can’t see my way to thinking that I deserve it. Western novels describe a friend you can depend upon by saying, “He’s a man to cross the river with.” That’s Josh all over. I love him.

Photo courtesy of Josh. You wouldn’t know it, but he has a beautiful smile.

Thoughts about medical marijuana

Now that I’ve been on marijuana for months, I have to ask myself how good it is for pain. I would say that for long term use, it’s as good or better as narcotics and sleeping pills and a lot less scary. However, nothing significantly reduces my pain; it just makes it easier to bear by either getting me high or knocking me out, and marijuana has the advantage of taking me far higher with far less risk than other drugs.

Now that I’m used to it, I can put away a fair amount of pot and still conduct normal activities, and when the high wears off, I don’t feel hung-over. For weeks now, I’ve been more or less high all day everyday (I start my mornings with marijuana and coffee), and the most notable differences are that I’m happier, and Peggy and I are getting along better. I’m not an easy person even in the best of times, and what I’ve been through over the last several years has been, up to this point in my life, the worst. Peggy and I haven’t had a fight since I started the pot. Marijuana makes me float through my days, my heart filled with peace and goodwill but also a high degree of compassionate candor.

Maybe marijuana should scare me more, but I’m not finding the science to prove that it’s that bad. The worse downside—and it’s truly annoying—is short-term memory loss. As for what this looks like, I’ll give some examples. (1) Unless I’m still doing it, I probably can’t tell you what I was doing five minutes ago. (2) More often than not, when I walk into a room, I have no idea why I’m there. (3) I will become so absorbed in a long and intricate train of thought that I’m barely aware of the world outside my head, that is until all memory of what I was thinking leaves me completely. (4) When I’m really high (late at night usually), I sometimes forget such essentials as my name and address, and I don’t just mean my street address, I mean the state I live in. Such experiences have helped me to understand what early dementia must be like. Yet, pot doesn’t turn me into an idiot; it simply suppresses my left-brain even while it makes my right brain explode with perceptions and insights. Marijuana, at its best, has the power to bring me face-to-face with pure being.

As annoying as it is, I can overcome the short-term memory loss enough to function fairly well even in business situations. I’m helped in this by the fact that I’m more interested in, and sympathetic toward, other people when I’m stoned than when I’m straight. I would even suggest that people like me better when I’m high, although I do tend to say more off-the-wall things more—the kind of things we all think but feel embarrassed to talk about.

I have no idea where I’m going with my marijuana experiment. On the one hand, I like pot a lot, it is grown for me at no charge by someone I love, and Peggy and I agree that we get along significantly better when I’m high, but on the other hand… Well, I’m not sure what’s on the other hand. It just seems a little odd to stay stoned all the time. Decades ago when I smoked pot, I never smoked more than a joint a day, and it was usually closer to two or three joints a week. Now, on any given day, I use more marijuana than I would have used in a month back then.

Do I still want to be using pot a few years down the road? I don’t know what I want to be doing a few years down the road. Sometimes, I don’t feel that I have enough years left to bother about. Time flies faster everyday, and I just sit here and watch it with a sense of wonder at how strange life is. To think that we exist here in this unimaginably small spot in the universe for an unimaginably finite fraction of time. Against this backdrop, what should any of us do? Just hangout and try to make our time here pleasant for everyone, I guess. Such an outlook would eliminate a lot of misbehavior if we all took it to heart, and that’s what I’m trying to do.