Poverty, and Roses by The River



Petaluma, California was once a very active commercial river town. In fact at one time in this city’s history there was more money in the banks here than anywhere else in the state. Nowadays things have changed and this little city’s waterfront is no longer the center of its economic activity. The river is badly in need of dredging and poverty is settling in along some of its edges.




Yet even here among the hardscrabble homes, where free roaming chickens peck at overgrown front yards, the roses bloom and their sweet smell heralds better times.

That’s my hope anyway.


The incinerated dream of Jack London.



I would rather be ashes than dust.  I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.  I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.  The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.  I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.  I shall use my time.  ~Jack London, 1916

Jack London was a hard charging, immensely popular author of 40-plus books when he bought a number of adjacent parcels of land in Glen Ellen, California between 1908 and 1913. He had studied the farming practices of Asia while working as a war correspondent and felt that Americans were ruining the soil with their methods and thought he could do better. With his usual immense energy, bravado and having  plenty of money at his disposal he set about building “Beauty Ranch”.

In addition to getting the farm started, Jack also hired an architect to draw up plans for an immense 26 room stone mansion for himself and his wife Charmian. He named it “Wolf House” after the animals he loved and had written so much about.  Just days before the couple was to move in, the house caught fire and burned to the ground leaving only its’ huge stone skeleton as a sad reminder of Jack’s dream home.






“Wolf House” was never rebuilt and Jack London died in 1916. He and Charmian are buried together on a hill behind it under a big stone taken from the ruins of “Wolf House”.

Everything Is Interconnected


Sylvan Mortality…Dust To Dust…That Includes Us



The Dancing Super Sonic Smog Man


Here in Petaluma there is a cheerful dude who is somewhat of a local institution. He quite regularly comes to the corner of D and Lakeville Streets wielding a large, banged-up plywood sign advertising a local smog testing outfit. If he only stood around and held up that sign he wouldn’t be worth much notice but he DANCES with the thing. I mean he really makes some fine happy moves! I don’t know what he’s listening to on those big earphones but it sure must be some tuneful rocking stuff.

Spirit Rock Insight Meditation Center


I’ve been interested in meditation for a long time. Way back in the 60s I got a mantra and practiced, albeit sporadically, a Hindu form of meditation called transcendental. Back in those days such a practice would brand you as counter-culture and weird. Since I was holding down a leadership role in public service I made very sure nobody knew of my practice.

Times have certainly changed since then and last weekend I had the great good fortune of attending a silent retreat at the Insight Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. For 3 intense days we were taught another form of meditation called “Insight”. A practical, powerful and potentially very useful way of making peace with the human condition. 

Here is a link to some of the photographs I took while I was there. 


I wholeheartedly recommend the experience.

Color Gives Us Positive Emotional Context



We usually take the color of our physical surroundings pretty much for granted and don’t often think about how powerful an influence their color alone can be on our emotions.

We live in Maine and currently have fled to California for a while to escape the worst winter New England  has experienced in years. Just before we left, I took the above photograph of cars parked in our back driveway. The picture is in color but there isn’t enough of it to make any kind of positive emotional impact. In fact, it is the almost total lack of color that tells the gloomy story.

Now compare that photo with this one.



Strip away the subjects from each image and just compare how you feel about greyish white versus hot pink.

See what I mean. 

PS Spring really is coming.

I promise.



Do you see snow, moss or loneliness?


When you look at this black and white photograph do you really care that what looks to be snow is actually an infrared rendering of a woods scene redolent with brown leaves and brown grass as well as some very green moss on the trees. I would hazard a guess that what first struck you was the small figure in the background that looks meditative and somewhat lost. The photograph serves to a degree as a kind of visual reinforcement of your own emotional interpretation of the scene.

That’s like the old story of the farmer who went into his tool shed at dusk looking for a shovel and came screaming out a second later convinced that there was a large snake just inside the door waiting to attack him. In actual fact what he saw was his curled up garden hose.

The point of all this is to emphasise how much of what we think of as reality is only our singular interpretation of it, shared by nobody else.  

It keeps one humble remembering this.

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