Beginner's Mind

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." - Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Related to Newsweek article

In comments to my post about the article in Newsweek, Jeff Wilson pointed to an entry in the Tricycle blog on the use of meditation in pain and stress release. I thought I would bring it to the forefront.

By the way, Jeff's blog looks interesting, worth checking.

(Thanks Jeff Wilson)

Music in my head: Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, J.S. Bach

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Some thoughts thrown out for your consideration

I have spent *way* too much time on the computer the last couple of days. So much so that I've got run-away thoughts and find it hard to rest, as if I had drank too much coffee. Not good. I suspect it's because my mind is trying to avoid processing some things that happened last week.

But, here's some observations I've had over the last couple of days:

Saying you can't support the troops unless you also support the war is like saying you can't support the patient without supporting cancer.

Many of the so-called "milblogs" have statements on their blogs stating, "I will fight for your right to free speech, literally!" and then rage against John Kerry for exercising that same right.

From a song by Brenda Russell,
Minds can move mountains, if we just catch on.

Looking at the President's re-election campaign web page, there is more about John Kerry than there is about George Bush.

Many environmentalists preach gloom and doom and hyperbole, which gets in the way of taking them seriously. They also seem to have stronger attachments to their own processes than they do the end solution. (Not all, but many.)

The media is clogged with journalists writing opinion. It's hard to know what are the facts of a situation. Also, a lot of what news we do get consists of what historian Daniel Boorstin calls "pseudo-events."

I wonder which is in the majority; 1) People who know more than they realize but don't speak up, or B) People who think they know more than they do and can't keep from telling others about it. (I believe I belong to group B)

Why is it that gasoline and oil prices are at an all-time high, during the term of a President and Vice President who are former oil men, and nobody seems to find this a problem? Or, at least, suspicious?

Why does a Presidential candidate authorize war on a foreign country, say he supports that same war, and then later says going to war was a mistake? And, then get worked up when people says he flip-flops?

During the fall, it's a good idea to go outside often. When the leaves change, they seem to do it all at once. You might very well miss the change.

Music in my head: Catch On, Brenda Russell.

Monday, September 27, 2004

More from Newsweek

There's another article online from Newsweek on meditation, mindfullness, and the treatment of various physical ills. It's this kind of science which got me started over fifteen years ago.

(Nice to see Newsweek doing something other than kissing up to Bill Gates.)

Thanks to John for the link.

Not that I want one

I've spent a lot of the morning reading blogs from soldiers stationed in Iraq. Something hit me as I was reading them: How is it that every Tom, Dick, and Hassad has rocket propelled grenades? I mean, this was supposed to be a dictatorship and all that. Most of the Iraqi and soldier blogs tell of the Iraqi fondness for firing off a few rounds in celebration for various things. Where'd did all the guns come from?

The guns, I guess, I can figure out. We've got them all over America. I've got a few. But mortars? RPG's? I suspect I have an income higher than most Iraqis, and I can't afford those things. How did they get them? (Again, as in the title, I don't want one, but it makes a person wonder.)

Maybe I spend too much time on the computer.

New in Newsweek Online

Found this short article on eliciting the relaxation response, a powerful therapy in the treatment of pain and stress. If you are reading this, you probably need to learn the technique. It's easy. And it works.

Also this well thought-out article on electing a war-time president, thanks to the newly returned Macroscopic World (Welcome back!).

Music in my head: Jump, Pointer Sisters (where'd that come from?)

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Wherein I travel to a foreign country

Went with friends today to Montreal to watch the Expos play baseball. It looks like this will be the last year they will be in Montreal, so it was now or never.

Montreal is a nice city, clean and safe. It's relatively easy to get into Montreal; it's a bugger to get back out. There are bridges to be crossed over the St. Lawrence, one whopping big river. But getting on one of them to go south involves going on side streets and driving all the compass points before you can get on the bridge. The roads seem to have been laid out by a large snake on LSD. It's quite a trip (pun intended).

Olympic Stadium (or, as they say up there, Stade Olympique) is an indoor stadium that seems to be pretty well organized, and it doesn't look to me that there's a bad seat in the house. I seem to recall reading somewhere that it is the least-liked stadium by baseball players, and I can understand that. It seems pretty small, and there's no bullpen. For the fans, there's good Canadian beer (I didn't partake), all kinds of food (including poutin, something I bet you can't get in any other baseball venue - this, too, I did not try, though it looked looks like gravy fries)(boy, did the spell checker choke on that word!), and the prices are about what you would pay in a US stadium, but in Canadian dollars, so it is in fact cheaper. It cost us $12 to park, and when I gave the attendant an American $20 bill, it seemed like I got about $25 Canadian back. I had a huge bag of peanuts which lasted me through most of the game - my standard baseball fare. (Sure wish I had tried those fries, though.)

The game went fast, less than 2 1/2 hours. Unfortunately, the Expos lost, 2-1, to the Phillies. Neither team seemed all that pumped to be playing, as they won't be going to the playoffs. The announcements were in French, followed by English; the same went for the Diamondvision graphics. All the signs were in French. There were a little over 12,000 fans at the game, typical draw for the Expos, and the main reason they will be moving. The team is actually owned by the league. Frank Robinson is the manager, we got to see him when he came out of the dugout to change pitchers. It was also neat to see Livan Hernandez pitch.

You hear so much about Canada losing its identity to the US, but driving around in Montreal you really get the sense of being in another country. And of course, everywhere you go you experience the friendliness of Canadians; their reputation is well deserved.

Because we are so close to Quebec, we see a lot of Quebecois drivers in Vermont, and they drive like speed demons. I realized today that they do that at home, too, so I understand them a bit better now. Wherever they are going, they are in a hurry.

I haven't spent much time in Montreal; this was only my third or fourth visit. There's a lot to see and do. I'll have to get up there and spend some time, if for no other reason than to learn the roads (sheesh!).

Music in my head: When Fall Comes To New England, Cheryl Wheeler

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Some atta boys!

Way to go and congrats to Wisconsin Badgers. Anyone who beats Penn State is OK in my book. However, thoughts go out to Micheal Robinson of Penn State, who suffered a concusion and was taken off the field in an ambulance.

A big hoot and holler goes out to Texas Tech, who staged an amazing comeback to beat Kansas. Here's wishing the Red Raiders all the luck in the world against Oklahoma next week.

Music in my head: Glory Days, Bruce Springstein

Friday, September 24, 2004

"An inner struggle"

From The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Inner Peace:

In a sense a religious practitioner, whether man or woman, is like a soldier engaged in combat. Who is the enemy? Ignorance, anger, attachment, and pride are the ultimate enemies; they are not outside, but within, and must be fought with the weapons of wisdom and meditative concentration.

Music in my head: Brahm's Fourth Symphony

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

In a bad mood

Anybody out there remember Hee-Haw?

Gloom, despair, and agony on me.
Deep dark depression, excessive misery.
If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all.
Gloom, despair, and agony on me.

Maybe I should take up the banjo. Steve Martin said it's impossible to sing a sad song with a banjo.

Oh, death and grief and suffering and murder!

But then, there'd be those jokes. Like this one:
Why is it that, when banjo players die, they're buried twelve feet in the ground?

Because deep down, they're really nice people.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Getting a fire started

This morning the house was a bit cold. Last night the temperature was in the low forties, and after a couple of days of cooler weather the heat inertia in the house was gone. So, I cut up some kindling and built a fire in the upstairs wood stove.

It's a wonderful stove, actually a fireplace insert with a glass door. It's made by Avalon, and has a secondary burn so that, once the stove is up to temperature, there's no smoke coming up the chimney. It is an extremely clean burning stove and very low maintenance. And, it throws enough heat that it warms the whole house except on the coldest of nights.

It was the first fire of the season.

Last week my doctor told me that I think too much. She prefaced this by saying that she didn't want any comment from me about it. But, I had to say something, and that was, "You're right."

It's not that I don't know what I need to do to heal myself, to get me in better shape, to lose all this extra weight, to deal better with the constant headaches. I know what I need to do. I just don't do it.

If I could think my way into a better life, I'd be on top of the world.

But knowing is not enough. One must do.

I'm addicted to intellect. I read science because it appeals to me. I read about Buddhism because I believe that if I know more about it, I'll understand it better. But it doesn't really work that way. Sure, there's a place for study. But study to the exclusion of all else isn't really worth much.

If I put as much effort into practice as I do into study, I'd be an enlightened being by now. (Or am I underestimating?)

I don't know what it is that is such an obstacle to doing. I can't seem to make a habit of it. It's not that practice is so hard. But when I decide how I'm going to spend my time, doing just never comes up as an option.

I've got to think about this more.

Music in my head: Mozart's early symphonies.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Just a simple kick

Way to go Vols!!!

Music in my head: Rocky Top

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Mind and brain

This morning I finished reading Steven Johnson's book Mind Wide Open. It is an interesting book connecting the neuroscience of the brain with the experiences of day-to-day life.

He talks about the various hormones in the brain and how they lead to various emotions. He also explains how various parts of the mind are responsible for different reactions we have to the outside world.

One interesting chapter describes an experiment with an fMRI machine. While the machine took images of his brain activity, he engaged in different kinds of mental activity in order to map those activities to different geographical brain regions.

He also spends the last chapter addressing some of the detractors of neuroscience. For example, he refutes the notion that studying the brain's functions reduces everyday experience to neurons and chemicals.

Because of the migraines, I find such books interesting. One of the ideas I came away with is the notion that certain neural pathways get reinforced through repetition. This makes me wonder if whatever is causing the headaches has gotten imprinted in my brain, making it harder to reverse.

It's an interesting read, and I recommend it.

Music in my head: Beethoven's Sixth Symphony

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Books and attachments

Books are going to drag me down.

Some of my earliest memories are of watching my parents read, and wanting to read books, too. I was disappointed with first grade; it didn't teach me enough words so that I could read the big people books my parents read. And my books had pictures; my parents' books didn't have pictures.

There are books in every room of our house. I've had to take art work off the wall to make room for bookcases. On many of the bookcases the books are stacked two deep. Suffice it to say our house resembles a library.

We have books in stacks on the floor. The headboard for our bed is a bookcase type. We have books in closets, in milk crates, in cardboard boxes and in plastic bins. We have them on coffee tables, in TV stands.

Some books are here because they make great references. Some are collectors items. I'm very fond of books signed by the author.

There are entire cases dedicated to Buddhism; to fly fishing; technical books, mostly computer science. There are history books. Karen has a few bookcases with children's books. I have one bookcase dedicated to religion and mythology. There are cases with fiction, notably populated with works by Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft and his fellow pulp writers. We have the mysteries of Archer Mayor, Tony Hillerman, and Sue Grafton.

Earlier this summer we donated several boxes of books to the Lincoln library, which was severely damaged in the floods on 1998. You wouldn't notice anything missing.

If you come into our house, it will be obvious from the start; this is a place of books.

Music in my head: All kinds of Everly Brothers tunes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The First Precept

We're coming up on fall, and I find myself with a bit of personal dilemma.

In my youth growing up in Texas I did a lot of hunting, mostly small game. When I moved to the big city of Dallas the opportunities for hunting disappeared. There is very little public land in Texas, so hunting is done on private land with owner permission. It can be a big business leasing property for the purposes of hunting.

After I had moved to Vermont it was a few years before I took up hunting again. There's a sizeable hunting population here, and as there is lots of public land, plenty of opportunities. By law, you can hunt on private land without owner permission unless the landowner has posted his land. Most hunters, however, will ask permission first as a courtesy; of course, there are assholes everywhere and in the hunting community as well. But a coworker introduced me to grouse hunting and I loved it.

The problem is the first of the Five Buddhist Precepts, which is not to kill.

As with many religions, there are various ways in which this is interpreted. It seems pretty universal that you can't follow this precept absolutely. There are exceptions for stinging insects, germs and bacteria. There seems to be some debate on killing in self-defense. And while the Buddha told his followers not to kill, he did say it was allowable to eat meat under certain common circumstances.

Many Buddhists skip the whole issue by being vegetarians or even vegans. This means killing plants, but plants don't seem to be included in the precept as best as I can tell.

And then there's what I know about hunting.

Hunting is one of the tools used in wildlife management to keep populations of game animals healthy. For some game the limits are adjusted every year due to population variations, and there are even times when hunting of certain species is prohibited. Typically, the taking of large game is done on the males only, unless the population of the species has grown too large and unhealthy.

For various reasons the number of "natural" predators has diminished greatly, and does not provide an adequate check on the populations of some game. I hesitate to use that word "natural" as it seems to imply non-human predators. But, biologically speaking, we humans are also predators. I have a friend who says, "My eyes are on the front of my head, not on the sides," a characteristic of predators.

When it comes to hunting, I tend to err on the side of caution. For example, it is legal to hunt woodcock in Vermont, but there are so few of them that I don't feel right hunting them. (And then there's the problem that I don't like the taste of them, and I do not hunt what I don't eat.) I don't try to kill every individual I come across; leave some to reproduce.

There are the personal advantages. Hunting gets me out of the house, something I need to do and don't do enough. I really enjoy being out in the woods.

Of course you could say, "Why can't you just walk in the woods without killing anything?" and you'd have a good point. If you've never been hunting, there's a difference that is hard to explain. It isn't so much about the killing; it's the zone you get in when stalking and shooting. I really can't explain it more than that.

Wild game is healthier for you; it tends to be low in fat. If you are concerned about growth hormones, or antibiotics, or the treatment of farm animals, and whatnot of grocery store meat, you won't find that in wild game.

There's the argument of mercy. Is it better for a game animal to die a slow death from starvation, predation, or the elements? Or a have quick, painless death? (Another personal habit...if I'm not sure of a clean kill I won't shoot. It's why I don't think I could hunt with bow and arrow.)

I should probably say that, when it comes to grouse hunting, I'm a pretty poor hunter. I'm a better-than-average shot when I have time to aim, but in grouse hunting you've got to be good at the quick snap shot and I don't have that skill.

These are the thoughts that have been going through my head as hunting season approaches. Given how little I get outside, and with the problems of pain, it is doubtful I'll even feel like going, and all this is just a mind game. But it's a question that hangs around the back of my head.

Music in my head: Sweet Dreams Will Come, Nanci Griffith and John Stewart

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Alternative energy sources

Don't know why, but I started thinking about coal gasification. As I was poking around the web looking for info, I ran across an alternative called plasma gasification.

In a nutshell, plasma gasification involves using "municiple solid waste" (i.e. landfill trash) to generate electricity. By-products of the process are materials that are used in other industries, including glass, metals, hydrochloric acid, and distilled water. What's left is solid waste that is less than 1% of the incoming trash, which would go to landfills.

This seems like a pretty good thing. But it makes me wonder how much the process depends on the composition of incoming trash. The site listed above doesn't seem to have that information. And then there's the little niggling doubt that they haven't built one yet. Apparently there are facilities in Japan (what a surprise) that were built by Hitachi.

Coal gasification is another option. In this process, coal is converted into a variety of gases which can be burned and turned into electricity, or used for other purposes. There is a plant being planned for Minnesota, but environmentalists are upset about it; not because of the technology, but because there haven't been enough meetings including them in it. Sigh.

The Democrat running for Vermont's sole House of Representatives seat, Larry Drown, has the idea of creating a NASA-like governmental agency to develop energy solutions. (In case you are wondering, the incumbent Socialist Bernie Sanders touts support for alternatives, and encouraging conservation, but doesn't put forth any plans. The Republican Greg Parke favors encouraging innovation through tax credits).

At some point I want to hunt around for state-of-the-art nuclear energy solutions on the web. I've been told by folks familiar with the field that there has been tremendous advances in nuclear energy that address many of the issues with the old technology currently in use. Stay tuned.

Music in my head: These Dreams, Jim Croce

Saturday, September 11, 2004

World's Fair

Next weekend is the Tunbridge World's Fair. That's a big name for a small, quintessentially Vermont country fair.

It is held in a little valley in Tunbridge, Vermont. Bring some good shoes, as there's likely to be some mud. This is an agricultural fair, so mud isn't the only muck to contend with.

There's a too-small covered arena for pulling events; horses and oxen teams dragging a sled weighed down with concrete bricks. Maybe it is just my imagination, but the animals seem to just love to pull. There are also timed events for pulling a cart through an obstacle course. These are very popular events, get there early to get a good seat.

As is the norm for fairs, there's lots of good food. A favorite of mine is the corn-on-the-cob. I like to get an ear and sit on the hillside overlooking the bulk of the fair. The best kettle corn on the earth can be found here. There is also a midway of sorts, but pretty small. On the weekend there's the demolition derby.

But mostly I like to hang around the animals. The barns with the dairy cattle have openings on the outside where the curious cows stick out their heads to look around. Some of them like it when you walk up to them and rub their snouts, or behind their ears.

There are displays of old farming equipment, and exhibits and demonstrations of manual skills long since faded into history. You can mail a postcard from the fair's post office, where your postage is post marked with the fair's logo. One building houses the vegetables, where there are GIANT pumpkins. An 800-pounder may not be big enough to win.

Be sure to bring your spare change; at a few of the road intersections leading to Tunbridge the local volunteer fire departments will be out with coin drops. You can litter your dashboard with little colored pieces of thank-you notes.

Music in my head: Calliope music.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Taking the heat

On occasion Siona makes a comment on her weblog to the effect that the world is a seriously sick place. In comments, I stated the following:

If you look hard enough, you can find evidence that the world is going down the toilet. By putting in just as much effort, you can find that we live in the best of all ages.

And I was called a moral relativist, as well as suffering from "intellectual laziness and self deceit." Don't stand in the path of the pessimist steamroller!

There was a time when I looked around and came to the conclusion that things are really screwed up. And I, for one, am not about to justify the various misdeeds of my fellow man. But I issued the challenge, and so far it has not been met: at what point were humans in better shape than they are now?

Somehow this gets twisted into saying that the world is OK as it is. I'm not saying that. What I am saying is history shows a steady improvement in the human condition.

I think people get their togas twisted in a knot because they do not see progress happening fast enough. They stake a claim to moral rightness in a world where moral forces do not hold power. Homo sapiens is given high expectations for righting wrongs, but I think it is also being expected to have powers it does not possess.

It reminds me of the mindset of some folk singers; they develop a model of a way the world should work, and then make a career hawking art that complains about the world not making the grade.

Now I ask you; is the world fundamentally flawed? Or are our expectations?

There's a quote I keep taped to my computer desk by HH The Dalai Lama: "We're definitely better off now than we were in the past..." And there's another one that stays in the back of my head that I recall being attributed to Hector Berlioz: "Ignorance of history makes us libel our own times."

What really complicates the issue is that there isn't a valid way to quantify quality of life. We can't hook up a healthiness meter. And even if we could, we'd run into Robert's Law of Investigation: Observing something changes the observed. It's like the problem of quantizing at the quantum level; we see only the characteristics we look for. Factual relativism.

Thus ends my justification for optimism. Sticks and stones and all that. I will continue to try to improve the world in the little ways that I can, but I won't be doing it from a desperate frame of mind. I'll be buoyed by the signs of progress.

Music in my head: Concerti from Handel's Op. 6


Rats! Blogger just erased my newest entry. I've really gotta learn to be more careful.


It was a simple matter of math. Karen got sick one day before I did, and she was fine yesterday, just in time to start her new job. So, it stood to reason yesterday should be my last sick day. And here I am today, back to my usual, shiny self.

With Karen working again, the house seems so empty. I find myself wandering from room to room, sort of in a daze. I'm back to the curious state of being left to my own devices.

This afternoon I'm meeting a fellow at the Stern Center to talk about some volunteer work. As best as I was able to tell from our phone conversation, he wants to create mailing lists from information in a database or a spreadsheet. It would seem to be a Lotus Notes project; I had some training in Notes development years ago, maybe it will come in handy.

I finished my book by Jakusho Kwong. I started another, entitled, Mind Wide Open by a guy who explores his own mind in various situations. It's been interesting so far. I also finished the Teaching Company course, Science in the 20th Century: A Social-Intellectual Survey.

A couple of things stand out from the course. First, science in the twentieth century became more about relationships between facts and phenomena, whereas prior to that the interrelationship between the sciences was not emphasized or understood. At the end of the nineteenth century, scientists believed that they had just about discovered all there was to know, that there were a few details left. Not only did relativity and quantum mechanics blow down that house of cards, but techniques and observations from one branch of science began to intrude on other branches. A good example can be found in the current theory of what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs (a massive collision between Earth and an asteroid or comet).

The second thing that stands out is the understanding that most phenomena do not reach some sort of equilibrium state, but are in fact in a constant state of change. One hundred years ago (in fact, even fifty years ago) it was thought that our planet was at, or near, its equilibrium state, but now our understanding of plate tectonics shows that the continents are moving around. We know that Earth has gone through several climate changes, and indeed seems to be going through one now.

These ideas are not new to Zen. They are found in the notions of interconnectedness and impermanence.

Music in my head: nothing there this morning

Saturday, September 04, 2004


The other morning I awoke before Karen. After taking care of various early morning obligations I crawled back into bed with her and tried to convince her to get up.

"Bleh," she said.

"What, exactly, is the definition of that word?" I asked.

What followed was a handful of syllables I'm not sure I can spell.

But, now I think I know what the word means. When you've been up all night with a sore throat, pressure in your sinuses, and a pounding in your head, you feel, "Bleh."

Music in my head: Spanish Boots of Spanish Leather, Nanci Griffith, put there by Chris Clarke.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Thoughts while listening to Shostakovich

A new post at Theme and Variations is ready.

It was an easy and slow day, today. Neither Karen nor I felt very well, so we dropped our plans to go see Fahrenheit 9/11. It's probably just as well. It probably would have pissed me off.

It would be easy to get depressed about the Office of the President. Neither candidate seems all that desirable, nor do any of the small party candidates. Ah well, there's that saying, "All politics is local." That doesn't sound very grammatically correct, does it?

So we stayed home and took care of ourselves. About 2 PM Karen had a hankering for some coffee, so I went out and got her a Green Mountain Coffee Big Gulp. I threw my diet to the wind and had a big chocolate-chip cookie.

This evening we grilled, and had more of the locally grown sweet corn-on-the-cob. It was really good. This is a good time to live in Vermont (most of the time that is true, though) with the availability of fresh produce, and the good feelings that come from supporting our small family farms.

We didn't feel well enough to stretch and meditate this morning, so we skipped it. An split-ring connector came loose from the CPAP machine, and the mask wouldn't stay connected to the unit. So I slept last night without it. Now I know what it means to feel, "Rode hard and put up wet." Ugh. How did I go for so long sleeping so poorly? Luckily, I found the ring this morning and was able to repair the mask, so I should sleep well tonight.

After several tries, I finally got caught my old boss at IBM on the phone. We talked about my recently filed patent. I had not finished the paperwork for the patent when I went on disability, and thought he had one of the co-inventors finish it up (I was the lead inventor, but the inventors are given in alphabetical order). No, he hadn't, it just showed up and it was issued. We don't know who finished it up. But it's good that it got done.

Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 1 is finished playing. It's an interesting piece, as there's a trumpet part, too. It's now the Music in my head, though I hope it doesn't stay there very long; I don't care for it very much (it's the first time I heard it, which is why I was playing it).

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Among the employed

Karen (my wife) got a job today, at a rate of 10% higher than she thought she'd be lucky to get. Eleven years of experience pays off!

Way to go, Karen!

Update on SETI

There's news from the SETI Institute, you can see it here.

A related story is here.

(Thanks to Mike Thomas for pointing me towards the story.)

A waste of taxpayer money

Evidence that the Department of Homeland Security is a waste of taxpayer money, never mind being a paranoid bunch. Who is this guy? Read what Time magazine has to say about him.

Do we really need this?

Early morning

It's early morning. The moon, a few days past full, still throws a silvery light on everything outside. The night sky is clear. Already I can hear a car or two in the distance...even the sound of their tires sounds like silver.

I heard a German poem translated into English which referred to moonlight as, "The wine that only eyes can drink." I think it was Schoenberg that put the poem to music. But there's nothing atonal about the textures I see out my window. More like Debussy. Or Beethoven.

There's an owl calling from out in the woods.

I walked in the dark into the kitchen and heard something outside, so I turned on the floods. There was a raccoon wandering around the deck, looking for dropped seeds from the feeders, or anything else that might be edible. Most wildlife I see is pretty trim, even gaunt at times. But I've never seen a thin raccoon. Like me, I think everything they eat turns to fat. Even so, they seem pretty agile. This chubby fellow climbed up and down the railing with an unhurried ease. He was taking his time, and didn't seem at all bothered by the floodlight. I watched him for a few minutes. Not finding anything, he sauntered off into the dark.

Music in my head: St. Olav's Gate, Nanci Griffith