Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Today was a good day.

I learned something. I needed a word in Spanish meaning way more than funny. My trusty old Latin American Spanish/English dictionary's definitions for uproarious, hilarious, a scream and half a dozen other terms fell short of the task. I Googled it. Finally, my ten-minute search paid off; I found just the adjective I needed: arrasador. (Its primary meaning is destructive or devastating.)

          For those four glorious minutes, 
          my spirit took wing.

I gave something. Today's the day I visit one of my two hospice patients. This one, to my great delight, has actually "graduated" from the program's six-month life-expectancy window, deciding, at age 91, that he was no longer a dying man. Now he's an active, curious, creative person with a mischievous sense of humor who not only creates digital art, but teaches art to his fellow care center residents. He inspires me.

I experienced wonder. In fact it happened twice before I'd finished breakfast. I was looking out my Minneapolis window at Nature all decked out in fresh white. I thought of how exotic the colors of a Caribbean reef or the deepest Amazon forest are to me, and imagined someone who'd never before seen snow finding this sight every bit as breathtaking. It struck me that, even for one who's seen snow all my life, this was indeed that kind of glorious moment. I just hadn't realized it before.

Just then, on the radio, they played Gershwin's Fanfare for the Common Man. I'd just started my cereal. I stopped chewing, put down my spoon and just listened. I let those sounds, the soaring and the sublime, transport me. For those four glorious minutes, my spirit took wing.

Yes, it was a good day. But such days are not uncommon for me; I seek them out...or should I say they seek me out?

What makes a good day for you?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Color of Snow

Up here in Minnesota we don't take snow for granted; some winters—including the current snow-challenged season—our winter landscape ranges from one tone of gray to another. It's then that we appreciate how much color snow brings to the winter palette. Remember: white is not the absence of color; it's the presence of all colors.

How many colors do you see in snow?

Our eyes do a funny thing with color. We tend to perceive it only in comparison with its surroundings. Since there's seldom anything more "white" in our view than fresh snow, we think of it as all white, pure white. But if you could tear out a swatch of that "white" and paste it down next to some other apparent whites, all their distinct hues would be obvious. (I deal with shades of white and black in my 12/9/10 post, Black & White – And Other Shades of Gray.)

I've done this exercise on paper, and I do it in my mind's eye all the time, so I know what to look for. Today, for example, the fresh snow on gabled roofs across the street is tinged with lilac—reflecting the influences of a patchy blue of sky, a dab of brick red from adjacent walls, and perhaps a muting hint of cloud gray.

The sun's last rays still caught the top of the next ridge, like a great golden-glowing knife slicing through thick charcoal.

I've seen snow tinted every imaginable color: pinks, blues, golds, even greens. Perhaps the most memorable example caught my eye several years ago on a cross-country ski trip on the North Shore of Lake Superior. We'd been skiing all afternoon. The conditions were perfect; the biggest challenge was the sun's blinding glare off of the fresh snow. Later, as the sun nestled into the horizon, the cold and the gray wrapped somberly around us. Nearing the trailhead, we turned to cross the top of one last ridge, and there, a half mile off to our right, the sun's last rays still caught the top of the next ridge, like a great golden-glowing knife slicing through thick charcoal.

Now that I'm attuned to the colors of snow, I can't help seeing them. In fact, I'm thinking, snow without color must be very rare indeed. If one were ever to behold it, possessed of its full complement of color and light—in other words, perfectly white—I suspect it might be a profound, even disturbing, sight, the eye's equivalent, perhaps, to the ear's perception of absolute silence.

Where was the most colorful snow you've ever seen?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

WHY DIDN’T THE DONALD DUCK? – How Trump Got Blindsided by Nature Deficit Disorder

Over the past six-plus months since Donald Trump announced his candidacy, my feelings about the man have turned from dismissal, to mild amusement, to curiosity, and eventually to a growing concern.

Could a candidate with such incredible lack of character and judgement, such a narcissistic raison d’ĂȘtre, really be appealing to so many Republican voters? Is it even remotely possible he might actually win and turn the U.S. Presidency into a reality show?

I asked myself Is this ridiculous guy really to be feared? Is my fear any better placed than the kind he's been sowing in his rants about race, immigration and gender identity? And then it dawned on me: There must be a kinder, gentler—and perhaps ultimately more effective—response than fear.

I think I’ve found that more-compassionate response: Donald Trump, the poor man, is quite ill.

Of course Trump and his organization don’t want us to know this; he’s been hiding his condition—one we’re only now discovering has been there, eating away at him, for decades. But, to those accustomed to spotting this illness, there have been signs.

      Donald Trump has never once experienced 
      anything bigger or more awe-inspiring than 

Have you noticed that the man has never appeared in public with a real sun tan? Under the fake bronzing, the $5,000-dollar suit and the $50 toupee, do you see those chubby little cheeks and that soft, doughy body? Those oddly uncoordinated movements—the flailing hands and wagging finger; the kissy, sneery contractions of his facial muscles?

Then there’s the obvious emotional deficit, evidenced by Trump’s child-like outbursts, alternating between playground mocking and name-calling, ridicule and rage. The man lacks self control; he demands constant, instant gratification; and he's possessed by fear. No wonder he can’t help blurting out the first angry thing that comes to his challenged mind.

How has it gotten this bad? For starters, the poor guy was born and raised in New York City, surrounded by nothing more inspiring than buildings and pavement. He’s never climbed a tree, hiked up a hill or paddled a canoe. Never just sat and played with a pebble or a stick. Doesn’t know how air, earth, water and living things move and interact.

He’s never experienced Nature teaching him, providing for him or showing him the way. That may explain why he’s so incredibly self-obsessed, chasing the illusion that he, not the earth—not life—is the center of it all. Like other sufferers of his ailment, he’s stuck in a kind of personal hell, a place packed with symbols of wealth and fame, but utterly devoid of substance.

         His ailment is one medical research 
         has shown to affect many “reality” stars.

Donald Trump has never once experienced anything bigger or more awe-inspiring than himself. He’s been deprived of that priceless perspective—the sense of being both important and insignificant at the same time—most kids develop from the simplest interactions with Nature. The only context in which Donald knows how things really work is the cocoon of artificial beauty and worth he himself has created.

Trump wouldn’t know a robin from a road-runner. Of course, it's not his fault, since he never had the experiences every kid needs to grow up a complete, healthy human being. He's never frolicked in a leaf pile, dug in the soil or dammed a street gutter after it rains. Never been curious. Never built a tree house and learned all those essential lessons about how things work—saws, nails, pulleys…gravity—and how pieces and spaces fit together in the real world. 

With such a malnourished childhood, it’s a wonder Trump ever achieved any measure of success. But his ailment is one medical research has shown to affect many “reality” stars. To a person, they compensate for their lack of personal virtues by surrounding themselves with empty symbols of wealth and rationalizing that everyone and everything else on earth was created to adore them.

Reality? These poor souls couldn't be further from it.

But we must not blame the victims; it’s not their fault they’ve never had a chance to be humbled by Nature—never gotten lost in the woods, had to build a fire or live off of the land by their own wits and will. Never sat in awe of a mountain, storm or waterfall.
              Donald Trump is the poster child 
              for Nature Deficit Disorder. 

So what is this disease that’s consuming the most pitiful reality star of them all? It's called hyponaturosis debilis, or, more commonly, Nature Deficit Disorder. First identified in 2005 by journalist and author Richard Louv, the disease, stemming from a chronic deficiency of vitamin N—regular exposure to Nature—attacks nearly all aspects of its victims' health—physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.

Nature Deficit Disorder nearly always develops during childhood, and most often affects children whose parents—or whose life situation—fails to afford them the whole-person nourishment offered by playing and exploring freely out of doors.

Typical adult symptoms include: flabbiness, lack of coordination, pasty complexion and a range of psychological manifestations: exaggerated sense of self worth, over-the-top competitiveness, obsession with the accoutrements of wealth, fame and power, and frequent loss of touch with reality.

Also present are paranoia, a poorly-developed sense of spatial and time perspective, and a contingent symptom known as the alabori syndrome—the illusion that self-reliance means what you can get others to do for you.

At last, it's all so clear. How could I have held Donald Trump accountable for his aberrant values, attitudes and behavior all this time? My God, the poor guy is the poster child for Nature Deficit Disorder.


Okay, now I’ve heard that the patient does love to play golf. So why hasn’t that exposure to Nature served to mitigate the disease? Because, like the spoiled child who hides the pill under his tongue till his mom leaves the room and then spits it out, he’s become adept at shielding himself from any real connection with Nature.

Do you really believe Trump, consumed as he is in self-promotion and deal-making, is aware in the slightest of the wonders dwelling in the woods and creek along the 11th fairway at Trump National Palm Beach?  And do you think Donald Trump walks more than the requisite four steps from his little cart to his ball and back? Okay, maybe five when, as he’s known to do, he subtly kicks his ball to a better lie.

     Vitamin N, unlike the treatments for 
     many diseases, is foolproof, readily available 
     and free of charge.

So what’s to be done? First of all, let poor Donald Trump be our motivation to double down on what’s become a worldwide epidemic of this tragic disease. We must be vigilant in spotting the symptoms of Nature Deficit Disorder—in our own children and grandchildren, and in ourselves—and intervene quickly. Vitamin N, unlike the treatments for many diseases, is foolproof, readily available and free of charge.

And what of those who, like Trump, have suffered so long that they’re already deeply, irreversibly scarred by Nature Deficit Disorder? First, we must be compassionate. Try to understand the pain Trump must be feeling. When he mouths off, let us simply nod, smile and act as if we actually cared; that can bring some measure of comfort.

But in cases this advanced, even that measured response risks contagion, resulting in still more victims gradually turning inward, disconnecting from real life and all things naturally beautiful, healthy and true. To minimize the risk, Nature therapy practitioners advise wearing an eye mask and ear plugs whenever there's the slightest chance of being exposed to anything Trump.

I'm not a therapist, but I recommend nose plugs too.