I’m not indifferent to our need to remain up to date on what’s going on in the world, but sometimes it can be a bit overbearing and I feel like the divisiveness is going to swallow me up.

When I listen to the anger, the repulsive name-calling, the indignant attitudes, the horrific threats, the unsubstantiated accusations, the dangerous proposals, the indifference to human life, the lack of concern for consequences, the undermining gossip, the pathetic finger-pointing, I wonder if these people have ever thought with any depth at all about humanity, felt the breezes of compassion, or caressed the soft promise of possibility, felt their eyes well up when a cello comes in at just the right moment.

We have leaders who have never walked through nature cast votes to destroy the environment. We have representatives who have never met people from Mexico who want to build a wall. We have organizations making a mockery of others’ inalienable right to life when they fight tooth and nail for weapons built for the sole purpose of ripping holes through the bodies of as many people as possible.

This nation has misplaced its humanity. It has lost its sense of companionship. It has torn apart any remnant of unity that still existed. Our school system is failing, our environment is losing the battle against population growth, agriculture is losing to major corporations like Monsanto, small businesses are losing to conglomerates, and the post-911 generation is losing to its own lack of experience with hope, its lack of practice in compassion.

In my relatively small and insignificant world, taking a moment to breathe makes all the difference. Sometimes things spiral away from me and I’m not smart enough to understand it all. I don’t think many people are, though they might think differently, which only infuriates my already strained sense of peace.

So no wonder sometimes I like to escape, walk along the bay and understand again that no one has yet figured out how to steal the sunrise. And if there are soft breezes coming off the water and the occasional hawk happens by, I’ll put on some Nick Drake and lose myself in my own blissful ignorance. He’ll sing “and go play the game that you learnt from the morning” and in my mind I’ll be walking again in Spain, away from the deteriorating world.

Right now I’m at my desk working on chapter 18 of the Siberian book and listening to Drake. What a talent; his haunting voice and lyrics along with such subtle guitar work simply fill my soul with such peace; which is ironic since much of his work is filled with sorrow, as was he quite sorrowful until his youthful death. His music has walked me through some fire that’s for sure. I wish I could tell him, write him, but no. Other musicians’ music has done the same—Chapin, Denver, Fogelberg—and I can’t contact a single one to thank them for the perspective, for the right words at the right time—every one of them gone too soon. As for the music, I know most people know what I’m talking about no matter what artist works. It’s just that sometimes we need someone else to say the right thing, someone who values the romance in life and can take us, albeit briefly, somewhere else.

Most people understand this, but not all.

And right now I’m listening to Drake and working on chapter 18 and outside in an oak tree a mother and baby hawk are keeping close to their nest. I’m sure Mom’s the reason for the dove feathers near the birdbath. Near one of the crepe myrtle trees another dove is looking for seed, and I know the hawk sees her. It must be hard sometimes for the dove to survive.

I can hear the baby but Mom is on a different branch keeping one eye on the dove and the other on the young hawk as baby moves back and forth from branch to nest to a different branch to the nest again. Hawks seem to be above it all, disconnected to any concerns. Between the soft breeze coming in the screen, the small calls of the hawk, and Nick Drake’s melodic voice calling “A day once dawned, and it was beautiful,” I’m very much at peace. Then add to that how I’m now somewhere east of Irkutsk in a dining car drinking Baltika Beer and laughing with my son and some new friends. It is what I love about writing; I can at any time come to my desk and slide through that rabbit hole into wherever I want to go again. It seems more than ever we all need some escape, some perspective.

For me that escape is the writing, maybe the music.

Or the hawks; there’s something about the hawks.



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