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A Personal Entry For Once

Nothing political: Reflections on 2003

The path of least resistance for me of late has taken me into turbulent political waters. I don’t kid myself by pretending that reading political essays on-line and wrasslin’ with the Neocon faction on the LJ Libertarianism community constitutes a better use of my time than watching the boob tube or playing video games. It’s just what I’ve done to keep my mind moving.

Of course, it requires no particular effort on my part to keep my mind active. Quieting the mind is what takes effort. Finding the pause button for my interior monolog might make a good new year’s resolution, but I tend to think that resolutions made at the start of the New Year come with a six-week shelf-life, while new directions and efforts taken on spontaneously in response to creeping realizations or instantaneous revelations will have more staying-power.

Lara, Logan and I started 2003 in Western Australia. Financially speaking, we burned thru most of our nest egg looking for the right place to build the nest. We thought we might settle in Australia. We came very close, but then we decided to move to the place with which I have the longest association. While I was born about an hour’s drive southwest of Berryville, it’s here in the town where my mother grew up and to which I returned every summer in my childhood that I have brought my family to put down roots.

We did love Australia. I’m so glad we “stopped in” to say hello to Logan’s great-grandparents while we were visiting that side of the world. We inadvertently overstayed out visas, and so now we’re banned from returning for three years, but we do hope to return. There’s a town called Denmark on Australia’s Southwest corner that calls to us.

I’ve now seen the Southern Cross, and even after the first time, that line from Crosby Stills and Nash kept running thru my head.

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way.
'Cause the truth you might be runnin' from is so small,
But it's as big as the promise, the promise of a comin' day.

After 2003, I can not only say that I’ve driven on the left side of the road, but I’ve owned a car with the steering wheel on what I’ve grown up thinking of as “the passenger’s side.”

In 2003 I went scuba diving in the Indian Ocean and snorkeling in the Great Southern Ocean. Our trip to Australia started in 2002 as a trip to Thailand, and while the Thailand memories don’t actually qualify as 2003 memories, I group them with my memories of living in Australia. With an expat friend, my wife and our 2-year-old son, I took a road trip thru Thailand in late 2002. We hid from the Andaman heat in air conditioned luxury resorts on Phuket Island, climbed stone steps surrounded by fearless monkeys in the town of Prachuap Khiri Khan, looked out at the Burmese hinterlands from mountaintops in Northwest Thailand, and walked thru a number of scenes and situations that seem romantic and adventurous in hindsight but which seemed like the next logical step at the time.

In 2003 I lifted weights on a regular basis for the first time since 1998. I also practiced yoga (I sure wish I’d taken up yoga and/or tai chi chuan rather than taekwondo at age 19) and drank a lot red wine. We lived in Australian Wine country, and the numerous drive-thru bottle shops stocked an amazing variety of very affordable wines. Unfortunately, for most of 2003 I had no sense of smell and a very limited sense of taste, so in spite of much education on the topic, I probably couldn’t tell a shiraz from a zinfandel in a blind taste test. Oh well.

Once we reached Arkansas, I had the very good fortune to hook up with an organic gardener looking to pass on what he knows. I spent the summer harvesting herbs and vegetables, digging garden beds, preparing large batches of mixed baby salad greens to be consumed by restaurant goers in Eureka Springs and by the patrons of the Berryville Farmer’s Market.

We traded Chaswasser, our Australian ride, for a black Infinity I-30 upon our return. I suggested the name Ifni (which may seem vaguely familiar to fans of David Brin’s “Uplift” series of sci fi novels) for the car, but it never stuck. While I call that car “the Infinity,” Lara tells me she thinks of it as “Heather”. While I did drive that car from Washington State to Arkansas, I don’t drive it much these days. Now, my primary means of transportation is one that I bought from my grandfather just before he died. It’s a blue-green 1992 Ford Ranger. That’s a pick-up truck for you folks in the urban centers. Before I started driving it, it sat in my grandfather’s cow pasture for many years. Its body panels bare the imprints of its long and intimate co-habitation with hulking bovine oafs. It’s that truck, which still has no name, which Logan drove down the slope of our backyard, thru two fences, and into a young tree which stopped it from careening down into a wooded ravine. It’s that truck that I drove to New Mexico to pick up my papercrete mixer. It’s got a manual transmission, and it’s only the second stick-shift that I’ve driven with any regularity in my life.

I’ve attended two funerals this year. The first was for the father of my oldest friend, John Spurlin. He lives here in Berryville, but I rarely see him, and I think “friendly long-time acquaintance” fits better than “friend” at this point. The second funeral was for my grandfather.

Wherever we were in 2003, I spent a lot of time on-line. I also took a lot of photos. I lost thousands of photos when my first laptop bit the dust just before tax time. The photos that remain are the ones that I incorporated into comics or posted to my LiveJournal.

Well, that’s all I care to post to this public journal for now. I hope 2004 finds you well. It’s an election year, and I don’t know the extent to which the coming circus will shape the contours of my concerns in the months to come. I’d like to keep my thinking focused closer to home for awhile.

Happy New Year!

Peace and Long Life.

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