Celebrate Arbor Day and celebrate the future


I was really bored in the van today as we did a bunch of errands, so I turned the radio up a little louder to listen to the commentary on Arbor Day. Tress are really, really important to us dogs because you never know when you won’t be able to find the next fire plug.

Anyway, the guy on NPR who was speaking said the most insightful thing I have probably ever heard. He said:

“Arbor Day is the only holiday where we celebrate a FUTURE EVENT, instead of a past event.”

Wow! The future event is the tree growing to full-size.

But then, I got to thinking that the tree may grow just a little bit, but hit a drought and die. Or, it could be infested with beetles or some horrible root disease and die. BUT, it could grow tall and strong and provide shade for another puppy on a hot summer day. It could also stretch out its arms and give a child a place to climb or swing. It could also give up a piece of its bark so lovers could carve their initials in a heart, for their kids and grandkids to see and have a story to share.

And all because somebody, somewhere stopped for a few seconds on the last Friday in April to plant a tree.

So, as you go through life, try to find some fertile ground and “plant a tree” each day. You just never know which will grow to be grand.
Arbor Day Foundation

The real death of the Dayton Daily News

For those of you who may not know, I was with the Dayton Daily News from 1998-2002. It was perhaps the most meaningful period of my life, in which I learned how to write objectively, think independently, treasure really, really talented people around me, learned how to change the world with little more than a thought and a pen, to learn patience, compassion and humility from greater human beings and learned how to find meaning in a job where I was paid almost nothing and expected to accomplish almost everything. I loved every heartache of the 4 1/2 years I spent there.

Yesterday, I visited the DDN building on Ludlow Ave in downtown Dayton. They were having a public sale where furniture, computer equipment, etc was being sold for whatever they could get. I went to walk the halls for one last time, to hear my friends, colleagues and mentors in my head one last time, to reclaim the same excitement I felt coming into the old newspaper building every morning. I was not disappointed.

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Clinging to my walks

I recently had the opportunity to take a ride through Red State America along Hwy 35 through southern Ohio, West Virginia and onto Interstate 64. The ride was a bit odd as I emerged from Dayton, the rich, white, mall-laden Beavercreek into the hills, holler and trailer-park homes that lined 35 for miles upon miles.

I listened to Obama’s speech again and again (we dogs have pretty good hearing) with his “bitter” and “cling” comments. In context, they make sense. Out of context, he sounds like an elitist.

The same parts of America that will never vote for a [insert racial term here or use the term “black man”], that believe the unions are in their corner, that believe that when bad things happen, singing “God Bless America” will make things ok and when things go well, sing the praises of God and thank him are who need the message of hope the most. But they will reject it for things they “know” to be real. Guns, God and Government.

Before you can change, before you can grow, before you can hope, you MUST start from a truth. The truth is that when the economy goes badly because our market shifts to making things in China instead of America, small towns who depend on a single source of manufacture are devastated. Lifestyles that were thought to be solid are disrupted. And people need to find a cause. Governments can’t be the cause, certainly you can’t blame God; that according to faith, would be despair, a deadly sin. Small town America struggles for understanding and “clings” to what it knows to be true. God is everlasting, omniscient and ever-present. Guns will protect you from someone else’s desperation. And government will bail you out with food stamps and medical care for your kids.

That is the truth that this country NEEDS to accept for us to move forward. Instead, Clinton, FOX and other “thought leaders” pounce on these comments as elitist. They should be looking inward and asking themselves if perhaps Obama hasn’t driven along Hwy 35 in southern Ohio and West Virginia and looked out the windows more often than they have.

You can’t pay your mortgage with HOPE, you can’t feed your children with HOPE. You can’t pray to HOPE. But HOPE is what will fuel a movement for change because hope — combined with the kind of desperation that is felt when things are as bad as they get — will cause people to change, to stand up, clinging to their guns and God and use that power for change. There is a reason God is in the First Amendment and Guns are in the Second.

But, what do I know. I’m only a dog who only want to cling to walks three times a day, sniffing butts and checking out the cute puppy chicks on the corner.

Age

In June, I will be 8 years old, which in human years makes me about 56. I am becoming a dog of “a certain age.”

My most favorite thing to do is to curl up naked at the foot of the couch, with my owner’s toes against my tummy, my head on his leg, staring into his eyes. If I were to die right there on the sofa, I would die a happy puppy. I ache terribly when he is gone.

But, I also like taking walks. Lots of them. I like sniffing around in my neighborhood, but I also like the excitement that comes with finding new smells, greeting new dogs. Mostly, though, I hang with a group of dogs where I am the “middle aged” mutt. There is the younger dogs with lots of energy, whose goal on a walk is to consume as much walkway, pee on as many trees and bushes as possible and munch his way through life.. quickly. Then, there are a couple of older ladies who, on occasion, have been known to just sit and take a rest when they need to. Sometimes in the middle of the street.

For the most part, the younger dog becomes impatient. Old dogs drag him down. But, I usually find a shady patch of grass and hang a bit. If she doesn’t move for a while, I’ll go back and gently nuzzle her nose. She eventually starts up again and all is good.

The younger dog gets impatient with me. “What if the school door is closed and it doesn’t smell as good when we get there” or “The leaves will have fallen from the bush if we dawdle.” Well, I tell him we’ll still get there, and if things are different when we do, then we embrace that change as something new, something discovered. He snorts. In a few years, he will probably understand, but for now, it is all about conquest.

The best part about my walks is coming home, but the worst part about my walks is also coming home. Home is comfortable, safe. But home is where I can’t experience new things. Perhaps that is the middle-aged puppy struggle. I’m sure in a few years, when I am the old dog who just plops, sits and rests in the middle of a road when things get too fast, this post will seem all very silly, a desperate cry of “youth” to understand; a youthful boast about understanding age. And I will smile at my younger self and know that I really did not know what I thought I did.

I like my puppy friends and I will miss the older ladies when they can no longer walk with us. I hope when I am older, someone will always be there to reach back, wait for me when I need to rest and nuzzle my nose when I need it most.

Brooks was here


A while ago, a friend of mine asked me if I believe in a mid-life crises. After a lot of walks and some careful thinking, I think a mid-life crises starts with a desperate desire to carve “Brooks was here” in some patch of existence before they take away your pen knife and you forget your name. This may need more walking and thinking….

Bumper sticker

Today, we saw a bumper sticker that will probably be the philosophy for the rest of my life! Here it goes:

Don’t worry about what other people think. Odds are, they don’t do it very often.

So, go out, pee on a tree, sniff a butt or two. And don’t worry about what others think of you while you’re doing it.. (and for you humans out there, please don’t pee and sniff literally… that is what we dogs call a METAPHOR!! Bev.. you know I’m talking to you.)

Political Thoughts on Walks

Some things going through my head on recent walks:
Supreme Court Nominee: I think the message your party is sending you, Mr. Bush, is take the job seriously. We know you are busy with lots of things like the Iraq War, Katrina, Wilma… but this is an appointment for life. Learn a bit from Covey; this is more important than it is urgent. Spend the time doing it right.

Libby Indictment: Ok, CNN, Fox and all other news people. Get smart about this. EVERYONE outside the Beltway should care about this case because it is about abuse of power to silence dissent. Anyone who has voiced an unpopular opinion at a city council meeting and then finds “code violation” letters suddenly being sent to their home; anyone who has been on the wrong side of eminent domain; anyone who finds themselves being tax audited shortly after pissing off a government official.. (yes, news people, this all happens in real life, outside the Beltway). Get it right; this is not about the application of a narrowly-defined law regarding the CIA, blah, blah, blah.. It is no smaller than protecting free speech in America without fear of reprisal. Really.

Oil Companies Gouging: Oooh boy… We are a Market Economy. Nobody was helping the oil companies in the 80s-90s when there was massive mergers, consolidations and bankruptcies… Now that the market has turned, and the oil companies have the advantage, there are howls of gouging. (Ok, maybe a little gouging) but nobody forced you to buy an SUV you can’t afford… I know you have to fill it up to go to work because you are one paycheck away from poverty every week, but… oh, wait… maybe it is a lesson to live within your means…. but I could be wrong….