Sunday, November 27, 2016


Do you see yourself as being an optimist in life? One of those glass half full people? Do you recognize promise where others see failure? If asked, would you say that yes, our children will fashion a world that's better than the one we leave behind for them?

Perhaps most people would say these are complicated issues and asking for clarity and predicting the future are both futile and naive enterprises. But I am not one of those people. I would have answered yes to all those questions.

Ed would have answered no.

Of course, I know this about him. On our very first date, now more than eleven years ago, I listened to him speak about our planet, the people who inhabit it, the rampant destruction, the disrespect toward life, toward nature -- and I thought: whoa, that's really harsh!

For the most part, we each know where the other stands on such issues and we leave this topic alone. No good will come of challenge here. We're committed to our positions. I know as sure as there is life that nearly everyone on earth plays by rules of hope and cooperation. This is my given.

Ed thinks differently.

He is a quiet guy and he seeks no confrontation and so this rarely comes up in our time together. But last night, after watching yet another set of horrific scenes on the news of people assaulting and destroying each other and destroying the ecosystem and destroying nearly everything worth preserving, he had to articulate (albeit ever so quietly) his frustration with the human race. It was like listening to Woody Allen have angst over the condition of the human soul except that for Ed, there is no angst. There's just the belief that the human soul is irreparably flawed.

Once he puts this on the table, I cannot ignore it. Yes, I know, I should ignore it, but you can't parade this stuff before me and hope to move on to topics such as how to fix the shower nozzle, or which cereal is best for breakfast after a weekend of big eating.

So this was our night and then again, our morning.

We do enjoy our breakfast...

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... but at other times, I have to retreat, surfacing only when he proposes a walk in the Arboretum with a naturalist as a guide.

I tell him I am in no mood -- that my existentialist core had been rattled, but he throws in some good bribes like a big cappuccino at a coffee shop afterwards, perhaps with a purchase of a bottle of some favorite wine for the evening and so I finally agree.

The extraordinary thing is that the Arboretum guide turns out to be the daughter of one of my very best friends...

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... and her partner and two children join in as well and this is actually so weirdly funny because here is Ed, proclaiming his most dismal vision of the human enterprise and then on this walk, proposed by him, we come to share it with this beautiful set of people, flaunting his theories even as he clings to them with all his might.

It is a very strange afternoon.

Some vignettes from our walk...

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In the evening, my daughter and her family come for dinner. Snowdrop is initially happy...

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... then a tiny bit discombobulated, but ultimately incredibly spirited and joyful, which, in my opinion only speaks to the triumph of the human spirit.

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It is a beautiful set of hours and I do not falter in my belief that life is incredibly fine, even if some cogs in the wheel are occasionally a bit splintered.

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As I've known from day one, Ed and I are far less apart on how a regular old day should proceed than on what it means to live as a human being on this beautiful planet. And though he is not likely to admit it, perhaps my optimism does rub  off in bits and pieces. You need only watch him join in on dinners with my daughters or hold on to Snowdrop as she pounds a hammer on a stake that will support holiday lights to know that this is so.