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Another place to be... (05/23/2004)
By Janet Lewis Burns

Out of our element: As we traveled south, the most disturbing tidbit I had recorded was not Pat's boo-boo, as he cut his chin while shaving, in a modest motel somewhere in Perry, Florida. The heading, at the top of a journal page, was devoted to our passage through Tallulah, Louisiana: "If you put a small value on yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise your price."

Uncomfortable contrasts: It was that burg, population 8,500, of which I wrote, "absolutely the worst, a community in shambles and a total disregard for sanitary and proud living." In fact, my January, 2002 journal entries, on that southbound jaunt down to St. Pete Beach, at St. Petersburg, on the Gulf side of Florida, were negative and distressing.

Disruptions to nature's beauty: Through Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana, one can observe a ramshackle dwelling, often with no glass in windows, right next to a neat, well kept house and yard. Junk piles, deserted vehicles, metal and rubber cemeteries rudely dot the unkempt terrain, thorns in nature's bouquet. "Ghost towns" are common. Homely and blemished business buildings are boarded up, scattered homesteads rotting away, and the echo of folks who had once laughed and worked here confirms loss.

Excess baggage: That trip left me disillusioned. Has the greater world forsaken the likes of those living in squalor? Is ignorance an excuse or a crutch? Can a child rise above the muck and mire of poverty and crime? Does he have hope? Has he been loved? Those existing on borrowed land slump and moan as though the degradation they carry on their shoulders is their weight alone. Vacation is just another place to be. "HOME" is a refuge, to hide from reality.

"Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray," Rumi states. May 7th was our first of the season weekend back to our Chetek, Wisconsin camper plot, at Lake Ojaski's back door. My usual stroll led me to the familiar woodlands, and their between-seasons drab, maybe-next-time nods. All the same, with my gripper stick and a plastic bag, I scrounged many "treasures" to bring back, arranging them in woven baskets, admiring their random allure.

To be wabi sabi or not to be, that is the question: I definitely am! Some folks fail to see what I see in seasonal creations of forest and field...pinecones retrieved from damp, winter-packed dirt, abundant wispy sprays of rusted pine needles, petrified seed pods, curlicue birch and burnt sienna-colored bark, an ornately shaped stick whorled with gray, silver and ebony, and brittle, deformed leaves.

A conniption fit knows no boundaries: Venting is such sweet release! People who are typically easy-going and laid back catch others off-guard when they blow a fuse and lash out in anger. Expecting them to adhere to "let's not go there," on rare occasions the most levelheaded and peace-loving are forced to cross the boundaries, that thin line between keeping your cool and allowing someone to run all over you.

Harmony is an enchanting place to be: Mahatma Gandhi has the knack of carrying one away with his gripping insight. "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." It sounds kinda like being in "Lah Lah Land," a frame of mind where questioning common sense is replaced by blind faith and abandon. I could live there.

Next week, we'll visit other "places to be" through music ("In Heaven There Is No Beer," that's why we like it here!), forbidden places ("Heaven's Just a Sin Away"), and pieces of the past ("Home, home on the range...") "A place in the sun" and "walkin' in high cotton" may not be all they're cracked up to be.

Wherever I go, there I am! Everybody's gotta be somewhere! Tread lightly. 


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