I knew a woman who had lived in one town for decades. Then she moved to a new address 10miles away. She drove past more than one grocery store to shop at the old store she was used to.

Familiar is so nice. How does it get better than that?

Wanting something better means I have to go outside what’s familiar and try something new.

Years ago me and a friend tried out the neighborhood tennis court. She said she’d played once, and I never had. We found some rackets at a thrift store and some tennis balls and set to it.

I knew what tennis was supposed to look like. Toss up a bouncy green ball in the air. Swat it with a round racket, and the ball sails over the net. The other person runs, swats it back over and a swanlike game ensues.

So I threw the ball up, swung my racket and watched the ball bounce at my feet.


This time throw the ball higher.

I was not good at this. We began to lower our sights from playing a game to just returning a serve.

It was Hard! And I was not good at it.

I never played tennis again.

But that is still one of my favorite memories.

I can try new things. And I can be not very good at it. But I can have a lot of fun and move on.

I might move on to something comfortable and familiar. But I’m willing to try something less convenient too.


“I have learned I can trust fairy tales.”

I’d found an old favorite book, and was reading it to Veronica. I was teasing her “What do you think will happen? What is going on?”

She can only tolerate a certain amount of tension. This was a lot of pressure!

So she deflected to a safe place:

“I have learned I can trust fairy tales. Think about it, Mommy. There will be terrible things happening, but it will all come out happily ever after.”

Fairy tales give us this promise:
if you are the good guy
if you are the hero
things will come out in your favor

This is the promise. And I love them for it.

A few years ago, a spiritual-but-not-religious person presented me with a similar idea:
We live in a friendly universe.

At the time, I was convinced that the world I lived in required constant vigilance. There were people out to get me, and I had to watch out. Not only that, but it took striving to get ahead. It was folly to think I could rely on a friendly hand up.

But I liked the idea.

I had heard it before from my childish seat in church “all things work together for good to those who love God”

It sounds nice, but when I am looking at a situation that seems anything but good it is accusation. What’s the problem? Don’t I love God enough for things to work out to the good?

It’s pretty easy to get pessimistic fast when things don’t seem to be working out. And I had gotten into the dark side, pretty sure that things just didn’t work out.

But the idea of a friendly universe carried less obligation. I didn’t believe it, but I liked the idea.

Whatever is going to happen will happen. So why not imagine it will turn out well?

It might. It might not. But if I could trust it, I’d have a lot better life.

My daughter has the right idea. We can learn to trust the fairy tales.

counterbalancing the evils

Me and the family just got back from a week in Hawaii. It’s the longest trip we’ve taken together, distance-wise. And it is nice to get away.

It’s also nice to come home. Settling in at home again, I picked up my (audio) book of Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, since I’ve been nibbling away at it all year. I discovered that Charles had come to end of his voyage, and he was ready to give his readers his opinion on traveling.

He is a great observer, after all. The whole book is filled with his close observations of what he sees. The meta-significance of his travelers would not escape his analysis. In Victorian style, he gives his advice on travel:

“No doubt it is a high satisfaction to behold various countries and the many races of mankind, but the pleasures gained at the time do not counterbalance the evils.”

It’s not for everyone. And he didn’t even have to deal with Jetlag! I’m not going to be myself for a while. Except I did really enjoy seeing new things, and stepping outside my usual life. I escaped to the Green World and came back transformed.

Lots of people talk about their summer vacations, and not many of them are able to adequately express their changed perspective. I am grateful to my serendipitous reading of Darwin to save me from trying. After all, I’m still worn out from all that relaxing and I’m trying to merge back into the high-speed freeway of my life

My essay this week will stand on the shoulders of another.

His final word about traveling, is that it “ought to teach him [the traveller] distrust, but at the same time he will discover how many truly kind-hearted people there are, with whom he never before had, or ever again will have any further communication, who yet are ready to offer him the most disinterested assistance.”

In addition to seeing new things and understanding this world we live in, we also get to learn that the world is full of really nice people. When we get vulnerable to others, it seems to allow others–from all over–to step up and be kind.

For a man who was about to change humanity’s perception of their place in the universe, he began with a great appreciation for people’s good nature.

Second Chance

In the middle of summer, my strawberry bed is producing well. It’s a fight between the birds and me to see who will get the ripe red berries first. I have tried to leave the berries on their mother plants, to let the green recede to full redness. The birds are not as patient as I, and will peck at the red bits if they see it.

Berries that are hidden under a leaf can stay intact, but the brighter they are the more likely they will be seen.


I’ve learned to pick them faster, or I won’t have any. I’m not always prepared to eat them right away. I would leave a little pile of pink-red-greenish berries on table or the counter.

Simon cat found them, and would bat the round things off to the floor. Bad kitty!

New plan: put the delicious berries in a dish.

And there the berries are safe, waiting for me to wash and eat them.

I know strawberries are best when fresh, and I have a treasure from my garden.

I was getting ready to eat them, really, when I see the berries have dissolved into rottenness.

I have failed. I am too late and I have lost my chance.

My berries will not fulfill their strawberry destiny. All the work I put into building the strawberry bed, installing the watering system, and planting them –it has all come to nothing.

Why did I let this moment pass? Why did a squander all the work that made these berries?

I’d been looking forward to these berries for months! Why did I falter right at the moment they were at long last ready?

What’s wrong with me?

And then I remember.

I will get another chance. Very soon.

The new green berries will ripen. The whole system of the world is fashioned around second chances.

Each strawberry is a poem of abundance–how many seeds does one berry really need? There are more than enough.

True, strawberry season will end when the cold hits. But it will begin again.

I’ll do the work to keep my harvest, but I can be a little easier on myself. There is margin for error.