(collection of past Homepage greetings and stories)
October 19, 2001   -to-   February 18, 2002

October 19, 2001

Howdy my fine autumnal friends,

I'll bet that's the first time anyone ever dared to call you that. Come to think of it, that may be slightly incorrect. There are a few of you in the southern hemisphere, in which case, you're my fine springtime friends.

Anyway, I'm deep into autumn myself right now. I just took a long run and walk in some of the most brilliant autumn leaves I've seen this year. I'm in Missoula, Montana, making my way back to Seattle from my trip to play some concerts in Colorado. Missoula is so perfect right now. Not only are the leaves at their peak of color, the late afternoon sun is wrestling the heavy clouds over the mountains, slipping bold rays around them and onto the town every chance it gets. One of them just now hit me right in the face.

Got my first speeding ticket in about 13 years today, dammit.

It was the slickest speed trap I've ever seen in my life. I'd been cruising for fifty miles over a smooth, rolling highway marked 70 mph. (which means you really must set your cruise control for 76) Out of the blue, with no warning whatsoever, I see a sign that says 55 mph. I start slowing, before I can get 'er down to where I want her, there is another sign that says, 45 mph, then 35 mph and finally, 25 mph. This was all in the span of about three blocks and then there was a highway patrolman to greet me. When I asked him if he wrote quite a few tickets in that spot, he averted his eyes and just handed me the ticket. The weird thing was, while he was in his car writing the citation, another officer drove up, walked up to my window and asked me all the same stuff the first cop had.

"Do you always drive nekkid from the waist down?"

"Well, yessir, if it's muggy, I do. I don't like gettin' my britches too wrinkled if I can help it. I don't think nobody can see in, can they? Is it against the law here?" I was just being honest with him.

"Well," he said, "we don't have no specific laws about a man being nekkid in his car, least from the waist down, but somethin' just don't seem right about it, if you know what I mean. You wait here and I'm gonna check my manual and git my dog out for a sniff."

Now, that surprised me because I wasn't trying to ACT like I had pants on. I don't know why he thought he needed his dog to confirm. I was right up front in acknowledging that everything was indeed, all loose and swangin' free as the breeze. Sure enough, he came back with his raggedy police manual and his dog Brutus and the dog started sniffing all around my rented van 'til he stopped right there at my door and snarled.

"Good boy, Brutus! You got another one." He held up his book to show me. "See, right here it talks about public nudity and how it's officially frowned upon and technically illegal. But it don't say much at all about a man simply taking a nekkid cruise down the road. This time I'm not gonna arrest you or nothing. Truth is, I like to drive that way myself when I'm not on duty. But from now on son, I'd suggest that you at least wear an apron or something so if an officer has to come to your window, he don't have to gander at yer goodies. That's not a pretty sight, son. Mostly, I just wanted to see if my dog could smell a nekkid guy or not. I'll tell ye, this dog's got a sniffer that beats all I ever seen. He knew you was open to the elements, so to speak, from the minute I pulled over. I never seen a dog git that agitated before."

I didn't like the idea of a highly agitated German Shepherd sniffin' around while I was nekkid. After I paid my $50 fine for going 59 in a 45, I drove on into town and had lunch. I'm pretty sure I was ten years old the last time I had lunch in a drug store, but that's about all I saw that looked like it would work. Of course, I was fully dressed by then and had no further problems in Ennis, Montana.

My concerts in Denver and Colorado Springs went very well, I met lots of great folks and really felt that something wonderful transpired at those concerts. For weeks, ever since September 11, in fact, I'd been feeling like I need to be singing for people. I believe that music is one of the greatest tools of healing we have and I knew it would be good for me and for the audience, too. For the first time in a long time I didn't even try to make a set list. I never follow them religiously, but I usually rehearse a certain group of songs, run through each of them a time or two to make sure I actually have some memory of my own songs. This time though, I said a prayer and just asked for the grace to know what to sing. I sang some songs I haven't played in concert for many years, songs like Lover of the World, The Light of Love and Waves.

I told the audience up front that I was winging it, that I'd been driving for three days and was a bit exhausted and spaced and had not had a chance to do my usual run through of my songs. They didn't seem to mind, they were so warm and friendly and accepting that I knew it wouldn't matter if I forgot some words or chords here and there. I'd arrived in Evergreen about 4 hours before my sound check in Denver. Not as much lead time as I'd have liked, but pretty good timing for a 1400 mile drive that ended with two hours of white knuckled driving through a snow storm. Once the concert started, I forgot all about that though. I loved both shows.

After having to make as much good-time as possible on my way from Seattle, I really wanted to have a chance to get out of the car and look around at beautiful sights on my way back, maybe play my guitar overlooking canyons or mountaintops. The day after my last concert, I got back in the van and began my trip home. (I knew I forgot something; remind me that I must always travel with a massage therapist in the future.) I took the longer, more beautiful route through Wyoming and Montana. I was extremely disappointed that the two friends I planned to drop in on and surprise, one in Jackson, Wyoming and the other in Bozeman, Montana, were both out of town. That made me a bit lonely as I drove the vast, open landscape of Wyoming, thinking sadly of the laughter and stories that would have to wait for another time.

The next day I was feeling much better again and not just because I'd bought cookies. I put on one of my all-time favorite CDs, Paul Simon's - There Goes Rhymin' Simon, and relived my youth via his music for an hour. By then I was in some truly gorgeous country. It was fantastic to see Grand Teton and Yellowstone on a sunny autumn day. There were lots of wildlife since there weren't many visitors to the parks this time of year. It was almost spooky how empty the land was. I've been through Yellowstone a half dozen times and have never, until yesterday, seen Old Faithful spew. I almost missed it, too. I walked up to the geyser, which was just sitting there doing nothing, as it has every time I've been there. I looked at the hole where purportedly, a fountain of sulphurous spume blasts every hour or so. It didn't seem to be happenin'. Then I turned and saw that Yellowstone Inn was closed. That disappointed me even more. Mainly because I'd been dreaming about that particular bathroom for 70 miles. Dammit! I drove frantically over to the gas station nearby and used that restroom with great shouts of thanks to God and All Creatures Great and Small. When I walked outside, my eyes watering and pretty much a blithering idiot, immensely grateful for all things wonderful, I looked over and saw that Old Faithful had erupted. Apparently, about the same time I had. Coincidence? I think not. I jumped in my van and sped over to watch 'er blast with about ten other people. They too were in awe, but of course, they had no knowledge of the intimate synchronicity I shared with "Ol' Faithey", as I call her now.

Tomorrow, if I drive a good eight hours, I'll finally be back home in Seattle, my concerts and 3000 miles of driving behind me. I'll let my little dawg Bungee lick my face for about ten solid minutes and then I'll go out to my backyard and see how all the wild cats have fared since I've been gone. I put out enough food and water to last a month but they may have gotten gluttony and eaten it all the first day. Right now, I'm looking out my hotel window at the splotchy fall clouds and the late evening sun here in Missoula. It's a brisk autumn evening and you can feel that winter could come and end it all any day now with one shrieking blast of icy wind. I hope I get out of here first. I guess I'll end this rambling and put on some long pants and a coat and take a walk around town and see if I can find a place that serves up a few good vegetables with their cold beer. I like 'em fresh and tasty, with some good buttery bread. Wish me luck.

Yer ol' fren, Michael

November 5, 2001

Howdy my friends,

I get a fair number of emails from folks who have finally found me after many years of searching. "What would an earthy, genuine folkslinger like yourself be doing on the web?" is their common query, and they slap themselves on the forehead for not thinking of it sooner. They often tell lengthy tales about feverish, dusty searches through record store bins, garage sales and (though it pains me to think about it) used CD stores - all in pursuit of one of my mystical, much sought-after CDs. Mostly, they never find them in any of those places and when at last they think to type in my name on the Internet, they are ecstatic to find that they can acquire all of my CDs right here on my site. And that I even sign the CDs and fill the orders my own self. Understandably, they are stunned, sometimes even wary, afraid that surely I must be an imposter. (after all, ANYBODY could have snapped that picture of me singing by a campfire on the river - maybe it's just my head on Brad Pitt's body!) Surely, the man who wrote Yellow Windows and Living Things does not contaminate his fingers on a computer keyboard. Yechhh!

I explain that unlike your general computer geek, I do not allow my emailing to keep me chained to a desk in a cozy office. Nope, I tape my laptop to a shovel or a lawnmower or whatever rugged tool I'm using at the moment and I commence to heavin' and sweatin' up a storm, doing rigorous, manly chores while I occasionally check my email and thank folks for getting in touch. There's just something about flingin' a shovelful of manure and typing a sensitive response at the same time that is thrilling to me.

I was surprised recently, to receive so many queries about Daylight Savings Time and just exactly how it works. I think of myself as something of a writer and songwriter, singer, even a feller that likes to share information on good thangs, but I was taken aback to be asked to explain the complex workings of the fairly recent time-alteration technique that we've all come to know as Day Light Savings Time. Below, I've posted some of the most interesting of your questions and my answers. I truly hope I am able to enlighten some folks:
Dear Mr. Tomlinson,
I live in a cloud of confusion and am befuddled about this 'spring ahead, fall back' thang. I only got one clock and I cain't hardly ever find it 'cause of all the food and underwear and stuff that's stacked up in my kitchen. Do I actually need to 'fall back' or can I just roll out of bed and crawl backwards for a few yards?"   
      ~Dumbfounded in Texas
Dear DIT, Thanks for your astute and intelligent question - your attention to this problem will help many, many people. What I do is to ignore all clocks except the ones that say I'm on time. I wear three watches, one is reg'lar time, one is No Time, (for getting out of shit 'cause I'm running late) and one swings freely, like a man in loose boxers. That watch has no mechanism in it and the hands just swing round and round. By carefully tilting my arm I can make almost any hour appear, as if by magic. (You can't close a bar as long as a man is standing there with a timepiece that clearly states noon o'clock.) As for the "falling back" bidnis, I have been a back peddlar my whole life and have never noticed it making me late for anything that mattered. I say, "crawl back, brother!" If you get to where you can do 20 mph in reverse, get back in touch with me, I believe I can get you a job at the post office.  
      ~yer fren in a pinch, MT

Hello Mike T,
May I call you that? I feel like I almost know you since I've listened to Raining Away 7,342, no, 7,343 times, now. I don't know, I just like that ditty. Anyway, like I was saying, Hello. Are you aware that some invisible governing body just convinced everybody in the US to turn their clocks to a horribly unreasonable hour? I was watching USA Up All Night, and really enjoying the fine acting, when I saw a news flash a couple weeks back that said, "At Midnight, set all clocks to 11:00 PM. Well, hell! With all the weird things going on in our country these days, I felt I should obey since it might affect our national security. But anyway, that's not my main problem. My main problem is that I can't seem to get any of my clocks to STAY on 11:00 PM! I know that's what the TV said, and I usually do most things the TV says (I can't tell you the number of Chia Pets I own!) but now I'm starting to wonder if maybe that Osamey dude is behind this. What if it's a trick? Wouldn't that cause a lot of people to miss buses and be late for lunch and shit? (I swear, if they get us to missing lunch, we're goners!) So what I'm wondering is this; what time do you have right now in Seattle? (or do you live in Poland still? I heard a rumor)
~Tuck in Wauhekin
Dear Tuck, I love your name. I had a cousin with a name that sounded much like that but I always got in trouble when I'd holler for him down the street. Anyway, I think you may be onto something. The Taliban may possibly have a watch. Look out! Our only hope is that maybe it will need fixing and they will have to send it to Sears to be repaired, whereupon, it will be lost forever. (just like my brand new Salad Spinner, dammit!) For now, if I was you, (but with a different first letter to my name - Muck!) I'd just go with your gut feeling about it being 11:00PM at all times. If your wife asks you to mow the yard or take out the trash, just look at her like she's insane. "Are you crazy? It's 11:00 PM, woman!" Milk it for all you can Tuck, 'cause I think that's about all you got goin' for you. If you absolutely must, feel free to set one of your clocks five minutes fast, it will give her the sense that time is actually passing and that you may finally get off your ass. Of course, you and I know better. Wheee!
      ~yers like a bad itch, MT

Well, I've got tons more of those letters to share with you but I don't want to expose you to too much of a wonderful, wonderful thing.

I'm about to hold my fall retreat, A Gathering of Friends, this weekend and I'm looking forward to it. It's always a great mix of folks and it's fun to watch new friendships develop and to laugh and talk with people all weekend.

I'm been rather slow in working on my book these last several weeks, partly because of traveling, concerts and preparing for the retreat, but mostly because it is such a strange and introspective time in our country and the world. I haven't often been able to get as immersed in my writing as I'd like.

Last night I watched part of the Emmy Awards and was so moved by a segment where they showed people from all over the world who grieve for us and wish us healing and happiness again. It touched me deeply to feel their love and caring, their compassion and friendship, to think that amidst what we hear of all the anger against us, there is truly great love for us, too.

We can look at many things that our country has done - and there are many choices we might not make again with our current understanding. But every region on the earth, every country in the history of the world has been responsible for events that have hurt others, destroyed the planet, even their own people at times. It is not a time to blame but to understand that we are all in this together, everyone on this planet, whether we understand them or not, is our brother or sister. All the animal and plant life depends upon us for it's well-being. And we all are seeing more than ever before how we depend upon each other for our very lives.

Just this morning I saw a story on scientists in India and how they have developed something which will shorten the time that Anthrax takes to work it's way out of the human body. So perhaps we turn to people very near the part of the world that so troubles us and we trust them and accept their research and medical discoveries. And it saves lives. Every nation on this planet has something that we all need. And deeper than that, closer to the source really, is the knowing that each and every human being has unique gifts needed by someone else. You need no special skill or degree to be of value. Can you bless someone? You are as important as anyone on the earth. Can you plant a tree or touch someone in a kindly way? Make it your purpose.

On September 11, a window opened in this part of the Universe. We would not have chosen it consciously, but it opened nonetheless. The window which opened to love and human consciousness and potential is more important, more magnificent than we have dared to dream. The window opened to awaken us as a race - all humans. Let's decide we will move forward with love and compassion. Let's forgive ourselves for not knowing a better path than we have taken but at the same time, let us believe we can have a greater knowing, a purer recognition of what is truth and beauty and love and light.

I don't want to be who I used to be and I don't want our country or the world to be who we used to be. I want us to feel ecstasy again, to feel our hearts open and our minds, too. I want us to breathe again and look upon each other with honest, clear eyes. It is not impossible if we decide, one person at a time, that we will do this.

Thanks for visiting my site, for listening to my music and for allowing me the silly humor I so enjoy sharing with you. I wish you a real and loving and truly thankful Thanksgiving.

In Friendship, 
Michael Tomlinson

November 23, 2001

Howdy Thanksgiving to you, my friends!

Please allow me to describe this lovely Thanksgiving in Seattle for those of you unable to be here this year. First of all, it's in the high 70s, sunny but not so hot that you get a bad sunburn. Still, it's wonderful to be able to tone-up my tan this time of year. As I walk, I'm careful to tilt my head at various angles for evenness. Earlier, I called the mayor and proclaimed a moratorium on all traffic except on the major thoroughfares, so that we neighbors might amble the city streets at our leisure, many with tofu-turkey drumsticks in one hand and a bottle of fine wine in the other. Myself, I carry a stalk of celery, a pocket full of mashed potatoes, and a Heineken. Kids on tricycles abound, squeaking by me on their way to grandma's for dressing and cranberries. The streets are filled with mirth and the tinkle of laughter and I get caught up in the giggling until I choke momentarily on my celery. Very stringy indeed, I think it may have entwined my vocal cords and it very nearly strangles me. I snap my fingers and another Heineken is brought forth from the little red insulated wagon which trails me everywhere these days. One swig and I'm back in fine form, still hacking a little but generally confident that I will be able to breathe again in a few moments.

As I near the park a couple blocks from my house, I think what a perfect time to take a nap, and so I have my mattress blown up and an umbrella opened to protect my skin while I doze. I lie there for awhile on my back, occasionally lifting my head to sip my beer, but mostly resting, relaxing as only I can relax. (I was nicknamed Mr. Comfort by my friends) Even from my prone position I can see the parade of families strolling by, the women in unseasonably light dresses (which makes my position on the ground all the better) and the men in linen suits and sandals. It makes me glad that we decided to stay with Daylight Savings Time year-round in Seattle, in fact, we went a few degrees further and every year we spring 4 hours ahead instead of one. It makes for almost balmy midnights.

After I drain the last drop from my bottle I hold the lip of it to my eye and gaze up into the sky at the startlingly green atmosphere. It is breathtaking and I make a mental note to talk to the governor about enclosing our city in an emerald glass dome for inclement days. Such brilliant thinking tires me and I fall to slumber but then wake immediately as the lip of the bottle touches my eyeball and gets stuck. Whoa! I sit up and tug at it in mild panic. I think surely it's not on there that firmly but I'm surprised at the degree of suction. Is there a chance that I will pluck my eyeball out if I pull too hard? I decide to go for it and see. Luckily, on my very next effort the bottle pops free and I can see with my good eye that the other eyeball is not lodged in the neck. Whew! What a magnificent country this is!

Due to the sharp, pulsing pain in my recently freed eyeball, I find myself in less of a mood to nap and so I have my little camp broken down and begin to mosey across the park toward my destination. I find that if I bite down on my thumb as hard as I can, I hardly notice the pain in my eye. (I'm a problem solver and revel in coming up with these solutions)

It's such a lovely day that I find it impossible to fall into a negative mood just because I've left considerable eye tissue on the lip of an empty beer bottle. That's just me, I guess. People are always asking me how I stay so positive. I'm often taken aback by their assumptions, as I have as many down times as most folks. I just don't dwell on them. (plus, I have that insulated wagon following me around all the time) I also consider denial my close buddy. I know that it's been quite popular in recent years to poo poo denial as a bad thing in our lives. But hey, I've had entire decades where I would not have made it without a nasty case of denial. (the entire time I was in the record bidis, for example)

Lost in these simple, ordinary thoughts, I look up to discover that I'm almost at my destination. I notice that most folks have gone inside to enjoy their Thanksgiving Dinner. It's only a few scattered kids on pogo sticks and me. (and of course, my entourage with the wagon) One of the kids pogos past me and shouts out as he boings up his grandma's front steps.

"Happy Thanksgiving, Mister Tompulson!"

I nod and grin at him. What a sweet kid. It's a shame though, really. After all these years, people still get my name wrong, something I thought would quit happening after about seventh grade. How hard can three syllables be? Tom-lin-son. I decide to just blow it off but then I change my mind. I mustn't shirk my duty, children need guidance. They must learn from real life experience. I've seen where he parked his pogo stick and it definitely won't be there when he comes out.

At first I'm a little frightened at the height and the acceleration, these new ones are practically silent and make no more noise than a fart in a sleeping bag. My heart pounds partly from the bouncing but also from the excitement of stealing something for the first time in ages. What a good feeling! I didn't know these things could zip you along at such a clip. Before long I'm boinging over dogs and flower pots, pogo-ing down the street like a man born to bounce. That's it! The name of my next album! Born to Bounce! I remember the great success of Springsteen's early album, Born to Run, and wonder just how many more units he could have sold if he'd thought of the name before me. Michael Tomlinson - Born to Bounce!

Being a bidnis man, I refuse to allow my reverie to take over my life and I force myself to return to the present. I recall that friends are awaiting my arrival for Thanksgiving dinner and grin at the thought of showing up on my new pogo stick. I boing-boing like a man many years my junior and I clear the gate at the front of the yard with no trouble at all, but didn't count on the gravel drive being so squirrely. Suddenly, I'm not feeling as in control as a man on a pogo stick would ideally like to be. I've developed sort of a lean, I'm still bouncing in a good, steady rhythm but the lean concerns me. In my last two bounces before I get to the steps of the wooden porch I find myself leaning pretty much like a missile toward the house. I wonder if there is a quick way to correct this dilemma, as I've come to see myself as a living projectile headed on a path of destruction. Too late. There is no more time to think. I have rammed my head through the living room window, soared through the dining room, and am lying amidst the feast on the kitchen table. I wear the turkey as a sort of hat and all down my shirt is the oddly pleasant sensation of green beans and pumpkin pie. Were I in private, I could imagine myself enjoying the sensuality of it all. But here amongst the crowd, I sense that any signs of personal satisfaction may make folks uneasy. I wince as if I'm in great pain, groaning until I can scope out the situation and detect whether Ruth is about to kill me for destroying her lovely table setting.

When nobody makes a move to go for me with the carving knife, I lift the pogo stick from between my legs and grin as I hold it up for Rick.

"Happy Thanksgiving, yall. Wanna ride?"

December 31, 2001

Howdy New Year, my fine friends!

I'm watching the sun come up from my living room window. I can see steam rising off the trees and ground where last night's frost is evaporating in the warmth. I love these crisp winter days here in Seattle, the air is cleaner and clearer. At high points around the city you can look east and see the snow-covered Cascade Mountains, sharp against the sky. Turn 180 degrees to the west and you see also the Olympics, out across Puget Sound but appearing so brittle and jagged in the bright light that they seem no more than a few blocks away.

I haven't written you in awhile, since Thanksgiving I guess, and I'm sorry about that and will tell you why.  I appreciate that so many of you check in now and then to see what I've written and to laugh at whatever silly scenarios I've either written about or dreamed up completely. (I reserve the right to keep the lines blurred)

To say that 2001 has been a very strange year would be no understatement, don't you agree? It started out bizarre with the splintered mess of an election still undetermined, but we can all look back now and see how little any of that mattered compared to the events on and after September Eleventh.

This was possibly the first autumn in my life that I hardly noticed. Oh, I had some special days and saw some spectacular sights and landscapes, especially on my drives from Phoenix to Seattle in September and my drive to and from Colorado in October. Wyoming and Montana were especially dramatic that time of year with light dustings of snow here and there among the golden grasses and turning leaves.

I've found these past months to be a time of introspection and questioning. I've been creative at times, still writing songs and working on my book. But my creativity is more subdued when my heart is going through grief. I think most of us have found ourselves asking questions about our lives, about the meaning of the things we do and the way we live. It's nearly impossible to separate personal emotions from the emotions of a world in crisis.

In writing my book I've had several times when I looked at my chapters in the light of the tragedies of this fall and felt that much of what I was writing was useless, silly nonsense that wasn't worth my time writing or anyone else's reading it. I've lived long enough though, to know that you don't make any rash decisions in a time as emotionally extreme as this time. So I go back and read again, rewrite some more and continue putting words to paper. It's slower right now but I am okay with the process and believe that, just as with my music, my patience and faith will eventually bring something worthwhile to fruition.

I saw the program, Sunday Morning, on TV this weekend. I always find it the most folksy and uplifting and reassuring of all the magazine shows on TV. They did a piece on The New York Times and the commitment made by that paper to profile each and every one of the people who died in the World Trade Centers. What a beautiful, loving gesture they are making to all of us and to the souls who perished and left us all here to try to make something meaningful and healing of that terrible day.

The writers chose not to write the typical obituaries, where a person went to school, professional accomplishments, etc. They instead wrote things like "Sarah loved camping and once spent four days holed up in her tent with her puppy Sam during a blizzard in the Adirondacks. Her family says she could whistle better than anyone they'd ever known." Such sweet, gentle observations brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of the humanness we all have in common when we get down to the simple loves we have in life. The stories made me want to pay attention to even the tiniest parts of my life and the lives of my friends. I decided to write about some of them for you here.

        In Memory of Cayenne and Charlie 

Two of my dear friends died this year. Both were of the four-legged variety and some of the kindest, most loving beings I've known. One was named Cayenne and she belonged to my good friend Matt Talley. She was getting to be an old gal and he had long suspected that she might be leaving soon. Still, it was a shock and it hurt us all to lose her. She just walked out into the backyard one day, crawled under a bush and passed on. Matt buried her under a tree. I slipped back there one day shortly afterwards to leave a lit candle for her passing and an eagle feather for her flight toward the Light.

Photograph by Bryce Nevermann

Cayenne used to go camping with us every summer and she was great fun to have around - until it got dark. She was a black dog and I can't tell you how many times one of us stumbled over her and damn near crashed head- first into the campfire. During one of these trips she dug up an odd object and brought it to us to play with. Unfortunately, it was a tampon. All that weekend we regaled each other with tales of "The Adventures of Cayenne; Tamponic Retriever."

One afternoon we hiked from Troublesome Creek up the old Skykomish Highway to one of our favorite swimming holes, a magical, pristine pool of blue-green water surrounded by slanted, time-sculpted boulders. The water was icy cold and we'd dive in and come clambering out like blithering idiots, dying to get warm in the sun. Someone looked over at Cayenne just as a beautiful blue butterfly had landed on her nose. It was the most ludicrous sights you could imagine - this black dog standing on a granite boulder in the sun with a blue butterfly on her snout.

Matt very sternly told her to stand still and she obeyed. He wanted Bryce to have time to get a photo of the scene. Bryce fumbled with his camera case and got focused just in time to catch the butterfly in a perfect, open-winged position, atop Cayenne's nose. Then casually but as quick as lightning, Cayenne twitched her nose to the side, unseated the butterfly, opened her mouth and snatched it from the world. She just stood there still, looking pleased at her quick catch, appearing to ask us - Aren't I cute even without the butterfly? Everybody groaned at the image of the beautiful insect crushed and crumpled inside Cayenne's mouth. Cayenne held her pose, mouth sealed tight, for several tense seconds. Then, as if she had just been joking with us, she popped open her mouth and released the butterfly, which fluttered away into the cool breezes above the river. It was an hilarious moment and we all doubled over in high laughter, praising Cayenne for her mercy and wit.

I'm sure Cayenne was mighty proud that she'd entertained us so well. We miss you, Cayenne. Thank you for spending your life with us.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  

Photo by Bryce Nevermann

Earlier this week my friend Rick Grant called me. I could hear a deep sadness in his voice and knew something was wrong. I was stunned to hear that only hours before he'd had to help send his dog Charlie on to the next life. Charlie had suffered a ruptured spleen and by the time anyone knew it, it was too late. It's been a very sad week for all of us. Charlie was only about 7 years old, as vibrant an animal-being as any I've ever known. He was a beautiful black and white cross between a shepherd and a dingo and always looked to me like the icon of a fine, new breed of animal.

The first year and a-half of his life every one of Rick's friends had serious concerns about whether Charlie was the kind of dog that would ever be manageable as a pet. He had the sharpest teeth you could imagine and he dearly loved to wrestle with you and gnaw on your exposed body parts with those razor teeth. He would never have hurt anyone in a mean way but he barked at everything and appeared to be a dangerous animal if you didn't know him.

One day I was out at Rick's house in Fall City. Rick wasn't home yet but I let Charlie out of his kennel and was playing with him. Some visitors pulled up into the drive of the house next door and Charlie ran over to greet them. Unfortunately, he did it in a manner more like Cujo than Lassie. He leapt up onto their hood and stood there barking at them through the windshield. Naturally, they chose to stay in the car until someone could convince him to come down. I was kind of embarrassed going over there to lift him off and explain to them that he was just a sweet puppy. Luckily, they chose not to sue.

Charlie grew into the most amazing dog I've ever known, good-natured, friendly to people and other animals (unless you were a stranger coming into the yard) and full of energy and good spirits.

The same day Rick called to tell me Charlie was gone, I talked to my friend Christine who is one of the clearest, most loving and humble healers I've ever known. She told me she'd been visited in the back yard that morning by an apparition, a dog in his light body. She described it like this; "All last night I kept feeling the presence of an animal passing but I didn't know who it was. I was worried for my cats and would check on them over and over again. Then this morning something happened.

"I looked over near the fence and the most beautiful light came into the yard. It was a dog that had just passed. He stayed there for several seconds, glowing in the most inviting way. I walked over toward him with my cats. They saw him too and were not afraid. When we got near him his beauty was breathtaking. He was black and white but I didn't realize it was Charlie. His eyes were spectacular and when I looked into them it was as if eternity called, as if I could just fall into them. They made me think of fresh snow falling on mountaintops - it was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."

At the time, Christine did not know Charlie had passed but when she told me, I knew it was Charlie that she'd seen. Knowing that Charlie came to her because she was the one of all my friends who could see him, made me feel that Charlie was letting us all know he is okay.

I talked to Rick a few times that day, wanting to make sure that he was alright. I worried about him, imagining how devastated I'd be if I lost my own little dog. I took a hike for several miles that day, just thinking of Charlie and being with him in my heart and mind. I lit a candle for his passing and asked for his welfare and loving transition to wherever he is going. I cried too - that is one of the gifts Charlie gave me. I'd needed to cry for months but every time tears came to my eyes I squeezed them off. Even at my retreat I nearly cried a dozen times but shut them down in order to be able to function. Charlie opened the floodgates for me though and I cried for my loss of him and for Rick's loss, too.

Over the next day I thought of Charlie a lot and remembered great moments in his life. Times Rick and I would canoe the Snoqualmie River and be screaming for Charlie to sit down so the boat wouldn't tip over. He was an excitable dog and seemed not to grasp the concept of a low center of gravity being necessary for safe boating.

I remembered Charlie's good friend Indy who used to chase sticks with him. Rick is the best thrower of absolutely any object that I have ever seen and he would tirelessly throw sticks for Charlie and Indy. I've seen Indy beg even after hours of chasing sticks into the river for just one more throw. My arm would be worn out and Rick would still be tossing them fifty yards down the river.

One sad day Indy was hit by a car and Charlie lost his best friend. Then Rick and Ruth moved to Snoqalmie and Charlie was no longer around his pack of dog buddies in Fall City.

Life changed further for Charlie when Rick's son, Alden, was born and then a year and a-half later, when Olivia was born. Charlie was kind of the odd-dog-out due to the realities of Rick and Ruth having two children to raise. He still got to go to the river with Rick sometimes but his life had evolved in such a way that I believe Charlie was ready to move on. I've heard of animals doing just that - when the family is moving somewhere across the country and a dog doesn't want to make the move, they sometimes get sick and die. It's just their time and they have not lost the wisdom and consciousness that most of us humans have concerning our life and passing. A dog knows when it's time to go.

Despite feeling that Charlie is happy and on his way to his own soulful evolution, I am sad at not having him around anymore. I'm grateful that I spent time with him just a week ago, rubbing him, petting him and sweet talking him. He was a mighty good friend.

I spent several hours a few days ago writing a story about Charlie. I don't know for sure who I wrote it for, for Rick or his children, or for myself. It's just a gentle tale that made me happy to write. I had found a sweet card with a painting of a mouse shining the shoes of an old crow. I used that picture as a setting for my story and sent it to my friend Rick. Here it is for you.

    ~ Charlie Boy ~
The little mouse was polishing the crow's new shoes. It was ridiculous really, the way the crow always put them on just at twilight, as if he were going dancing or something, when the mouse knew for a fact that crows flock deep in the woods at night to rest in the boughs of mossy old trees. He spit once more on the toe of the left shoe and whisked the brush he'd made from an old, dead caterpillar across the surface until it gleamed. He could actually see himself in the patent leather and thought he was looking pretty good. People think mice look all the same but he knew better, his countenance was not that of an ordinary mouse, it was more refined and elegant, too special really to be a simple shoe shine mouse.

"Have you seen him?" asked the crow. The mouse was lost in his reflection and paid no notice. He didn't care to chit chat with a crow. Crows were so obnoxious, always hollering over everyone else. A couple of mouses could be having a nice, squeaky conversation and the crows would swoop in cawing and hollering and ruin the moment every time.

"Caw! I asked if you'd seen him. Are you deaf?"

The mouse looked up at him and took his time answering. "Well, if you mean the Charlie dog, yeah, I've seen him. He looks different though."

"What do you mean? How does a dog look different? Does he part his hair suddenly on the left?" The crow was more sarcastic than usual.

"Nope, I didn't notice his part, but what I did notice is that he is shinier than usual. And his eyes look different. He's real happy about something."

"I know what he's happy about, he eats every scrap of anything tasty a crow might be interested in."

"Yeah," said the mouse, "but there's something else about him. He can go outside the yard now anytime he wants." The mouse seemed to know a lot about Charlie dog. "In fact, if you'll take a little look over your shoulder you'll see him coming now."

The crow gave a start because he wasn't used to not being the first one to see the comings and goings of everybody. He also wasn't used to seeing Charlie dog hover eight feet off the ground and grin. It was not normal behavior for a mammal of any kind, 'specially the big ol' black and white dog. But there he was, glowing like a birthday cake and coming this way. The mouse and the crow watched as Charlie drifted closer, neither of them had ever been so close to him before but there was something about the beautiful dog that made them feel it was okay. Even the wary crow was suddenly comfortable.

"Evenin' dudes. How're you fellas doing this fine December evening?"

Charlie dog was in the best mood they'd ever seen him in. He'd never been a troubling animal - unless you were a raccoon or a strange human coming into the yard with a package, whereupon, in both cases he would tend to tree you. Raccoons were used to it but UPS delivery men were getting mighty sick and tired of climbing that damn sticky Holly tree by the gate.

But this Charlie dog seemed uninclined to tree anything. Looking at him, you couldn't easily imagine him ever doing a thing but just floating around grinning. I've never seen a more blissful being in all my life, thought the mouse. He wondered if Charlie had started taking yoga classes or something. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all the cats in the neighborhood would do that?

After Charlie hovered there grinning at the mouse and the crow for what was a nervously long time for the crow, he startled the crow further by moving closer as if to take them into his confidence.

"I wish you boys a gentle night's sleep and a lovely day tomorrow. I'm off for an adventure, myself. You wouldn't believe what just happened for me. Last night my best friend, you might recall seeing him out here mowing the yard and scooping up my specimens - his name is Rick and he's always chasing them giggling kiddos - well anyway, he and I had a talk, only we didn't really say anything you could hear. It was wonderful though, for the first time he could understand every single thing I said to him. He's always listened pretty good for a human but once those little kids happened, his hearing got shot. That one child, the one with the bat - Alden, has got some serious lungs on him and I think he may have melted one or two of his daddy's eardrums. But anyway, like I said, last night Rick heard me just fine when I asked him if I could go on a journey since he had things well covered around here. I hadn't planned on taking one so soon but the more I looked around and saw that my work here was pretty much done, you know, I just thought it was a good time to move on. After all, I'd taught him just about everything a dog can teach a poor, dumb man."

The mouse was astounded at being confided in by such a magnificent animal. This was quite unusual. The crow was just as stunned but pretended that it was all in a day's work. Charlie went on.

"At first he didn't understand that I was doing exactly what I wanted to do - what I'd planned all along. It can be a little painful when you first slip off into the Mystery and Rick felt bad that I was hurting some. But I didn't mind going through a small amount of pain for all the great times I got to have with him right here in Si Land. Si Land, wow. I love this place. Did you guys ever know about the times Rick took me to the river? Before I came here I never dreamed there was a place on earth that pretty. If he'd a-let me I'd have stayed down there chasing sticks night and day. We used to go down most evenings when he got in from work. He'd load me up in that yeller excuse-for-a-station wagon and I'd be so excited I'd be spewing hairs out by the thousands. For that matter, I tend to do that all the time anyway."

Charlie dog looked off into the night and he got a great sparkle in his eyes. It's hard to imagine that they could get any brighter, for they a ready reminded the mouse of sunshine on fresh mountain snow.

"I guess we'd better head on out so we can see the sun come up on Icycle Creek - it's one of my favorite places Rick ever took me. I can move a lot faster now but I don't know how it'll be traveling so far in one night. This'll be my first full night out in the Mystery in over eight years."

The crow forgot his usual egoistic self-absorption and asked a question.

"Caw! Why are you going? Don't you like it around here? Caw!"

"Are you kidding? I love it here. You probably won't understand this, seeing as how you're just a feathers and blood crow, but when you slip into the Mystery, you don't have to be in just one place anymore. You can go anywhere you want and still leave parts of yourself any place you like. In a way, I ain't going anywhere at all. A big part of my heart will be here, checking on the kiddos at night, snoozing on the back porch, hopping in the back of Rick's truck - though he'll have a heck of a time keeping me in the back now. Yet even as I still do most of my regular ol' routines, I'll be off having adventures at the same time."

It all made more sense to the mouse than to the crow. Mouses by nature are humble creatures and less surprised by miracles, every little bread crumb is a miracle to a mouse. Whereas crows, by their nature, tend to believe they are masters of the universe and don't like finding out that things ain't like they seem. Charlie had a little more to say.

"In fact, I plan on telling Rick about my wild adventures when he's sleeping and then when he wakes up, he'll think they're his own dreams. His old dog Kelona, has been doing that for years and Rick thinks all those ideas are his own. We're going to have quite the good time funneling crazy stuff to him while he's snoozing."

Both the mouse and the crow chuckled over that. The idea of getting a human all befuddled was highly appealing. Charlie dog grinned and looked out again into the twinkling night. They could tell it was calling to him.

"Under the stars and the moonlight, we can follow the rivers and streams like we never could before. I always thought I had pretty good vision - and my sense of smell would plumb knock your fool head off - but man, oh man, I can see right through things now. Walls don't do a thing to stop me. Do yall see those raccoons up the tree on the other side of the garage? (they could see no such thing) There's four of them. I used to chase that mama coon all the time but I just don't feel like it now. I'd rather chase dreams if you know what I mean." They didn't.

"You fellas just wait, when you get ready to enter the Mystery you'll see what I mean. You'll wonder why you ever settled for gravity when there just wasn't no good reason to. Of course, Mr. Crow, I know you don't exactly settle for gravity, but I have a feeling you'll enjoy things like flying underwater when you make the shift and join us."

The crow was astounded at the thought, he'd seen silvery fish flickering in the watery currents of the Snoqualmie and wished there was a good way a crow could get at them without having to wait for someone to catch 'em, make fish and chips out of them, and then leave tiny tidbits on a picnic table. He'd always known there was a way around the middle man but he could not fathom being able to swim down there and retrieve fresh fish himself.

As Charlie dog floated away, calm as moonlight on still-water, the mouse thought of something and hollered out.

"Hey Charlie! You said 'us'. Is someone going with you?" Charlie paused and grinned even bigger.

"Oh, excuse me! Did I not introduce you to my friend, Indy?" From the shadows along the fence a brilliant golden colored dog emerged, hovering about the same height as Charlie and looking just as radiant. They hadn't been together since Indy had dented that Mercury over five years ago, but time seemed to have not passed at all - that's the way it is with best friends.

"Hi, fellas." Indy nodded, honoring the mouse and the crow both as if they were equals.

Then Charlie and Indy drifted off into the Mystery, the both of them looking happy and healthy, barking like pups as they ran toward the nearest sound of rippling water. Nights were long this time of year but you still wanted all the time you could get when it came to chasing sticks in the river.

Goodbye, Charlie.

Well my friends, that's what I have to share with your this time around. Thanks for checking in on me.  I'll be playing The CoachHouse in San Juan Capistrano on Ground Hog Day, Feb 2. I'll put the notice up on my site this week. Also, I am possibly going to do my first Southern California One-Day Gathering of Friends on Feb 3 somewhere in the Hermosa Beach/ Manhattan Beach area. I'll put up notice on that also.

One last thing; quite a few folks have asked about the writer's workshop I talked about doing. I'm thinking of doing one this winter and will put up notice when I get it figured out. If something like that sounds interesting to you, please email and let me know.

I wish you a Happy New Year with great love and peace.

In Friendship, 

February 18, 2002

Howdy my fine friends,

I've meant to write you before now and to update my site but I got sidetracked with a silly little thang called LIFE. Not that anything particularly spectacular has happened in mine lately, just that it pops up in my face now and then and I have no choice but to deal with it. Have you ever had that happen? (Probably not, I know most of you lie around eating bon-bons all day)

As I write you this fine winter morning, I am looking out on fog so thick that it's difficult to discern if it's sunrise or dusk. Fortunately, I am a man with a plan and recently bought a clock just for this very purpose.

While much of the city will wander around today wondering if it's time for breakfast or beddy-bye time, I'll know the truth of it. And for a small fee, will happily share the hour and minute with anyone who asks.

Yesterday I went to the Seattle Home Show. I don't know why I did it, I guess I just wanted to punish myself. I wandered around the vast expanse of displays along the red carpet and wondered just who are these people and do they ever go home psychologically damaged if the booth across the way from them gets all the visitors and they get only quickly averted looks. Does a person take it personally if their booth is uninteresting? It's nothing you can help if you happen to work for a company who manufactures, oh, let's say, bolts. It is extremely difficult to set up a Bolt Booth in such a way that will attract hordes of oohing and aweing people. I feel bad for them and sometimes will go directly to the most uninteresting and painfully empty booths. I will do what I can to build an honest enthusiasm for their wares, exclaiming in a voice loud enough for people at other booths to hear.

"You are KIDDING! This shingle will last a hundred years!!???" or "That's AMAZING! I never knew a broom could do all that!" I'll make sweeping, grand gestures, inviting the world over to see what I've just discovered. Sometimes it works, but generally not.

Yesterday, situated on an aisle with mini-log cabins and saunas, grandiose decks and garden displays, I noticed an embarrassed fellow standing at a counter by himself. His booth was horrid, a simple white wall and counter with a few leaflets piled on top. He had literally thousands of those leaflets ready for what he must have expected would be a mad rush on his display. From ten feet away though, it was impossible to discern just what it was that he was selling. I watched from the window of the Yurt display before I was willing to commit myself to go to his aid. I'm glad to help the underdog but I must believe there is actually some hope before I will do so. (For instance, I will NOT dive into icy water to save someone who has already frozen into the wall of an iceberg)

The lack of a following at the fellow's booth was glaringly obvious and I knew I had to do something to help him. It wasn't going to be easy, because now I could see that his company sold only one item - those little insulating cups you put over your outdoor water faucets in the winter to keep the pipes from freezing. Ooh. That may have been some bad planning on the part of the company marketing staff. The booth had probably cost him three or four thousand bucks for the weekend. Let's see, how many of those $1.75 insulators would he have to sell?

Just as I was about to give up and go visit the woman selling wooden spoons, I had a brilliant idea. What if the insulating cups were marketed as multi-purpose items? Something for any occasion? I waltzed over and befriended the man, which was easy, since he looked like I'd saved his life simply by setting foot in his territory.

"I can't BELIEVE I've found you! Do you know how hard it is to find these things anymore?" I grinned like a man possessed.

He looked at me with a combination of disbelief and overwhelming gratitude. He'd had two days so far to watch his self-esteem plummet and probably wouldn't have made it through the weekend had I not appeared.

I grabbed one of the insulators and considered the possibilities. In case you don't know what these look like, they are sort of like a large, thick, styrofoam cup with a rounded bottom. There is a rubber band inside that you slip around the handle of a spigot, the rubber band is attached through a hole in the bottom to a plastic stop on the outside so that the cup pulls up tight against the house. I ripped the rubber band and the stop out of the thing and poked my thumb in the hole and stepped next door to fill it with water at the Culligan display. I walked back over in a sort of swagger, hoping to attract attention as I drank water out of my fine, insulated cup.

"See? You can poke your thumb in there and you always know just how hot or cold your beverage is. Plus, it leaves all your fingers free to do other stuff." I wiggled my fingers to show him how incredibly nimble were my remaining digits.

"For instance, you're driving down the road with a cup of scalding coffee. One hand of course, is on the wheel. The other is cradling your traditional coffee mug. When you see a lovely lady standing at the bus stop you have not one hand left with which to wave or signal to her in any way. With THIS mug, you may drive and sip and WAVE at the same time. See?" I waved at a little girl in a girl scout uniform. She turned and disappeared into the crowd.

I was on a roll now and suddenly thought of a far superior use for the insulator. This one would take advantage of the rubber band insert instead of having to rip it out. I asked the man to allow me behind the counter for a moment so that I could have some privacy. He looked around, surprised that I'd consider his little counter any real privacy. But he was so grateful for my attention and for the fact that his booth had attendance at last, that he stepped away and allowed me the take cover. I sat on the floor so that no one could see me and took my pants off. Luckily, I'd worn socks that matched - so I still felt fairly well-dressed. I lay on my back and raised one foot to slip the rubber band around it, then the other. I worked the band up my legs until it was to my buttocks. It was going to be tight. Getting that rubber band over two orbs of solid muscle was not easy. If my idea worked, they might want to consider using heftier rubber bands.

When I finally had scaled my buttocks and had the strap up to my lower back, I slipped the cup into position and stood up. There! My idea was so crazy it just might work. The cup fit snugly over my crotch and was surprisingly comfortable. There was lots of room inside - whatever my mood. To test my theory, I playfully whacked the cup with a pencil. Rap! Nothing. I looked around for something heavier and noticed a flashlight behind the counter. Thwack!! I felt nothing at all. Fantastic! This was brilliant.

"Here, give me a hand, will you?" I grabbed his shoulder for support and stepped up onto the counter with my boots and socks, underwear and shirt still on. Instantly, there was a gasp as several people noticed me standing up there with the styrofoam cup on my crotch. Despite what you might imagine, it was not an obscene look. To me, it was a practical thing, mature technology at it's finest. I've worked many construction jobs in my life before I found my way to music and I can tell you, it is a common occurrence for a man to catch a flying brick or perhaps, an angrily-flung crowbar right in the nuts. No jock-strap can ever offer enough protection in a case like that. Here I was at The Home Show, builders and carpenters, iron-workers and electricians-galore were wandering the aisles, looking for specialty tools and new inventions. Within minutes, I had the entire construction community of Seattle (and a few wives, too) staring and hollering and applauding as I demonstrated all the things that could be flung at my crotch without damaging my preciousness in any way.

"Ladies and gentlemen, come on up and take a whack." I rapped the cup several times with my knuckles - like it was a boxing bag. "See what I mean? This thang will completely protect a man on the job."

The crowd grew instantly, so fascinated were people with a contraption that would allow for direct strikes to the groin with no discernible damage. You wouldn't believe all the things we tried. Coins and car keys were tossed with great ferocity. Boing! Jangle! Nothing - no pain at all. I laughed at all throwers, taunting them with friendly insults.

"Ah, come on, asshole! You can throw harder than that, sissy! Gimme all you got!" People pelted my trusty cup with crushed Coke cans and dried hotdog buns. One gal, almost giddy at the opportunity, flung herself over the heads of the crowd and stabbed at it with a plastic fork. It stuck but never got through the half-inch thick foam. The crowd cheered. One old fellow walked up and whacked the cup hard with his bamboo cane, then fell over on the floor. Not one iota of pain. I just grinned at him and handed him back his cane. Everything was a great success.

As you have probably already imagined, we sold out of every insulator in the booth that day. The fellow was on the phone to the factory to get more sent out for the rest of the weekend. I put my pants back on (after signing autographs for an hour) and began to make my way outside to go home. My work was done there.

I felt a peace settle over the city, the kind of satisfied feeling you get when you've set out to help someone for no reason other than to give another human being hope. I was surprised at how many men I saw on the streets outside wearing the insulating cups over their clothes. I saw a man wearing his over his suit and his wife had bought two and displayed them very attractively over her dress. I hadn't thought of that.

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Well, as you can see, I got carried away again. The fog does that to me. I guess I'd better get to working on my book again while I'm on a roll. Believe it or not, I work on it every week. It's not quite as silly as these ramblings you read on my site, but I must admit that sometimes I'll be writing in a coffee shop and I'll start laughing out loud. People will look up grinning and wonder what is so funny. It's embarrassing to tell them that I'm laughing that hard at my own writing, so I usually tell them it's the coffee, just the funniest coffee I've ever drank. I've noticed that many of them leave after that.

I had a very enjoyable concert in San Juan Capistrano on Ground Hog Day. I love playing the CoachHouse and the crowd was large and happy and really receptive. I played several new songs and of course, many of my oldies. I also read a chapter from my book and had a wonderful time watching the crowd howl over the story. Luckily, it was meant to be funny.

I am rescheduling my Writer's Workshop in Seattle because of some family matters and will put a notice up soon about the rescheduled date. I plan to do a day which will focus on encouraging and inspiring writers, beginners or experts, to write without self-editing. It will be aimed toward writing of all kinds, letters, journals, song-lyrics, poems, books, novels, autobiographies. If you think you are interested, please email me and we'll talk about it.

I've appreciated that those of you who have pre-ordered my book have been so patient about my decision to take away any deadline and to take my time to make this the best book I can write. Like I do with my songs, I work gradually, allowing ideas and words to come to me over time. I think that is the greatest way to work and it allows the best stuff to come through. Of the 340 or so people who have pre-ordered, only two have asked for a refund because of the long time it's taken me. I do appreciate your patience.

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If you are not on my mail list to receive my newsletter or postcards announcing concerts in your area, please, please sign up. In a world where corporations have taken over radio, it is very difficult to get my music out there. I very much need to be able to send you info directly when I have a new CD, a book or a concert in the works. As always, I never share my list, so your privacy is always honored. I am working on building my email database so that I can occasionally send out notice without paper or postage. Because people change email servers so often, this has been difficult. Please send me you email address when you send your physical address for my postcards.

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Finally, I cannot thank you enough for listening to my music, sharing it with your friends, and for visiting my site now and then. What I write here is just fun, spontaneous rambling that I enjoy and hope will bring you some laughter and let you know that there is good will in the world. Thank you for yours.

In Friendship, 
Michael Tomlinson

Past Ramblings IX