Do you remember being eight or ten years old and, after some dispute with your parents, running away from home? A BB gun, maybe a sandwich, a flask of water, and that beloved dog who would never leave your side went with you.  Remember?

It is strange that as we grow up and age, some part of ourselves remains that child who made a decision that there would be no more dispute, no more tension, no more bullshit.  Those who stick it out are lionized and admired by any who know of the turmoil.  I think not; I have decided to admire and to emulate those who say, “No more bullshit!  I’m not accepting any more of it, and I wish that I never had done.”

I ran away again.  No BB gun.  Instead of a sandwich, a grocery list.  Water I can get from the tap, so I just keep a few growlers of craft beer on hand.  I have had several beloved dogs in my life, and not to have a canine friend in my life would be unthinkable, so I have that beloved dog who never leaves my side with me.  At the moment, she is sleeping…at my feet as I “write.”


The grocery list almost always includes food, treats, or a toy for her.  If she were invited, she would share other grocery items with me, but I do not allow her anything other than the skin of the chickens that I roast or purchase whole from the store.  She shows no interest in the beer, but she likes going to the pub with me.  Things in my new home are civilized, so that in many places, dogs accompany their families to destinations forbidden them elsewhere.  Good for here!

The days are warm, but not hot, and the nights are…cool, at best.  Nights can be cold, even though winter has not yet come.  I like cold nights; there is nothing as uncomfortable as being too hot or too cold when one has already run away from much that has made one comfortable for many years.  The reward for enduring the cold nights is a sky filled with bright stars that look as if you could touch them.  The days are equally magical, many days being absolutely cloudless.  Even when the day is less pristine, the result is often spectacular, as if to make amends.

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Almost every day, we are visited by wild creatures.  There are several species of ground squirrel (they appear to me to be different species, and are reluctant to interact between communities), large hawks, the occasional eagle, geckos warming themselves if the daytime temperature and sun allow, deer, and, perhaps best of all, coyotes.  These are not the scrawny urban coyotes that my former neighbors used to despise while still marveling that they would choose to live in urban or even suburban areas.  No, these guys are big boy (and girl) coyotes who tolerate human presence without  fear, and perhaps with a hint of disdain.  I think that they probably do not despise us, but they DO seem to marvel that humans choose to live among them.  Maybe they think that all human beings are useless yuppies and hypocrites. Hell, it’s possible that I just followed them to this place; they appear to disapprove of bullshit in much the same way that I do.  I don’t know, I suppose, but I like them, and I like knowing that they are nearby.  Sometimes they sing to us at night.

Here is the moral to the story:  I won’t be coming home this time; I…make that WE have run away forever.  We live surrounded by magic, we like our lives here even if there is much that we have had to leave behind.  At the very least, we have left bullshit behind, and if we chose to leave behind some that we would have kept, we can take comfort in one another.

These are the words of Ojijaak.




There are reported shortages of gloves and overcoats in hell.


Young men. Strange places

Heat. Fear. Sweat. Life. Death. All one.

Never forgotten.


Duty first.



Wan sun, pallid sky

Cold rain, cold wind, cold earth.

Life prepares for sleep.


dsc_0127   There are no more words. Deal with it. This is November. Ojijaak speaks no more.DSC_0126.JPG

Zen and the DSM

Zen and the DSM

Years ago…thirty, or thereabouts, I think, I emerged from one of those exercises that people who work in corporate human resources departments schedule for staff and management in order to justify their jobs.  I was handed a sheet of paper listing the usual HR crap and a personality analysis.  A “diagnosis” of (then current) DSMIII: 301.40.  Not knowing what that could possibly mean, I made a trip to the library and copied the pages of the DSM that dealt with 301.40.

I read the general description as well as various sub-types, and when I was to see the company-paid shrink next, I took the copies with me.  Showing it to him, I asked, “What the hell is wrong with being like this?”  Essentially, my flavor of neurosis is that of a frustrated perfectionist with an over-active awareness of detail.

The shrink rolled his eyes heavenward (if shrinks acknowledge such a concept), and said, “I knew you would do that.”

I do not know how many more such encounters I have endured over the years, but I became so accustomed to the drill that I sometimes suggested to the HR boffins that I could write my own analysis, and that I would ask only that I be paid half of whatever the latest touchy-feely expert would be paid.  Although my offers were never accepted, my end results, written beforehand and sealed in envelopes given to the boffins were never incorrect:  If you bring him a problem, have a suggestion to solve the problem as well; do not touch him; be totally honest, he will not respond to “yes-men” or flattery; if you make a mistake, admit it, he will not be angry, but if you hide your mistakes or blame others, you will pay twice the price, and so on, and so on.  I was supposed to be analytical and intuitive, but sometimes prone to act precipitously.  I was once introduced to a group of new associates as the “corporate loose cannon.”  I did not dispute or even take issue with most of this drivel, and that was no surprise to the various shrinks, either.

Ah, yes, the corporate years, and how antithetical they seemed and seem to me.  Fortunately, for most of that period of my life and beyond, I operated a business of my own that ultimately became the source of more of my income than the corporate world.  I came to describe my own operation as my “day job,” and that really annoyed my corporate zookeepers who felt that I should be more concerned with their baggage.  Realistically, I suppose that I must have been a genuine pain in the ass to them, but (and I say this with humility) I was too good at my work to eliminate.  The upside to being a detail-oriented perfectionist is the ability to perform at a high level and with little or no supervision.  Thank you, OCD.

When we were not being examined and tested by shrinks and boffins, there were meetings.  Lots of meetings.  Staff meetings, management meetings, interdepartmental focus groups, you name it, we had a meeting about it.  Lots of schedule details, lots of notes to take and to act upon or pass to subordinates…at another meeting most of the time.  This began for me before the advent of the quaint PDA, or Palm Pilot.  I was soon a devotee of the Day-Timer.  I started with a rather simple pocket planner, and a separate padfolio for notes at meetings.  By the end of my time, I had graduated to a large, but still portable Day-Timer model that had a section for blank sheets for notes as well as the calendar section for schedules.  My various padfolios had become furnishings for my desFullSizeRenderk top where I kept my own notes from telephone calls or one-on-one meetings of one sort or another.

Then, as I have suggested, I moved most and eventually all of my calendars and scheduling to successive generations of PDAs.  So compact, so convenient, so volatile…At times things got “lost” somewhere in the circuit boards.  Sometimes syncing with my PC resulted in error messages.  FullSizeRender 7Sometimes, though, I actually liked the damned things.  I am at a loss as to how to explain that, but I did soldier on through a Sharp Wizard (or Zaurus, or whatever it was called) and three Palm devices.  I re-emphasize the need to sync and backup daily or at least frequently as it was not uncommon for the Palms especially to lose their little electronic minds occasionally.  I missed my old pen-and-ink calendars, but the Day-Timer was just too large to carry, or too small to allow my copious notes.

Enter the smartphone.  It was a natural progression from separate PDA and cell phone, I suppose, but the problem with the buggers is that they think that they are smarter than their user.  Try asking Siri a question to which she responds with something totally unrelated.  Patiently (maybe), you ask again, speaking very slowly and distinctly.  The answer is something different, but still off subject.  In frustration, I have directed Siri to pull her head out of…only to get, “I’m sorry you are having a bad day.”  Me?  I’m not the one having the bad day, sister.  My favorite cell phones were an Ericsson and later a Motorola Razr, both dumber than stumps, but they were great telephones.  I dislike texting, refuse to enroll in social media, and I am not impressed when the various apps on my phone refuse to play nicely with one another.

Fortunately, when I finally had to give up my last Razr to move to an iPhone, my life had entered a new phase.  My participation in most meetings was optional for the most part, my note-taking was informal at best, and the only staff members that I had to interact with were those who had been with me longest and knew me well.  Deadline, shmeadline…I would do all that was required of me because I am wired that way, but I would perform my tasks according to my own schedule.  The large padfolios that had served me so well, and which had developed that graceful patina of old but well-maintained leather, were placed in bookcases or briefcases.  They rarely come out nowadays, which seems wasteful…sort of.  I began the process of simplifying my life.

In the last decade, give or take a year, I have discovered or re-discovered nifty little tools that make more sense to my new lifestyle.  First, I got my fountain pens out of the desk drawers where they had been living for too long.  Some are special, others are stalwart tools.  Most of them were purchased by me or for me at a price of between thirty and fifty dollars.  Another group of four or five cost between fifty and one hundred dollars.  Then there are those pocket decorations that range upward from two hundred dollars to…well, let’s just let that go at “too much.”  There is something that just feels right about writing with and caring for a fountain pen.  This is the part where you figure out the “Zen” part of the title above…

Aside from the expense, use, and care of fountain pens, owning one (or more) requires the purchase of ink.  Since I prefer the wider choices of ink available in bottles, the pens that are made to accept cartridges require converters.  More care and cleaning; more Zen moments.  FullSizeRender 3Nib style and size must also be considered as they affect the look of ink color and handwriting.  My collection ranges from Japanese extra fine through western nib sizes to double broad.  This can lead to the meltdown of a neurotic type-A personality, so I keep a digital inventory of my pens by manufacturer, nib size, and the ink most commonly used in each pen.  This is not Zen; it is purely OCD.FullSizeRender 6

At about the same time, we had been gifted with a selection of some new leather covered customizable notebooks made by a Japanese company that we did not know, Midori.  After we had performed the labor for the hopeful retailer, we fooled around with the notebooks and covers.  I know now that there are several varieties of refills for the leather covers, but at that time, I thought them a bit impractical, either too small (Passport), or too large (Regular).  On the other hand, the paper used in many of the notebooks was Tomegawa, or, as it is more widely known, Tomoe River.  Briefly, Tomoe River is thin, strong, smooth, high-quality paper that is…wait for it…fountain pen friendly.FullSizeRender 1

I liked the leather covers, but the paper sold me on the product.  I claimed one of each size as personal swag.  In true OCD style, each notebook has its own specific use:  The Passport is a daily carry in which I scrawl thoughts when and as they occur to me, and the Regular is a dedicated travel journal.  Both great, and I love them, but Oh! Golly, that Tomoe River paper…I tried the calendar insert, or planner for the Midori Passport, but it was way too small to suit my needs and haphazard handwriting.  Alas!

I am proud to announce that I did not search for Tomoe River paper compulsively.  On the other hand, I was really excited in 2008 or 2009 when our client told us that he had been able to secure Tomoe River in white and cream A6 sheets and notebooks.  He also said that Midori was marketing various notebooks with the paper, but he had not as yet decided to sell them.  Oh well, I bought packages of both papers.  It was, I believe, in 2010 when he said that yet another Japanese company was producing planners (read: Day-Timer, sort of) made with Tomoe River.  He thought the thing rather useless because it was printed in Japanese, and asked me if I would have any use for it…for free.  Anything that is truly free is, of course, a good deal.  Enter the Hobonichi Techo…FullSizeRender 2

I really liked that little book despite my lack of Japanese language.  The days and dates were labeled in English, so it was useful, and their size (A6) was easily pocketed if the cover was left in a desk drawer.  The next year, I was again given a Techo, but the really big news came in late 2012 when I was first told that Hobonichi was going to release an English language Techo that they had named the Hobonichi Planner.  In short, I have come back to pen and paper planners and I don’t have to deal with a few of the antics of my less-than-intelligent smartphone.  The downside is that entries in the Planner have to be color-coded according to type, priority, or both.  When it comes to Zen, I could meditate until hell freezes over without coming any closer to Nirvana than I was when that first shrink sentenced me to DSM III 301.40.

One thing always leads to the next, and now that my life is less frenetic, and I can spend some quality Zen time with my pens, my inks, my Midori Travelers Notebooks and MD (Midori Diary) paper notebooks, Filofax for notes at the infrequent meetings or in research for writing assignments, and the rock star Hobonichi Planner.  My life is  Zen-like at times because I have to slow down to consider what I need to work at next, and I have to slow my hand just to be able to read (decipher may be a more accurate term) the words that I have scribbled.  It is OCD because everything has its place, every pen has its purpose.

When I first began this piece, I intended it as a mildly humorous, self-effacing look into my screwed up world.  It was the afternoon of May 13.  Today, June 14, I have finished it, and it is not amusing.  I can see the differences in style between the earlier text and that part that was completed this week.  Maybe that’s because when I stopped writing on May 13 to locate the illustrations that appear here, I received a telephone call that changed my world all over again.  My apologies.  It will not happen again; it cannot.

These are the words of Ojijaak.


19,499 Days…

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19,499 days, the span of a cruelly short life.  Today is November 26.  In the United States, this is Thanksgiving Day in 2015.  For me, this date is bitter.  It is a date that marks great loss.  It was on this date, some years ago that I lost one who could not have known how great was her influence upon me and, I imagine upon many who were unknown to her.  I was able to spend some of those days with her, but not enough.  There could never have been enough to have been sufficient for my many needs, but 19,499 days was all that she was given, and in those few days she accomplished so much.

It was almost ten years after her death that I learned that she was gone.  I have known grief and loss; all of us do in time, but I have never felt such a profound sense of loss as this.  It had been my intention to meet with her, hopefully to explain my departure from her life and to apologize for the tardiness of the explanation.   Instead, I was greeted with the no-longer-news of her passing.

Throughout my life, I do not recall a day since we first met that I have failed to think of her.  Most often, those thoughts have been unbidden; those thoughts came only because she was so thoroughly woven into my experiences and the fabric of my life.  I am not a good person, but for all of my deficiencies, I am better for having been touched by her.

Today, I mourn and I thank her spirit for being with me always.  I thank Kitchee Manitou for the gift of her life and for allowing her spirit to touch mine.  To my Christian friends who tell me that their God has made her an angel, I say that it is more nearly correct to say that God made her a gift to the angels.

Today, I am thankful for Ann.  Surely we can all find something for which we should express thanks.  I was just more blessed than others.

These are the words of Ojijaak.