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Things That Do No Harm

[3-minute read]

It’s a day for making lists. It’s June, after all.

Mind you, I could be writing about another especially brutal bomb in Kabul, or the abdication of ecological (or just plain logical) leadership by influential nations, or the special kind of impotent cowardice coupled with childish indignation that moves a hateful little human to scrawl hateful toilet-stall names on a rich black man’s apparently uppity home. But not today.

It’s a green day in June. I spent some time thinking – she made me do it, one of those gentle coaching shoves – about harmlessness, which apparently isn’t so far from cleanliness, or learning, or trees, or spirit. I’ve made a list of harmless things, which might even be worth less faint praise than that. Like:

+ Looking for new beginnings in all the untimely neighbourhoods. Such as, oh, June.

+ Walking among trees and alongside water.

+ Railway bridges, even where the trains are extinct.

+ Saying “good mornin’” to random bikers, walkers and drunks.

+ Wearing an old synthetic baseball jersey – still brightly white! – with a big ol’ 22 on the back, going way back to the last time I was a reasonable facsimile of an athlete.

+ Being one layer short on a morning-walk-that-shouldn’t-have-been-that-cool-‘cause-it’s-JUNE-fer-cryin’-out-sideways! I guess it’s chill to be chill, though.

+ Writing and saying things like “for crying out sideways” and “keep your eyes peeled for my phone” that confirm my status as a genuine relic of a bygone age. I’m a fossil.

+ Naps.

+ Roses as they fade. Untidiness. Dust on the mantle.

+ Believing in people.

+ Breezes in the treeses.

+ Twenty percent of my excess lard. (The remainder does harm my feelings.)

+ Forgetting, occasionally, that everything I might want to know is only a click away.

+ Saving money. Underrated: the frugality of small economies, even if scorned by belligerent teenaged opinionators who nevertheless would like a higher allowance.

+ Keeping my mouth shut, in cases of doubt.

+ Believing in God without piling on my neighbour, or random bikers, walkers and drunks.

+ Filling my gas tank before it’s down to the last drop.

+ Dandelions.

+ Deciding to procrastinate on visiting the candy aisle.

+ Reading with something approaching a plan, say, three or four weeks per year.

+ Caring about the lives of people I don’t know personally.

+ Refusing to allow that such a thing is inefficient or foolish.

+ A little extra time for meditation, or even just thinking about nothing. (Or humming old pop songs, but don’t overdo it.)

+ Boring stories of glory days¹. (Speaking of moderation.)

+ Opening up a notebook and writing by feel and by hand.

+ Flossing.

+ Preferences for glass jars, paper bags, iron pots and wooden-handled hoes.

+ Composting in the back yard.

+ Weeding before it’s strictly necessary.

+ Walking when no particular body that I know (i.e. mine) is willing or able to run.

+ Believing in the usefulness of belief.

+ Watching another NBA Finals game 1 instead of writing about racism, climate change or the miseries of Kabul.

+ Another blog entry.

Not such a bad list, after all.

¹ Give yourself a one-bite brownie if you recognized Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days”.

 

Richard St. Barbe Baker (on trees & believing)

I love trees.

My little town had looming, graceful trees on nearly everybody’s front yard. They surrounded the town square where I learned baseball, football, dare-devilry and cloud-watching. I was a boy of the trees: I climbed them, threw and hit balls over, through and around them, and sometimes could get an aching kind of wonder in my chest by just staring at the new greens of spring and the dry riot of fall. I can sometimes see the forest, but I prefer the trees.

He planted his last tree, days before he died, on the USaskatchewan campus where he had first studied forestry.

He planted his last tree, days before he died, on the USaskatchewan campus where he had first studied forestry.

Richard St. Barbe Baker isn’t well-known anymore, but he should be. The organization he began in Kenya, the Men of the Trees (along with another, the International Tree Foundation), is still active in dozens of countries. Its members are thought to have planted millions of trees.

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