Ancestral Roots and Vegetables

I found the following quotation in my little black companion, The Essence of Zen: An Anthology of Quotations, only after I wrote this morning’s post but before I posted it. The quotation seemed so apropos that I could not leave it in the book; I had to share it. It is the brother and sister of how I am thinking about the world this morning.

Autumn’s colors dropping from branches
in masses of falling leaves.
Cold clouds bringing rain
into the crannies of the mountains:
Everyone was born
with the same sort of eyes —
Why do mine keep seeing things
as a Zen Koan?

~ Muso ~

Consider your life a work of fiction that features a character created by a writer—you—who has no control over the world in which she lives. The author—you—must develop the character against a backdrop dictated by millions and millions of other writers, whose only means of control involve writing their characters’ thoughts and behaviors in response to the same environment. In other words, the writer essentially has absolute control over the character but absolutely no control over the context.

Put another way, we do not control the world; only how we respond to it. Yet the manner in which we respond to the world shapes the world to which we respond. Catch-22. Again. And it’s related, of course, to the question involving chickens and eggs. In the words of someone whose fame or notoriety as originator of a certain phrase disappeared into the mist of time: “It is what it is.”

This morning, I chose to live in a soap bubble I created with my own breath. Every time I exhaled, the bubble grew larger. Each inhalation, the source of  the pressure that keeps my bubble growing, was through a tube connected to the outside world. A world in which infinite amounts of air were available to me as I created the environment inside my bubble. Now, the bubble is complete and I am safe from the fierceness that surrounds me. Except that the bubble comprises an almost imperceptible film so thin and delicate even a mosquito’s proboscis can puncture it, causing the sphere to explode or to collapse.

The world I created is fragile, isn’t it? But I’m not alone. All of us live in a world that is only a hair’s breadth distance from coming apart. That is why we must take such great care to tend to it. We must be careful to respond to the environment in a way that makes a positive contribution to the world over which we have no control.


My IC and I await the formality of one or more offers to buy her house. Last night, her Realtor called with news of multiple serious expressions of interest. She suggested a formal offer might come this morning.  Yesterday morning, I received an email that featured ten houses for sale that Zillow thought might be of interest. One of those houses was the one my IC is selling. Another was a house just up the street from me. The asking price for the house nearby stunned me: $439K. The description suggested it is a beautiful place with many lovely features; the few photos, though, did nothing to confirm the attraction of the house. Even though it may be a lovely place, it’s only a two-bedroom house. And its view of the distant mountains and the valley below, if the photos are any indication, is inferior to mine. I’ll be very interested to see whether the place sells and at what price. I possibly could be persuaded to sell my place if I could walk away with $375K+ in my pocket. Or maybe not. It’s so damn hard to know what’s best. For now, though, I only look forward to finishing the process of settling in here with my IC, having left all the stress and demands of selling and moving far behind.


COVID is a monster. All the vaccines in the world will not eradicate it if millions of people refuse to get vaccinations and if people refuse to wear masks and otherwise adjust their behavior. I read this morning of a woman who lived very near me in the Village who “did everything right” but who still contracted the virus and died. Her husband, understandably upset, made a comment that suggested he was furious with people who demand their “rights” to behave irresponsibly by rejecting vaccinations and refusing to wear masks. My angry hope this morning is that those bastards pay for their self-righteousness with lengthy experiences with breathing tubes before their final breaths. I wish I could be more understanding and more forgiving when faced with such people. But I’m not sure I really want to forgive them. I’m not sure I want to understand what could make people insist that science is part of a demonic cabal intent on destroying humankind. Ambivalence again. Damn it all.


I sent another vial of spit to yesterday. The first vial, sent months ago, apparently did not reach them. Or I screwed up the online registration. Or something. At any rate, within six to eight weeks, I should get the results of my DNA test. I assume I will be identified as the Missing Link or a latter-day Neanderthal. Actually, I expect my DNA will reveal that I am, indeed, the product of a “pure” history of people from England. Imagine how surprised I might be to learn that I have Canadian First Nation blood flowing through my veins. Or that my ancestral history includes a coming together of Vikings and African tribesmen and indigenous Maori warriors. I think I’d rather be a rainbow of shapes and colors than a bland, simple-strand Anglo-Saxon tobacco farmer. We shall see. Maybe. If my spit ever reaches the operators and if they actually run DNA tests on it. I agreed, in the accompanying paperwork, to let them do what they will with my DNA. That could mean an unintentional discovery that I am related to an axe-murderer. I could be mistaken for him, incarcerated, and hanged for his crimes. All because of a misused and abused DNA test. Still, I want the results. I want evidence that I do, indeed, have blood cells of Kolbjørn Landivk coursing through my veins and that I am a descendent of a Japanese fisherman and an Ethiopian peasant and a French grape merchant who wandered what is now Provence before the region was fully settled. And, of course, I want breakfast.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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