A cone of patchouli incense. A desire to feel the comforting embrace of universal peace. A seemingly endless supply of low-level anxiety. A sense of the presence of perpetual background noise, like radio static. This chaotic mix defines a tiny corner of my day—and a big slice of my time in this non-urban, non-rural community.

What is this place, after all? It is not a town. Despite its name, it is not a village. It certainly is not a city. I live in an unincorporated area where, in a futile attempt to keep the riff-raff out, porous gates stand guard. Gates offer irrefutable evidence that residents live in fear. But, then, locks on car doors and deadbolts at the entry to one’s home do the same thing. Locking the doors, latching the windows, and posting signs that say “this property is protected by a security system;” all these actions tell the story of where we are on the spectrum between fear and freedom. Freedom is a mythological state of being that few people have ever experienced. While we may not live in abject terror, our anxieties are on full display whenever we lock a door, check a back pockets for assurance the wallet is still there, or cling to a purse in preparation for tearing it out of the hands of a prospective purse-snatcher. We do not like to admit it, but we are, perpetually, afraid. We live in fear, albeit mostly a low-level fear.

The patchouli is not smothering the anxiety. Maybe it is keeping it to tolerable levels. Or, more likely, the incense is doing nothing; it can do nothing without my cooperation and active support. I cannot decide whether I am resisting or cooperating. I want to feel peace and freedom, but I do not want to mislead myself—or be misled—on the path to reach them. Suspicion is a byproduct of anxiety. Paranoia is a byproduct of a deeper level of fear. Further out, toward the end of the spectrum, insanity—with its potential for unpredictable (and potentially horrible) behavior—springs from fear on steroids: terror.

I consider these matters as if I were a detached observer. I look at them from the perspective of a distant witness, not as if I were in the midst of the confusion. Yet, even from a distance, I see myself—as clear as if I had the eyes of an eagle—right there in the middle of it. The mind’s eye has a range of vision, by the way: dull, dim, and fuzzy on one end and spectacularly bright and clear and precise on the other. In between, our vision (like our memory) is unreliable; it oscillates between clarity and confusion.

Peace. Universal peace. Those of us who can even conceive of it, much less actually believe it is achievable, live in a fantasy world. We are much more comfortable living in an imaginary place than in the real world. Our dreams frequently give imaginary substance to our desires. We might feel universal peace, but that sensation arises from our expectations about what universal peace might feel like—not from any real evidence of the sensations or emotions the experience might actually produce.

The bottom line: no matter how “grounded” a person might be, he or she lives in a dream world created by his/her perspectives. Having never been one others are apt to label as “grounded,” I have no legitimate credentials to make any claims about where—whether in a fantasy world or in the real world—a grounded person might live.


Our new deck seating is operational and in use. I like it. I will like it even more when we secure an outdoor rug to put under it and some small end tables to place next to the two swivel rockers. In the interim, though, I will enjoy it “as is.” I may go out in a few minutes to sit and listen to, and watch, the birds. But, at 55°F, it’s still a touch cool for the way I am dressed (shorts, t-shirt, and flip-flops). What the hell. I’ll do it, anyway, at least for a minute or two. Just to say I did it. But, first, the blog insists on being put to bed.


Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.

~ Emily Dickinson ~

About John Swinburn

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