I have been asked to write a few articles for the NORTHLAND ARBORETUM.  The first three have been published in their magazine – this is the next one.





The Rudy Trail is one of the first I walked in the arboretum, where I first saw deer and felt the hilly nature of the arboretum as the wonderfully connected trails wind their way through the arboretum.


Leaving the Visitors’ Center, we make our way north along the road.  Just beyond the gazebo in the field, we enter the woods and find the ACORN trail.  100 yards along ACORN, we find the RUDY TRAIL taking a hard right.  Let’s follow that right and see what RUDY has to offer.  There will be plenty – keep your eyes open for birds, deer, and squirrels.  Watch the ground, too, for wildflowers, mushrooms, or tracks of animals that inhabit the area.



Amid pine trees, we walk along the grassy trail.  To our left, the ground slopes down.  To our right, there is a small ridge that separates us from the LITTLE DAN trail.  Curving through the woods, we come to a good-sized downhill slope, then up again, and around a small curve, where we find the intersection with the ORAN trail off to the right, which will come up again.  For now, we continue on RUDY.


You may have noticed there are signs here for the snowshoe trail.  It entered onto RUDY from our right, follows RUDY for 75 yards or so, and peels off to the left.  We’ll continue on RUDY.


We pass out of the woods and come to a larger clearing.  Away from the trees, we can see much more, especially to our right.  Ah, there’s another trail – and we will see later that it is RUDY again, as it fish-hooks itself along the center of the clearing.   The trail goes northwest, then curves a hard right as it passes the POTLATCH trail, 25 yards away.  There are a good many dead trees, tall but leafless, where we may see birds perched high as they sing into the daytime sun.  RUDY continues to curve right, and we find ourselves at the portion of the trail we noticed earlier.  Rudy has come back 180 degrees, now 50 yards away from itself to our right.


A slight uphill, and the trail is sandier.  We’re returning to the tree line.  We reach the peak of that uphill section, and find ourselves at the top of a rather steep slope.  Down we go, now on one of the longer, steeper slopes in the arboretum.  The trees hide the view to the left, where the POTLATCH trail mirrors RUDY, and to our right, where we’ve angled away from the west side of RUDY.


At the bottom of the hill, we meet up with the ORAN trail again – we have taken ourselves all around the fishhook section of RUDY.  We take a left where ORAN and RUDY meet, and find ourselves at the FIVE CORNERS intersection, the major crossroads of many of the trails in the arboretum.


Our tour of RUDY is done, its fishhook shape taking us through a mile of woods and clearing.  We have had the opportunity to see a variety of trees and creatures.  Back to the Visitors’ Center we go, checking off RUDY as a trail we’ve come to know.


all photos were taken on the RUDY trail by the author.


Another Ho-Hum thought on the Media

all the media

Fake Media for some is Fox News.  For some, it is CNN.  For some, Real News is CNBC.  For some, it is The Blaze.  For some, the center-line of news reporting is represented by the ones that have been around a long time, like CBS, NBC and ABC – and of course, the old wire services like Reuters and AP.  Whether it is print media or broadcast media, they all have their version of left, right and center.  All of them have their fringe elements, too.  At least, that’s the way it is here in the good old U.S. of America.

Our media is far from perfect.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the theory about how cable TV gave us news networks ad nauseum, which meant those networks had to find stuff to fill the air waves.  The media has gotten stories wrong – remember DEWEY BEATS TRUMAN?  Our media has also gotten it right – the whole Watergate story broke with just two young nosy reporters.  Our media has also celebrated our wonders (MAN LANDS ON THE MOON) and our losses (JFK ASSASSINATED IN DALLAS).

It has given us heroes (LINDBERGH LANDS IN PARIS) and defined our enemies (MANSON ARRESTED).

And the internet?  It is the youngest of the communication siblings, and there are still so many kinks to work out – some are very difficult to deal with, some are a blessing.

Whether its through the audio-video wonder of television, over the airwaves of radio, on your computer screen via internet, or on the old-fashioned original method we call a newspaper, we enjoy our first amendment rights to the freedom of the press.

So the next time you hear the phrase “FAKE NEWS”, and whether you boo the term or cheer for it, you are in fact celebrating the first amendment, in which we are guaranteed to receive our news in so many ways in our country.  We are lucky and blessed to have so many choices, as far-reaching as they may be.

It is either that plethora or media or no choice at all —

You decide.


Trusting Ourselves above our Leaders and the Media

seal     media
Here are four examples of our president on video.  (Some produce an accompanying clip, some don’t.  You should be able to click on each of them to get them to play.)

FAKE NEWS or REAL NEWS labels aside, I don’t need the big talking heads on TV to interpret these words for me. I don’t need them telling me if he meant them or not. I don’t need them to spin them for me, one way or another.

It is for us to decide on our own whether or not these are words unbecoming the office of president. Our country has thrived on individualism, on being able to think for ourselves, on making our own decisions that run the gamut from deciding what socks to wear to who we are going to vote for.

Whether the spin comes from the White House or the Left or the Right, or from a friend on Facebook, or in a tweeted message from your great aunt from Illinois, make up your own mind.

It is time to give less energy to those outside forces (our leaders and/or the media themselves) and time to increase the value of our own thoughts in our hearts and minds.

The last word does not belong to the president or the media. It belongs to us. Start acting like it.


(Post Script – I can also find clips of “I am not a crook” and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”, which I also found to be unbecoming of the office of the president. It is just that these are in the present, these are here and now, and unfortunately so numerous. Therefore, they are the more relevant to me at this time.)


He sits and writes.

He is comfortably sitting at his computer. His back senses the wooden bars of his chair settling against his spine and ribs, giving him just the slightest hint of a relaxed pose. His top of his right foot rests on a crossbar under the chair. His left foot bends at the ball, heel up, toes flexed comfortably. The outside of both legs lean against the inside of the chair legs. His left arm hangs on the left side of his laptop, his right arm on the black wooden desk. Fingers are ready over that good old ‘home row’ that he learned back in his tenth grade typing class. Occasionally, his right hand glides over to use the mouse, pointing the cursor to a new spot or to scroll up or down the page to review his words. He’ll get up later with no discomfort from his posture.

He takes in the view outside the walkout basement window. Clouds, late evening, breezy. It is dark enough that the trees appear mostly in silhouette. The clothesline, motionless despite the breeze, carries a few clothespins. Originally, they were blond and clean in their hardware store packaging. But now, darkened and weathered by the sun and rain, they cast an aged look. The fluorescent light in the ceiling above and behind him allows his peripheral vision to detect the Ikea floor lamp, a wooden end table, a scattered pile of papers on his desk, and blue bed sheets that serve as curtains for the basement window in front of him.

There were no scents to be detected, not even in what could be a musty basement. After a long week of the house being closed up and the air conditioning combating the 90-degree heat and matching humidity of the recent week, all the doors and windows are open, allowing any stuffy, artificial odors to migrate outside, replaced by refreshing air. Even evidence of a litter box in the laundry room is absent.

The television is on upstairs. He hears the bass of the voices and can’t make out what they’re saying. Just as well, he surmises; it’s a forgettable sit com. The only other sounds, barely detectable, are the gentle hum from those institutional fluorescent lights that he installed a couple of decades ago when they moved into the place, and that gentle white noise inside his ears that comes from too much caffeine for the day.

A slight coffee taste loiters in his mouth after his routine decaf cup he has every night after supper. He already anticipates a bedtime snack; a smooth bowl of vanilla ice cream drizzled with Hershey’s chocolate sauce, or some fresh cherries that his wife bought today. Perhaps both.

Don’t tell him there’s nothing to write about.

Shadows of Doubt and History

trump putin

 Harry Truman, who made one of the most difficult decisions to use a nuclear bomb in an attempt to end World War II after having replaced a four-term president and re-elected to office.

Dwight Eisenhower, who led our military forces in Europe during World War II, built the interstate highway system, and warned us of the military-industrial complex and served two terms as president.

John Kennedy, who stood toe to toe with Russia over missiles in Cuba and was assassinated in office.

Lyndon Johnson, who spent years as a elected member of the Federal government and brought about civil rights laws, re-elected and chose not to run again.

Richard Nixon, another man who served as vice president and held other elected positions and opened China. Elected twice and resigned his office.

Gerald Ford, who served his country as an elected person for many years in congress and tried to help the country heal after a difficult situation.

Jimmy Carter, who graduated from West Point and helped design nuclear submarines and held elected offices at the state and national level.

Ronald Reagan, who rose from sports announcer to state governor to the presidency, who is known for this statement, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

George H. W. Bush, who served as ambassador and vice president before his presidency.

Bill Clinton, a Rhodes Scholar, who rose through the ranks of state offices to be elected twice as president.

George W. Bush, state governor, professional sports franchise owner and two term president.

Barack Obama, rising through state and national levels of politics to lead our country.

Look at all these men. Add to this list the huge numbers of men and women who have been studious and committed to policy and decision making in our country for the government as members of elected posts or served the FBI, the CIA, and the military. They have all contributed to a history of our country and helped establish responsible, decent government, complete with successes and failures. Nonetheless, our country has stood and has been revered for that history.

We are told now by President Donald Trump that all their work, all their advice, all the history they have with foreign policy, is just so much bunk. We are told beyond a shadow of doubt that their work is null and void as far as any investigation they’ve done. Beyond a SHADOW OF DOUBT.

We need to claim the legacy of our history. We need to honor the work of all these people, and of all our citizens, who have acted with good hearts towards such history.

I have run out of shadows. Enough.

President Trump; A Question about the Benefit of Words

turmp in montana

Last night in Montana, President Trump was holding a rally to support the candidacy of Matt Rosendale for senator from that state.
In his remarks, President Trump offered the following:
. . . that he was the first president to win the state of Wisconsin since 1952.
. . . that he understood what “Make America Great Again” meant, but didn’t understand what “1000 points of light” was.
. . . referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas”.

To expand:
. . . WINNING WISCONSIN. President Trump has touted this point many times, especially in the last handful of rallies.
Thought: The double trouble is this: Reagan won Wisconsin in 1984, when he won 49 of 50 states, and Nixon won Wisconsin in 1972 against George McGovern. Historical numbers, easy to check, easy to double check. Why does President Trump continue to use these numbers? How does he benefit by quoting incorrect information? How?

. . . “1000 POINTS OF LIGHT” is an allusion to President George Bush’s campaign back in 1988. In that phrase, George Bush was praising the sense of duty and volunteerism that the citizens of the United States were renowned for. President Trump said he didn’t know what that meant, and that he understood what “Make America Great Again” meant.

Thought: What are the benefits to the senatorial campaign of Montana of 2018 to bring up a catch phrase of 30 years ago? Not only that, what is the benefit to run down the efforts of a past president of the same political party?

. . . “POCAHONTAS” is a nickname given to Senator Elizabeth Warren during the debates of the last presidential campaign. Last night, President Trump brought up the nickname again while talking about running for president in 2020, supposedly against Elizabeth Warren.

Thought: Again, what does Elizabeth Warren have to do with the Montana senatorial campaign? How does that benefit the people of Montana to hear about that?

All three points find me asking the same question: Where are the benefits? How is it constructive? Our president does this time and time again: last night was just another instance in which the questions “Where are the benefits?” can apply to one of his speeches.

Someone please, answer that question for me. What are the benefits of such speeches? The president, time and time again, insults people, mocks them, uses numbers based on little information – the list of such things started well before the election. I prefer to keep these blog entries short, so I won’t give further examples right now.

Someone please, answer. What are the benefits of such words?

Is it Time to Become a Militant Moderate?

bell curve

Oxymoronic phrase, I know. They say a good headline gets attention: that’s why I chose it.

Being a moderate has risen (or fallen, depending on your view) to being a sign of weakness, of spinelessness, of complacency. With the recognition that this is just my opinion, I say NO to that. Here are two reasons why. (at least two …there are probably more, but for the sake of brevity, let’s move on.)

First, in the linear spectrum of political thought, the Moderates keep the extremes separated. Can you imagine there were no Moderates in the middle, if the extremes were all that existed? They would be right up against each other, giving rise to that ever-popular phrase of the Cold War Era … MUTUAL DESTRUCTION. Moderates shield the two extremes from each other. That may sound like I think Moderates are passive, like a sheet of insulation, but again, I say NO.

Consider your standard statistical bell curve. There are more in the middle than on either side of the curve. Much more. That’s quite a chunk of insulation between the extremes. Moderates, beware – this is where you’re going to get scolded later.

Secondly, the Moderates keep the two extremes from spinning off even further in their direction. With the mindset of the Moderates, the two extremes are forced to temper themselves, therefore keeping them within a semblance of control. If either of the two extremes were to ignore the Moderates, then I suspect the extreme faction paying attention to the Moderates would be the victor. The moderates do not like being ignored. Again, it sounds rather passive on the part of the Moderates, doesn’t it? I’ll say it again. NO.

Perhaps this is why Moderates are indeed NOT passive. Moderates serve as referees between the extremes on that political spectrum. In a decent athletic event, referees should hardly be noticed, but yet they blow the whistle at the appropriate times. They make sure the game is played “by the book”, whatever that book may be. They start the game. They stop play. They call time out. They get the game to resume. They are also accepted in their role as the rules enforcer by the teams on the field. Referees see to it that the event is fairly engaged, all the way to the last moment. The refs even declare the winner. In such an affair, the outcome is known, both sides acquiesce, and the referees aren’t even remembered.

But when a brawl breaks out, the referees are the ones who sort things out and make sure the offending parties are sent to the penalty box, kicked out of the game, banned for life, whatever. Do you want to the be referee in a battle between two boxers? When there’s a clinch, the ref is right in the middle, physically getting in between the combatants to quell the clinch . . .and maybe even sending one or both to a neutral corner. Do you think that’s at all passive? Do you want that job? This is at least part of the role of the Moderates in the political world – referee. (The other parts? That’s another blog in itself.)

Am I saying that presently the two extremes are brawling, out of control, not playing by the rules? You bet I do. The name calling, the insults – its all there. Sometimes it even becomes nothing more than a shouting match, where both are yelling and none are listening. There is little benefit to such engagement, and its time you understand that.

But here’s my other assertion. Too many Moderates sit on their whistles and let the battles go unchecked. And yes, I often include myself in this failing. I call upon the Moderates to get up on the issues, to get involved, to blow your whistles when needed. Moderacy should not equal complacency. Remember that bell curve from earlier? Moderates outnumber the extremes, and therefore should be making a larger difference. You know what? You’re not doing your job. Be an ACTIVE moderate. Do your job as the referee. Moderate the debate. Engage in discussion. If not, expect the nonsense we’re experiencing now to continue endlessly, maybe to that conclusion of Mutual Destruction.

I personally can’t have that. How about you?