Searching for Peace (piece by piece)


Standing at the brink of a thousand foot cliff makes you think.  The gulls sailing in the air probably don’t have the same thoughts a human has with all that distance under them. They can stop the mad plunge, turn it into a magnificent swoop and carry off a delicious wiggling fish. For them, the sky is a place to relax and be a bird or something. Anything they want.

A thousand feet.

It provokes thought. Weird thoughts, like, what would it be like to jump or just relax like a gull and fall forward into all that roiling air and close my eyes and feel weightless and free if only for few moments. I wonder how many people, if the knew that had just minutes to live and they were standing at the edge of a cliff, would fall into all that emptiness. Smiling.

Or making their last selfie.

A thousand feet.

The soap had a point…we can make things real by accepting them as real. Thousand foot thought.

People jump out of perfectly safe airplanes…wearing parachutes of course. And that’s another thousand foot thought…accepting that the parachutes will open. Accepting that they were packed right, that they have no defects. Some people would call this trust. I’d say it’s more like accepting their fate, one way or the other.

I read about a man who jumped out of a perfectly safe airplane and his parachute didn’t open. But he landed safely. Don’t know all the details but I always wondered if he screamed all the way down…or just accepted that he was about to die and enjoyed the ride down.

Or maybe he just accepted that he would be OK. “Yep, on my way down. Wicked nice view. Gonna land safely. Takin’ a selfie. Lookin’ good. Oh look…a hundred foot long mattress. Everything’s gonna be OK.”

Everything we approach with enthusiasm starts with acceptance, the notion that things will turn out the way we expect them to turn out, the way we want them to turn out.

“Where you going with this, Biff?” said the fox.

“Not sure, fox,” I said. “Thanks for the interruption.”

“Anytime, Biff,” said the fox. “

Now, where was I? Oh yeah…acceptance. We accept so much, not because we want to or don’t want to, but because we need to accept things. We need to accept that the sun will rise no matter how many rainy days fill out lives. We need to accept that the tanning lotion we’re going to buy will be used. Or why would be buy it? Everything we do and everything we are depends on some degree of acceptance.

In one of his books on self-esteem, Nathaniel Brandon suggested that we stand in front of a mirror, naked, looking closely, and just accept ourselves. Without having to like or hate ourselves. Just accepting ourselves. All the good. All the bad. Just accepting.

What a non-judgmental thought. What a beautiful concept. The freedom from judgment. And once we refuse to judge ourselves, we can be free of judgment from others. And maybe even be free of judging others.

How can someone who can honestly accepts themselves…see themselves for all they are and just accept…believe that they are any better or any worse than anyone else?

“Hey, Biff,” said the fox. “Lookit me…standing in front of a mirror, naked, just accepting me without judgment. What a cutie am I.”

“Fox,” I said. “Please don’t smile. You have no idea how disturbing that is.”

“Judging me, Biff?” said the fox. “Maybe you should try this.”

So there I was, standing naked in front of a mirror (by a thousand foot cliff) in all the glory of my still too large belly (even after going from a 35 to a 31 waist and having to buy all new pants), the wrinkles and crooked teeth from too many fights and the scar on my jaw from too much Scotch (and a failed bout with gravity) and…well all of it me. Including the not so bad shoulders and blue eyes.

So I didn’t throw up.

“Hey, fox,” I said. “Lookit my cute little pug nose. And please stop smiling. Try grinning.”

The fox grinned.


(To be continued. A closer look at acceptance.)

“Maybe the world would be a more peaceful place if there were more mirrors in it,” said the fox.

“Let’s look at that,” I said.

“You know, Biff,” said the fox, “you really do have cute little pug nose.”

“Thanks, fox,” I said.

“And my grin?” said the fox.

“I think I’ll need a lot more time on the mirror for that.”


Searching for Peace (in a connected sort of way)


“So, Biff,” said the fox, “I’ve been doing some thinking about this whole connection and reality thing.”

“And what did you come up with, fox?” I said.

“Well…I think you might be wrong about the connection between me and someone on Skype not being as real an experience as when I’m with them physically.”

“How so, fox?” I said.

“OK…so I’m not breathing the same air or feeling the same temperature and I won’t go down the tubes with them if there’s an earthquake,” said the fox, “but I can still respond to their thoughts. They can tell me everything that’s on their mind…you know…reach out to me with their mind and express their feelings. They might not be as willing to do that when they’re physically with me.”

“So you’re saying that the electronic connection might be more real than the physical connection?” I said.

“Sometimes,” said the fox. “Like when people write letters to other people. I think sometimes people are more open and express themselves more clearly when they’re writing to someone than when they’re talking to them. Some people are more comfortable with written words than with spoken words.”“Guess I can go with you on that one, fox,” I said. “Writing gives you a chance to think about what you’re saying instead of just burping the words out of your mouth like I do.”

“You burp words, Biff?” said the fox.

“Feels like it sometimes, fox,” I said. “But how does a letter relate to Skyping? There’s no reflection…you’re talking, not writing.”

“But you’re not physically with the person,” said the fox, “like you said. What I’m saying is that sometimes the physical world can be less real than the worlds we create in the ways we communicate.”

“Not quite getting this, fox,” I said. “Are you sure you haven’t been hibernating?”

“Gonna ignore that remark, Biff,” said the fox. “Let’s visit a friend of mine.”

(Poof. As in transporting somewhere.)

I was in a room, I think…a home office, with the mandatory shelves (but with nothing on them), the mandatory swivel chair (with nobody sitting on it) and the mandatory desktop with monitor, keyboard and mouse…with a bar of soap lying between the mouse and the keyboard.

“What’s this?” I said. But the fox wasn’t there.“I’m a bar of soap, Biff, a bar of soap!” said the soap.“Bars of soap don’t talk,” I said. “ This is something I know.”

“Sometimes you have to just give into letting yourself know extraordinary things, Biff,” said the soap. “Or all you’ll ever know is the ordinary. And where would the magic be in that?”

“But you’re a bar of soap,” I said.

“No,” said the soap, and started jumping all over the keyboard and pushing the mouse around. It was kind of creepy. As the soap jumped and pushed, things appeared on the screen. A blog appeared on the screen. It looked familiar. In fact, I really recognized it. It was my blog. Silence Says I All (…but, on the other hand…). There was that big greenish yellow eye staring at me (not really an eye though…some kind of tube holder screwed into the side of a caboose that I took pictures of long ago).

The soap jumped around some more and my WordPress account appeared, open to the new post page. Words appeared like a frantic stampede of letters filling the text window. The cursor hit the Add Media button and went to the media folder where it opened a picture of me with my usual body, but a bar of soap sitting on my shoulders in place of my head.

“Very funny,” I said. “But that’s not me.”

“But it could be, Biff,” said the soap. “And nobody in the world would know it. All I have to do is press the Publish button.”

“So what are you saying, soap?” I said.

“Without the picture, everybody who reads what I just wrote and sees the picture would think it was you,” said the soap.

“I still don’t get it,” I said.

“It would be real to them, Biff,” said the soap. “Just as real as anything else in their lives. Even though it was written by a bar of soap and not you.”

“But it wouldn’t really be real,” I said. “It wasn’t written by me.”

“Doesn’t matter, Biff,” said the soap. “Some sociologist guy once said that if something is perceived to be real, then it will be real in its consequences. In other words, it becomes real because we accept it as real. That’s the beauty, Biff, we can make things…anything…real by accepting them as real.”

The soap jumped around some more on the keyboard and wrote: Biff’s a bar of soap. Biff’s a bar of soap!” Over and over. Filling the text window.

“But nobody’s going to accept that I’m a bar of soap,” I said.

“And that’s it, Biff,” said the soap. “Getting them to accept the extraordinary.”

“You mean…”  I tried to say.

“That peace is possible,” said the soap, “is an extraordinary thought.”

And the soap danced across the keyboard. I looked closer to see what it was writing when suddenly…


I was standing at the edge of a cliff with a thousand foot drop into the ocean with the sun rising over a great expanse of possibilities. Gulls circled in the sky.

“Nice view,” said the fox.

“It certainly is,” I said.

“Getting any closer in your search, Biff?” said the fox.

“I think so, fox,” I said. “Kinda like a jigsaw puzzle and I’m getting the pieces from all over the place.”

“Think you’ll be able to put them together, Biff?” said the fox.“That’s what the search is all about, fox,” I said.

(To be continued. Piece by piece.)

“Do you really burp your words, Biff,” said the fox.

“Only when I’m talking, fox.”

Searching for Peace (connectivity in the real world)


When I was a kid, I played weekend baseball in the schoolyard. Those were hot summer days, the kind that practically make you gulp down an orange popsicle before it melts in the heat. We were all dusty and dirty with summer and baseball and none of us had jeans that weren’t torn somewhere. We all wore the same black and white sneakers. When we were in our positions on the diamond, we watched each other.

“Who’s on first.”

“What’s Who up to on first?”

We watched each other’s movements, waiting for telltale signs that would give up the other kid’s next move. One mid-July day―so hot mirages hovered in the school parking lot and the sand in the baseball diamond was so dry that we trailed clouds of dust running from base to base―we were short on gloves and I was the catcher…without a glove. I forget the pitcher’s name, but his fastball screamed from the mound to the plate. A bit faster and it would have cracked the sound barrier and broken the school windows.

And I had no glove.

All it took was one pitch and it wasn’t the sound barrier cracking…it was my thumb. The sound of a bone breaking is sickening. Not just to the person with the broken bone, but to anyone close enough to hear that dull crack of calcium under flesh rearranging the physiognomy in an unnatural order. Some people throw up.

But not any of us. We were baseball players and none of us were going to chuck our cookies over something like a broken thumb. At least not in front of everyone. Long story short, saw a doctor who wrapped it up and said, “Someday you will meet a fox.”

Always wondered about that.

The thumb hurt like hell for days but it didn’t put me out of the game…I was the umpire. A very mean angry umpire with a painfully broken thumb. Who would never play baseball again.

“Where’s all this going, Biff?” said the fox. “You don’t even watch baseball anymore.”

“Hey, fox,” I said. “Somebody warned me about you 150 years ago.”

“Biff,” said the fox, “that can’t be…you’re only 105. So…what’s all the baseball memories got to do with your search for peace?”

“Everything has something to do with the search, fox,” I said. “But those summers are closer to the next part of the search.”

“How so, Biff?” said the fox.

“We were all real,” I said. “We could see each other, yell at each other, throw the ball to each other. We could break a bone, lose an eye, get a bump the size of an egg on our heads. But we didn’t care. We just wanted to be out there, pleasure or pain, and play baseball. And we were all connected physically and mentally by the game. Know what I mean, fox?”

“I can do that just by messaging people on FB, Biff,” said the fox.

“No, fox, you can’t,” I said. “It’s a different connection. If the person on the other end breaks a bone and they don’t mention it…you’ll never know about it. Your connection will be only what they want you to know. You won’t see or hear their pain…you’ll only read their words. ”

“OK then, Biff,” said the fox, “I’ll Skype them.”

“You won’t be able to give them a hug when they break the bone,” I said. “And that’s the problem with online connection, fox…it’s not full connection. It’s not a complete engagement with life. You don’t get the full story.”

“We might get that someday, Biff,” said the fox. “When they have, like, surround Skype complete with smellorama and pain and stuff.”

“But how will you know if they haven’t turned down the sound when they fart so that you won’t know they’ve farted? You can’t do that in real life. You’re stuck with what actually happens. And there’s honesty and certainty about that.”

“But…” the fox tried to say.

“And you won’t be smelling the same air,” I said, “feeling the same temperature, sharing the same danger if an earthquake suddenly swallows one of you up. Instead of losing your lives together, you’ll just lose the connection.”

“But the earthquake might happen on the other end, Biff,” said the fox. “I think I’m OK with that.”

“There might be free beer and pizza at the other end, fox,” I said. “Real life is all the good and all the bad. Shared. It’s real connection. And we’re losing it.”

“But we didn’t have peace even before computers and social media, Biff,” said the fox. “So what’s this got to do with the search?”

“Not sure yet, fox,” I said. “I think it tells us something about ourselves, something that’s always been in us but that’s manifesting itself through mediums it couldn’t use before. And now we can see it. I think it might be in the connection…or maybe the disconnection.”

“Worth a closer look, Biff?” said the fox.

“I think so, fox. Always good to look closer at things.”

(To be continued. In a connected sort of way.)

“So, fox,” I said, “you’re on Facebook?”

“Might be, Biff, might be.”

Searching for Peace (big minds)

Cent (Pictured above: A Canadian penny. They don’t make them anymore. Somebody in government decided they weren’t of any use. Of course. A friend of mine told me that if you have one that sticks to a magnet, it’s worth a lot of money. I have hundreds of these in a big plastic container. Someday I’m going to buy a magnet and maybe glean enough magnetic copper to buy that six pack of beer I’ve always wanted. Or just eat the fucking pennies. Copper’s supposed to be good for something in the body. Read that on the internet.)

“So you think you’re going to find a big mind out there, do you?” said the fox

“Don’t know,” I said. “But I’m sure as hell going to try.”

“Where you gonna start, Biff,” said the fox.

“Thinking about it, fox.” I said. “

(Pause while Biff thinks. And thinks. And thinks. Until he remembers. Thinking hurts. Like hell. So he stops thinking and returns to his natural state. Mindlessness.)

“Hey, fox,” I said. “I know a guy who stands around on the street and offers to recite a poem for a penny to people walking by.”

“Must have a hard time making a living now that they don’t have pennies here anymore,” said the fox.

“He still says ‘Poem for a penny’ only now he says ‘Poem or a joke or a penny.’ He’s branching out,” I said. “I think people just give him whatever they give when they give to someone who’s livelihood depended on pennies.”

So there I was on Queen Street, the poem for a penny guy’s happy reading grounds, but he wasn’t there (timing’s always been my downfall), so I told the fox, “Pretend to be the poem for a penny guy.”

“Aw, c’mon, Biff, I’ve never even met the guy,” said the fox. But I knew he was secretly smiling.

“Just pretend you’re dressed in tattered clothing, with a mangy beard, wearing an impossible toque, mittens that look like something returned to the Salvation Army a thousand times, a backpack with all your worldly belongings splitting the seams and you have a mind that the entire world has stepped on all your life,” I said.

“Just the kind of person I’ve always wanted to be, Biff,” said the fox, still smiling secretly.

“OK, you stand by the curb and I’ll walk by and you say, ‘Poem or a joke for a penny’ and I’ll take out my gun and shoot you dead,” I said. And savored the look of horror on the fox’s face. “Just joking, fox. I don’t have a gun. At least, not today. Maybe tomorrow.”

The fox caught on quickly and laughed. I hope, someday, I’ll be able to erase that image out of my head.

So I walked down the street a bit, turned around and walked toward the fox who didn’t look anything like a fox. He was dressed in tattered clothing, had a mangy beard, wore an impossible toque and mittens that looked like something returned to the Salvation Army a thousand times, had a backpack with all his worldly belongings splitting the seams and looked like he had a mind the entire world had stepped on all his life. As I walked by, he said, “Poem or a joke for a penny.” And some other stuff that I couldn’t make out…just like the real penny poem guy. He even shuffled around as he talked and looked at me and the sidewalk and the road and the street lights and everything in the world all at the same time. Just like the real penny poem guy.

“OK,” I said, and handed him a cheque for two million dollars. (MS Word thinks I spelled ‘cheque” wrong. Fuck you, MS Word…it’s cheque. Woah…three wrong spellings in a row. I’m on a bad boy spelling high.) “I’ll take the poem.”

So the poem (or joke) for a penny guy read a poem. Not sure what he said. Not sure what the title was. Not sure what the poem was about…something like life in the modern world and how we ignore the little things that matter. But I was too mesmerized by his delivery to focus on the words. I watched him express the words with his body and face…the physical conviction of every word he said. This was a truly big mind, a mind so big that it was integrated with every cell in his body.

And he was reading poems (or jokes) for a penny. On the street.

He reached his hand toward me and snapped his fingers. I was in Wilser’s (my favorite bar) sitting at the counter with the fox, drinking Pina Coladas imported directly from Cuba.

“Find a big mind, Biff?” said the fox.

“Yeah, I did, fox,” I said. “And I realized something.”

“What’s that, Biff?” said the fox.

“Those minds are out there, everywhere…right under our noses,” I said. “Peace isn’t in a council or a treaty or meeting of so-called world leaders…it’s in the mass. In the street poets (or jokesters) and the people who scoop up a handful of soil with their heads full of big thoughts about what they’re holding in their hand…the ones who’re still connected.”

“Connected to what, Biff?” said the fox.

“Just…connected,” I said. “To wherever, whoever and whatever they are.”

“Getting closer to finding peace, Biff?” said the fox.

“Yeah, fox,” I said. “Getting closer.”

(To be continued. In a big mind sort of way.)

“Kind of enjoyed that, Biff,” said the fox.

“I know. Saw the smile,” I said.

“Want me to smile again, Biff?” said the fox.

“No, fox. I don’t have enough wine left for that,” I said.

“It’s a Pina Colada, Biff,” said the fox.

“Right. If you say so.”

Snow Shoeing with a Camera (and a hangover)

And I mean a hangover. My head was the floor of the busiest airport in the world during tourist season, a train pulling into the busiest station in the world during rush hour. The Titanic sinking…twice. But this was the first day I had to get out into our freshly fallen white stuff and get some images of all that beauty you don’t find in places where they plop down malls and traffic signs.

Took a while to get the snow shoes on. Not used to things with cantilevers on my feet. Not used to having to bend down when my personal sense of direction is still trying to scrape itself off the floor of the busiest airport in the world. Fucking gravity.

But I finally got them on without doing facedown angels in the snow and headed into the woods.

Had to cross an open field that would be a marsh area in every season but winter. Winter-hater that I used to be, now converted to snow and scentless air, I had to admit, there’s something mesmerizing about large patches of snow framed by hibernating plant life. Patterns become more pronounced. Contrasts flare up all around you. All the beauty is stripped down to structure…the essence of the beauty we see in summer.





Found some deer tracks leading into the woods and followed them. Learned something here: when venturing into the woods when the plants have no cushioning leaves…where sunglasses. This was an ouch lesson.

Followed the tracks into the woods and every step was magic unleashed. How could I have gotten so far away from all this beauty that I loved as a kid?

Oh…right…six years in Winnipeg.

Here’s what I saw in the woods:






Best of all…this giant spider web:


How terrifyingly big was that spider? Fortunately, spiders, unlike foxes, hibernate. At this point, I stopped and did the poetry thing. I took a poem out of my pocket, one that I wrote in college 150 years ago…my way of saying thanks for all the beauty to the woods, even though it wasn’t the most beautiful of poems, but the woods appreciate being read to.

“That’s right,” said the woods. “We like poetry. Let’s hear what you wrote 150 years ago.”

So I read:


so weak is the spell of suggestion
between these carefully projected walls


with just enough trees and shrubbery
to ward off the slightest amusing danger
the twig snaps from dryness only

there’s no comfort in the tungsten and sodium glow
of too many windows and too many street lights
illuminating this corridor just enough
to show its bare affinity with the stars

and if I were to suddenly scream
would they rush out here and feel
the fluctuations of whatever dark is left
the tense grip of breath
the bristle of fur
as legions of magic bubbles shake in the shadows
or would they just stare from their windows
to the asphalt and concrete girdle
choking the guts out of night

“Not much of an optimist, are you, Biff?” said the woods.

“I’m learning,” I said.

On the way back, I got this image:


Lesson learned: Take a happy happy joy joy poem into the woods. And return the beauty.

Searching for Peace (with my camera)

“That was a pretty wild time in India, Biff,” said the fox. “And you seemed a little confused.”

“There was a time when I wasn’t confused, fox,” I said. “And then I was born.”

“Not gonna get all melodramatic on me again, are you, Biff?” said the fox.

“Hey, fox,” I said. “I don’t know who, or what, let you in here but this is my blog and I’ll write whatever I want.”

“But you always tell your students to get someone to look at their work before they send it off…to get that OBJECTIVE perspective before a heartless editor like J sees it,” said the fox.

“This is my blog, fox,” I said. “I’M the editor.”

“Ooookay, Biff. So what’re you going do with that camera you’re holding?” said the fox.

“Take some pictures, fox,” I said.

I squeezed the cool metal and plastic body of my 5D2 and gave into the will of the camera to take me anywhere, anytime, anyplace in my search for peace. I knew that if I left this up to the camera it would think, Cool. Biff’s going to shoot Auto for a change and trust me to get the settings right.

No bloody way.

I was standing in my hovel at the edge of the world about to break my camera’s heart, but I wasn’t telling the camera that yet. I closed my eyes and a moment later opened them with my head inside the mouth of the biggest animal I’d seen in my entire visit on this planet. It was a tiger and it’s mouth was big enough to fit both my head and camera inside and still have plenty of room for condiments.

“Gonna fiddle with the settings,Biff?” said my camera. “Or just leave it on Auto?”

Guess I’ll settle for composition, I thought. I took the shot. On Auto. Don’t know how it got on that setting. Suspect the camera had something to do with that. And I closed my eyes.

Shithead camera.

I opened my eyes and I was floating a few feet above a window with a huge beautiful spider web in one corner.

“Get the shot, Biff?” said the camera.

“Dunno,” I said. “I was just about to have my head bitten off by a tiger. Not much time to think.”

“Which is you at your best, Biff,” said the camera.

“I’d think about that, camera,” I said, “but I guess that would be me at my worst.”

“Ceeegar for the bald guy,” said the fox.

“I recognize this place,” I said. “This happened years ago.”

“Just watch,” said the camera.

So I watched.

And watched.

And watched.

“Still watching?” said the camera.

“Yeah…not much happening,” I said.

“Look,” said the camera.

A wasp, one of those ones with a waist every man and woman wants, flew right into the center of the web and was totally stuck there. And it was a big wasp. The kind you don’t want to see coming out of your beer can when you’re camping and it just crawls out all pissed off and drunk. And you don’t dare move because you know that’s just going to piss it off even more. So you try to be invisible and think happy thoughts like, nice wasp, beautiful wasp, happy little animal of my sweetest dreams…please don’t sting me. Would you like another beer? I have more. I hope.

Big. Motherfucking. Wasp.

Stuck in the web. Flailing and making lots of motion. Too much motion. Be still wasp. Do you have any idea where you are? What’s waiting for you?

Too late. The biggest meanest big brown spider in the world shot out of the side of the web and zeroed in on the wasp with hungry fangs dripping venom. It was on that wasp like a mule kicking a piñata.

But wait.

Something unexpected happened. Suddenly the wasp was stinging the hell out of the spider and it broke out of the web and flew off with the spider.

“See that, Biff?” said the camera.

“Yeah, I remember that. Watched it through the window a few years ago,” I said.

A few days later, a new spider had taken over the web. Not as big as the last one, but big. And the wasp returned, got stuck in the web, the spider came down like a mule kicking and the wasp flew off with it. Somehow, it had learned how to get its next meal by pretending to be the meal. It acted out a scenario that kept itself fed.

“So, Biff,” said the camera. “You saw this. Now, what does it tell you?”

“Spiders are dumber than wasps?” I said.

“Think, Biff,” said the camera.

“Naw…think I’ll just feel this one,” I said. “If that animal with that tiny mind can learn, then we with out big minds can learn.”

And I was back in my hovel with my camera, now silent in my hands and the fox said, “Getting any closer in your search, Biff?”

“Big minds, fox,” I said. “We need big minds. Each of us.”

“Any hope of that, Biff?” said the fox.

“Let’s look into that,” I said. “Let’s just keep looking into that until we find a way into it.”

(To be continued. Until we find a way.)

“Shit,” I said. “I don’t have a picture of a spider web.”

“Yeah, you do,” said the fox. “The one you took under the bridge. You gave Dwight a print of it for his birthday. Find it.”

“OK,” I said. “Somewhere in the half million images I have, I’ll find it. Actually, I think I have that one on my Facebook. I’ll look.”

“Hurry, Biff, you’re running out of wine,” said the fox.

“Got it! A little over sharpened and over cropped, but it’ll do.”

HDR stuff

How Abourt Some Desktop Art?

Got a desktop? Got Paint or another graphics program? (You can download Paint.NET. Great program and it’s free.)  Yes? Good. Time for some desktop art. It’s easy. Just open a program of some sort and then open an image of some sort on your some sort of desktop background and do a print screen Copy the print into your graphics program (Did I mention the Paint.NET is free?) and crop it. Voila! Desktop art. And here’s the world’s first desktop art

Desktop Art

The background is a picture of water I took in Veradero. The program contains a page from one of my blogs. The picture is a piece I did as part of an Emerge Artist’s Collective showing last year at the McCain Gallery in Florenceville.

Now you try it. Show as much desktop as you want. Use as many programs and images as you want. Any arrangement, color combination, composition…it’s all yours.