Seeing All The Sides

When I was 12 a friend plucked a white hair from my head and showed me it; holding it up to the light. I laughed and laughed. This was an unexpected quirk in my day. Eclectic. Funny. 

When I was in my twenties I saw colonies of white hairs. This time I had a different point of view. I was scared. I wanted to freeze time. I was anxious about this natural occurrence. I was kind of outraged too. 

I dye my roots every three weeks now. I’m not vain. Or scared. Or even anxious about it when the roots come in. I’m not a bit outraged either. 

Instead I see this in a different light. Time has allowed for this. Linda S. Godfrey (political cartoonist and researcher) states that 

“It’s hard to be outraged by everything. I can usually see both sides of the issues.”

I can relate to that. I wonder, is perceiving this way 

a downfall?

Or an asset?

 It makes me diplomatic. In any case, she found it hard to do political cartoons because it was difficult to come down in an opinionated way on one distinct side of an issue. Linda illustrates a principle that I too, share. I prefer to try and see all sides of a situation. It’s just hair. 

There are folks who show affection through teasing. I’ve never had a side of me like that. There are people who show affection through zippy one-liners i.e. making jokes. Though in theory, I can see why people use these artifices (a huge toothy ear to ear smile), to me; it is sort of like using the “affection through one-liners” or huge smile as if one is waving a metaphoric artificial limb in the air. It doesn’t feel real; but I can understand “where they’re coming from…” 

I have observed that this use of surface talk, fluff, meaningless jibes—

it does seem to achieve the sought after affection.

Take Giada of the Food Network for example (sorry Giada) but although you seem amiable, that smile is like laser beams. And not the good kind. Of course to see her side of it—I understand she has to keep up a ‘brand’ look, and seem accessible but give me “resting bitch face” any day and that’ll be someone I probably will ‘click’ with…

Understanding why someone does what they do (what makes them tick) isn’t the same to me as being able to tolerate it. I shudder. Or to feel that it seems real. Some people I know, like my father and certain friends who come to mind…are naturally funny.

My mother was this type of funny lady who smiled with her whole self in silent laughs that watered her eyes and shook her whole body. She was amiable but she was real too. She also literally did tick. 

In the late 70s when she was still in her 30s, she underwent a heart valve replacement at Yale New Haven Hospital. Before the operation, the surgeon showed my father and I (I was about 11 or 12) the valve. This is what it looked like:


The Starr-Edwards artificial heart valve is a cloth ring with a ball enclosed in a “cage.” When the heart valve contracts, the ball is pushed to the top of the cage. I think of it as a badminton birdie of sorts with a pinball inside. When the heart relaxes, the ball pops back, covering the valve, which prevents leakage. “The blood acts as a perfect lubricant of this object going up and down,” said Dr. Albert Starr, cardiologist and co-inventor of the device. ( see

So when that ball moved, she ticked. It sometimes made her self conscious but here’s my side of the situation:

It was a soothing sound. Before clocks became digital, and indeed before people took to checking the time of day on I-Phones, one could hear the tick of a wall clock. One could hear their watch ticking the seconds away. My mother carried that sound around with her all the days of her life after the operation. She found it bothersome; even embarrassing. I could understand that, but I found it soothing. 

My father too, is very real. Like the aforementioned political cartoonist, I said I can usually see both sides of issues.

At face value people see a version of my father. My father comes on strong. His personality is sometimes perceived as brash, loud or outgoing. But know him and you feel the goodness, the kindness and humanity. One day I watched him put on his shoes and couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

He was still wearing the gel sole inserts I’d bought him years before! From a Dollar Store. 

I’d wanted to give him a collection of useful items you see; which were very inexpensive, that I wrapped and put in a stocking for him along with other gifts. It had been the first year he’d be doing Christmas without my mother. I wanted him to spend some time unwrapping stuff. 

There I was years later, witnessing that he’d worn this gift in his shoes for years.. even though they were meant to be worn and discarded after a few months. It was a loyalty thing, this quality he has for appreciation. I had given them to him and so they meant something. He would wear them until they fell apart!

It was none of my business but I told him recently (he’s in his 80s) that he wears the same shirt every time I see him. Even in hot mths. 

“Your mother gave me this shirt,” he said. And then I didn’t see the stains from car grease. I didn’t see the wear holes anymore. I saw his side. 

Speaking of gifts, It was the same situation the year I’d given my parents the infamous bird call clock…

Perhaps you are familiar with this “as seen on TV” clock:


“TIME FLIES WITH THE SINGING BIRD CLOCK! Wall clock with quartz accurate movement marks each hour with 12 different North American bird songs. Light sensor deactivates sounds when room is dark. Packaging includes detailed descriptions of birds’ habits and habitats. Uses 3 AA batteries (not incl.). 10-7/8″ diam.” Available @ Harriet Carter

They kept that clock long after its prime! Even with fresh batteries (which they replaced often over the years) the clock started wearing down. 

When the clock struck owl, it longer resounded with an authentic Audubon “Hooo” sound. The Hoo sounded more like: Aaahhhhh

When the clock struck any bird at all, the clock would resound in a sort of draggy sound….not in pretty melodic bird calls. It would sort of moan

Ghostly-drawn-out-slowed-down bird calls are just a little eerie. The worn shirt comes to mind here. Still, they kept the clock in a highly visible place on the paneled wall above the kitchen table. They endured these audible glitches (moans and eerie drawn out eeeeeaaaaahhh’s) every hour on the hour, day in and out, for years (I think the clock is still up but has ceased making sounds at all as of this writing). 

And why did they endure this? Because I had given it to them and so it meant something.

And I ask you

Does an elderly man not see beauty in his bride of fifty years?

Does a sentimental adult not see beauty in a well worn scrap of baby blanket?

Who among us does not yearn to be loved like a well worn thing? (I think I read that in an Alice Sebold book. I’m reading “Lucky.”)

I can explain that Sebold line-only so much. You kind of have to feel what is meant by it.  Sometimes I love the obscure, a bolt, a shard of mica. 

My friend (with me, pictured below, gave me mica recently. ) thanks Clay!



You can approach a toddler and explain to them that it is time they learn to walk. You can explain in their terms, the best that you can, the mechanics of walking, the way that they have to lift one leg and then the other. But none of that talk will teach the child to walk. They have just got to try. They’ve got to get up, try their legs for themselves, stumble and fall a lot until they do it by immersing themselves physically in the process. 

Learning not to have rigid black and white thinking, to at least consider all the sides… Is sort of like that process. 

It was ridiculous on the one hand, to keep the shoe inserts and the wacky clock for so long. Even to treasure them dutifully past the timeframe that these items were useful. But it was by keeping them that my parents showed me that even small acts of giving are important.

And so I learn things on my own, by stumbling and falling. I appreciate things too, no matter how small because how I interpret the thing is what really matters. If I’m nauseous and sore, quite feeling sorry for myself, there’s a chair outside that I appreciate. I can get fresh air.  In the scheme of things it’s just a WalMart chair.

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It’s not even especially comfortable. But it’s near the garden of vegetables on the porch with their curly feelers that climb the poles; and my chair is near the Marigolds-in-a-wheelbarrow too:

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This is some of the harvest from the deck garden which were turned into salsa:

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Also there are the clouds… To study. Did you know that a new type of cloud has been “discovered?” Undulatas Asperatus, it is called. I’ve been looking to see if I can spot them. 


“The cloud looks a little like the surface of the sea on a choppy day, which is why it is called asperatus from the Latin verb ‘aspero’, meaning to make rough. The term was used by Roman poets to describe the sea as it was roughened by the cold north wind.” The “angry rolling cloud” is the first new cloud to be discovered in 60 years:

FileBeautiful-clouds-640x480 undulusasperatus4 st_clouds

Me thinks Van Gogh saw these!

So yeah, enjoying a cat snuggle, a meandering cloud, the whiff of a growing and not yet harvested pepper..

. I understand these are minute things, but they are big too. 

What has stirred these thoughts in me of perceiving, and rooting out what is real? For one thing—-These images by photographer Niki Feijen… 

“From the pile of books in the bedside cabinet to the neatly folded duvet, this bedroom looks almost ready for its owner to turn in for the night. Aside, that is, from the peeling walls, patches of damp, and the thick layer of filth shrouding everything in the room. The eerie photograph is part of a series by Dutch photographer Niki Feijen, who has captured furniture, ornaments and clothes frozen in time in homes where the owners have long since departed.”

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Enlarge these photos. Really SEE them. Memories are like these rooms, aren’t they? But in the memories the mold is not there. 

Enlarging these photos is a wabi sabi experience. Seeing these details, one conjures a love of the “gone before” and the “well worn.”

By the way, I put my son’s face into some old portraits from ‘the masters’ with my computer art program, because

I can.

And because

it’s fun.


Have a good week!

Wabi sabi: 

Wabi-sabi (侘寂 ?) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

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