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Heading into 2013, let's back away from that cliff

| Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

I am in a business in which we're required to meet deadlines.

I have never missed one – guess the name “deadline” is a bit intimidating.

The rush is not as severe as it was when we put out all the news pages from about 7 to 10 in the morning.

But the rush can creep up on you.

You might be thinking everything is going together well and then bam and the rush is on!

The irony in all of this is that I personally hate to rush.

We need to learn from nature, but somehow we never do.

I called this column “Meandering” because it expresses a philosophy to which I adhere, or try to do so.

The world doesn't like it. (Does that sound paranoid?)

People like to rush forward, operate in crisis mode – fiscal is not the only cliff we force ourselves to live on.

In the end of the movie “The Field,” the character played by Richard Harris is seen chasing a large flock of sheep toward a high cliff. We are those sheep, willing to follow our fellow sheep to the nearest cliff as whatever prodding, usually less obvious than a crazy farmer.

Part of that is being American, in the sense that we have a right to challenge everything. But part of the cliff hanging has do with our culture's insistence that “better: is just around the corner. If we push ourselves to the edge, we will breath the lofty area of the best – as long as we don't fall off.

Recently a woman I know introduced me to someone else by saying I “write a column in the paper about growing older.”

She is younger.

My first thought – though I did not articulate it – was that growing older is only a part of what I write about. And then I thought how true the description is because I wrote about my life and growing older is a part of everyone's life.

So, stepping away from deadlines and cliff-dwelling, I offer this alternative.

Pay attention!

Zen Buddhists often say that even after what they call enlightenment, one must still chop wood and carry water.

But – to add to that – I think that the trick is to pay attention to such mundane things as chopping wood and carrying water, as well as washing the clothes, cleaning the car, cutting the grass, talking to co-workers and family. Well, you get it, pay attention to just about everything and realize, “Hey, this IS living and it is not so bad.”.

Think about it and I think you will agree that some of your best memories come from those times when you were absolutely paying attention.

One time driving down I-79 from Erie with my sister in the car, we saw a yellow roadside sign that said, simply “Bump Ahead.” I knew we had both looked at it.

A short distance on down the road, I said “Tree ahead.” And then “Car Ahead.” Then, “Bird Ahead.”

And we both starting laughing hysterically at the absurdity of the state putting up a sign to tell us there was a bump ahead, as indeed they were all over the place.

The funny situation, I think, came from paying attention. There is a saying that the “devil is in the detail.” Well it seems that the angelic is more likely in paying attention to the details in life.

For instance, this column – decidedly not angelic – was suggested to me by a little bird.


I was sitting on the coach on a recent snowy afternoon, reading. I happened to look up to see a bright red cardinal on a tree limb outside the window probably waiting his turn at the feeder.

I thought: This is it. This is what is important. More than the book I was reading, than what was on TV, than the anxiety I felt about something at work.

As we move our way through 2013, let's pay attention, let's make those tiny memories, and let's stay away from those cliffs unless it is just to appreciate the scenery.

Meandering appears Fridays. To share your thoughts on this column (or on most anything) with News Editor Mike O'Hare, write to the Leader Times, P.O. Box 978, Kittanning, PA 16201 or via e-mail to

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