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And now, dear friends, it's time to meander to a different drummer

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By Michael O'Hare
Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 4:42 a.m.

Every meandering stream reaches the ocean. It's the way of life.

For me, today, this column disappears into that larger body of figurative water as I am retiring from my job as news editor of the Leader Times.

I hope my life continues to meander along for a decent while before I, too, am part of that ocean beyond.

We all come to this point eventually, having started our lives in our unique rills, traveling downhill until we become part of the larger community flowing together.

This column has been about the stream, each of us moving, engaging, departing — and I am deeply appreciative of the many folks who have joined me in the trip, some commenting via email or by phone or just simply a comment as I walked through the doors of our church to let me know they have enjoyed something.

And that was, really, the whole point of Meandering, to think or, more so, to contemplate, to recall to mind on the part of the readers their own memories or thoughts about some aspect or another of life.

Today, I will leave you with just two observations I have made in four decades of newspaper reporting and editing and you may consider them, as you will:

• People are good, it is sometimes our systems that confound us. By that, I simply mean that when we see people as only members of a system — government, political parties, a certain municipality or school community, church or section of town — we overlook the goodness in favor of some lumpy, messy category. Newspaper people (the dreaded “media,” in general), for instance, aren't bad folks, just part of a system which, like any system, takes its twists and turns toward the lightness and, sometimes, the darkness.

• Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed, but can be lived in full only if we learn to be consummate observers — not namers or classifiers — but simple observers. I have always hoped the observations I made in this weekly outing would spur those who read it to have their own close encounters of the close-up kind. We have talked about loves of our lives, memories of days gone by, appreciations of the seasons, parents, children and grandchildren, having a dog, holidays, being Irish (in my case). This is not the kind of stuff that usually makes “news,” but it is about the fabric of our every days.

Up to now in this final installment, I have been writing, for the most part, about this column, and I have always had a theory that once I wrote a column about writing a column, it would be time to quit — and so I do.

What will I do hereafter? I hope not to constantly look at people, places, things or emotions, or draw out memories, all with an eye to how I might translate this or that into a column. I have among the quotes I have taped around my office cubicle, one by a Zen master who wrote: “For forty years, I've been selling water / By the bank of a river / Ho, ho! / My labors have been wholly without merit.” When it comes to writing a column or even collecting and repeating the news, that may be what I have been doing.

My daughter Shana gave me a little ceramic sign that hangs by my desk. It has a little curvy line on it and the words: “Meandering to a different drummer.” That is what I will do in the foreseeable future.

Moreover, again at this moment, I am thinking of my favorite line from a John Lennon song — “Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.” That is what I will do from now on, but without trying to make other plans.

If you see me in the park by the river or on a local trail with a tri-color beagle in tow, say “How goes the meandering?” and we can talk and smile at one another and — I hope — laugh. Ho, ho!

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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