It’s hard to tell by looking


I’LL BET that the man in the front cockpit of that T-28 doesn’t look much different to you from any other instructor pilot you’ve known.

It’s hard to tell by looking, but Jamie V. Forbes was one of those few men whose sheer quiet character taught me more than the hundred-some hours we flew together.

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THERE THEY were, mid autumn.  Under the maple tree a host of dead leaves, bright lives gone.  On one branch nearly bare of leaves stayed the green one, barely touched by time and wind, by the rain and heat that that had scorch-beaten so many others to death.

I stood there in the path and watched the dead ones rustle on the ground, the green one flutter in the breeze, “Go along, death, I am not your subject!

Is it the same with us, too?  What is it makes some folks flutter years on their branch, laugh at dying long after their peers are dust?

The echo that came to me was attitude: what we most deeply believe about who we are, what we know about our place in the universe, the delight with which we engage that which we most love.

You have your examples, I have mine; we just fit different names to the ones we know fell away from the branch early and why, the ones who stayed and why.  Not that falling away’s the end of the world, us leaves will be back, trying life again next Spring.

How essential, I thought, is such an invisible thing: the way we happen to think, to all the visibles of our lifetime!

Curious, I picked that emerald flag from above the path, lifted the dead one from the ground, brought them home.  As the weeks went by, neither changed.  Both are dry, but the green leaf’s still living green, the dead one’s still dead.

My Scarf


YOU CAN TELL I’m proud of this scarf.

It was presented to me by Bethany Ferret, captain of the Ferret Rescue Vessel Resolute, a gift after Rescue Ferrets at Sea was published.

Those are the colors and stripes of Resolute and its crew, in one of my favorite stories of all I’ve written.

The book is out of print, at least for now, but the story’s there in Curious Lives, along with four others that touched and changed, helped me along my path to becoming human.

I’m one of two from the outside world who’ve received the honor, the other is Chloe Ferret, the journalist and rock star. Of course I’m proud!

Rarely Asked Questions: How did Jonathan Seagull come to you?

NOT THE WAY I expected it to come.

The first time in my life I heard a voice, with no one there to speak it.  I was walking alone one evening, a starving young writer desperate to know how I was going to pay the rent.  Then someone behind me and to my right, said, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.”  It was decades before I realized that was a simple, honest answer to my question.

I turned, pretty well startled, and there was no one there.  I went home, frightened, and locked the door behind me, wondering who was the voice and what was a Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  Hours of puzzlement later, about the time I had to admit I hadn’t a clue what was a Jonathan Livingston Seagull, my office wall disappeared, and in its place, a Cinerama screen.  On the screen I saw the ocean below, and the sky and one solitary that’s what must be a Jonathan Seagull.

The story unfolded and I wrote what I saw, as fast as I could write, scene by scene.

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