A World of Measures

We are a measured society. Our actions fall under values we would wish to believe manifest in our background, cultural mores, the manner we were raised, the people by which we surround ourselves. In order to feel a certain sense of security, I want to believe in doing the right thing, living a life of compassion, respect and understanding. I often fall back upon the only attribute I can always count on to help me move forward – the concept of love. We all have a penchant for understanding what kindness might do to enhance our own personal confidence in who we are and how we go about our lives.

What I just described is how I live my life. I might go through my day with concern of other’s perception of me, but nowhere in my day have I ever felt a concern for my welfare beyond evaluating my own actions and making the right decisions to maintain a moral and dignified life. I have never felt my reality to be threatened by violence of any sort. Even those bullying moments in my childhood didn’t amount to anything as traumatic as senseless loss of life over and over again. I lost my cousin when I was 12 years old – he and I were six months apart in age, and that tragedy changed the course of my young life. What is important to recognize about that moment is that I didn’t have to get used to loss being right around the corner of all my actions throughout every living moment of my existence.

I am a White man living a privileged life.

When George Floyd lost his life last May during the Memorial Day holiday, I struggled to understand his loss. I tried to imagine the pain his world endured and I could not wrap my head around it at all. I couldn’t go and visit the memorial. I felt like I didn’t belong there. I felt pain and compassion for his loss and the impact on the community, including the horrific repetition of a systemic assault upon the welfare and safety of people of color in our society. I realized the Black community lived in a measured life far different than my own.

Daunte Wright lived a measured life. His every action has been based upon and judged by the color of his skin. His safety was when he was surrounded by his friends, his family, the people he counted upon to always be there for him, to not judge him, to never ostracize his position in their lives.

I once sat in a roundtable discussion of an equity based forum, a group whereby I was one of only a couple of white participants in a mix of a dozen contributors. The end discussion was a share of how we all felt about the last hour of a courageous conversation. I spoke out and suggested this was a fascinating hour and that I needed to process this and probably write about my feelings later in the week. I felt confident I was speaking accurately from my heart. A woman on my right said to me, “I’m glad you are going to do that, to process this day – good luck with that.” She then suggested she will get up from the table and be immediately immersed with a need to survive as she goes about her afternoon. She said “I have to be aware of myself in my every move the moment I walk out my door in the morning until evening when I can return to the security of my own home.”

I was actually a bit shocked, perhaps mortified at my naive approach to the measure of someone else’s life far more impacted by the nature of racism in our society. A woman on the right of me after listening to me rationalize my ignorance then plead, “when are white people going to let go of their white guilt and just acknowledge their role in privilege in our society.” Stunned again I thanked everyone at the table for letting me share in the discussion and allow me to have my takeaways. I was humbled. I was measured in the moment, but that feeling paled to the measure I realized people of color will experience every moment of their lives.

Daunte Wright’s life was certainly measured and he suffered a tragic end to living his life in goodness and flaw. The paramount misperception without question the color of his skin. The evidence would suggest a travesty has occurred, one that repeats itself so frequently there are protesters today walking the streets wearing t-shirts with a dozen names printed in a list of losses our Black society has experienced at the hands of ignorance. The world around Breonna and George and Michael and Philando and now Daunte are rampant with a confusing measure of importance in a country where the color of our skin is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. It is important to understand how measures play a role in perception.

There will be push-back. There always is. I have a good friend whose husband, also a friend is a police officer in the twin cities. She once described to me the fear she has every time her husband has to walk up to a parked vehicle he has pulled over for a traffic violation. I wish that analogy could be as simple and educational as it sounds, but there is a greater argument to be had about discrimination, fear, confusion in a hurting society. We are all being measured, however there is a much greater consequence for people of color in a world that still after decades beyond the civil rights movement of the 60’s continues to perpetuate a thinking of ill-met measure and judgment that has nothing to do with the whole of our humanity.

We are all products of the same nature of human beings relying upon eating, sleeping and communicating with each other to live our lives in a kind, forgiving, loving manner. We all do live measured lives some with greater extremes than others. The truth is we need to be measured the same – we need to leave privilege behind and begin loving one another for whom we are rather than forcing our neighbor to adjust their lives based upon the color of their skin.

We need our measuring stick to endure the confusion and misperception of years of trauma and perpetual ignorance and begin to love one another with kindness and acceptance. We need to be measured by a universal humanity and not one of misguided and horrific judgment.


© Thom Amundsen 4/2021

A response to the tragic death of Daunte Wright, of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, of Philando Castile and the countless names that preceded death based upon fear.

Certain Days of the Year

I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and thirty two years will have gone by in a flash. I’ll try to remember different events that occurred on this day and they will be one distant fog. Oh, there will be the dinners, maybe a movie, occasionally a live show, maybe a concert wrapped around the date of the year. Tomorrow I will celebrate alone, and though I am told we shouldn’t feel bad about feeling bad, it is rather difficult not to feel rather sad.

Someone if I gave them a chance would say to me with discern ‘it’s just another day, get over it.’ That’s all a person is really left with when nothing else is allowed to interfere with the reality of this manner of grief. Always a week before Christmas, always time to set up some kind of a holiday treat. One year it was Handel’s Messiah at Orchestra Hall, another it was the New Standards at the State Theater – lots of visits to the Guthrie, Broadway on Tour, U2 on the floor, live music – Davina and the Vagabonds. One year a surprise birthday party and we woke to a blizzard reducing our numbers from around a few dozen to less than ten. Every time was meant though, to be a celebration, as will tomorrow be as well. We are meant to celebrate our lives and not criticize a person’s happiness.

This year my friend has experienced loss, the sort of which none of us wish to go through, hard decisions, the loss of a social life and finally the departure of her mentor, the woman that taught her everything there is to know about being a woman in the society she was raised. There will be angels circling her aura throughout the day to offer her peace of mind and good will. I pray for the same as much as I wonder in my own mind how all of this time has gone by and suddenly here we are, sending out incorrect addresses to friends and walking past single family homes knowing those days are behind us. Now we simply go forward, just another day, a low temperature winter morning without any snow. Just another day.

I’m listening to my favorite Dire Straits album right now and my favorite song is about to play. ‘Why Worry Now’ is a song that makes me want to cry. It gives me the opportunity to do so, therefore I will take advantage of the moment and have a good cry. There was a time when the artistry of the eccentric was an attractive attribute to carry around in my life and somehow I just forgot to allow that part of me might manifest itself in a positive manner. Instead there are more days than not that I allow myself to be a shell of my true inner being, and I just cannot seem to find a way to change the course of the river that flows right through me.

I was married to the same woman for a very long time. Thirty years is half of my life, half of our lives, and suddenly tonight all it is is a reflection of who we once were culminating in who we are now today. I was just walking outside with my dog and I had an epiphany that if one day I was penniless I would still care about a woman I knew for three decades of my life, a woman whose day I would celebrate tomorrow every year for the last thirty years, for the remainder of my own years. That is a tradition, not an expectation.

That’s what makes birthdays special – really – another day in our lives. Happy birthday ‘twelve seventeeners.’


© Thom Amundsen 12/2020

A Stirring Conversation

So, I have been feeling poorly recently – what an exciting start right? A real grabber. My point is though I was feeling bad for myself because any type of illness I immediately imagine Covid, and I go through the motions of the test and it comes back negative – well that is my assumption this time around. Chest cold, flu, earache, swollen glands, sore throat – every ugly combination. So I complained about that to my friend.

She asked me to take a minute and think about it. Imagine being homeless with no shelter knowing the cold winds are ahead with winter looming, little to eat, no fresh water. Go a step further and live the life of a displaced refugee stranded without food and medical care and essential living needs. Think about anyone that feels their lives are in jeopardy due to a chronic illness, terminal diagnosis, and then reflect back upon my common cold. Please do not imagine I diminish the tragedy of Covid in people’s lives in any manner. The words were just rather humbling, and did make me step back and feel a pang of embarrassment, guilt, remorse. I’m turning those toward more reflective ways to ponder upon our lives. Someone out there will say quickly, life is relative, don’t try to measure it.

I do live a fortunate life. I think I will step out briefly today and pick up some Tylenol and tissues.

I’m sorry.

This Sunday Morning

We are starting to contemplate what it is we have done this year, one so very unique to our world, our lives, our state of mind. I think we all began the year in much the same way, dealing only with our personal needs and always aware of the world around us. Some of us championed resolutions, a few of us cleaned out chapters of our lives, and many woke up and believed it was just another day in succession of many. Why wouldn’t each of those directions make complete sense as we imagine our day today.

It is Sunday, a day that at the start of the year I had begun returning to Mass after many decades of sporadic holiday attendance, I was liking the opportunity and its meditative balance on my life. Then a few weeks later, I was not. I was not alone. This time it wasn’t because of lack of interest, none of us could. On top of everything else in our lives, we were now asked, suggested, mandated to isolate ourselves for the safety of others. I remember in the early weeks of shelter at home, I would run off to the grocery store, a limited activity, and as the sun was setting in the west, I would look at the horizon and imagine zombies beginning to line the hills. Everything was so quiet, no one except for people like me getting groceries or essentials milled about. The moment was eery and unsettling.

Eight months later, I have become a rather good cook. I seldom would make meals in years past, except for the occasional breakfast, or an intriguing recipe, or holiday foods. In the last year though, I used to want to emphasize I hadn’t gone out to eat for weeks, turned into months. But then I had to come to terms with the fact that no one had. When I get out of rehearsals for high school theater, I would often stop for a bite to eat. Now those little moments were part of my grocery run. I’ll call it a win, because the food is better and the advantage is a healthier body.

This summer I needed to go outside. Thankfully we have the woods, the hiking trails and just the open country for walks and bicycle rides. I remember thinking in the early days of Covid19 what if someone a quarter of mile in front of me sneezed while I was bicycling into a head wind? That really went through my mind, much like taking my dog to the dog park and worrying about other people wanting to pet him, and thereby bringing their germs into my home. Nobody knew, some of us cared, some thought it was and still do believe it a hoax. I’ve seen the numbers of people who have died, not by choice. I have been a believer from the beginning.

Our lives are all unique and yet we live them quite similarly to one another. We need a good sleep, a warm meal, a favorite book or piece of music, a companion nearby. All of this sounds rather normal right? The thing to recognize is there are many that do not have all or any of the opportunities or lifestyle habits I just mentioned. There are people who are alone and haven’t sometimes the strength to endure this rather unprecedented and certainly sad and frightening time in our lives. This is a time of year when often we are suggested to raise our awareness of those less fortunate than ourselves. Now more than ever.

We do come upon that time of year in America where we will celebrate the holiday, the essence of family being together to share the love we all have created in our lives. Many question our ability to have feast in that manner of tradition and we find ourselves quietly confused, making different plans. We do come upon that time of year in the world where we celebrate the truth of universal love in however manner our cultural strengths bring us together. What is important is we do remain focused on what will alleviate some of the anxiety and disorientating nature of this temporary period of our lives. Acts of kindness and a simple element exist.

There really isn’t anything traditional about this year moving into the holidays except for perhaps one common denominator: Love. We all know kindness and the smile it puts on our face, the safe remedy an emotion provides our need to feel.

This is a Sunday morning, and I am in my comfortable chair with a favorite music playing, my dog wandering about checking on me thinking of his next walk in the coming hour. I’m sipping my coffee and looking forward to watching a ball game this afternoon. Tonight I will plan the week ahead. Life remains normal as long as we can allow ourselves to realize there is goodness during this temporary period of our lives. Though we must be conscious of the reality being we are not alone, all of us in our circumstance hold an energy lets us know we are together miles away or nearby.

When we can, as long as we are able, reach out, for there is something substantial being passed upon one another than simply memory not realized. We all exist together, kindness and love being symbolic of that grateful nature of our humanity. We can this year celebrate with an even stronger recognition than during a normalcy we haven’t known yet taken for granted for quite some time.

Love. Be Kind.


© Thom Amundsen  11/2020

Friends Will Reach

I have had a few tough days. It is funny how quickly I can sometimes fall into what my mother would often call a low when her diabetes was out of balance. My lows aren’t the result of diabetes, not by any stretch. But I do have them, and I sometimes wish they didn’t exist at all. Of late, I’ve written about these moments directly rather than dancing around with a solemn poem, or a telling sonnet, or some way of making life seem more tenable with selective word choice.

Tonight I got a call from a friend. She said she’d read my stuff lately and she felt like she might want to check in on me. She’s pretty sharp, she knows patterns, she knows me very well. I was grateful on a number of accounts. One I was in a state of mind to take her call. We talked for some time, shared our stories of isolation with Covid, and the need to recognize that everyone is dealing with a similar energy, though as well, everyone handles it differently.

There are people I miss in my life. Dear friends I am no longer in touch with for a variety of reasons, none of which I can even explain to myself. That said, I have to understand that I need to look at these moments as an opportunity rather than a reason for tragedy. I worry about things far more than I would wish to admit.

Recently, my cousin’s husband was in a near death accident. He didn’t want to place himself in that position when he woke that morning. It just happened, and God let him live. I think about that sometimes, how we have a choice, and yet we don’t have a choice. I think the latter is far more healthy to live by rather than believing we are in control of our own destiny. I think as long as we continue to understand how certain truths work in our lives, life can become easier.

People we care about are getting sick and testing positive with Covid. We have questions about whether the increased testing is causing the alarming numbers to rise, but then at the same time, the illness that occurs with those afflicted is real and not overstated. So many circumstances in life today are filled with confusion, and there is only one thing we can do about it, act upon every measure we can to maintain our safety and that of all of those around us.

A friend showed me an act of kindness tonight that really did mean the world to me. My life is good, I cannot argue that – the last ten months have been filled with so much change and so much need for growth, I can’t help be grateful for the people I do know that without seeing directly still carry the same compassionate energy we all do when we are next to each other rather than spaced by social distancing. We can still be kind. We can still love no matter the distance in our hearts, in our world.

I think the essence of love is truly knowing there is a spiritual basis to how we live our lives. The more we hide behind the demons and the fear of own woe, the less chance we have to appreciate a soft snow that exists outside my window as I finish my words here.

I have Pachelbel playing in the background, and it is soothing to imagine where and when that song came into my life. I was just 20 years old and in a scene from ‘Ordinary People’ Timothy Hutton is humming it as he walks through a cemetery on his way home from school. He is exploring a new life, and has fallen in love. It was a poignant moment that is always with me, a sort of I can overcome this vulnerability if I just listen and think about that which I love.

I personally love when I feel there is a kind word for everyone in our lives.


© Thom Amundsen 11/2020

The Next Day

That’s really how it feels sometimes. One day, I’m on top of the world, and the next just scratching the surface, feeling the grit inside my frame of mind, unable to process what was once like hang gliding in the atmosphere one beautiful fall afternoon. Then something happens in our world that cannot be denied.

I often yearn for that balance in my life, rather than the peaks and valleys. Living with the rush of exhilaration that comes with a high and then trying to accept the low a few days later can be very wearing on anyone. The hardest part though is when people don’t understand or that me myself doesn’t want to, wishes not to fix the flaw. I’d rather stay inside the mire of a sadness that I just will not ever be able to escape. Though moments of hope do always exist in our lives.

Today, something historic happened. We elected our next president of the United States. Four years of hell just ended and a weak man spent the day on a golf course building his own case of denial. A gracious man accepted the nation’s choice to have him – Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris – to be our next leaders of this country.

I remember when I first saw the announcement, I was stunned. It felt finally there would be some normalcy in our country. We didn’t have to struggle with being fractured any longer. We had a chance to be loving again.

My only regret is that I am alone with this celebration. Today, I spent the day watching the news, and it was so uplifting so beautiful so hopeful that I couldn’t imagine anything else in my life for just that moment.

But then the fear came back, this seething manner that my mind just trails off to where nothing really matters, and I become caught up in my own woe. The interesting thing is that being able to write it now is so revealing and yet at the same time freeing. I know I will always struggle this way, but there are beautiful things out there in our world that will always continue to offer my satisfaction and confidence.

I’m riding a wave of happiness tonight, the right person was elected to office, and now as he said we begin to hear as a country. Will he or she both be perfect. NO. Kamala Harris and Joe Biden are as human as any one of us, though they have fought all their lives with principled ideals to finally stand where they do today.

So how do I measure my own life. I look at a man whom has lost his family and gained another over time whom he speaks of with love. His predecessor really does not have a clue, and will be carried out of the Whitehouse kicking and screaming, and i cannot wait to watch that day evolve before our eyes. That’s reality, that is our humanity.

For me, I have to continue to fight for this happiness I so yearn, a model of our society has the potential to help move my state of mind forward.


˙˙© Thom Amundsen 11/7/2020

There Are These Days

A couple of weeks ago my world went dark. I made horrific plans, mapped out the day, my valuables, important tokens of my life. I say this because it does happen to people, and now I feel a better grasp and that is more valuable than any guilt or shame over previous moments in my life.

I call it these days because they really come and go. The weather outside is beautiful, and during the summer I spent most of my time on my bicycle, and tonight I couldn’t get myself to move. It is funny how our lives become wrapped up in ourselves, and we forget about those around us. Now with Covid, we are more often than not forced to live only with ourselves. I have a dog now, he is a beautiful animal, and just comes and lays by me most of the time, or if he hears or senses anything emotional from me, he’ll come and check me out. A couple of weeks ago when I hit that low, he was someone I couldn’t leave behind without somebody to be there to care for him immediately.

I think when I get lost inside myself, I forget the world around me. I feel pretty valueless when I let this trapping take over my state of mind. I fortunately have a lot of people I can reach out to, but sometimes one or two might be far more important than everyone else. It doesn’t mean that everyone doesn’t carry the same value, there are just easier words found with the few.

I began writing to an old friend recently. I wrote her a letter out of the blue, and it was overwhelming for her to hear my words 40 years later. I felt this certain energy when I wrote her, it just let my mind go and took off and I could see and hear my words as they were hitting the paper, and I just let them go. I’ve only been able to do that with one other person in my life and now she has disappeared much like my old friend, so I resort back to these pages. I hope someday I can put them together in some manner that lets at least me believe the words hold value.

Tonight I found myself watching TV, letting the hours slip by. I have a morning obligation that I have to contribute to rather than just show up. Sometimes it is easier to do that – show up – without really taking value in the effort or what others are receiving from me. What is the energy I bring to a room. I want my students to have fun, so we have a lot of laughs, but what if it means nothing to me anymore. Isn’t that really just hurting the kids? Oh, see how easy that was? I found another way to beat myself up.

The weirdest thing happened to me the night I was feeling my low. I was beside myself and I wrote a letter to a dear friend whom I cannot get a response, and I talked about some dark moments. I think deep in my mind, I was begging for a wellness check, and so shortly after I went to bed around midnight and my code for the entrance to my village gate rang on my phone. I couldn’t figure out why. I thought there might be a connection and so I stood out on my deck expecting the cops to pull up for a welfare check on my state of mind. But no one ever did. So now I guess somebody hit the wrong number. I really haven’t any idea, but I think God was sending me a message.

I think about where my state of mind goes so quickly when I am feeling down. It goes as deep as my fresh optimism goes high. I can never seem to find that common ground, that even keel, that ability to balance on the fence.

I think in the time of Covid, it really is difficult to feel hope without despair. I don’t like my job right now, it is not because of the kids, I love my students, I just don’t like having an administration that has their own struggles but doesn’t reveal with anyone because of their role. I think we are all struggling right now, and to add to it, a remarkably historic election week, and we are all on the edge.

I guess I have rambled here a bit tonight, but I really wanted to just talk about how easy it is to fall into a mania that gives suicide a platform when loneliness and sadness overtake our lives. It happened to me, and it does more often than not, I just am better hiding it than I used to. There are really only a couple of people in my life who know I walk around like this all the time. A couple of weekends ago, nothing mattered, and then I scared myself, so now tonight as I finish this up, I guess I am just recognizing another vulnerability in my own human condition that I cannot let become triggered – rather I need to accept it and move on.

I always find a way to come to terms ever so briefly with understanding mood. I just wish it could be consistent and forever.


© Thom Amundsen 11/2020

Systemic Rhetoric and Schools

As a young child I was taught the concept of there are central arguments with the reaction to George Floyd’s death over memorial day weekend, the spark that merits a broader response to the tragedy.

One may realize it is difficult to conceptualize how to make change in the midst of such systemic reaction to racism in our society. One of the issues at hand is these ideals can no longer remain philosophical discussions. There is no time. Our children, students, young minds meant to be most impressionable at this age need to have optimism and hope in their lives. They need to feel heard rather than be subjugated to the same rhetoric following the lives of their elders down to them. Society is speaking loud and clear and we need to listen.

Recent events have shined the focal point of change and awareness upon school districts across the twin cities and country as well as our own in (pick a district). We need to be that change that begins to shed a light upon a privilege that interferes with progress in a far more ignorant manner than people would like to believe. Now ignorance is a powerful word, and its usage is not meant to offend as it is to make a point. If there is not action on an issue that has evidence before our eyes, we cannot get ahead of the crisis, and it eventually becomes yet another lost moment.

A sampling of k12 mission statements across the country speaks to the following: ensure that all students learn; each student continuously achieves one’s highest aspirations; embraces the diversity of the entire community; each student’s unique needs and abilities are merited; providing an equitable learning environment that embraces diversity and individual student needs. In each sampling there is an expressed need to recognize equity and inclusion as we try to move our children forward with pedagogical resource and focus.

The truth is nobody needs remain alone with their own personal response to a need for change. How we address our student needs going forward is paramount. We can believe we have an opportunity to make change only if we are consciously trying. Words alone have brought us to the edge, now it is time we step into the challenge.

These are difficult times, fighting through a pandemic, asking our students to focus on distance learning during a time when educational gaps are obvious, and finally, addressing the need for equity in a diverse community. Which one takes precedent in our mind falls upon a need to know what we value the most in our society. Each suggested problem could argue proportionate value.

The issue of recognizing there is a climate of implicit racism in our world comes to the forefront for me. We need to understand the individuality of our educational policy. Our students need to be able to be called upon as individual rather than being masked as a certain population that affords discrimination. Student voices need to be heard before we can begin to feel we are on the right road toward fair and inclusive treatment of POC and society as a whole.


© Thom Amundsen 6/2020

The Story of Mak (or Man’s Best Friend)

The year 2020 started off with a bang for me. I was suddenly about to be found swirling in a myriad of life choices, decisions, adjustments and COVID 19. To begin the year, my marriage of 30 years had fallen apart, and I was forced to look at myself in the mirror and take responsibility for my own share of grief and distance in a collaboration that had been failing for years. When I reflect upon our time together there is no question the rock my wife provided me in the midst of years of turmoil with a variety of addictions that helped unravel my world. I am fortunate on many different levels for her support not only in straightening out my own life, in her patience, and as well, our opportunity to share in the wealth of raising two wonderful children.

So the reader might ask, what does any of this have to do with a dog? One common denominator in our marriage was that we always had a dog. We had a cat for a lot of years as well, but that was a different story. We raised three Golden Retrievers from puppies over three decades, the last moving on with her true companion, my spouse. When we split there was no question she would travel on her journey with the companionship of the dog, albeit hers was an ownership I would never argue, given the nature of our circumstance. I began the first month of a separation without a dog and living in a home we had shared together raising our children and dogs for twenty years. There is no question the nights were long with memory and confusion. The one piece missing for me all the time was an animal, a dog to come and lay near me whether I was overwhelmed with tears, or simply wanting a companion to hang out with. The silence was deafening.

Then one day my daughter suggested I take her dog for a few days. She said she couldn’t stand to see me so alone without a dog after seeing us grow as  a dog family all these years. To be clear, I would have plenty of opportunity to see our present dog when time permitted, but being in the early throes of a separation it had been hard to imagine those times. So I gave my daughter an emphatic ‘yes’ and she brought her dog – a golden retriever – over that evening. My world changed in an instant and three days later as I was readying her return to my daughter, I had already begun scanning pages for rescue dogs. I knew I would get a dog eventually, I just didn’t know when I would be ready.

The answer to that question arrived one day in the story of Mak, a Bernese Mountain dog basically given to me out of the kindness of a colleague’s heart. It was immediate love.IMG_0313 Well, the first night Mak chose to lay twenty yards away from me all night, basically just keeping an eye on me, a complete stranger. That first night was a sleepless night for me, not knowing whether this dog would ever acclimate himself with me. Within 48 hours we were pretty inseparable, and that to me is the essence of seeing a man with his dog. This week I am on our last leg of a journey up to the north shore, morning looking at the vast waters of Lake Superior and then later on mini-hikes throughout the day. Mak is such a mellow dog, I was able to let go of the leash and just have him toddle along with me on the path, in fact many times he would take control of the walk by laying down in the middle of the path and giving me a look like, ‘there is no way you are making me keep up your pace’ – break time. Let me tell you it is a rather daunting ask to force a 120 pound animal to move forward until they are good and ready. The hikes were filled with smiles and laughs that serve as a preview for many walks in the future.

He is no question a hiker with a prowess, but right now around 16 months of big baby, so we will take our time readying ourselves for an all day hike – someday maybe, quite a feat, more for me than the dog, but he will push me forward. The last couple of days have been spent just watching the rain outside our window as the churned waves that would crash along the shoreline and then drift out to sea with shadows of mid-day sunlight moving them like surface shadows in a breeze. The magic of the lake was certainly not lost upon either of us throughout our hours together. Tomorrow we will return home.

IMG_0315I have found myself in recent weeks understanding more and more how special this animal is in my life. If I am having a bad morning, I only turn to see Mak’s doe-like eyes waiting for my glance and when we do connect his tail takes off. When in a lighter moment Mak wants to play he will plant his two front paws onto the carpet or wood floor or the grass outside and stretch his body all the way to his back paws and then land squarely on his butt and give me a look like, ‘c’mon man, let’s go!’ There really is something rather special in the affinity a man can feel with his dog. I’m writing this and if I look across the room, I will find Mak in a comfortable posture sleeping the night away. The moment I move a muscle his eyes will be upon me checking my next move. I can only be grateful to have this big guy by my side as we venture into this extraordinary time with COVID 19 starting our year with a pandemic, and now the remarkable early stages of social justice being finally recognized as a purposeful focus in our society. I can only imagine how torn I might be having to face the perils of a pandemic alone, how lost I might feel not having anyone to talk to about my feelings towards social unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s incredulous death. To Mak, it is simply another day, but one that will be spent giving me the confidence to know we both appreciate one another unconditionally.

So having met the end of Pink Floyd’s Animals, the twilight out my window as Lake Superior slaps the rocks nearby with a gentle breeze, it is time to retire for the night. I see his tail wagging as he caught my glance, knowing something is up. Ah, the sweet peace of a man and his dog as we venture forth in these our early days of summer.

IMG_0310


© Thom Amundsen 6/2020

summer on Lake Superior with Mak

What Happened in America?

In the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department – more specifically an individual in the police force, rhetoric is being tossed around with ignorance and thoughtful dialogue. The unfortunate nature of protest has turned ugly after the sun goes down across the country slowly burying the original narrative – the death of a black man under the blatant force of a white police officer.

When does the abuse stop, or when does the courage to speak of the need for reform begin? How do we keep a momentum necessary to pursue the ideals of social justice long after the dust settles? I’m already worried. The instituted curfews and the greater presence of police, national guard, state patrol is quite evident and their job has occurred in a swift fashion. But when the streets clear of an angry, frustrated, oppressed population in our city and across the nation, what happens next? Who wins, who loses? The adage that I’ve grown up with my entire life is that POC will continue to be the forgotten population, the discriminated presence, the victims of a systemic flaw in our society.

Every day people stand with each other on Lake street participating in the clean up. Society is standing with one another rather than excluding themselves or segregating their lives because of lethal differences with one another. This appears to be an optimistic gesture of people coming together as one, but it needs to last beyond the final dustpan carrying the soot of loss to the city dump.

Conversations have to begin and they have to be maintained to become a stronger precedent than simply patting ourselves on the back and saying we participated, and now let’s get on the lake with our boat and go fishing – go ahead but keep the conversation happening.

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around how to write about this since the day George Floyd lost his life, and our horizon and the narrative has changed so dramatically over the course of a week. At first I would have suggested that the violence and looting were indicative of years of oppression, and to a degree I still support that thinking. But the uglier violence has not only buried part of the ideal of protesting the scrutiny against Blacks, it has also given people an opportunity to not concern themselves about the oppression of the Black community.

The one piece that I have heard throughout social media is the need for White people to start listening rather than continually verbalizing their angst. Allow yourselves to realize you may very well be experiencing anxiety and confusion, but rather than speak what you believe a powerful diatribe of the problem, instead, take a moment and listen. We live in a society that scrutinizes people’s ability to listen rather than speak. We live in a society that is bent on believing they need to be heard and known to be saying the right thing. The problem is we don’t.

We have no idea how the Black experience is in contrast to our own White privilege. That’s where it begins. “In a contrary movement, the modern world transforms the person who listens into an inferior human being” (Robert Cardinal Sarah, The Power of Silence). We need to allow people to listen. We need to suggest people listen. I’m writing what I believe in this essay and I could criticize myself with the hypocrisy of what I am saying in light of what I suggest, in that I just need to shut up and listen.

Our society has an opportunity in respect to the tragedy of George Floyd losing his life in a violent matter. We have seen it time and time again, there is no disputing that the horrific nature of George Floyd’s death is another in a long string of incomprehensible treatment of people of color. The action itself continues the systemic nature of a broken society, and this week’s protests were an inevitable reality that needed to happen and needs to be the catalyst towards strong conversations ahead.

We need to allow ourselves to be further educated than believing the myths we live.


© Thom Amundsen 6/2020