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In which a new John takes a new walk in new woods.
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Book club:
Good morning, Hank, it's Tuesday.  Well, that's a curious development.  Thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered The Anthropocene Reviewed book.  Behind me are just over 150,000 sheets of paper which look like this only they haven't been signed yet.  I'm gonna sign all those sheets to make sure that every pre-order of the American and Canadian edition is autographed as well as every copy of the first printing of the book.  This is a little more than I was expecting but I am delighted and only a smidge intimidated.  You know what, let's go outside.

I've really enjoyed walking lately and just letting my thoughts wander around as I wander around.  Like, this morning, I'm thinking about this Wallace Stevens poem that begins, "Twenty men crossing a bridge into a village is twenty men crossing twenty bridges into twenty villages.  The bridge is different to each of us, as is the village beyond."  I guess I'm thinking about this poem because I'm remembering a walk I took ten years ago with my friend Esther.  As part of her Make a Wish, she'd gathered some of her Nerdfighter friends and invited me to be there as well and so we were all outside together on our way to get some gelato, which necessitated crossing a bridge.

The bridge had a grated floor so that you could see through to the teeming river below and I've never been super enthusiastic about heights or, for that matter, bridges and Esther, whose empathy dials were always turned up to 11, noticed there was something wrong.  She told me that we were almost across the bridge and that I could take over pushing her wheelchair if I wanted something to hang on to.  She knew my bridge was different from hers.

And so, the true observation is never this bridge is terrifying, instead, the only thing you can say with any certainty is 'my bridge is terrifying, how 'bout yours?' and then, this is real trick of living on a planet that contains many other human souls that are as valuable and multitudinous as your own, you must find a way to really listen to this other person's answer and to believe in their experience as fully as we believe in our own.

Today, I am walking in the woods in precisely the same place where I was walking in the woods last week, but it's a completely different walk.  For one thing, the world was different last week.  The leaves were greener, the wind milder.  Now, the leaves are starting to fall and it's cold, but the walk is also different because the person taking it has changed.  Last week, I felt the dread encroaching, the prospect of winter not just a fact, but also a threat.  This week, the weather's worse and I'm better.  Why?  Who knows.   These days, I barely know how I am let alone why I am, and so I like this walk in the woods, or any outdoor experience that is repeatable in part because it isn't actually repeatable.  Being on the same path in the same woods helps me remember that it is never quite the same woods and also helps me to remember that how I currently am is just not how I will always be.  Tomorrow, a different me will take a different walk in different woods, even if the GPS says the route was identical.

As I walk an imprecise loop through the woods, my thoughts circle back to Esther.  Esther's been gone now for over ten years, but her thoughtfulness and kindness still help me.  They still hold me together.  I use them to remind me that your bridge may be scary even if mine isn't and so often I return to that memory and tell myself that I am almost across the bridge and that I can hold on to something if I need to.

Hank, I'll see you on Friday.