VIEW FROM THE PORCH - To swat, or not to swat -- that is the question


It's fall at the farm. The geese are back, devouring the tender young shoots of grass coming up in our newly planted pastures. Deer have moved in with the geese. They favor the new grass, too. So do the wild turkeys and pheasants and ducks and most everything else that lives out our way.

"Jeepers," I said. "The %^&*#$ wildlife are eating all our grass. That seed's not cheap, you know. And the little $*&%^@# are eating every blade of the stuff."

"Live and let live," Annie said. "We moved to a farm to be closer to nature and now we've gotten exactly what we asked for and you're whining about it. You've gotta take the good with the bad, honey. Those geese have a right to live their lives, too. We need to respect that. God put every living creature on this earth for a purpose ..."

"OK, OK," I say. "Spare me the sermon. Let 'em eat us out of house and home. See if I care."

I stalked off, shaking my head, huffing a bit for added effect.

I'm reading a new book -- "Wherever You Go, There You Are," by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It's about accepting what comes in life -- whatever it is, no matter how irritating or frustrating. Irritation and frustration are states of mind, the author says. We can choose calm and acceptance. We don't have to "be" irritated. (I read a lot of books like this. They all say pretty much the same thing.)

"The books don't seem to be working," Annie said. "Maybe you should try reading AND practicing."

Unfortunately, she's right. No matter how many books I read, little things still make me roil -- make my blood boil.

I resolved to change. I'd practice for an hour. No matter what happened during the upcoming hour, I'd accept it, bow to it, and honor it. But what would I do for the hour? I'd have to pick something unlikely to roil me.

"Read my book about acceptance and grace," I thought. "Hah! That'll be easy. It'll keep me on the straight and narrow. Good idea, Sam. You are something!"

I patted myself on the back, grabbed my book, and settled into my chair. I turned on my reading lamp.

I heard a faint buzzing. Then it stopped.

"Wonder what that was?" I thought.

I read a few words before the buzzing started again. It was sort of annoying.

"Honor and acceptance," I thought.

The annoyance subsided but the buzzing persisted. It was coming from the lamp. Suddenly a gigantic black fly -- the size of a small bus, I'm not lying -- rose from the top of the lampshade and lumbered into flight. He circled the lampshade several times, bumping into it repeatedly -- buzz ... thwack ... buzz ... thwack ... buzz ... thwack.

"That's annoying," I thought.

Oops ...

Here's another indicator of fall at the farm: every year we get two of three of these gargantuan flies. We don't see them the rest of the year. We never get more than two or three. Strange, huh? But regular as clockwork, I'm telling you. They're ugly, nasty-looking beasts, crawling with germs, hairy as all get out.

"Gross," I thought. "And annoying."

Oops ...

"That fly is one of God's creatures," I thought. "That's what Annie's always preaching. He has as much right to life as I do, she'd say. I'm going to honor that."

I returned to my book while the gargantuan black fly buzzed and thwacked the lampshade. Reading was impossible.

"He looks sick," I thought. "He looks like he's dying. Maybe I should kill him and put him out of his misery and stop that infernal buzzing."

Oops. I nodded to the fly and honored him. "Sorry," I said to the fly. "You are one of God's creatures. You're entitled to die in your own way. But the sooner, the better as far as I'm concerned."

Oops ...

I went back to my book trying to ignore the buzzing and thwacking, but concentration was still impossible. I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths. "I will not be annoyed," I repeated to myself. "I refuse to be annoyed." I noted the blackness behind my eyelids and hummed my mantra. Actually, I don't have a mantra, so I just hummed -- stared into the blackness behind my eyelids and hummed, "Hmmmmmm ..."

Suddenly ... WHACK!

It was not an annoying thwack. It was a really loud WHACK!

I opened my eyes.

Annie stood by the lampshade, holding a rolled-up newspaper, a big smile on her angelic face.

"Got him," she said.

If you'd like to read more of Sam's musings on life, visit his website at, or better yet, buy a copy of his new book BIG APPETITE.


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