Doing it right

by Wolf Pascoe on June 24, 2013

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . .
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away . . .

Lately, it’s been best just sitting, as in, It’s been a quiet week in Lake Woebegone.

Last Saturday, for instance. A Fern Hill family is moving to Washington state and a bunch of us gathered for a farewell picnic at a local park.

I sat with three other men, our chairs a haphazard trapezoid, shooting the breeze in the late afternoon.

Shoot the breeze: to chat casually without purpose. A ‘breeze’ is a rumor, which is wafted from one person to another, as when one ‘gets wind of’ something. — Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

We weren’t gossiping. But neither did our talk have a purpose, other than to connect and take pleasure in one another’s company. It’s the best sort of talk—I got wind of several books to add to my reading list, for example. One with an intriguing title: Falling into Grace.

Pretty good.




A week ago, the night after Fern Hill commencement, the Upper Elementary families had a get-together. Half the group are moving on to middle school. We’ll be returning in September for our last year at Fern Hill—don’t get me started.

I leaned back on a cushion and talked into the night with a friend. Again, no purpose. Ah, but the things I got wind of . . .

I suppose I’m going on about this because just sitting and talking without agenda is not something I do naturally. It’s an acquired skill. Perhaps it was natural once, but if so it was so long ago I can’t remember when.




What I can remember, for the longest time, is conversing to get something. Mostly what I wanted to get was answers. I asked questions about many things—how does one do this, or get that—but the questions had a sameness to them. I was really asking only one question: “What’s wrong with me?”

I asked this question whenever I got the chance—I asked it of friends, teachers, strangers. My agenda was to improve myself.

Once, I listened to Ram Dass give a talk. After it was over I went up to see him. It was a radiant talk and I was pretty high. But still I had questions. Before I could say anything he took a look at me and smacked me in the chest. Then he hugged me.

So much for those questions.

The first time I hung out with Bly for an extended time, I cornered him every chance I got and let my questions fly.

After a few days of this he said, “You know, you’re too much in the sun.”

He was quoting from Hamlet. It was a gentle way of saying, “I’m not your father.”




When my men’s group started, most of us were looking for fathers. I spent a lot of time complaining; we all did.

Gradually over time, the complaining diminished. Now the most precious time is when we just sit together in silence.

One evening, midway on the journey to silence, we found ourselves sitting in a dark wood. Our sharing had grown more grounded over the years, but I hadn’t yet stopped complaining.

“I wish I could go back,” I said.

“What do you mean,Wolf?” said one of the men.

“I mean I’ve made so many mistakes. There are so many things I wish I could take back. It would be so different now if I could just have that ground to go over again, knowing what I know now.”

“You mean go back and do it right?” said the man.

“Yeah. I want to go back and do it right.”

There was a silence.

Then another man said, “We’re doing it right now.”

Everything in its season.




Walking the dog




Of all books by Ram Dass, not most famous, but best:  Grist for the Mill




Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara June 24, 2013 at 11:46 am

This post really speaks to me today. Lately I waffle back and forth with the same questions and regrets…which we both know don’t serve any real purpose. To everything there is a season…and in this season, I want to do it right and quit worrying about what I’ve done wrong. Thank you for this!


Wolf Pascoe June 25, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Oh, Lordie! You too?


The Exception June 24, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Every morning I am treated to conversations that have no point – I am not sure that the other members of the party appreciate them as I do; but wow, I appreciate them enough for all of us maybe.

I think there is an art into accepting where we are, appreciating the lessons we learned; and recognizing the beauty of shared silence.


Wolf Pascoe June 25, 2013 at 12:53 pm



anon July 3, 2013 at 1:25 pm

i sometimes hear mused, “if i only could go back (with what i now know)” — the similar want of a “do over” of sorts.

in reaction, i then think to myself — why? i’d just have different things to learn and would, then, just make different mistakes!


Wolf Pascoe July 3, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Better different mistakes than the same ones?


anon July 5, 2013 at 9:21 am


The same mistakes only indicate, to me, a lack of learning from the ‘first’ mistake. Lessons are repeated — until learned!

It also has been said that “doing the same thing over agin, each time expecting a different result (if that’s the variant) is the very definition of insanity!”

besides — who wants to “live in a ‘loop'” — Groundhog Day without the “differences” — THAt would just be pergatory! (and variance in mistakes/lessons [hopefully] learned, might at least keep “things” interesting!)


Wolf Pascoe July 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm

I’m going to watch Groundhog Day again. Perfect movie!


DragonflyMath July 3, 2013 at 2:02 pm

As usual, thoughtful, mindful, even in its thrashing.


Wolf Pascoe July 3, 2013 at 9:21 pm

I do love to thrash, apparently.


Privilege of Parenting July 3, 2013 at 9:36 pm

and right now…

And perhaps you’re just the right amount in the sun when reflected by the moon.


Wolf Pascoe July 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm

and right now, and right now, and right now.

And who is the moon, by the way?


Jim Parkevich July 4, 2013 at 7:16 am

That has always been the main question in my life….How, by all the physical laws of the universe, did time become “linear” ? How is it that we only have the ability to go toward an uncertain future, having to control our emotions and personalities. To plan our way of life, each of us, to find some harmony in relationship to our entire life support systems: (Family, children, society, culture,,etc.). I too, wish I could figure this out.


Wolf Pascoe July 4, 2013 at 8:52 am

Just two lost souls, we, on the highway of life . . .


Alameda July 4, 2013 at 3:44 pm

What if there is nothing you want to change?

What if you change your behavior what will come ahead with what you’ve learned, instead of what you have done normally?

How much courage would it take to change?


Wolf Pascoe July 5, 2013 at 3:39 pm

“I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.” — Abraham Lincoln


Barbara Beckley July 5, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I really love this one, especially the part about going back and doing it right. I think about that a lot, and then the last line buttoned it beautifully.


Wolf Pascoe July 5, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Thanks, Barbara.


pamela July 7, 2013 at 4:45 am

Oh this really spoke to me. This summer I am doing a perfectionism cleanse:) We are doing it right. Maybe we’re doing it the most right when we are willing to muck it up good.


Wolf Pascoe July 7, 2013 at 6:06 pm

“Take risks, make mistakes, get messy!”
— Miss Frizzle


Kyle July 15, 2013 at 5:27 am

I feel we ultimately have two choices. Regret the mistakes we made and wish we can go back, or see them for the blessings the were, learn from them, then live through them.


Wolf Pascoe July 15, 2013 at 7:21 pm

One door closes, another opens? Sort of.


D. A. Wolf July 27, 2013 at 12:37 pm

It sounds to me like you’re doing it right… Now. As close to a right as we can get without the benefit of whatever we are about to learn.

For me, the sadness is in realizing how long it has taken to teacher a ‘better right’ – and how much time was lost, and no way around it, just trying to survive. In other words, relatively, that little time seems to remain or rather, the reality of the older body begins to sink in.

But better a sense of appreciation now than never.


Wolf Pascoe July 27, 2013 at 2:56 pm

It has taken me this long. Just to get here.


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