A lake in Maine; Syria; and how to care for each other

The wild complexity of the wrenching situation in Syria, a lake called Sysladobsis, and the relocation of my life into a converted barn are all reasons you haven’t heard from me in a while.

Back in August – shortly after my admission that some who wander are lost – I moved into a barn. Then, after moving, I left town and whiled away most of a week canoeing on a lake in Maine, away from phones and Internet and the hurry and distress of the world.

It was in a mossy depression on a small wooded island – where fibrous green lichen hung from the tree branches, and sun reflected off the water and then filtered to the forest floor – that I went on something of a mystical journey. I reclined for six hours in that mossy depression, while the people and the events of my life surfaced and faded.

Then the sun dropped, and it got cold. I stood on shaky legs; I brushed pine needles from my person. I trotted to the other side of the island – not fifty yards away – where I'd set up camp, and heated tomato soup for supper. And all the while a particular phrase looped in my mind. I didn’t know where the phrase had come from, it had just appeared.

Use what we have to take care of each other

That’s what remained in my thoughts after the mystical journey in the mossy depression somewhere in Maine.

When I got home it was back to all the usual business of life – buying the sale cheese at the grocery store and scrubbing scum from the bowl of my toilet. In order to keep hold of the wisdom I’d gained, I wrote it on a three-by-three Post-It and positioned it right here beside my keyboard.

Soon after that, I stumbled on an opportunity to write about why it’s really really important for the international community to work on a solution to ease the unbelievable distress of the Syrian people. For a bunch of reasons that are probably mostly obvious to you, I took the assignment.

During researching and writing and revising and editing and fact checking, the complexity of what's happening in Syria became ever clearer. There is no obvious solution, of course. But what I wrote – in collaboration with a brilliant co-author – does, I believe, shine a light toward the most hopeful path. And so perhaps, in some tiny, infinitesimal way, what we wrote will help. Here it is, if you'd like to see it.

To me it has lots of meanings:

Use what we have to take care of each other.

I hope it has some meaning for you, too.